Aspiring to the Art of Welcoming

Nov 1, 2000

by, Nita Landis. Copyright 1998. All Rights Reserved.

Jesus welcomed children. He said, “Let the little children come to me,” and rebuked those who were more concerned with keeping a busy day on schedule than with the needs and desires of children. Jesus treated the children as important people whose needs (for attention, answers to questions, discipline, eye contact and hugs, praise and warm acceptance) mattered as much as the plans of adults. Jesus rebuked the adults who saw the children as an interruption. On how many days would I, too, hear a rebuke if I could actually hear Jesus’ voice?

I came home ten years ago when Daniel (our first child) was born. Before he was even born, I knew that I wanted to be home when our children arrived. My brief foray into part-time teaching when Daniel was eight months old was distressing; I never did find a childcare situation for Daniel that I believed was as good for him as being home with Mama. So I am at home with our three children most of the day, every day, seeking to nurture their spirits, minds and bodies.

Yet, how fully do I welcome them into my life? More and more I see that I can be present in body without being with them and for them in mind and heart. How well I know my tendency to think of them as an endless chain of interruptions to my plans, to shoo them away when a wiser mother would draw them close.

To welcome is to “receive gladly and cordially, greet with pleasure and hospitality, accept with satisfaction” (Webster). How lovely an experience it is to be welcomed! And how blessed are the children of a mother who receives them gladly and cordially, greets them with pleasure and hospitality and accepts them with satisfaction.

These actions seem possible enough (and even fun!) when guests arrive. I love to receive guests into my home with smiles and hugs and to carefully attend to making each one comfortable. I enjoy greeting guests with a warm “I’m so glad you could come,” serving them a delicious meal, offering them activities planned particularly for their enjoyment and settling them into a pleasant room with clean sheets and fresh flowers. I get such pleasure out of treasure-hunting: searching to find in each guest some quality in which to delight, accepting each one with satisfaction.

But what about when my guests waken me several times a night, produce prodigious amounts of laundry, fail to wipe their noses or sit still at the table, sass me, and stay for eighteen years? Can I remain interested in this art of welcoming when the guests are my children? For in some ways that is what our children are—long-term guests. They do not belong to us, and a day is coming when they will leave.

How many mornings do I greet my children with smiles and hugs? How carefully do I attend to helping each one start the day on a good note? Do I let my children know “I’m glad you’re here!”? Can I joyfully serve tuna salad to a complainer for lunch and provide clean sheets for a bedwetter one more time? How much mental energy do I spend on planning activities that will particularly please them? Am I committed to discovering each one’s strengths rather than dwelling on irritating habits or irksome aspects of temperament? Do I accept each child with satisfaction, as Jesus did and does?

O Lord, grace me with the desire and ability to welcome my children. Give me the love You want me to have for each one. Grant me graciousness in my dealing with them and the discipline to draw apart with You to be refreshed. Help me learn to receive from You throughout the day the strength to be a welcoming mother. May our home be a haven where our children are received gladly and cordially, greeted with pleasure and hospitality, and accepted with satisfaction.

Nita Landis and her husband, Karl, live in Cary and are educating Daniel (twelve), Katie (ten) and Peter (almost seven) at home. They are in the midst of their eighth year of homeschooling and enjoy participating in the Isaiah 40 homeschoolers support group.

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