Today's post was written by Heather Platt.

I was 22 years old, newly married, and had just moved to New Orleans, LA. My husband, David, had decided to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and to study under a well known professor named Dr. Jim Shaddix. I was lonely, sad, and even a little scared about being on our own in this new city. As always, the Lord proved Himself faithful and strong on my behalf by providing a wonderful mentor and friend for me through Jim’s wife, Debra. I could have never imagined what I would learn about life, family, and hospitality from this precious woman, who is now one of my very best friends.

It all started one night when we were at the Shaddix’s house for dinner. We had only been in New Orleans a few weeks, and David was traveling that particular weekend to preach out of town. I was not looking forward to the time by myself. At the dinner table that night, the Shaddix kids started talking about family night. A movie, popcorn, everyone snuggled up on the couch. Inside, something began bubbling up in me. I was feeling so lonely and longing for friends and family that before I could stop myself, I burst out and said, “I love family night! That sounds like so much fun, can I come?” Everyone stopped, including my VERY EMBARRASSED husband, and looked at me. "Did I just say that out loud? I can’t believe I invited myself over to these people’s house I just met!" Debra smiled and graciously said, “Of course you can join us, Heather.” That was the beginning of many lessons I learned from her in “hospitality.”

Often times, we think we need to follow certain criteria to show hospitality: a clean house, a big, elaborate meal, perfect kids, the right outfit, etc. As I spent time with Debra and the Shaddix family, I realized that hospitality is actually very simple. Here are few things she taught me:

  • My home does not have to be pristine for company to come over, but simply inviting. I WANTED to come to “family night” because the environment of their home felt warm and cozy. It was the Spirit of Christ that shined brightly in their home and that gave me the desire to spend time with them.

  • Meals can be simple or elaborate depending on what YOU feel comfortable with. Debra is an excellent cook; I am not. She showed me the value of a nice meal around the table AND an impromptu meal of chicken wings pulled out of the freezer. I found that it is more important to focus on spending time with your guests. Thinking of meals that can be made ahead of time, getting take out, eating on paper plates, or just leaving the dishes for later, makes for a pleasant night of fellowship and getting to know each other better.

  • Finally, relax! Enjoy the gift of company. Whether it’s a visit you planned for or an unexpected surprise, invite them in, make eye contact, and be a good listener. Debra and I do not show hospitality in the same way. We have very different personalities, but I know it is not what I serve my guests but the attitude by which I serve them. When I am at Debra’s house, she makes her guests simply feel comfortable. Her easy going demeanor puts people at ease and makes them sit back and enjoy themselves!

That particular “family night” is one of my favorite memories. I came over in my comfy clothes ready to enjoy an evening with new friends. We had a simple meal, turned on a movie, and snuggled in with a blanket on the couch. The running joke with Debra, Jim and their kids is that by the end of the movie, I had spread out and fell asleep on their couch! I guess that just shows how good they are at hospitality! They made me feel so welcomed, I felt comfortable enough to fall asleep! I am so thankful for the friendship that grew deeper that night (despite my own lack of etiquette!), and how the Lord has continued to teach me much about His love and grace through this precious family!