Rachel is a member of our family, but not in the biological sense. Our four children consider her their older sister. My husband considers Rachel a daughter. And I consider her the perfect combination of a little sister and best friend.
Rachel was a junior at TCU when we met her. I was leading a Bible study, and she was one of the Young Life leaders who attended. After losing her dad to ALS when she was eleven, Rachel had done her best to navigate through the tremendous sorrow, but the burden had become too much for her heart to to bear.
She was sad and felt alone, and she needed help. My husband and I formed a plan and made a decision. We knew that Rachel needed community and a home, and we had a family and an extra bedroom. So we scooped her up, moved her out of her apartment, and welcomed her into our guest room.
At the time, I remember thinking that inviting Rachel to live with us was the pinnacle of practicing hospitality, something akin to getting a doctorate in the subject. I mean, we invited someone to live with us, for crying out loud. How much more hospitable can you get?
Up to that point, I was good at entertaining, I was good at planning events, and I was good at cooking. I thought I was good at hospitality, but to be honest, our time with Rachel really opened my eyes to how little I knew about the true meaning of the word.
To have another person living in our home, suffering and sad, unable to offer much in the way of feedback or participation, was vastly different than my experience planning meals and executing parties. Rachel desperately needed something, but all we could offer her was a place to sit on the couch, a family to interact with, and food to eat when she was hungry.
I found myself feeling uncomfortable, not quite sure what to do or say. My motivation in opening our home up to this point had always been to prove to others that I was enough, but with Rachel, it was different. I realized what she needed was greater than what I had to offer, and what I was clamoring for could not be found in her. I began to see that hospitality meant something more than cooking or planning.
We knit Rachel into the fabric of our lives, and she became part of our family. We didn’t do this extravagantly, or with fanfare, but we made room for her in our routine and in the big and little events of our life. For the first time ever, I didn’t have an agenda other than to love her well. I didn’t look to the experience of having her in our home to meet my needs or make me feel like I belonged.
Little by little, Rachel began to heal. And little by little, I began to learn what hospitality really meant. We created space for her, and right in front of our eyes, powerful things happened. Things that had nothing to do with us. A broken, lonely, grief-stricken girl experienced life in the context of family, and in the space that we created, she came back to life again.
Rachel lived with us for a year, then worked for a year in Colorado at a Young Life camp, and then she moved back in with us for a short while before moving to Austin. Along the way she fell in love with Patrick, and shortly after her move to Austin, Patrick asked her to marry him in the foyer of the house on Hurley Avenue. Three months later they were married in our living room.
Rachel and Patrick's wedding invitation was the first place "Hurley House" was printed to officially describe our home. Their wedding remains one of the most beautiful events I have ever witnessed.
Who is Rachel? She is the picture of beauty from brokenness that reminds me the true power of hospitality, and of the change that happens when we create space for others.
Who is Rachel? She is the reason I cry every time someone asks me about the name Hurley House. Always happy tears, and always from a heart of gratitude and joy. But also from a place of deep humility and stumbling awe when I take in the magnitude of life-change that happened for all of us when our family created space for her.
Who is Rachel? She is any of us. We all are in need of something no one else can fill, faced with a burden that falls beyond the limits of earthly intervention, and desperate for the love of a Father. He welcomes us to his table, heals our hearts, quiets our cries, and fills our deepest longings with Himself. And because of His extravagant love, we are never the same.
I hope this story of redemption and healing within the context of hospitality encourages you to make space for others. I hope you have opportunity to share your space with others, even when it doesn't make sense. And I hope you get to see and experience true hospitality. The impact can be life-changing.