I am a reluctant renter.

Have been for years.

Our last rental house was small, it had faux bricks that constantly fell off the kitchen walls and carpets that, well, let’s just say back then we had three kids under the age of six and leave the rest up to your imagination.

For years my small house stunted my hospitality.

I’d always loved to have friends over. I’m not awesome with a glue gun and I do not have any real furniture arranging mojo. But I’m generally comfortable in my own skin. And I love lingering over the last of the hot chocolate with friends and leaving the dishes for later.

Give me girlfriends, church friends, grand parents, aunts, uncles or cousins – I love to have them in my space.

But since my space had shrunk the last few years it turns out my hospitality had shrunk right along with it. I didn’t realize quite how much until our South African cousins surprised us with the news they were going to be coming through the DC area and were so excited to come and visit – and hopefully stay – with us.

I was elated for 5 minutes before the wave of embarrassed disappointment hit.

The teeny living room, three bedrooms and one bathroom all flashed through my mind. Then there was the not-so-small matter that we only have 4 dining room chairs and no guest bedroom. An inflatable mattress and sofa pillows were the best we had to offer over night guests.

Five of them and five of us in our house seemed like a recipe for hostess hyperventilation. Insert entertaining in a small house nightmares here. So I was relieved when they said they’d be happy to stay at a hotel. And astonished when my husband emailed them back and insisted they stay with us.

I was incredulous. I pointed out the obvious. Our. House. Is. Small.

Turned out, however, Peter wasn’t limited by the size of our house. Because he had big hospitality in mind.

He said we should give them our master bedroom and we’d take the inflatable mattress in the playroom, even if it was only for a night. The kids could camp out on mattresses and sofa cushions in the living room. He was determined that our homesick boys would get a full dose of family. And that meant sleepovers included.

We made dinner a taco fiesta buffet and everyone ate anywhere they were comfy. We put our best sheets on the bed and fluffed up our favorite pillows for them. The boys rolled out their blankets and stuffed toys and plotted games and snacks and stories.

In the five years we lived in that tiny, quirky, run-down house it never felt as big as it did the week that the Vercueils visited us.

I learned that big hospitality has nothing to do with the size of your house.

Big hospitality is a matter of the heart and not the architecture.

Once I let go of my obsession with smallness, I was able to embrace the fun of squeezing as much big hospitality as we could manage into a week instead of worrying how it would fit into our four walls.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe this holiday season has you hyperventilating at the thought of your house being exposed for all to see how small or cramped or imperfect it is.

May I suggest a mental shift this Thanksgiving and Christmas season? If you see your house as big and welcoming as you feel about the people you’re having over, so will everyone who walks through its doors.

The size of your house, my friends, is entirely in your own hands.