Guest post by Trina Holden
I looked around our screen porch in dismay. This space we loved to use as an out-door dining area had become a pigsty. “I need someone I care to impress to come over so I am motivated to clean the porch!” I thought. Then I laughed as I realized, thanks to the redeeming work God had been doing in my heart, the number of people I stressed out about impressing had dwindled to almost nil. I was no longer a slave to other’s expectations, but was learning to live in the freedom of simply pleasing my Lord. The porch would just have to be cleaned without the strong motivator of fear!
Later that week we invited a couple over for dinner on very short notice. I was so thankful for a clean porch! But why? Not because I was worried about impressing these close friends – they had already seen me and my house on plenty of bad days. I was glad I had a clean porch because I loved them, and hoped to bless them while they were in my home. That’s when I realized how my motivation had changed – from the pressure to impress, with the fear of not measuring up, to the desire to bless, with the freedom to be who I was in whatever season of homemaking God had me in.
This change in perspective has transformed the way I approach hospitality, allowing me more opportunities to open our home, despite being in the messy, busy season of raising 3 little ones.
Whether you’re a busy mom of little ones, you’re stretching the budget just to feed your own family, or you never seem to be able to get the house clean enough for company, I want to encourage you: You can exercise hospitality in this season. When you focus on blessing, instead of impressing, you can find the freedom in Christ-centered hospitality, whatever your limits or challenges are.
Try some of these tips for simplifying hospitality in the season you are in….
1. Plan Simple Meals.
This is not the time for a gourmet, multiple course meal. Simplify so you can focus on your guests, not the food. I like to do a casserole, made in advance and heated to serve, along with a few simple sides. Avoid unfamiliar recipes or anything that requires hours of preparation or all your attention directly before serving.
Keep the children in mind, with familiar flavors and at least one really kid-friendly side like applesauce or muffins so a picky eater can still find something to fill up on.
2. Divide and Conquer.
Having dinner guests is extra work – don’t try to fit it in along with all the rest of your day’s tasks! Make a plan and divide the preparation over several days. Do your shopping earlier in the week and make that casserole in advance. This allows you to focus on cleaning and last minute details on the actual day.
Don’t neglect to involve your children in the opportunity to serve! Anticipation of fun with their guests can help motivate them and make hospitality a fun team effort.
3. Set the Stage.
I mean, the Table. I know this sounds rudimentary, but we’ve quit setting the table in advance since the arrival of toddlers. Our strategy is to get them buckled in their booster seats first, and then place things well out of reach of little grabby hands. That’s OK for family meals, but if you want a relaxing dinner with multiple guests, a well set table is essential. One trip to the kitchen for a forgotten item is no big deal, but forgetting drinks for a table of 8 and spending the first half of your meal taking orders and filling glasses will not make you or your guests feel relaxed.
The focus of the evening is, after all, to share a meal together. Even if it means you don’t get the living room vacuumed or the laundry put away before guests arrive, I recommend you put your effort into preparing the table. Remember…
- Serving Utensils
- Wet washcloth or dry towel if children and spills are expected
When all is in place I have been known to block off the dining room with furniture to keep the children out until the mealtime!
4. Clean the Essentials.
Trying to clean the entire house in advance of company is impossible in this season! Prioritize your cleaning around the areas that welcome the guests. For me, this is:
- The bathroom the guest will be using
- The entryway, so there’s room for their shoes and outerwear
- My kitchen island
The kitchen is the first room my guests enter, and, kind of like making the bed, a clean island makes the whole room more peaceful. Having this clean is only possible if I have done most of my cooking in advance – see #2!
5. Relax about the rest.
Is it really that big a deal if you didn’t get the shower cleaned, the bookshelves straitened, or the desk cleared off? If your goal is to bless your guests, then, no – these areas are not essential. Relax about the stuff you didn’t get done and your guests will be able to relax, too. If there is room for you all to sit on the couch, and clean dishes to eat off of, then you have everything you need to enjoy an evening of fellowship. Remember, your guests came to see you, not your house!
Reach out! A pregnant mommy needs a break from cooking dinner. A single gal or childless couple would love to hang out with your kids. A new family in the area would be blessed with your fellowship. Don’t let the fact that your house isn’t immaculate, or you don’t have time for a gourmet meal keep you from blessing others through hospitality. Your goal of blessing, rather than impressing, will inspire and enable you to give hospitality generously.
Trina Holden enjoys offering hospitality from their 1800’s farm house in Upstate New York. She shares transitional whole food recipes, sewing tutorials, and snapshots of her life as wife, artist, and mother on her blog, All That Is Good.