Growing up, my mother was the perfect party planner. She hosted banquets for politicians, fundraisers for non-profits, and beautiful holiday dinners for the family. These events in our home are some of my favorite memories. I loved helping play hostess! I would watch my mom make the house feel warm and inclusive. She would light her cinnamon candles, play some smooth jazz—sometimes Muppet’s Christmas CD or a NOW17 CD depending on the audience—and would make any person feel like they were royalty when they walked in the door. I carried this spirit of hospitality with me as I became a young adult and began hosting myself.
The moment I had my own space, I quickly started planning all the parties I could think of: morning gatherings, holiday parties, dip parties, dessert parties, football parties, Grammys’ nights, and even dog birthdays. Anything I could do to bring friends together to share life with one another. With the rise of social media, my hostess game could be on point! For instance, social media allows a hostess to combine the perfect recipe from one source, a craft idea from another, and activities from still another person all into one epic curated event. I wanted my home to be an Anthropologie catalog. I wanted people to be impressed by my ability to make my home look like a fantasyland of pumpkin cookies, lace, and lattes.
Unfortunately, my vision for my home had unintended consequences. I wanted friends to feel welcomed as I had as a child at my mom’s events, but the perfect environment that I was creating suggested that those who entered should come in as perfect people. Conversations weren’t real because my guests couldn’t be themselves in my perfectly designed home. I misused my opportunity to make people feel safe, known, and comfortable in my home while I twirled plates of food, cleaned, and found the perfect playlist all while wearing a new dress!
I had to reevaluate…
I had to intentionally think about what my real design for my home was!
I sat down and began to imagine my favorite homes to be in and why those specific living rooms meant so much to me. They were the places that I felt like I could be heard, could be fed, and could be myself. The places that meant the most to me weren’t based on the external things, but on the internal elements that were cultivated while I was there. My new vision for the home became the word: RESTORE. I wanted people to be welcomed in and leave feeling better than when they first entered. Hospitality was no longer about perfect decorations, but about letting people into my life even when things are messy—physically and relationally.
Restoring is about letting broken things come and be made new. No one has to be spotless during restoration; in fact, it’s preferable if they’re not. Hospitality is creating an environment of vulnerability and acceptance, where opening up could heal broken hearts. Have you ever seen one of those home makeovers on HGTV? When the renovators walk into a new home project they don’t see the poor condition of the home; they see the potential that it holds. The renovators promise to walk through the hard journey of restoring the space to its real potential. We can all participate in the joy of watching loved ones be restored to their true selves in the company of our messy kitchens.
Personal authenticity breeds authentic friendships.
That is what I longed for all along. Connecting, sharing, and growing were the truly beautiful things that happened in my home. People don’t want to see perfect; they want to see human. Show them your sweat stains, your messy beds, and your dusty drawers (ok, don’t literally show this to people, but be okay with it if that’s the state of your life at the time).
If we want to live meaningful lives we can’t choose safety and meaningfulness at the same time. You have to take risks. You have to let people come over late at night when things are going wrong. You have to invite over a friend who just found out they got the new job to celebrate over ice cream cake. You have to surrender your calendar at times and your personal comforts always. Creating an environment of restoring can be hard work; I don’t take this calling lightly! But without a new Pinterest board or DIY craft, your home becomes the breeding ground for life!
So my charge to you overachieving hostesses is: Exchange the cooking and the crafting for willingness and obedience to share life with others. Sure, you can share life while baking several varieties of puppy chow or building a diaper cake for your millionth baby shower. But remember that hospitality is a posture of the heart. Not an array of food or activities or decorations. Ordinary moments and ordinary homes aren’t made extraordinary by the detail of our home, but by the detail we put into loving each friend that walks through our doors.
The home is the means to the end! The heart change is the product of great hospitality. Your heart will provide a restoration place for so many friends. Practice regular heart checks to make sure your hospitality is coming from a place of love instead of a place of perfection.
Your heart is the foundation of what your home becomes.