[written by Katy Deitrick. She blogs at http://katyjane.wordpress.com/]
When you walk in my door—whether it’s because your kids are coming to play, or I’ve invited you over for coffee, or we are having a party, or you are just dropping by—there are a few things I can pretty much guarantee you’ll notice right away. First, I am probably going to be covered in flour. My house will be a mess—papers all over the table, dishes all over the counters, and our most recent meal all over the children and/or floors. I will reheat my coffee at least three times in the first fifteen minutes that you arrive and then will continue to forget to drink it. At least one of my kids will have taken off some essential article of clothing, and another one will likely be wiping the table with it. Honestly, it’s the last place you’d imagine that a person would willingly enter, but when you leave, I hope you’ll want to come back.
I don’t know that I originally intended for my house to be a place where people came in and felt comfortable. Mostly I’m an introvert who wants people to go away….But, I’m a compassionate introvert who wants people to go away feeling better about whatever they’re dealing with than they did before they arrived. Also, I’m lazy and I never want to leave my house. Somehow, the combination of compassion, laziness, and homebody-ness works a magic that makes my home feel like your home. If you don’t know me (such that you wouldn’t necessarily come hang out at my house—although, you really could if you wanted; just knock first) and want to try this at home, here are some tips and tricks to fill your house with warmth and hospitality. Don’t worry—they aren’t hard (see above re: lazy).
- Say yes. Honestly, this is the easiest way to be hospitable—offer your house. Neighborhood knit night? Come to my house! Book club? Come to my house! Had a fight with your spouse and then went and drank too much and want a place to go for a few hours to sober up before you face the music? I’ll brew some coffee for you (and, if appropriate, text your spouse so they know you are alive and safe.) Some of my dearest friends came to be such when they showed up late at night needing an ear. I have two ears and a comfortable couch.
A while ago, Conrad and I decided together that even when we are feeling burned out, even when we feel a bit out of touch from each other, we were committed to taking in the needy, the hungry, the drunk, the sad, the joyful, the overwhelmed. It’s a sacrifice we purposely make, and our relationship is stronger as a result. We want our home to be a place of refuge, which means I don’t have to ask him if he’ll mind, and he doesn’t have to check with me first. (A courtesy text is nice though, to avoid those awkward moments when my life is scandalously close to the hijinks in a TV sitcom’s romantic-evening-gone-awry. And when we forget the courtesy text, a sense of humor and the knowledge that embarrassing moments aren’t just for middle schoolers help, and they make great ice-breakers for the next time it happens…)
- Don’t clean. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Pick that thing up. You know what thing I’m talking about. That thing. Seriously, it’s gross and you shouldn’t leave it out even if you don’t have company coming. Everything else though? It’s fine. Your house should look lived in—you live there! I generally feel like the state of my house should be encouraging for anybody who comes in… you get to go home and feel better about your own housekeeping skills. In comparison to mine, you will win. (And much love and respect goes out to my husband who prays an awful lot for me to change acceptance of my slovenliness.)
- Love people. I want to hear your story. I want to know how you met your spouse, whether you like your in-laws, which of your siblings is your favorite (and why), and how you feel about God. I want to share in your joys and I want to help shoulder your sorrows. A good conversation is better than a good book because fiction has to make sense; your mother does not. But here’s the thing—everybody has a story, and everybody was created in God’s image, so everybody is worth knowing. Even when they’re different. Even when it’s hard, or they make you uncomfortable. In my experience, the people whom I am most reluctant to spend time with wind up changing me most deeply.
- Be flexible. Sometimes the best planned meals wind up with burnt vegetables, undercooked chicken, and a house filled with smoke. Grab a bottle of wine and order pizza. Don’t worry about people coming over and judging you for your unmown lawn, unkempt hair, or unruly children, or whatever it is that holds you back—they aren’t. It’s taken me much too long to realize that most other people are either just as insecure as I am, or totally full of themselves and therefore not paying attention to my flaws. Ideally, they are good, kind people who look for the best in others and overlook the worst. If people feel welcome, it’s not because your house is perfectly clean and looks like a page out of Southern Living magazine, complete with garlands made out of lemons. What makes people feel welcome is that you welcome them in.
- Be prepared. No, you don’t need to keep lavender scented quilts handy for guests, or have chocolates to put on their pillows when they stay with you. But you can learn to make a couple of fast and easy meals and keep those ingredients on hand for the unexpected. Budget just a little extra for food and drink (it really doesn’t have to be much), and be willing to share what you have. And if your cupboards are bare and your coffeepot is empty, sit on the couch and fill a pitcher with water.
If you’re like me, you might be reading this and saying, “That sounds so nice… for you. Me, personally, though? I prefer my Netflix, my dog, and some peace and quiet at the end of the day.” I hear you, I really do (see above re: introverted agoraphobe). But, here’s the thing—we were made to be with other people. Literally, from man’s first days, there was woman. And even if you feel fine on your own, and you prefer being grumpy and all by yourself without the bother of other people’s messy lives, that isn’t true for everybody. Clearly the neighbor or friend who might come by wants to hang out with you (how’s that for a self-esteem boost, Grumpus?).
The Bible says we should take care of each other—heck, it says we should love everyone else as much as we love ourselves. Letting people in, and taking those steps to know them will change you. You might be hosting a book club for a book you didn’t have a chance to read, or inviting neighbors to join your family for Thanksgiving when their family canceled at the last minute. You may even just invite someone from your office or church to come to your house to watch a horror movie so neither of you has to do it alone… those relationships grow and develop you. Letting people in and making yourself vulnerable makes you a better person.
And then, one day a group of women will come to your house for a Bible study, will witness your kitchen filled to the brim with dirty dishes–You’re trying to juggle one kid with a dirty diaper, one who fell out of his chair and cut his head, and another kid who dropped a glass on the floor. You’ll sweep up the glass, clean the cut, change the diaper… and turn around to a group of women cleaning your dirty dishes.
And you’ll cry. Because those dishes? That’s your husband’s chore.
No, you’ll cry because THIS is why we have other people, and this is why we need them in our lives and houses. THIS is why we need community. Because we suck at doing everything all by ourselves, and letting people in lets them help you and serve you too.
I’d love to write more, but I hear a knock. I have to go pick that thing up off the floor.