Home for the Holidays, Part 2

This week on The Allender Center Podcast, Dan and Becky Allender continue our series about engaging the holiday season in all of its beauty and complexity (you can listen to part one here). Dan and Becky reflect on their experiences of welcoming guests into their home, exploring what it looks like to receive others in hospitality and kindness, in a manner that is life-giving to the guests and the hosts.

Dan: “It’s a complicated, wonderful, glorious, and for most, ambivalently exhausting season. […] We’re arguing, to some degree, that Christmas is a setup for a lot of conflict that can’t be addressed because you don’t want to ruin the holiday for yourself or your children. A lot of expectation and pressure and exhaustion that often get woven into interactions where a lot happens that shouldn’t happen, and now what do we do?”

Becky is known for creating warm, peaceful environments to welcome others into. “The light of your life is reflected in virtually every square inch of this home,” Dan tells her.

Becky: “Many have said that I have the gift of hospitality, and at times it seemed kind of a lowly gift, like I would like something a bit more glitzy, a little more shine. But I love serving people. It’s something that comes very easy for me. I love seeing what they like, preparing what they like, I like serving them, letting them rest.”

Dan and Becky recall moments of welcoming their grown children back into their home for holidays, a feeling most of us are familiar with—the pleasure of anticipating the arrival of people we love.

Dan: “That first half hour happens to be one of the sweet gifts of life. […] There’s something about the bustle, the excitement, that’s just a really sweet experience. […] The pleasure often dissipates after that first half hour, because then a lot of work begins.”

How can we make sure that the act of welcoming and serving others does not lead to the sort of exhaustion that so often results in resentment?

Becky: “You have to pace yourself. What I learned, and continue to learn, is when we have a house full of family, and grandchildren, it’s a good thing if I would get away for a little bit and have a quiet moment to recharge.”

For Dan, finding goodness in the midst of the bustle means taking time for one-on-one interactions and fostering the kind of conversation that often eludes us when the whole family is together.

Dan: “I would hope that the larger domain is that I know you, and you have tasted more of my delight and my sense of honor for you, more of that after you’ve departed than you’ve ever felt before. […] It’s the idea that people are so amazing and intriguing. Until you walk many trails to find treasure that they don’t even know is full of that goodness, then events just end up becoming this monotony of we get together, we have a meal, and then we watch a movie. […] A movie, as helpful as it is, is only as helpful as what it takes us into regarding our own hearts and lives.”

That combination—Becky’s warmth and hospitality, Dan’s intrigue regarding the stories of others—have allowed for many rich, meaningful experiences of welcoming people into their home. As long as they remember to rest together and take time for themselves, they have found great goodness in the ability to bring their unique gifts and personalities to the act of hosting others.

Dan: “I bless Christmas, but I also know that it is a season in which I must enter with as much consciousness and choice and intentionality, not so much lowering expectations as honoring what it is that my heart really is demanding, therefore exposing, therefore repenting, therefore being able to offer a greater ground for people to be themselves and to be able to use this time and space for goodness.”

Next week, as we continue this series, Dan will be joined by his daughter-in-law, Sassy, in a conversation about entering the home of another as a guest during the holidays.