One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is about our decision to host our open porch weekly: “How do you do it, EVERY WEEK? Isn’t it exhausting to have your house “guest ready” that often?”
This is such a great question, and one with a complex answer. Of course, yes, in some ways it is exhausting. I won’t pretend there’s not hard work involved in prepping large meals, and making sure we’re well stocked on toilet paper, plates, cups, etc. And certainly, there’s always a substantial amount of clean-up involved, either that evening or the following morning. But Ennie and I, (and now our kids) have discovered that the work is truly worth it. It’s worth the couple of hours necessary to prepare our home to receive our guests every week, and clean up after them when they’ve gone home -- because we are honestly, so blessed by their presence each week. It’s like most disciplines in following Jesus. They always seem difficult at first, but once you are doing it, they become a gift and a joy.
In addition to the work being worth it, my idea of what “guest ready” is, has evolved dramatically. I say this because early on in our marriage, I remember preparing for an event (a baby shower, I think) that was to take place in our home. I took an entire week to make sure that every part of my house would be gleaming. My oldest children were small then, but I practically ignored them in order to focus on preparing my home to have guests. I went so far as to vacuum the front room meticulously just before my guests arrived, and then (this is so embarrassing) purposefully walked carefully over the vacuum lines with clean shoes so that my guests wouldn’t know I had just vacuumed. I wanted them to believe that my house was just always this perfectly spotless! THAT, is WEIRD. THAT is what I now call “living inside other people’s heads”, thinking so much about what others are thinking, that I’m no longer free to be me. In that instance, my house was guest ready, but my heart certainly was not.
Thankfully, I’ve let that neurotic behavior go. Nowadays making my house “guest ready” is certainly not perfection, but it has its roots in respect. Out of respect for our guests we make sure our house is neat and tidy. Out of respect for our guests we try to hang a clean hand-towel in the bathroom, for example. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t pulled directly out of the dryer, or that there aren’t three loads of dirty laundry waiting to be cycled through behind it. Out of respect for ourselves we’re willing to be vulnerable and let our guests recognize that human beings live here, and that life with seven children can be messy, and even so, that they are invited into that reality. Imperfections and “mistakes” in hospitality are sometimes the best parts of our open porch, because life IS truly messy, it’s imperfect, and when others are invited into that reality, they are somehow more free to be themselves, vulnerable and real.
We were created for community, and before we make our house “guest ready” we must make our hearts “guest ready”. When we are willing to make room in our hearts for people, neighbors, friends, enemies, hospitality takes on new meaning. Community is built in vulnerability and presence to one another. We can vacuum all we want, but unless we are willing to share ourselves, our true selves, we will never find true community.
Cana and I didn’t plan on having a bunch of kids. We also didn’t plan on having just a few kids. The truth is, we didn’t plan at all. When I’m asked about it, I usually say something along the lines of “I just love my wife” and for a laugh maybe I’ll add a “frequently”. It’s no secret that Cana and I love each other intensely. And to me, there is no more noble mission on the planet than becoming an expert at loving and serving my spouse. It’s my first apostolate, my vocation and my highest call. She’s my most immediate neighbor and Jesus said that I’m supposed to love my neighbors. The result and the rest of our story has been pretty serendipitous, meaning we haven’t really planned too far beyond that.
Webster’s dictionary defines serendipity this way; a faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. So in simpler words, serendipity, in my opinion, is finding awesome things accidentally. I like this concept a lot. I like it because as I look back over my life and the story that God and I have written together, I find so much of the really awesome stuff to be the "accidental" stuff, and not even a part of my plan at all.
God's plan is way better than mine.
His will is perfect and He loves me.
He is making me better in the shut doors and also the opportunities, in the loneliness and the consolation. This is His grace, it’s alive and tangible right here in the present moment.
If we over-plan and over-discern our paths, we can easily stifle this grace and the ways that God is leading us.
Be present to your present moment, trust that you are right where you are supposed to be, love those around you and find some valuable things accidentally together. God oftentimes fulfills dreams that we didn’t even know we had. A few of ours worth noting are named Madeline, Dominic, Sophia, Avila, Lucia, Quinn, Zelie (Fatima, Michael, and Thomas, our babes in heaven).
Peace and Good!
Theoden: "So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?" Aragorn: "Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them."
Allow me to nerd out for a second. Two minutes to be exact.
If you've read the book (or seen the film), I hope you remember this emotional moment in the exchange above from J.R.R.Tolkien's, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Theoden the king, utters those words with the enemy fast approaching. He is having to admit that they have in fact been beaten that day at Helm’s Deep. The king is recalling that their enemy, the uruk-hai, don't care who they kill. They kill because they simply hate. They have been pillaging, killing innocents and scorching villages throughout Rohan for months, and now the race of men is entirely finished. They are at the door of his keep. He is hopeless.
Aragorn, the heir, then responds with crazed and inspiring hope. He calls his band not to retreat but to "ride out" into battle with him. In both the movie and the book, the inspired riders ride their beasts into the battle, swords drawn and (spoiler) defeat Sauron’s entire force with the help of Gandalf the white and some good magic.
I cry real tears every time I watch this moving scene.
Scenes like that are moving to us because we believe them to be true and possible. We are inspired by the fictional riders because we were actually made to ride out like that, to hope like that, to act and do justice like that. You and I are capable of fearlessly riding out and meeting hatred with love.
In the last few days, we've been trying to process all the hate that is happening in the country (and state) that we love so dearly. We are confused and we are grieving with our brothers and sisters in California, Texas and Ohio. Like most of the nation, we continue to mourn the loss of more and more innocent life, born and unborn.
Hatred and fear is so loud in our ears right now. It's all around us and we are beginning to lose hope that it will get quieter anytime soon.
We are all mourning in our different ways. But the truth is, the mass shootings over the weekend cannot be blamed on any one person, institution, or viewpoint. There is an enemy of God and he is a tricky sumbitch. The shootings are horrific symptoms of a deeply flawed culture that prioritizes things over people, earthly riches and pleasure over the "things that are above." We are blaming each other and hatred is growing. The enemy has divided us.
Will you ride out with us?
Will you cross the street to meet your neighbors?
Cana and I started Del Rey Collective because we believe that in order to counter division and hate in our world, Christian people are called to love all the more, to double down on being the Church of Acts, by rooting ourselves in the Holy Spirit and loving our neighbors boldly.
Social media and on-demand content, has informed us, but at a very high cost, the loss of true human connection. We believe that small communities of neighbors on Open Porches has the potential to be a healing moment, a place of hope for the hopeless, and a concrete way for Christians to love their (actual) neighbors as themselves.
If you've read this far, would you consider joining the Open Porch Community?
In times like this we worship and we doubt. We want to hide and we feel called to act. However, there is only one true and Christian response to hatred, and that is love. Love in all it's shapes and forms. Receiving Love from on high, ordinary loving acts, and everything in between.
The Gospel demands it, our country needs it, God's got this!
Peace and Good!
Ennie and Cana