Book Review: Just Open The Door by Jen Schmidt

In my first blog post, I stated that Patch405 was a place where I can “create my own little slice of heaven, restore my soul, and nurture those around me.” The book Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt helps me do all of that.

The book is biblically based, and draws its core message from the love in action section of Romans 12, specifically verse 13:   “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” In Christian circles, we often talk about spiritual gifts. Schmidt is quick to note that hospitality isn’t assigned to those possessing the gift, but a command to all of us.

The book encourages and inspires the reader. It pushes you to think beyond the obvious. Chapters are supplemented by real-life questions that Schmidt has received in letters from her readers. Schmidt also provides suggestions to take your hospitality to the next level. An added bonus is snippets from guest contributors – who include members of her family and close friends.

I must admit that my own hospitality is lacking at the moment, for a variety of reasons. Schmidt’s words did encourage and inspire me to do better, but her words also reminded me of women in my world who have demonstrated hospitality so well.

Chapter 4 – Hospitality on the Go. This chapter focuses on taking hospitality out of your home and bringing it with you wherever you go. The perfect example of this is my friend Jane Fredlock. If you have ever been fortunate enough to sit next to Jane at a high school football game (or any other event), you know that she comes prepared to share. There is always a baked goodie – or two, or three. Peanut butter fudge is a staple in her hospitality arsenal. If you’re traveling to an away game, don’t be surprised when she offers you something a little more substantial to fill your tummy. Hot nights lend themselves to extra bottles of water. Freezing cold evenings most likely mean hot chocolate will be offered. She is always prepared, and happy to share with anyone sitting near her.

Chapter 5 – Everyday Moments. Back in 2011/2012, our family hosted an exchange student from Germany. To return the favor, her parents hosted Brad and me in the summer of 2013.  In doing so, Ursula Malcherek gave a tutorial in showing hospitality in everyday moments. We fell in love with the European lifestyle. Ursula or one of the girls rode a bike each morning to fetch fresh bread from the bakery. They picked flowers, herbs, berries, and vegetables from the backyard to enhance each meal. We sat on the patio, drinking coffee (or wine), listening to the neighborhood sounds while comparing our lives, our countries, our hopes and dreams.  They simply shared life with us.

Chapter 7 – The Power of One. The concept in this chapter is that you can make a difference in one person’s life, concerning one particular aspect of hospitality. The difference maker for me was Mary Starnes. Our families met when we were both living in the same neighborhood as young families, just getting started. Pretty much everyone we knew was doing some kind of house project. Maybe it was something as simple as painting the living room. Or as complicated as remodeling a kitchen. There was always a project going on and, therefore, always a valid reason to avoid welcoming people into your home. Early on in our friendship, Mary clearly stated that if she waited until every home project was finished before she could host guests, she would never have the opportunity. And so, she did house projects and she had guests. Her commitment to building relationships was far too important to be delayed by a house project.

Chapter 12 – A Home That Says “Welcome.” Shelley Holmes wins the award in this category. Her home is always ready. She is anxious to host family gatherings, book clubs, Bunco, graduation parties, and backyard barbeques. She welcomes out-of-town guests – including the long-time friend and the stranger. She makes visiting easy, and it never seems to be an imposition. She is gracious and accommodating. I even remember a time when she insisted on hosting my husband and son in her home even though she and her son were traveling to a different state to visit me.

Chapter 13 – If Teacups and Coffee Cups Could Talk. There are lots of angles to this chapter. Ultimately, the message that I took away is to make your guest feel special. In my mind, no one does that better than Janet Staples. In her home, I have experienced feeling special as a member of a group as well as in a one-on-one interaction. She truly has the gift of making you feel like you are her most important priority. As the host of a ladies’ brunch, she was engaged in the table conversation, not distracted by thinking about the next course.  Her actions were slow and deliberate, giving each guest the attention she deserved. One-on-one, her focus is magnified. She listens well, empathizes in earnest, and shares from the heart.

I’ve been blessed to experience amazing acts of hospitality. These women are just five of many that have touched my life. At times, I think that I have returned the favor or even paid it forward to another. Currently though, I have lost my way. To quote Schmidt, “Somehow we’ve dressed up this simple desire to gather, and we’ve laced it with imposing expectations and the pressure of performance.” If this quote resonates with you, please consider finding encouragement and inspiration in Just Open the Door. I’m anxious to fulfill my vision for Patch405 and truly nurture those around me with a healthy dose of hospitality.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.)      

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