When we moved to L.A. I knew I had my work cut out for me, I was a pastor’s wife, in other words, a Lifer Hostess. Since a huge part of my husband’s job is to oversee the grow and serve groups and we’d have people over at least once a month, we chose an apartment that’s well suited for hosting. So, I did that thing you do when you know something’s terrifying is coming and you’re too proud to admit you’re scared. That thing where you don’t want to be caught off guard when the scary thing comes and knocks right on your bum, so you do something reckless and overly optimistic to look like you’ve got it all together. That thing you brand as bravery, but is probably just straight up stupidity.
You face the scary head on, call it’s bluff and up the ante!
I not only planned to host something church related at our place once a month, BUT EVERY WEEK invite a new couple over for dinner.
And about three months in, I looked and sounded a lot like this:
Yep, I am the QUEEEN of the Company’s Coming Freak Out.
I told y’all about that time I served red beans and rice to new friends and I worried all night we’d be gassy. Did you know that all night long I was on fart watch? Even though I took Beano? It was not my finest hostessing hour.
The freak out comes when I don’t feel like my home is enough, like the a sofa I have with the burned arm cushion from when my son tried to dry the water he spilled—with my blow-dryer. I am literally sitting on storytelling gold and I worry every single time someone sits on my couch! I really shouldn’t; it’s cute, funny, and the perfect parental anecdote. We actually do sit down around here—on a couch with a burned arm cushion! But still, the freak out is resting right below the surface.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we freak out when people are come up into our spaces? It’s not like they have never seen a hamper full of clothes or a sink-ful of dishes (which by the way, you dirtied those dishes to PREPARE an DELICIOUS dinner…respect)! It’s not like they don’t know that litter boxes a certain eau de feline to them. Or heaven forbid they’re reminded that teenage boys can mask all that funk on their bodies with AXE but Febreeze ain’t got nothing on a stinky boy bedroom.
And yeah, you do need to make sure your kids flush the toilet before company comes over and maybe wipe the sink. It’d be great if there were fresh towels…scratch that.. a clean, dry, Febreezed ( because Febreeze is the catch all for the hostess in a bind) hand towel. But perfection. Nah… we simply don’t have time for that crazy.
I, for one, am positive that I don’t have time, energy, or desire to entertain that crazy.
That’s not what having people over is about. It’s about building a life with the people in my world. It’s about creating memories and laughing and teasing and washing dishes side by side. It’s about sharing grimaces when you collectively realize you burned the bottom of the lasagna. It’s improvising by topping your garlic bread with the salvageable lasagna and calling it an open faced Italian sandwich. It’s crying over infertility and marriage and how hard it is to know what God’s calling you to.
It’s more than a Pottery Barn catalogue come to life. It’s the kingdom coming right to my front door.
Doesn’t that sound better than rushing to IKEA an hour before dinner because you only have four wine glasses and six of you are wine drinkers? I think so.
But, I’m a planner. I live on lists and protocol and step by step instructions, so I’ve got you, boo. I won’t drop a bomb like “kingdom coming to your front door” and not help you figure out the logistics of loving people with your home.
Here are the three things I do when I want to freak when people are coming.
1: Grab a good cookbook and plan my meal- at least three days ahead.
I’m not talking about that one with there perfect pictures or the super hot chef on the front. Girl, I save that ambition for when it’s just me and my man. He’ll love that I tried and I’ll feel amazing for simply tackling those recipes. No, I want authenticity in my cookbook a homegrown cookbook full of stories and encouragement. I found my go-to cookbook in the “Mennonite Girls Can Cook: Celebrations”. It’s delightful and perfect for my little goal of becoming comfortable in my hostess skin. It’s full on accessible recipes compiled by the Mennonite Girls and interspersed with reflections, poems and Scriptures about the beauty of sharing a meal with your community. I also love that all proceeds from the cookbook for towards feeding hungry children.
We are all called to be hospitable, and that means so much more than “entertaining” people.
“Mennonite Girls Can Cook: Celebrations”
My Pottery Barn dream is entertaining, but is it soul-nourishing?
There’s even a section at the very back with twenty-two tips from the “Mennonite Girls” on hosting. They’ve combined their collective wisdom so I don’t have to put mental energy the “how-to” of hosting so I can have energy for the next two things I do.
2. Pray for my guests
Listen, this doesn’t need to be a big deal. I definitely don’t need to break out my Stormie O’Martian Power of a Praying….Whatever for this. The morning I know I’m having people over, I write their names down on one of our (many) chalkboards and pray for them. I pray for them to have a good day. I pray for health and for their nerves because there’s a unique anxiety the guests feel that I sometimes forget in my rush to get everything ready for them. I pray for God to pull at the strings of their heart that would reach out to the strings of mine so that we can connect easier. I pray for them to find our place in the dark with very few missed exits or wrong turns.
Hospitality is about people and nothing is as effective in connecting people to each other as praying to the one who made us. God is delighted when we gather. He the ultimate host!
Then I send a simple text of confirmation.
“Excited to have, y’all!”
“Red or White wine?”
“Bring the baby! We can put her down in the kids’ room.”
“Have an awesome day!”
Then I or the kids will write a welcome message for them.
3: Get ready BEFORE I start cooking.
When I people come over I worry about everything from the chores to the food to the KIDS’ HAIR but forget about me. When our guest come, more often than not, I look (and feel) a hot mess. Sometimes, I realize as I’m pulling the casserole out of the oven that I HAVEN’T EVEN SHOWERED or put on deodorant! No, girl. No…girl. I’ve learned that I’m a happier person and by extension a happier hostess when I take just a few minutes for myself. I take a long shower, put on a little make up, and get dressed before I even start cooking. I means I have to wear an apron, yes, but hello…that’s a super cute look! Tell you don’t feel more purposeful and “on it” when you’re wearing an apron- even if it’s over jean and a t-shirt.
The chic apron=instant hostess cred.
If I have time, I go to Trader Joes and get flowers for the table, but that’s extra and not necessary at all. Sometimes, I ask my husband to bring flowers on his way home and it’s always delightful to see what he picks. Then when our friends are gone and it’s just me and the sink of dishes and the smelly dog, the flowers he bought are a lovely reminder that I’m not alone in this hosting friends business.
These are my sanity-savers when company’s coming. I’m not going to say I never freak-out anymore. Freak out and I are coffee buddies, but she’s pretty tamed when I take time to plan, remember actual people are coming over, and treat myself like an actual person with needs. So, with that said, wanna come over for dinner?
It’ll probably be red beans and rice, but don’t worry…I’ve got Beano!
What are your top three tips for not freaking out when guests are coming?
Shalom and Hosting Stress Rejecting,
Find the book at Mennomedia or Amazon: “Mennonite Girls Can Cook: Celebrations”