Hospitality: A Pep Talk
As I mentioned, we’re hosting a gathering this weekend to celebrate our daughter’s baptism. It’s a wonderful thing, something we look forward to and which we will remember fondly when it’s all over.
I’ve done all my usual things. I’ve dreamed up fabulous menus, thought of all kinds of pretty little finishing touches for everything from bathrooms to desserts, written a list of projects to finish that is longer than all the projects I’ve done this year. There is no shortage of ideas in this head of mine! As the weekend has drawn nearer, however, many items have been crossed off the list as reality sets in. Last night the whole family joined in and helped to clean bedrooms and bathrooms. The essential rises to the top and the nice-to-do settles to the bottom.
As I’ve done this, I’ve been pondering my little cycle of preparing for out of town company. Why is it that I expect my perfect house, my perfect self to be ready for gatherings? I know that it won’t really happen, but I impose the standard on myself anyway. Why do I behave as if my house shouldn’t look like ten people live in it when ten people really do live here? Why do I worry and stress when I know that it will all turn out fine, just as it’s done every time before this? And what about the cost of stress for my family?
I want to live graciously. I want to have a gracious home, a gracious family, a gracious demeanor, a gracious smile. I want my home to be a warm and happy place where people feel at peace. I want to give thoughtfully, to entertain cheerfully, to live with a calm and happy heart. And perhaps most importantly, I want to prepare for all these things graciously as well.
Sandy Coughlin wrote, “Gracious living is the butter on the warm bread of common life.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Does it make you want to go bake some bread to share with a friend? It does that to me. It also reminds me that gracious living isn’t something I should focus on only when guests are expected; it’s something I should offer to my family every day. People who are gracious make it look easy, but really they’ve worked at cultivating this talent. It’s a talent I am determined to develop.
Sandy Coughlin is the author of the blog, Reluctant Entertainer, and earlier this year Having read her blog here and there, I purchased the book when it first came out, and for me it’s been a gem. While many of her tips and tricks were things I already knew, I enjoyed it because she sounded real and down-to-earth. I also enjoyed it because as I read the book ideas and insights were opened to my mind concerning how hospitality and graciousness relate to me as a mother in my relationships with my children. Heavenly Father can use anything to teach us what we need to know. I learned a great deal and wrote pages of notes.
“Hospitality is more about creating the right mood than the perfect piecrust,” she writes. The key, in her opinion, is to seek excellence instead of perfection. “Excellence is working toward an attainable goal that benefits everyone.”
It’s so easy to get it backwards, to think that we must create the perfect environment so that the right mood can prevail. With all of my little ones I’m in a stage of life when the environment is far from perfect. If I let my success hinge on that one thing alone, I cannot succeed, and there’s nothing that will destroy my mood faster than the feeling that I can’t succeed. While having a tidy and presentable home is important, it is NOT more important than the feeling in my home.
Excellence, on the other hand, is win-win. It blesses all of us. Unlike perfection, excellence can be attained – not in all areas at all times, but in some. Ultimately the secret to success and to graciousness is in “being relaxed and engaged when you greet your guests at the front door.” Life is about people, relationships.
All these thoughts have paraded through my mind this week. There have been moments of stress and moments of peace. I look around my house this morning and see many loose ends to tie up. I see fingerprints all over walls that I didn’t get to. I also see a newly organized pantry and a guest room that is ready and waiting. There is excellence in a few areas and great need in others. I see three little ones who need me to be their mother in the midst of all my daytime busy-ness. I have simplified many plans and kept my sights set on one or two.
Most of all, I’m excited. In a few hours someone will notice the car pulling up, and eight sets of feet will run from different parts of the house to greet grandparents who have sacrificed to spend a couple of days with us. That moment, the moment of pounding feet and noise converging on the front door is what it’s all about.
I look forward to greeting my parents, my brothers and sisters and others at the door with a smile on my face, ready to engage in the opportunity to make memories and build relationships. My two year old said to me yesterday, “I don’t like when Grandma and Grandpa go. I like it when they are here.” It will be wonderful to see them, precious to see my daughter dressed in white with her Daddy for her baptism. We’ll bask in the blessing of being together. And the dirty fingerprints won’t matter.