We’re celebrating long-time (in)courage contributor Jen Schmidt as she prepares to release her first book, the next to sit on the (in)courage bookshelf of publications! So today, we’re giving you a glimpse inside Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation. Enjoy!
As I think back on where my legacy of hospitality started, my memories surround our childhood doorway.
I can’t really describe it in great detail. That’s how little its appearance even mattered. But I do remember its purpose. It housed both a storm door and a screen door. The heavy door kept out the brutal Wisconsin winter, while the other door contained a large screen for those rare days when we captured the magic of spring and summer. My favorite days growing up? The ones when that screen door announced action.
I’d hear it again. Slam. Slam.
“In or out?” my mom’s voice echoed through the house. “Please stop slamming the door.” To me, though, that slam was never one of annoyance. Its recurring sound breathed life. It meant things were happening.
Dropping their mud-covered bikes on our grass, kids stormed through the door hoping my brothers could play. Slam.
A neighbor lady popped her head in, asking for an extra egg. Slam.
A missionary family, spending the week with us while home on furlough, returned from an errand or a nearby speaking engagement. Slam.
But more than anything, I remember hearing the sound of that door on Sunday nights. Slam. Slam. Slam.
Long before Field of Dreams popularized the phrase, my parents had already personified the message of, “If you build it, they will come.” With a genuine love for others, and inspired by an outsized vision for impacting their community, they defied the indoor space limitations of our fifteen-hundred-square-foot house and poured a concrete pad in the backyard. Thus began an informal volleyball league, meeting every Sunday night. Friends, kids, and strangers alike gathered from all over. Simple snacks lined the table, complete with stacks of coolers filled with cold drinks. Smoky aromas from a charcoal grill wafted through the air. Laughter mingled with the casual delights of shared conversation, punctuated by roars of cheering and applause for points scored and exceptional plays. High-fives all around.
Slam. Slam. Slam. Slam. Slam.
There was never anything fancy about it. “Come Sunday night, bring your favorite beverage, a little something to eat, and let’s have fun playing together.” But I’m telling you, a whole lot more than volleyball took place on those incredibly memorable evenings of my childhood. What started out as a loosely connected community came together around a game, only to turn into friendships that lingered into lasting relationships. Life after life. Story after story.
I was there. I saw it. I heard it. My parents — an ordinary couple — made a deliberate decision, intent on getting to know the people around them from more than a polite distance. I didn’t even realize they were modeling anything special. They were simply living the natural outflow of their faith, putting a smiling face on their heart of welcome. But the aroma it created drew others in. And it wasn’t just the aroma of Wisconsin brats roasting on an open fire. It was so much more.
It changed the dynamic. It changed people’s lives. Because hospitality has the power to change a generation.
I know I’m issuing a bold declaration with these words—“change a generation”—but I don’t offer it lightly. I genuinely believe we can change a generation with something as simple as an invitation.
And I say, why not yours? I’ve sure seen it change mine.
The stories you’re about to read, the ideas you’re about to glean— none of them started with me. But from my front-row seat, observing what started with my parents, I’ve witnessed three generations of families continuing to extend these simple invitations. And as a result of God working through such heart-to-heart interactions, I’ve seen friendships formed, relationships restored, outsiders welcomed, and the gospel come to life. Together these experiences excite me as some of my favorite, most memorable chapters, with many other chapters yet to be written, still in process. I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out—it’s a cliff-hanger, so to speak—but it’s sure to be amazing. Rich in faith, in goodness, in fun, and in deep, deep meaning.
And nothing would mean more to me than for you to come along . . . to write your own ending while I’m here writing mine.
Life is always better with another. So, can we walk this road of welcome together? Begin where we are? And just start? I’m asking you to accept the invitation because this message matters. It’s transformative. It’s the start of a legacy. It can reshape things to come.
Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
I’m so intrigued by the idea of writing our own endings in this journey of hospitality. Life gets so busy and full, but I never want to crowd out the people who keep my door slamming and happy!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I was literally laughing out loud recalling memories of our screen door growing up. I fondly recall, too, the “thwack” of it slamming shut and my mother yelling, “In or out? Pick one.” Fast forward many years and we had a flooring contractor give us an estimate on refinishing our hardwood floors in my home. “Boy, ma’am, these floors have seen some wear and tear,” was his comment. I thought of all my kids’ friends gathering at our house as it was the place to be. Roller blades, against my edict, rolling across the floor to the bathroom for breaks in roller hockey games. Tween girls having dance offs in the kitchen with the “Backstreet Boys” blaring in the background. Two black lab mixes and a beagle, gaining traction on the wood floor, when the doorbell would ring. Small groups hovering ’round the counter talking and laughing before the Bible study or meeting began. I hope I leave a legacy like your parents left you. What better legacy than having a door, that strangers and friends alike, know is always open? My attitude is sign your initials in the dust on my coffee table, and come on in. It hasn’t always been this way, but God’s been good (and patient) to teach me. Can’t wait to read the next chapters….congrats’!!
Sounds so great Bev, I hope I can create that for my kids x
You are a talented writer, I look forward to reading the next two chapters when I get a breather from the readings from this Masters. Reading for fun, what I wouldn’t do to be able to do that soon!
Mary Geisen says
In just a few short paragraphs you brought back memories of my own childhood. Friends coming and going and Sunday dinners seem to be a thing of the past but my parents made it look easy. I moved this past September and my goal is to open my door often to others. It is something I am working on but when God calls us to love our neighbors he didn’t say, “ your house needs to look perfect.” Thank you for writing what is on my heart.
Women Seeking Christ says
I know this is an odd take on this, but I think about Zacchaeus when I think about inviting people to my home. Zacchaeus went to see Jesus never expecting Him to say, “hey, I’m coming over today.” Yet, Zacchaeus came down from the tree and and was excited to have Jesus as a guest. I probably would have worried about the dishes I left undone or the clothes on the floor of the laundry room. I would be asking myself if my house is good enough? Instead, I should be asking is my heart right.
Jen @beautyandbedlam.com says
Absolutely Patrice – I actually talk about this in the chapter, “The Uncomfortable Yes” because so many people fear the drop in guest, yet Jesus was the ultimate drop in, wasn’t He?
Joey Rudder says
Oh my, you’ve got my wheels spinning, Jennifer. I grew up completely opposite but crave this sort of connection and the slam of our door. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I shared Sunday evening volleyball games at a friend of a friend’s who opened his yard to a large group of us. I’ve missed those relaxed yet meaningful meetings. Your post is a confirmation to prayerfully consider what I’ve wanted to do for you years…open our door AND our yard. As always, I’m inspired by your posts and excited to read more. Congrats on the release of your first book and thank you!
Jen @beautyandbedlam.com says
Thank you, Joey!! I can’t wait to hear your next step story of all the Lord will do through your decision to open your door (and yard.) YAY!!! 🙂
Joey Rudder says
Jen you have reminded me of much! We lived near our pop pop and a few aunts and uncles in one small bay shore town. I’m the second of seven so I had the duty to babysit and love on the cousins amongst my own siblings.. on Sunday afternoon pop did the spaghetti & meatball dinner for everyone! Families & neighbor alike.. door slamming WAS the way and since it was the back door it was also near a huge mulberry tree that generated flys in large numbers!! I do miss those days but my mom did the same and I am trying to make it work but families are estranged in my life so I’ve moved onto my neighbors and church family.. it’s a joyful life especially when Jesus is in the center of it all.. my husbands grown to love this lifestyle and sometimes does the inviting himself! He helps the prep time and has become quite the conversationalist:) God bless your heart and all those who follow His commands to love their neighbors as themselves…We can trust His Word to be faithful and true! Slam!
Beth Williams says
Growing up I didn’t have the kind of life you did. Not many friends. We moved a bunch & my parents kept to themselves. I understand the idea of hospitality. You never know who you can reach for Christ by just having them over for a meal or just a talk. I get blessed often by being asked to come share a meal with others. I enjoy it. My belief is it builds strong friendships. I’ve seen people invite college students-especially foreign ones to dinners often. This is all about being the hands & feet of Jesus. One should not mind the state of their house, but be willing to be open almost any time.