As a child, I loved to watch my mother visit with friends in our living room. I enjoyed listening to adult conversations and laughter. I delighted in the grown-up snacks and treats. I used to beg my mother to have friends over. I didn’t really care who as long as I could participate or lounge around in their presence.
What I hated about having company was the cleaning beforehand. I despised the dusting and polishing. I loathed the shopping, staying neat and waiting. I remember haughtily tell my mother “When I grow up I will always be prepared for guests. I will have my living room clean. Candles lit and glowing. Music playing quietly. And a tray of tasties waiting in the fridge. Just in case friends stop by.” Mom smiled at me, patted my knee, and wisely whispered, “Wouldn’t that be nice.”
Nearly, 30 years later, and I’m sitting on a freshly vacuumed rug typing away as my daughter and niece visit and paint together. A sleepover in progress. A sleepover I cleaned for the entire week prior. A sleepover I had my husband run out this morning to supply with treats. A sleepover for which I still need to order pizza. And my visitors are 10 and 12 years old. Not exactly the has-it-all together housewife I intended to be. Not exactly the dinner parties I’d imagined. Not exactly perfect but completely comfy.
Had this been a birthday party or small group meeting, I would have anguished for weeks to get everything tidy. Meanwhile, my family would have had to fend for themselves. Had there been non-family guests, I would be wearing makeup and floating casually from coffee pot to stove to the living room to be accommodating. Meanwhile, I would be inwardly anxious and nearly panicking. Had this been for church or work, I would be topping off trays, filling glasses, and spouting conversational interjections as I passed my guests. Meanwhile, I’d be killing myself to check and recheck the bathroom and not fully participate in any of the fellowship occurring in my own living room. After guests would leave, I’d drop a sweaty, spazzed out, spent spinster of a mama on the couch and inwardly sob from exhaustion.
Younger me, berates older me for not living up to my own standards. Older me wistfully tells younger me to shut it and go tell her own tired momma sorry for the judgment. Here’s what I know now. I’m an introvert. I love people but except for select and segmented times, I love them better from a distance. I can pray for them. Send them encouragement cards. Crochet them gifts. Text them jokes and even drop off random anonymous gifts. But all my social graces clump up in my throat if they dare to call me or get me face to face. I also know I am no domestic goddess. I’m adequate and that works for my family. I’d rather play a board game with my kids then sort socks and so we often wear unmatched socks. Big whoop. It gives us a quirky charm and saves me from perfectionist panic attacks. I am also not an accomplished chef or even deft defroster. I’ve even set fire to $4500 designer oven while trying to warm up Brie and preserves. However, I’m great at brewing a pot of coffee and can rip open a mean bag of Oreos. Yet, I’m a small group leader, a friend to extroverts, a woman who loves other people, and a homeschooler whose children desperately want to have friends over.
So, how do I overcome my lack of hosting and people skills? How do I open my home for friends and strangers without sacrificing my loved ones on the altar of over expectation? It begins with a very deep, cleansing breath and a whole lot of letting go. I’ve created one easy-to-make treat, that I can make well, that doesn’t’ make my kitchen a mess. I bake it in the crockpot as I brew coffee and get out my fanciest and funkiest coffee mugs. The mixed aromas fill up the house as I begin to tidy up the necessaries. I wash my face and fix my hair. To ensure everything smells inviting I take the trash out, get the dishes washed and the bathroom scrubbed, which takes a total of five minutes if I delegate out the tasks. I light a candle or turn on my oil diffuser. I shut my bedroom door and try not to worry over the laundry basket in the living room. It’s clean enough and there’s a snuggly spot to socialize.
I remind myself that no one is perfect and that my imperfections may just be the encouragement my company needs to relax. I fix my focus on my guests. I want them to know they are welcome and important. I sit and pray. I ask the Holy Spirit to be present in my home and to flood it over with peace. I ask for ears that listen well, a heart that understands the hearts of others, and words that encourage and lift up. Lastly, I make up my mind to have fun, to take part, and to be present. My home is just that a home. It’s filled with loudness and laughter and reflects the lives lived within it. So, I let it BE home.
And then I share it, happily and haphazardly. And you can do it too.
Share some of your hospitality tips for other haphazard hostesses and help yourself to my amazing crockpot cake recipe.