By contributing writer, Lisa
Not long after my husband and I were married, we had the opportunity to live in an apartment directly beneath some friends. Our apartment was not anything nice. The dining room was tiny. The kitchen was awkward and the counter-tops were stained from the time I failed to follow the directions on a certain cleaning agent.
But, the few months that we lived in that apartment is special simply because of the easy proximity we shared with our friends. Hardly a day went by when we were not in their apartment or they were not in ours. We shared many meals together, plenty more cups of coffee, and even more idle hours just enjoying each other’s company.
Practicing hospitality then was easy.
Maybe you had a similar experience pre-kids or before whatever circumstance that now keeps you from enjoying the same ease of hospitality.
If you have a hard time remembering the last time you invited a friend or family over to share a meal with you, perhaps it is because you are believing a lie that you first must measure up in a certain way. Or that chatting over dinner is something you did in the past, but isn’t for your busy life today.
While there are seasons in our lives in which practicing hospitality needs to take a backseat, often the things that are keeping us from enjoying a deeper level of friendship with others are pressures that need to be let go of.
Don’t rob yourself or your family of the joy and blessing of inviting in others because you believe one of these lies …
5 Common Lies that Keep Us From Practicing Hospitality:
Lie #1: You have to be a good cook.
I will start here, because most of the time, when we think about hospitality, we think about inviting people over to share a meal together. This is fine if you are comfortable cooking, but what if you aren’t? Is it true that you can’t invite people over for a meal unless you are excited about spending an hour in the kitchen beforehand and have a gourmet dish to serve to your guests?
Unlike dinner at a restaurant, the main attraction is not the food, but the company. Too often, we can put expectations on ourselves that no one else has for us. It is better by far to serve a simple meal that everyone can enjoy, than to be frazzled and exhausted by the time your company arrives because you’ve spent too much time and energy preparing an elaborate meal out of your comfort zone.
Some of my favorite meals to serve guests are simple meals which are familiar to everyone, kids included. A taco bar, spaghetti and meat sauce, sliders, or a simple roasted chicken are all easy to prepare ahead of time and easy to eat.
If, however, you still find yourself lacking the time to make a meal to share with friends, don’t be afraid to just order in! Have a pizza night together or share a big order of Chinese food.
Take the focus off of what is on the table and turn your attention to enjoying who is around the table.
Lie #2: Your house must be stylish and spotless.
If this lie was true, then I would be doomed.
Of course, your home should be clean and tidy enough to make your guests feel comfortable. But a home that looks a little “lived-in” is more inviting than one that is pristine and cut out of magazine.
Don’t apologize for your home. Don’t be ashamed of that unfinished project or the handful of stains on your carpet. Set your guests at ease by letting go of the pressure to impress and make it clear that you are just glad they are there.
Welcome people into your real life. Let them see in your home what matters most to you. Doing so will set the tone for authentic conversations and pave the way for true friendship.
Lie #3: Dinners must be planned in advance and on the schedule for at least two weeks.
I have friends whose lives are so full that I know planning (waaayyy) in advance is going to be a must. If this is you, then know that the effort is worth it— I’m just happy when we can make something work.
But, this doesn’t have to be the rule. Remembering that your food doesn’t have to be gourmet (lie #1), and that your house doesn’t have to be spotless (lie #2), frees you up to be a little spontaneous.
Run into a friend you haven’t seen in a while at the park? Take the opportunity to invite them over soon. Have a wave of cooking inspiration? Call someone up and see if they’d like to take the night off cooking and join you.
We all eat dinner every night. Keep expectations simple and enjoy it with friends more often.
Lie #4: Dinner guests must be close friends.
True story: we’ve sold things on Craig’s List before and invited the buyers to dinner. Our families ended up having a lot in common and the guys planned a subsequent fishing outing too.
On other occasions, when we have just moved to an area one of the first things I do is try to find families to have over to dinner. Because, like I tell my kids, if you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend.
Sharing a meal together is a really effective first step to starting a friendship with another person or family.
Is there someone you’ve wanted to get to know better? Are you new to a group of people and don’t want to wait for someone else to break the ice? Want to be a blessing to someone you know who could use the company or time away?
View opening your home as a way to build relationships and minister to others— regardless of whether or not you’re best friends.
Lie #5: My kids are too young to practice hospitality.
If you have young children at home, you know that mealtimes can sometimes be less than enjoyable. Spills happen. Foods that were acceptable yesterday are now deemed “yucky”. And between fetching refills, cutting up bites, and reminding kids to focus on eating, it can seem like just finishing your own food before it goes bad is a goal worth celebrating.
However, as with many things, if you start teaching and training your children while they are still young, you will reap the benefits in just a few short years.
Practically speaking, think of ways you can set your kids up for success. Serve food that they enjoy. Relax the dinnertime rules— this isn’t the time to teach table manners. And give them a job to do to make them feel useful and keep them busy. (Model how to greet guests, let them help you in the kitchen, involve them in setting the table, talk about ways to serve and love your guests while they are in your home).
Make it a family goal to practice hospitality once a month. They will catch on to your enthusiasm and attitude.
Do you feel like practicing hospitality is easy or hard for you? What keeps you from inviting people into your home?
Other Intentional by Grace posts you might enjoy:
- 5 Myths About Hospitality that Can Keep You from Serving
- The Simplicity and Beauty of Sharing a Meal with Friends
- 9 Ways to Show Hospitality When Hospitality is Hard
- Simple Meals for Hospitality that Will Make Having Company More Doable
Lisa also write a post on her blog about Tips for Low-Stress Hospitality. Check it out!
A Book Worth Reading to Inspire Hospitality:
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