I have always considered myself a truly rotten hostess. The bar was set pretty high for me at a young age, what with my mom and grandmother being the world's most comfortable, most accommodating, most "always another spot at the table" kind of women. I have fabulous memories of wandering the family room while my mom served coffee to folks who had just popped by, and even better memories of 50 people milling around my Mamaw's house waiting for the Thanksgiving turkeys (yes, plural) to come out of the oven.
Those ladies made it seem effortless, this whole "hospitality" thing. They enjoyed it. And they didn't seem to stress over the idea of welcoming 2 or 20 people into their home on a moment's notice.
Of course, neither of them had ever seen Martha Stewart's idea of casual entertaining, either.
Part of the plan in moving to this house was to be able to invite interested families over to hear more about the work in Nepal. The two minute synopsis delivered in the church hallway with a hungry toddler asking for lunch is great and all, but really lacks the full depth of intimacy, know what I mean? We had known for a while that we'd have more of an impact if we could talk-- really talk-- to people about the need, the call, and the plan. But our old house lacked any real gathering area and barely fit my own family around the dining room table, let alone a few more.
So we moved here. And we threw open the doors. And voila--I confronted my worst fears and became a reluctant, regular hostess.
Up until now, I've really stressed over having people over. I mean, the Martha Stewart comment is funny and all, but yeah ... I seriously have always looked at my surroundings and figured that no one would really want to spend an entire evening eating off the plates Logan chipped getting out of the dishwasher, or sitting near the pillows Oli uses as blocks half the day.
And before you ask, no, I don't judge other people's houses that way. Not at all. It's a total double standard, and I know it. But I've never been able to shake it.
Well, until now.
Out of necessity, I've embraced the life that my grandmother and mom lived with such ease. And yes, the more I do it, the easier it's becoming. In seven weeks of living here, we've had 9 families come through-- not counting Benny's people because really, I'd invite them over in my pjs for breakfast any old day.
Aside from the fact that this introvert is being dragged, kicking and screaming, from her happy shell, it hasn't been bad. In case there are any other reluctant hostesses out there, I offer these tips for cutting down on the stress and upping the "I can do this" factor.
1. Have the right tools. No, you don't need special stuff, but I quickly figured out that a few investments paid off. A thermal coffee carafe. A glass beverage dispenser. A Costco pack of napkins, paper cups. Sharpies (for labeling said cups). And an entire extra set of Ikea dishes and silverware on the cheap.
2. Make a hosting checklist. In the past, I kept a running checklist of the stuff that needed to get done before the place was presentable, and it was all jumbled in my mind with food prep and anything else that I wanted to accomplish. Simply typing up a basic list (clean main bathroom, vacuum main areas, scoop dog poop in back yard, etc.), laminating it, and posting it has been a lifesaver. The kids pick a job and do it, freeing me from handing out duties, worrying over it getting done, or, worse yet, frantically scrubbing a toilet as someone rings my doorbell.
3. Keep it up. The house, that is. Hosting people has been a huge incentive to make sure that the little stuff doesn't become big stuff. I always fought to keep my kitchen counters clear. No more. Knowing that someone is likely to be hitting the door in 24 hours or less is a big reason to take the time to not let that stack of papers get too cozy on the corner.
4. Make a hospitality menu. We quickly figured out a handful of sure-fire meals to rotate through, along with some tried-and-true but still yummy desserts. I printed these off, stuck them in the front of my main recipe binder, and use these as my go-to to keep things simple. Hint: one of the best meals we've found is a taco bar that uses my crockpot to make the main filling. Can it get an easier?
5. Pick a time, and make that the time. I have purposefully asked everyone coming by if 4 p.m. is an o.k. arrival time on a weekend. Weeknights has been 5 p.m. Why? I know that those are doable schedule-wise for us, and I don't have to stress out over mixing up the time, because it's always the same.
6. Make it fun. This is the biggest tip I can possibly offer you. In the past, I admit that entertaining was zero fun for my kids. I stressed out over the even for days, tried to do everything myself, and was probably a Wicked Witch the entire day leading up to the arrival of our friends. Reading several books on hospitality helped me to see this as damaging, and I was convicted that I was putting effort into a show of false appearances. Ouch. Stepping back, letting go, and just being real has made this entire process-- dare I say it-- enjoyable. For all of us. Go figure!
I never in a million years dreamed that I would be in a place where having three events in my home in three days would seem not only reasonable, but actually fun. Yet, that's where I am sitting right now. God has changed my heart, given me new eyes, and allowed me to take the blessings He's given me and use them to bless others. Who knew I'd actually enjoy it?