As I think back on this year, one thing that stands out to me is the incredible outpouring of hospitality I’ve received. Hospitality is one of those things, like sweet tea and country music, that most of us just expect to see in the South. But I’m not just talking about the “come on in and have yourself a cookie” kind of hospitality. I’m talking about the “come on in, you 22-year-old stranger, and make yourself at home FOR NINE MONTHS STRAIGHT” kind. Is this as crazy to you as it is to me?

As you might have guessed, my host family is the most obvious and dramatic example. From the day we met at their front door, the Gaw’s have graciously invited me into their space and into their lives. They’ve made an effort to include me in special events like birthday dinners, basketball games, gatherings with the extended family, and Christmas tree decorating (I even got my own stocking- are they trying to make me weep?). They’ve also welcomed me into daily activities like breakfast before school, homework in the evenings, and Saturday morning walks. The Gaw’s have quite literally communicated “mi casa es su casa” to me, and it still blows me away, especially as someone who is pretty possessive of her personal space.

Last week, when I asked if I could join a bonfire party they were planning, my “host dad” responded, matter-of-factly, “Of course! You’re a part of our family!” It’s a beautiful and humbling experience to be given a place at the table like this, not because I did anything special, but just because they wanted to.

As if that weren’t enough, it’s not just my host family who has shown me hospitality this year. It’s the eight other host families who let us cook and watch movies in their homes because we don’t yet have spaces of our own. It’s our beloved “Mamma T,” who, week after week, for several hours, lets us make a mess in her kitchen as we attempt to cook for Roundtable. It’s my wonderful mentor, who consistently welcomes me into her home, into her life, and into the lives of her family members. And the list goes on.

Aside from making me feel warm inside and grateful beyond grateful, this day-after-day, week-after-week type of hospitality I’ve experienced has given me a richer understanding of what it looks like for God to welcome His children. It also inspires me to practice extending this kind of welcome to others.

So, a big THANK YOU to the Gaw’s for inviting me into your family for the year. And thank you to everyone who has made me feel loved and welcomed in this year of transition.

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