Hospitality should be focused on connection between people. Perfection just isn’t achievable and trying to get there will only leave you discouraged. But, while perfection isn’t possible, connection is and that should be our goal!
Don’t Let Desire for Perfection Ruin Your Connections
I love a cozy space that seems alive with different colors and textures. I love a hot cup of coffee and cookies fresh from the oven. I love a lit candle and a quiet house. I love those beautiful gifts of God that have traditionally meant the perfect environment for conversation.
But my world is loud. My world is messy and filled with children and giggles and wiggles. Coffee is usually reheated 5 or 6 times before it can be finished and quiet conversation seems to be a thing of my past.
I enjoy decorating and “redeeming” my little space with comfy blankets, photos, flowers, and overstuffed pillows. You might not know that though because by 9am a pillow fort has usually been constructed in my living room so we can reenact a favorite story and flowers and photos have had to be moved to higher ground.
To my traditionally beautiful paintings on the wall I have added finger painted masterpieces. To my oversized glass coffee mugs I have added much smaller plastic ones for dress up tea parties. Floral bouquets have been replaced with dandelions from the yard. Quiet and calm has been replaced with the steady hum of relative chaos.
But that is beautiful too. It is cozy. It is home.
This place is home to my heart because my people live here. It is my most sincere desire that it also be home to the hearts of many others because it is where they are loved, involved, seen, cared for, listened to, and cherished.
These days my decorating means trying to find a prettier solution for legos and crayons, but that is ok!
People can still be welcomed to this less than perfect house! I serve primarily simple dinners because time is a luxury. But, by the grace of God, there is always enough food for one more.
Hospitality is about welcoming people. It is about gathering them in from scattered places and giving them a seat (check out more about that word “gather” here). It is about connection. It is about conversation. Hospitality is a chance for people to be seen and heard. It is a chance for people to be made part of the family. It is a chance for simple moments to spark beautiful memories.
Hospitality is not a chance for you or I to show off for our guests. Hospitality is a chance to connect with other souls that will live forever.
So how can we live this out? How can our homes become places of connection rather than showpieces of our desire for perfection?
1. Decorate with Intention
Clean and decorate with a view to connection. Ask questions like: How can the space I have been given, no matter how imperfect it is, be used for the glory of God and the good of people? How can I decorate with the intention of making others feel comfortable and ready to converse? How can I use my space so that it meets the needs of my family, expresses our individual style, and welcomes others in? How can I make everyone feel comfortable and relaxed in this space?
Armed with those questions you are free to do what you want with a space. You can decorate in a way that showcases the people who inhabit the space and their preferences so that others coming in feel like they are being included in your ongoing story.
For me this means not purchasing the white furniture, no matter how much I might like that look, because I would be too concerned about my children playing on it. It also means that I don’t have a coffee table because the decorations that used to sit on it were too much of a temptation to little hands and the corners were rough on little heads. I will probably get a coffee table again someday but for now I don’t feel like my living room is lacking because we don’t have one. This also means a giant blank frame in the kitchen for our kids to show off their art work.
For more information about how you can decorate with intention, check out this post from my friend Angela! She has some excellent ideas!
2. Clean with Joy
Rather than feeling like your house must constantly be ready for a Better Homes and Gardens showcase, clean with joy. Remember that you are redeeming a space every time you clean. You are working for the glory of God and restoring, if only very temporarily, a portion of creation. Remembering this gives me great hope as I stare down a sink load of dishes!
For more about cleaning with joy, check out this fantastic article from Risen Motherhood!
Cleaning with joy also means cleaning so that we meet the needs of our families. Each family will have different things that they need in different seasons. That is ok. It doesn’t have to look perfect to be welcoming. In fact I think a space is easier to feel at home in when it appears other people live and love there. Sterilizing a space doesn’t make it more welcoming.
First welcome the people who live in your home. My daughter is 4 years old and she is learning how to clean her room right now. I am often tempted to go back through her room and straighten it before guests come over but she really enjoys the work she is doing and wants to tell other people about her work. If it doesn’t look like she left it, she notices and asks me why I changed it. It is far better for me to teach my daughter this skill than to have a perfectly straightened room.
So often our cleaning efforts are really just a chance for us to be vain. Clean with a view, not to perfection, but to the connection that comes through people entering our real lives and seeing us where we are.
In short, don’t be the mom in this video if you can help it 😉
3. Serve People, Not Appearances
Use hospitality as a means to serve. Instead of stressing about what the food tastes like and what the house looks like, intentionally focus on what your guests need most from the gathering. Maybe they need a relaxing night of games to get their mind off current struggles. Maybe they need a heart to heart talk to let you know their situation. Maybe they need warm food and a place to crash. Whatever the situation is, try to focus most on your guest rather than your details.
Don’t focus on what would impress them, focus on what would bless them.
If you make a stunning strawberry dessert that every guest is impressed by but today’s guest’s favorite food is s’mores. Roll with that. Do what is a blessing to the individual in your home. Love them well. Love them for the glory of God. That will mean far more to them than perfection.
4. Keep it Simple Silly
See what I did there? 😉 Seriously though, keep it simple. Make simple, crowd and kid pleasing food (recommendations for this coming soon!). Clear away clutter so cleaning is easier. Put a pot of water on the stove for tea. Meet at a park. Sit in the yard. Let the focus of your gathering be the connection with the person rather than the things you had to do to prepare for it.
5. Pray for Connection
By the grace of God, I really believe if you are focused on connection with other people rather than perfection, genuine hospitality will flow. Pray for wisdom in how to best prepare for connection. Pray for the connections that will form through your hospitality. Then sit back and watch God work through those prayers and your simple efforts of obedience.
To check out why we believe hospitality is so important, read this post!
Do you struggle with thinking your hospitality must be perfect? How do you fight the temptation to be too worried about appearances? How do you foster connection in your home and life? Let me know in the comments below!