April 2, 2014

The Party that Almost Wasn’t

Nov29

The phone rang, and I just knew it was someone calling about the party.

My stomach sank, and I got that nervous tummy feeling. You know that one that happens when you just aren’t sure what you are going to say to someone? The one when multiple conversations play over in your head at breakneck speed, while you try and think through each outcome? Yes, that nervous tummy feeling.

I debated letting the answering machine pick it up, but I knew it was delaying the inevitable.

I glanced at my kitchen and great room. With Christmas boxes everywhere, loads of laundry on the sofa, and three fully packed suitcases waiting by the stairs, my home didn’t scream, “Welcome, I’m so glad you’re here.”

It was obvious that I needed to cancel the Christmas party set to be held at our home later that evening.

Having been called out of town unexpectedly the previous days, I knew these ladies would understand. I wasn’t ready for them, and my house surely wasn’t “Christmas party ready.”

“Jen, I deleted the email. What time does the ladies night out start tonight?”

I paused. It was the moment of truth. How should I respond? I knew how I wanted to respond.

The Martha Stewart side of me taunted, “Just cancel. They will completely understand. You’re not really going to invite them in when your tree isn’t even trimmed, are you? I mean look around. One can only get so much done in five hours, and even I can’t touch this mess.”

But then I heard that still small voice whisper. Truthfully, it sounded more like a scream, and it shouted, “Jen, is your definition of hospitality always supposed to be convenient and comfortable? Do you remember the verse you often reference from 1 Peter 4:9: ‘Show hospitality to one another without grumbling,’ or what about Romans 12:13, ‘Seek to show hospitality or Practice hospitality.’ Do you mean it? Why would you cancel? These women are looking forward to a night out together at your home.”

It’s as if I could hear the words from my very own “Welcome Home Hospitality” workshop speaking right at me, and honestly, I needed a bit of a finger wave right in the face at that moment.

Do I invite others into my home only when it’s on my terms? Do I? I think I might.

What’s my purpose in hosting friends? Is it to cultivate a spirit of welcome and minister to others or is it self serving in any way?

I picked up the phone.

“Hey there. It starts at 7:00, but just get here when ever you can. I can’t wait to see you.”

The clean laundry repositioned itself from the down stairs sofa to my upstairs bedroom sofa. The suitcases were tucked away in a closet. Five large Rubbermaid containers sat patiently in a corner, giving a whole new meaning to interesting party decor, and I quickly prepared an easy, but delicious, cheeseball, as well as my famous Sour Cream Banana Cake (shh, it starts with cake mix, but no one will ever know when you bake them in cute, little pans.) When asked what they could bring, I decided to let them help. Sweet or salty. Whatever is easiest.

White lights sparkled on the tree, but not one ornament adorned its branches. It was OK. I was OK.

A few hours later, women poured into my home, and that tight knot that I’d been feeling all day disappeared.

Why?

Because these ladies just wanted to share life together, and listen to each others stories.

They wanted to laugh and talk and commiserate together. They didn’t care if my tree trimming mimicked Martha’s because in spite of what she whispers, I knew this was a Good “Enough” Thing. In fact, I am quite certain I heard a few sighs of relief when they walked through my door because not one of us can do it all, yet sometimes we just need to be assured that it’s true. We need to see another person’s “bedlam” up close and personal to be certain.

And they saw mine up close alright.

In fact, as I started to apologize and explain the situation (yes, I broke my first rule of hospitality – never apologize for ones home, although this deemed a plausible exception to that rule), one precious friend decided, “Let’s all help Jen finish her tree.”

And so they did, and it was all as it should be. Friends helping friends. Tearing down masks. Climbing on chairs. Sharing Life together.

That night a few years ago, sparked so many thoughts about hospitality for me.

I often wonder why we make opening our home to others so difficult?

Yet, it is. It makes us nervous and tentative and self conscious.

Sweet friends. Hospitality isn’t about creating a Pinterest perfect home. It’s not even about the yummy food, although I love to create in the kitchen.

It’s about just deciding, “Yes, I am available: when ever, for whomever.”

This holiday season, let’s not over think it.

Let’s not make hospitality something it’s not. Let’s not second guess our abilities. Let’s just determine, “Yes, I will take that first step and extend an invitation.”

Let’s make ourselves available and then watch how this whole wonderful thing unfolds, OK?

One woman. One invitation. One opportunity for the Lord to do something simply amazing.

I’m passionate about encouraging and equipping women in opening their homes to others, but I know there are so many reservations. Maybe we can help break down the barriers and figure out some answers to why this is something so difficult for most of us.

Would you care to share in the comments? Did my story resonate?

Maybe you have a hospitality story you’d like to share (the good, bad and ugly stories are all welcome.). I sure would love to hear it.

This post was originally posted for (in)courage. Comments open there.

If you need more encouragement on embracing imperfection for the right reasons, you’ll see why this ties in perfectly with my month of Good Enough Things.

The Bedlam & Reality Behind a Christmas Tree Mantle


Comments

  1. Kelly Lake says:

    I love this, very inspiring!! Thank you!

  2. Rachel Dupin Weaver says:

    This story helped me BREATHE better!

  3. Karen Zimmerman says:

    A wife invited some people to dinner.
    At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said,
    ‘Would you like to say the blessing?’
    ‘I wouldn’t know what to say,’ the girl replied.
    ‘Just say what you hear Mommy say,’ the wife answered.
    The daughter bowed her head and said,
    ‘Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?’
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  4. Karen Zimmerman says:

    I need to adopt your attitude…being ready in and out of season!

  5. sometimes its that need to show people, we are on top of it, we can do it (all) we have achieved that balance. look, the house is *perfect in a land of everyone else’s homes of imperfection. we all look for people to be the one to look to, look up to or be a light when all is darkness. it reminds me of how the world looks at the verse, God helps those who — Cannot — help themselves.. the world takes the “cannot” out.. we are all so self sufficient. Your posting said to me, You found in that moment of the phone ringing, that you were not self sufficient. you were not perfect or perfected yet; you were not that ” all together ” person in a world of messy. You.. were just you.. with all the balances and imbalances of life’s ebb and flow. You are a light .. imperfection and all. and so, all those who came together that night found the help you found. You all found a moment in each others Hello that strengthened and guided you long after every one went home. This Little Light Of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine… This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine, Let It Shine.. God Bless and Keep each one of you in the Peace that goes without understanding, the Joy of the World and the Love of One who gave His only Son whose happy birthday gave us life! <3

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