I'm linking up with Women Living Well Wednesdays today. Make sure to check out some of the other great blog posts if you have a moment!
I'll never forget when we hosted our very first formal, "non-family" dinner gathering at our home. I wanted it to be perfect, but it ended up a complete DISASTER!
I had just come home from a long day of work, and I had nothing prepared. Our company showed up, and I wanted to curl into a ball and cry as I looked around my kitchen--a sink full of dirty dishes, garbage can overflowing, raw chicken breasts that should have been cooked, potatoes that needed mashing, vegetables that still needed to be chopped and steamed.
Our company saw that I was overwhelmed and graciously offered to help in the kitchen. The men helped with the dishes and potato mashing while the women helped me chop vegetables and mash potatoes. Dinner was supposed to be on the table by 6, but it didn't end up on the table until 7:30, leaving us little time for fun and fellowship afterwards.
I was so concerned with impressing our company that I ended up embarassing myself and making others uncomfortable. I did anything BUT welcome them into my home. The problem: I was more concerned with my appearance than with my company's experience.
Martha, Martha, Martha!
In the book of Luke, we read...
"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'"
I am naturally SUCH a Martha. I want everything to be just right for company. I love fine china, tea services, and 5-course meals. My idea of "welcoming" people is giving them the finest dining experience they've ever had.
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting people to have a great experience in your home. Everyone loves feeling pampered, right? But it becomes wrong when we miss out on the important relational aspect of hospitality. When we lose sight of the very people we are trying to welcome.
Let's take a quick look at Martha. There she was, trying to give Jesus a feast fit for a king, when in reality, all he wanted was her love, attention and adoration. Martha's intentions may have been entirely pure, but she lost sight of what was really important...the relationship.
For the past two years, I have tried to incorporate more of Mary's characteristics into my hostessing, purposing to keep relationships at the center of my hospitality ministry. I've picked up a few tips along the way and hope that they'll bless you as they have blessed me...
1) Create a vision statement for your homemaking ministry and post it in your home.
I came up with this vision statement a few months ago and posted it on my fridge as a constant reminder:
I (clean/cook/host) so that my home will a be 1) a safe haven for my family, 2) a place where others feel welcome in the name of Christ, and 3) a household that serves the LORD.
I encourage you to give it a try!
2) The crockpot is your friend.
On Sunday, we had 18 people over for lunch. The "Martha" in me would have been completely freaked out at the prospect of having 18 people over right after church. But "Mary" has found a couple great crockpot recipes that are especially great for company after church. Throw it in the crockpot over night, simmer on low, and voila! It's ready to go when the after-church crowd floods in:)
It may not be an gourmet meal, but it does the job and allows me to spend time building relationships with the people I invited into our home. After all, that's why we invite people over, isn't it?
3) Allow others to bless you.
This was such a tough lesson for me to learn, but I think I'm finally getting the hang of it! "Martha" Chelsea would have been dead set on doing everything herself! She would have (pridefully) thought, "I invited you over, so that means I need to do this all by myself!" But "Mary" has learned that it's okay to allow others to bless her. Whether it's a dessert, a quick stop for a bag of ice, or help with the dishes, it's okay to let others help. Really. And now that I'm getting the hang of this, I'm finding that some of the best relational times are spent in the kitchen cleaning up WITH my guests.
4) Drink stations will rock your world.
My husband makes fun of me for my "drink stations," but I LOVE 'em. As a little kid, I always hated when my mom would send me into the living room to ask all of our guests what they wanted to drink. Halfway to the kitchen, I would inevitably forget and have to turn around and ask again! I'm the same way today. As a hostess, you have a million things going through your mind (Oh no...Did I forget to clean the toilet bowl?) and remembering everyone's drink orders can be stressful and time consuming. By setting up a drink station (water, soda, ice, glasses), you make your guests to feel welcome by allowing them to fill up their glass whenever they need more (not when you get around to filling it), and you also relieve yourself of undue stress. You can also set up a do-it-yourself coffee/tea service with dessert. Set up a tray with cream, sugar, tea bags, and stirrers/spoons and have your guests help themselves!
5) Have a few go-to recipes and ingredients on hand.
I have about five "go-to" recipes for company that I can whip up pretty easily and quickly: crockpot italian beef, meatball (bomber) sandwiches, chili, taco bar, and spaghetti. I often keep 1-lb. bags of pre-cooked ground beef in the freezer for chili, tacos, and spaghetti and pre-cooked meatballs for bomber sandwiches. I also try to have red sauce and pasta in my pantry at all times in case we have any "surprise guests" (I firmly believe that spaghetti is God's answer to those surprise house guests!).
What are your "go-to" recipes? Don't have any? Try to think of 3-5, including at least one (like spaghetti) that won't break the bank! For an excellent spaghetti recipe, check out Noel Piper's book "Treasuring God in our Traditions."
6) Give yourself a half hour.
This was one of my first lessons in hostessing. In my mind, I thought, "I'll just get everything done and then go freshen up." But then my company (thankfully family!) showed up 20 minutes early to a frazzled, unshowered hostess. Now, I schedule a half an hour "prep time" for myself starting at least one hour before our guests arrive. During that half hour, I leave my hubby with a few last minute jobs which is a great help.
7) Have a plan.
When we hosted our family Thanksgiving just months after getting married, I was scared to death that I would forget something! So, the night before, I marked all my recipes with sticky notes, gathered all the dry ingredients for each recipe, set out serving bowls and utensils for each dish, and made a schedule (in 15 minute increments) for the following day. It was a HUGE help, and I have never looked back!
8) Keep Christ at the center of your hospitality.
This is my biggest encouragement to you as you welcome people into your home...keep Christ at the center. The single most important motivating force behind our love towards others should be Christ's love towards us. 1 John 4:19 says, "We love because he first loved us."
Your guests should be able to see the evidence of Christ's love in your home. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if Christ is at the center of your hospitality: How are interacting with your husband or children? Do you do more talking than listening? Are you concerned about your appearance or your guest's experience? What dominates your conversation--heavenly things or earthly things? Are you demonstrating your love for and hope in the gospel? Once you've answered these questions, pray and ask God to help you with any trouble areas you might have.
Here's my prayer...
Lord, I pray that you would make me like Mary...content to sit at your feet. Make my home a place that puts your gospel on display. God, help me to put away my selfish desires so that I might love others better. And through my love, may all who enter into my home experience YOUR great love. Thank you for inviting me into your kingdom and welcoming me in the name of Jesus Christ.
Have any hospitality tips? Please share in the comments below!
Photo attributed to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjparnell/435465575/