Long car rides and washing dishes in the kitchen sink have something very important in common. Both have the ability to let my mind retreat into itself and let random thoughts come to the forefront, much like the way tea leaves expand in the boiling water. This morning, at the kitchen sink, with my hands scrubbing bread pans and pot lids in the warm soapy water, one of those unexpected thoughts suddenly came to the forefront of my mind so unexpectedly that I wanted to drop my dishes right then and there and start writing. However, I responsibly finished my kitchen work, cleaned up from the lunch hour, welcomed some new seminary students into our home for a short visit and put my littlest down for a nap while my husband roasted some fresh coffee beans.
With a cup of English breakfast tea in hand and a book beside me for inspiration (God in the Sink by Margie Haack), I recall that somehow between the soap suds and relaxation of washing dishes from the day before, the calm in my house while children were playing, I realized something very wonderful. It involved hospitality and a children’s book series, Frog and Toad.
My thoughts often revolve around children’s books in this season of life. I wonder about that Winnie the Pooh who so looks at everything in life with such simplicity and ease. I often think about Squirrel Nutkin and his crazy antics and how much he has made my children laugh until it hurts. Our kids go on adventures into Narnia behind our home and I brace myself while reading the Chronicles for the moment when my kids realize that whatever magic is happening in the story in that moment surely means that Aslan is around, He’s coming or is already somehow mysteriously there though they hadn’t realized it for a few paragraphs. And I can’t wait for one o’clock to roll around so we can snuggle up on the couch to continue reading about a little baby named Pollywog and his curious disappearance in the playhouse floor. Unlike Eustace, and most like the Pevensies, we Harris’ want to make sure we read all the right books! Perhaps if we do, we might get to travel to enchanted lands of our own or walk into the coat closet and see if it leads to another world… my oldest two did nervously try that once, or twice, a few years ago!
Stories about little critters that keep house and home in burrows, hollows, or tree stumps have fascinated me since I was a child. So how did I make that connection between hospitality and Frog and Toad? I had never explicitly realized it before, but somehow subconsciously I had always known it. Frog and Toad are two friends that share life together in a caring and winsome way. Perhaps its the illustrations of a crackling fire in the fireplace, a toad sitting on a wing-backed chair, a cup of tea shared. Perhaps its the letter sent from Frog who knew how desperately his friend wanted a letter to come in the mail. Perhaps its the way these two friends always know the other will always be there for them or the way they really do care what the other friend is talking about even if it doesn’t totally make sense. Perhaps its the hospitality experienced in the willingness to sit with a friend who lost his to-do list. I’m sure one day I will be old and grey and need someone to remind me of the things I needed to do that day.
Sharing the simple ordinary events of their days. Isn’t this what hospitality is? Entering in to someone else’s life because you simply want to! Even when you don’t want to, but still do, this is hospitality.
My home was not cleaned up when these new students arrived on our doorstep today. There were parenting moments, interspersed with conversation, a sink full to the brim of dirty dishes, a sewing machine, a dirty floor, and messy hair tossed into a bun. But this is my ordinary and we welcomed them in to our ordinary, we made time to talk, and we gave them some fresh roasted coffee beans. Then we made sure we remembered each other’s names. It reminded me of Frog and Toad.