I love having people in our home. I always think “the more the merrier,” and I believe that people are almost always eager to accept invitations to hang out. I think sharing a meal with someone is the best way to get to know them. And having that meal in your home where they can relax is even better.
I read a couple books a while ago - The Gospel Comes With a House Key, by Rosaria Butterfield, and The Simplest Way to Change the World by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements. I highly recommend both of them. They challenged me to make hosting people in our home a priority. There are so many people who are isolated, and inviting them into our lives can ease loneliness and make people feel valued. So while I was mostly thinking about how hospitality would make others feel, what I didn’t expect was how much it has enriched my own life.
I’m going to share some things I learned from people wiser than me, and some things we’ve purposely done with our home to make hosting others as easy as possible.
When we first decided to focus on hosting people it was because of a retired couple in our church, Betty and Curtis. Once a month they committed to inviting a group of people over to their house for lunch after church. They have done this for years! No one has to bring anything, and it’s a different group each time. They know that eating a meal together lets us learn a little more about each other than we can in the few minutes we have to chat at church. It makes our group as a whole closer and more like a family.
At one of these lunches a friend and I talked about how much we appreciate the effort this couple makes. We decided then and there to join forces so we could co-host something each month and hold each other accountable. She’s fun and good at hosting, so it made me more confident about the whole thing. We didn’t make lots of rules for it, just that we’d do something once a month and invite people to it. We had a galentine’s party, an outdoor potluck, a soup night. Once we got our confidence up, we felt more comfortable going it alone. She’s since started hosting single women, which is filling a need in our church without it being an awkward “single ladies” program.
Don’t stress over FOOD
Rosaria Butterfield hosts people from her church every week. She usually makes a big pot of soup and some bread. When I start to get stressed that I need to make something fancy, I just remind myself, “soup and bread.” I had the privilege of meeting Rosaria this year when she was in town as a guest on a radio show. I invited her to dinner at the last minute and was THRILLED when she accepted. It was about 4 pm and all I had was leftover lasagna in the fridge. I just kept telling myself, “soup and bread.” I invited some other friends I knew would enjoy meeting her, and it was the best night ever. I’m so glad I got the courage to ask her before I worried about how it would all come together.
Make the food part of it as easy as possible. Betty and Curtis bring in food from a restaurant. We have our church group over almost every Wednesday night. Sometime I make an easy (often crockpot) dinner, sometimes other people bring something to share. Last night we had salad, hummus and carrots, sushi, cookies, almond brittle, dolmas, and chips and guacamole. It was great! Sometimes we just have popcorn. It doesn’t matter. It’s the gathering together every week that is drawing us into deeper relationships.
If you love to cook fancy meals, great. But don’t let the thought of having to prepare something difficult, expensive, or time consuming be a reason for you to decide it’s too much trouble.
MAKE GETTING YOUR HOME READY EASY
We’ve made choices when making home improvements and decorating that make it easier for us to have people over. For instance, we replaced our old carpet with distressed wood flooring that can withstand wet feet from the lake, pet boo-boos, and is much quicker to clean before people come over.
All our cleaning supplies are in a central spot in the house. We grab whatever we need, quickly clean the bathrooms and kitchen, sweep and damp mop the floors, and we’re set. It literally takes about 10 minutes put everything out to get ready for guests. Also, our community group knows where everything is, and everyone feels free to help themselves to whatever they need.
Try and tidy your home to the point you feel comfortable having someone over. I lean towards a kind of minimalist Scandinavian look and I feel more at peace when everything is in its place. Other people like more decoration and that’s fine. However, if you never have anyone over due to the state of your home, you have some work to do. I spoke to a woman who hasn’t had anyone to her home in over 6 years. Her parents passed away, and all their belongings added to hers has made her home a place she’s embarrassed to let anyone see. Enlist the help of a friend or professional to help you dig out from under a situation like this. If you do it the right way, you’ll only have to do the hard work once.
IT DOESN’T NEED TO BE A BIG DEAL
Some of the most fun nights I’ve hosted are movie nights with just a few people. Some of the younger women in our church are in our community group and they invited me to watch the Great British Baking Show with them one night. Everybody brought something to eat, and they all wore jammies or sweats, and sat on a mattress on the floor. They are so comfortable with one another and so welcoming, I felt at home immediately. We’ve since had lots of movie/TV nights. The thing I like the best about it is that there is no pressure on anyone. We just gather and have fun. It’s also made me understand more and admire things about their generation. They are very open and share things I would never have shared at their age. They are real and I love it.
We’ve also done several jigsaw puzzle nights and some surprisingly deep conversations have happened. Even when it’s just silliness, we are deepening our relationships. When I was laid off last year, the first people I told (after my husband and daughters) were two young ladies that had become very close to me during these hang outs. I knew they’d say the things I needed to hear, and they did.
IT’S WORTH IT
I’ll admit that sometimes I’m not feeling it. I would be happy to sit and watch a movie with my dog. As Dustin Willis says,
It’s not easy to lay down our comforts, our time, our homes, our very lives. The easiest thing for me to do after a long day is convince myself that I am tired and I deserve nothing more than a night of isolation away from all humanity. But it is worth it. The gospel is worth it, and the village-like relationships that are created with neighbors and friends as a result are worth it.
Something cool that’s happening as a result of our focus on hospitality is that our daughters are really comfortable hosting people as well. Our oldest lives on her own and recently hosted her second annual Friendsgiving party for anyone not going home for Thanksgiving. She had a baked potato party a few weeks ago, and is helping her roommate with a soup party this weekend. They don’t have a lot of extra money, and neither do their friends, so it’s almost always a potluck, and they have a great time.
We’ve pared down our belongings to make it easy to get ready. And we’ve made the rules easy on ourselves. We’ve released the expectation of having a perfect house and gourmet food. And as a result, we have made deeper and new friendships, shared laughter, tears, and weird combinations of foods. It’s been so worth it!
Sue Fehlberg is Arkansas’ only Certified KonMari Consultant