I remember the first time we decided to host some friends for a meal after we got married. I had hosted friends during college before, but had never felt like I needed to do anything special or wow my friends with a very Pinterest friendly recipe. The first time we hosted friends, I felt panicked. So many thoughts ran through my head: What should I make? I wish I had nicer dishes to serve the meal. My serving bowl doesn't match the plates. How will I have the meal hot and ready by the time they arrive and still have a perfectly clean kitchen?
It took only a few times of hosting friends like this to realize there had to be a better way. There had to be a way to open your home to friends, feel confident about the meal you had prepared and be able to enjoy the time with your guests instead of stressing over the messy kitchen.
The Lord did not invent a heart of hospitality to foster stress in our lives. He gave us a heart that longs to open our doors and fellowship because it furthers His kingdom. It allows us to have open conversations, get to know one another outside of the office walls and to dig deeper into our relationships.
If opening your home for a meal (or at all) is stressful or anxiety producing for you, here a few ways to learn to open your home.
Ever heard the saying failure to plan is planning to fail? If opening your home to friends or family isn't your thing, don't try to start by spontaneously inviting friends over in an hour. Instead, plan for the next week. This will give you time to meal plan, grocery shop and lightly tidy your home before your guests come.
Instead of inviting over a group of twenty and planning a Thanksgiving sized feast, start by inviting over friends for pizza. It's not fancy but it doesn't have to be. Invite friends over for coffee and bake chocolate chip cookies. Yes, we need dinner, but we don't need to start with that. Don't allow yourself to be stressed out thinking you have to do something specific. Do what works for your family. The point is to open your door to foster conversations and growth in friendships.
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Sounds kind of counter productive doesn't it? But sometimes our problem isn't that the chicken dish was dry or the chocolate cake was burnt. Sometimes our problem is that we expected things to be perfect the first time. Dinner parties or hosting guests is rarely perfect. Instead of expecting perfection, remember that the point of opening your doors isn't perfection. In fact, allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the imperfections of the evening can allow for others to be vulnerable about other imperfections they have as well. If guests come to your home and feel like everything you do is totally perfect, they're likely to feel like they need to be perfect, too.
One of the first times we hosted a couple friend of ours to celebrate their engagement was anything but perfect. I decided to try a new recipe (rarely a good idea for company) and make homemade ravioli sans a pasta roller. The thing I did do right is give myself plenty of time to make the ravioli ahead of time. The thing I didn't do right is make sure we had a back up plan or to taste the ravioli ahead of time. Had I done that, we wouldn't realized the dough was incredibly too thick and we would've made something different. Instead we all ate the meal and everyone tried to convince me it was just fine.
It's okay to try new meals with friends, but don't expect perfection. Try a new recipe but allow for mishaps that may happen. Expect the unexpected and if it makes you feel more at ease, have a back up plan ready in case something goes wrong with your recipe.
The last thing you must do is to recognize that you need grace. No one will walk into your home and start counting the dirty dishes in your sink or inspecting to make sure the house was properly cleaned (and if you guests are thinking that, you need to reevaluate who you're inviting into your home). So if your guests aren't thinking it, you shouldn't be either.
Even if your home isn't perfectly clean or your meal comes out differently than the photos on Pinterest, there is grace. Hospitality is not a competition. It isn't about a spotless dish or the perfect Crate & Barrel dishes. It's about a heart that is open to conversations, to serving, and to letting the Lord work through simple moments like sharing a meal.
Madison is a lifestyle food blogger and blog designer. Her blog, The Wetherills Say I Do is a space where she shares easy to make recipes, blogging tips and other every day moments. Through her small business, Grace + Vine Studios, she's been able to stay home and provide for her family including five month old Baby Grey.