Hospitality: To Bless or Impress?

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…

  • Drinks
  • Napkins
  • 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.

About Trina Holden

Trina enjoys offering hospitality from their 1800’s farm house in Upstate New York. She loves to encourage women to nourish their families, celebrate the journey, and choose to thrive at

32 Responses to Hospitality: To Bless or Impress?

  1. Natalie April 20, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Just is just plain good advice for women who didn’t see a whole lot of hospitality growing up and are finding it a bit hard to get into the swing of things. I’ve discovered that I’m pretty horrible about timing meals, so it really helps to have something like a pot of soup on the stove when guests arrive. One of my favorites is tortellini soup (you can sub brown rice pasta and top with cheese if you prefer) served with garlic bread. Never had any complaints, and there’s plenty of time to clean up the kitchen before guests arrive. I’ll often serve something like that with an apple pie (easy to make earlier that day and pop in the oven when guests arrive) and whipped cream. That way I’m not running around trying to steam veg and get biscuits in the oven and make gravy all at once. Yeah, not pretty :)

  2. Ginger April 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Thank you so much! This is a beautiful article and is both convicting and inspiring! The Lord surely used your writing in my heart tonight. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Lynette April 18, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    I wanted to let you know that this post was a tremendous blessing to me, a real breath of fresh airl. I have a beautiful 9 month old baby, and I also live with fibromyalgia which translates to severe debilitating fatigue and severe debilitating pain. I love following this blog and others like it that encourage Biblical womanhood, but I’m actually very often deeply discouraged as I read posts on cleaning, or getting up early, or preparing meals. These kinds of posts usually leave me feeling like a failure as a woman because I cannot accomplish a quarter of what most women can (even of those with several young children!). Trina, your post encouraged me so much. I have a passion for hospitality, but because I am unable to clean or cook a lot of the time, and because I can never guess what a day holds for me in terms of pain and fatigue I have had to forego inviting people into my home. I learned the important thing is to invite people into my home, not whether or not my home is in chaos, or whether or not I’m able to prepare anything or even whether or not I’m energetic and vibrant in health. I guess even a store-bought lasagna (and maybe even paper plates) would be a blessing, given my circumstances. Thank you for making me feel that I don’t need to be entirely useless in my womanhood. You really cannot imagine what it has meant to me.

  4. Julie April 16, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    great post!

  5. Kristy April 15, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    This is excellent and well-written!

    I’ve struggled with hospitality over the last few years as our family has grown. I am a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four young children… I *need* to be hospitable but, quite honestly, I find it difficult! It stretches our budget, stretches my time and patience… and then there’s the HOUSE that is never quite clean enough.

    THANK YOU for this post! You have encouraged me to keep striving in my efforts to honor the Lord by opening our home to guests (minus the stress). :)

    • Trina April 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      Thank you, Kristy – I’m so glad I could encourage you.

      You certainly are carrying a lot! I pray the Lord will give you grace, :)

  6. Jordan April 15, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    Hospitality can be a challenge with little children ~ thanks for the encouragement to do it anyway! I like these ideas and may start working on some go-to casserole recipes so we can have people over more often, more easily.

    …also, what a pretty bouquet! :)

    • Trina April 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

      Jordan, I’m so glad I could encourage you! You can visit my blog for my favorite casserole recipes! I never used to serve casseroles to guests, now I do it all the time and love the freedom it gives me to focus on my guests.

      The flowers were from my mother. :)

  7. juliet April 14, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    My husband and I bought a table to homeschool our three children. The table came with six little chairs, so we put them to use when guest come with their kids. I enjoy a meal so much more when kids sit separately from adults. I also use kid friendly utensils and spill proof cups, which takes the worry away of someone getting hurt at the table. Also, just like some restaurants,I have the paper rolled out on the table with crayons for kids to doodle (the table came with it. you can buy the refills at a toy/art store). Simple things like this really keep kids entertained. When guest come, some may want to lock the doors to rooms you would not want children to go to. I lock my bedroom to keep the little ones out—there was an occasion at my in-laws when three 8-11 year olds went to their room and found money and the money was definately not in the open. This gives me an idea. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a post on how to handle difficult situations such as the one I mentioned above with other peoples kids involved?

    • Trina April 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

      Love the paper and crayon table idea, Juliet! Thanks for sharing

  8. Rachel April 14, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    Thanks for the great, practical post!

  9. Missy April 14, 2011 at 5:33 am #

    i love this! it’s right on the mark for sure :)
    great post!

  10. rawkinmom April 13, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    wow, I just found your blog and read your about page….I love that you are a homeschool graduate….I am homeschooling my children right now and am fascinated when I find an adult who has been through it and has become successful and happy!!! I also love your love for God…..amazing….I am glad I have found your blog!!

  11. Haylee April 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Thank you for this lovely and truthful post! This exact issue is a constant battle for me. We also have three dear children that are quite messy and it could be a full time job trying to keep the house looking clean. We love having people into our home yet I continually feel that pressure of needing to have it clean before we can have people over and then I’m stressed. I appreciate all that you shared and my heart is being renewed and freed more each day.

  12. gal April 13, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    Trina, thank you for this reminder. There was a fire in my kitchen/dining area, which left dark smoke staining on the ceiling and walls. We put off the painting for longer than we thought we would because of not wanting to paint it myself because of being pregnant, because of paint fumes, and not feeling right about manuevering awkwardly to reach hard places and risking injury to me or my growing baby. My husband is not a confident painter, and we didn’t feel we could afford the quotes we had been given by professionals. So we waited over a year and it got done after the baby was born. Our kitchen was functional but very ugly the whole time. I was afraid to invite anyone over because of it, and looking back, I realize that I suffered great lonlieness during that time that I needed my friends in my home and they needed me to reach out to them more. I could’ve had them over but I let my desire to impress get in the way of blessing them and myself. I wish I could change the past and put great memories in place of that lonlieness!

    • Trina April 15, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

      Gal, your story touched my heart – I think we can all relate to that spot in the house that is just not right (or even glaringly awful!) We all need the reminder that hospitality is about fellowship and serving, not perfection.

      My mother was a great example to me of this – growing up we lived in a tipi and then a very rough log cabin and she never let it stop her from welcoming people. I’m so grateful for her example.

  13. Cherie' April 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    A message that I really needed today. I’ve been so blessed with a large and comfortable home to entertain in, yet I often forget that God has given me my home so that I can bless others. I am going to remember to entertain with a lot more joy and a lot less stress. Thanks!

  14. Linda April 13, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I am so NOT the queen of hospitality. i often feel, though, that people are relaxed when things are not picture perfect. I have a come as you are, and this is how I am take to most of my relationships. I admit it that I often pick up more when guests are coming, but sometimes I don’t clean at all. I guess it’s just my style.

  15. Jennifer April 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    Refreshing to here. Thank you from a homemaker with a lot of heart, but not an immaculate home. So many hospitality tips can be overwhelming, but your words were affirming and encouraging to those of us who don’t excel in this area, especially in the little children season of life. Appreciate your words!

  16. Lara April 13, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Excellent reminders!

  17. Autumn April 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Love this! These are all awesome tips. The Lord has really been working on my heart the past few years in this area. I used to get really uptight when we had guests come over, and would stress myself out by cleaning every part of my house in anticipation. Then over a period of time, God laid on my heart to invite moms over for lunch at short notice, then families over for dinner often, and now we have our small group meeting at our house every week. In a given week, we probably have about 20 people come through our house for one reason or another. Needless to say, I don’t have time to get uptight about cleaning anymore! I just keep the main areas clutter-free, vacuum when necessary, and keep the bathrooms clean.

    One more thing I’ll add is that I’ve heard people say that being in a house that’s too clean makes them *uncomfortable*, because they don’t want to mess anything up. The best compliment I’ve gotten from a guest is that my house is comfortable to be in.

    • Trina April 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

      Autumn, you are so right – A little bit of authentic clutter goes a long way in making people feel at home.

      I loved your story about how the Lord taught you hospitality. Thanks for sharing it, I’m sure others have been encouraged.

  18. Leigh Ann April 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    “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.”

    Needed this reminder as we come out of newborn phase and into baby phase … We believe the Lord has blessed us with the gift of hospitality, and recently I have been reminded that I might not be able to do what I once did before having our sweet little boy (and that is ok). This was a good reminder for me as we move into our new season of hospitality to keep it simple and about Christ, not me.

    Thank you for the Christ-centered reminder of why we do hospitality in the first place!

    • Trina April 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

      Leigh Ann, I love that you are willing to make hospitality a goal even in this season!

  19. Elisabeth April 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    I love the photo, Trina!

  20. Maura April 13, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    @Amanda – great point. I am excellent at hospitality, but far from a good entertainer.

  21. Liz April 13, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    This is so true. I am majorly guilty of trying to hard when it comes to company. How can I be so picky for guests, but not my own family? I am bad no matter what though, when it comes to napkins. I NEVER have any for anybody.

    • Trina April 13, 2011 at 8:41 am #

      Oh, that is so funny, Liz – I’m the same way – thankfully, my 4 year old now knows where we keep them and he remembers when I forget!!!

  22. Lacey Wilcox April 13, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    This was really good–I definitely need to check my heart, because I am so guilty of wanting to impress!
    I love that you focused so much on simplicity, which sets you up to be free to bless. I’m so quick to forget that hospitality is first of all about your heart, and then your home.
    Thank you for such a sweet reminder!

    • Trina April 13, 2011 at 8:43 am #

      What a great point, Lacey! Heart first, then the home. I’m gonna jot that down!

  23. Amanda April 13, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    I heard one time that there is a difference between the having the gift of hospitality and the gift of entertainment. Hospitality is as you’re saying – making a warm and friendly environment for friends to enjoy. Entertainment is making a beautiful stage for the evening – like Martha Stewart. Both are good gifts to have, but need to be acknowledged as separate gifts so a woman (or man) doesn’t feel bad about not having one of them – we usually think they come as a set, but that’s definitely not the case! :)

    • Trina April 13, 2011 at 8:40 am #

      Good reminder, Amanda. It’s so easy to shy away from hospitality ’cause we think it has to be entertainment in the Martha style! I’ve gotten caught up in that myself.