Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Question: Hospitality and Peace?

Is it possible to have both?

During a recent conversation with friends I found that I wasn't the only one who snapped at my children, then turned to smile sweetly when guests walked in the door.

I love to have guests to our home. I love to prepare a pretty table and a clean house for the comfort of my guests. I like to have the meal prepared so I can enjoy time with friends without rushing.

But a clean house and yummy food doesn't just happen. They take preparation. And too often I turn into a drill sergeant barking out orders. "They will be here in only half an hour, pick up your dirty socks and help me." It is surprising my children continue to ask to have friends over when mom turns into a grump.

I think I'm learning. When I recognize that flushed face and raised voice, I try to start eliminating tasks. That dirty bathroom? It probably won't kill anyone. Haven't dusted for a month? Maybe it will make the other mom feel good to see dust in someone else's house. No time to arrange a bouquet of flowers? Send one of the girls to pick some zinnias.

I think (here is where I get real quiet and hope not too many people are listening) that the root of my problem is pride. I want to look like a capable efficient homemaker. I crave the approval of my friends.

And my children, well, sadly I must not care as much what they think of me. Besides, they already know the worse.

I'd love to hear from you.

How do you host guests without stressing your family? Do you have shortcuts you fall back on? How do you make sure that you are seeking to bless others and not just give yourself some gold stars for hospitality?

35 comments :

  1. Oh Gina I know how you feel. I try not to obsessive about having my home clean. But because our former house in CA was so disgustingly dirty we never had anyone over. I'm talking dust, cobwebs and a filthy floor!
    Since we moved into our new home here in AZ I'm doing way better and we have had more guests in the year we have lived here than the 22 years we lived in our old house.
    So I have slowly learned to not stress because of my past. I haved gotten over the stress of dirty grout in my kitchen floor. That stuff is hard to clean without killing my back! Suggestions?

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    1. We inherited a kitchen and family room with dirty ( formerly) white grout. The area was huge. I called a carpet cleaning co. ( called Citrus O in our area) and they brought a commercial floor cleaning machine in to do the job. Looked way better, and could be kept up with regular mopping.

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    2. When we put tile floors in parts of our new house, I purposely selected a dark gray grout between the tiles! I have been SO thankful over the years for that decision! Less stress!

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  2. Ah yes. I remember those days and it's not with a happy heart that I'm remembering either. I fear I was just like you, snapping at the children to clean this or that. And you know what, in looking back, the house wasn't that bad to start with. I just wanted it as perfect as I could get it.
    Thankfully, my children haven't held it against me. :-) Now, our home stays clean almost all of the time and I would love to have a dirty sock to pick up somewhere unexpected.
    I have no shortcuts to tell you except to relax. This too shall pass and no one will remember that dust at all.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  3. Oh! My toes are howling with pain. I've been thinking a lot on this, especially since this Sunday is my turn to be hostess. Why do I have this desire to have a huge meal and attractive center pieces? To make guests feel welcome... Or to try to make myself appear totally capable and competent? I believe it is right to go to extra effort to prepare for guests, because I want them to know they are special and we are glad to have them in our home. But simplicity often makes guests feel much more at ease. (I'm still learning, by the way!)
    I don't have so much advice other than start preparing ahead of time. I do not thrive in races with the clock. Having as much as possible done in advance makes life much more peaceful!
    Thanks for your challenging thoughts and for being brave enough to confess your weaknesses. It's encouraging to know I'm not the only one that battles this!

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  4. I realized the same thing about myself. I wanted to show everybody that I am a pretty cabeable mother. Able to handle three special needs kids and a household and a litchen and a harden. Unfortunately time to time I had to realize I am still not Wonder Woman. And it made me frustrated, bossy. So I tried something new. AI invite people into my halfdone house. A little cleaning , just the most important part will do it. But I concentrated my energy and effort to our guests. Make them extra comfortable. Preaper something really special for them. Food or Igive them something from my garden or I try to figure it out what are they interested. Cooking? Iprint out a nice recepy. Gardening flower seeds from my garden. Children? Bake some extra cookie for the family. And voila! Magic! No one but really not a single person was complaining after this royally treatment about halfdone cleaning. I try to handle them as I would handle Jesus as my guest.
    With love from Hungary
    Krisztina

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  5. I clean the night before my maid comes....Effort my husband does not understand.

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    1. I thought about hiring a helper too but kept thinking about all the cleaning before they come!!! Haha... It is in my blood, i just wish all blankets and bedding could be washed every week! But the babies need me more.

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  6. I host Christmas Eve each year and my dh at one time wanted me to stop because I got so crabby and yelling at everyone. It is only family but I wanted my home spotless and the food perfect. I am better but could definitely improve in this dept. Cheryl

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    1. Exactly. This could have been my post word for word. We always end up in an argument over something on Christmas Eve over something that doesn't even matter. working on it every year to get better.

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  7. My mom had a simple Sunday dinner that we children learned to make even when younger. On Sunday morning, one mixed up meatloaf, one mixed up oven macaroni and cheese. This went in the oven to bake during church. The youngest made a simple but pretty jello by laying pear halves in a glass 9x13 and pouring lime jello over to set. We had this same meal for visitors. Now that I think back to it, no doubt this gave her time to attend to the house and the younger ones, though even in this she kept it simple. No extra table decorations, etc. Now her girls are all older and do fancier meals and table decorations : )

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  8. My husband and I love to host. I couldn't without his help in doing last minute floor sweeps, etc. I do keep my food simple. Having people over for the evening? Soft pretzels and apple slices. Or milk and warm chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven (be prepared for many to get eaten! ) and apple slices. Meals are the same way. I would never be classed as a superb cook, but nobody ever complained. ;) Centerpieces? hehe...My children would knock them apart before company arrives. I hosted my family (50+ ppl) for Christmas- that stressed me out trying to clean house and garage and figuring out how to get that amount of food ready by 12 noon! I was not the easiest person that week till I finally was honest with my husband and said, "I'm crabby and tense with you all just because I'm stressing over noodles and veggies!" He helped me figure it all out and I felt better then. So Simple, but yummy food is the way to go here. I do basic cleaning, but I miss the stray cobwebs sometimes, but I"M ok with that cause I love chatting with friends and gathered around the kitchen table playing games. :) Rosene

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  9. This is a tough one and I've struggled too. I like to keep the meal simple- something in the crockpot works well since there is no last minute rushing. Spaghetti works well too. I can make a salad ahead to go with either and store it in the fridge until later in the day. As for cleaning, short cuts are things like sweeping or vacuuming the "centers" of rooms, taking clutter and putting it in a laundry basket and putting it in the basement or a closet, wiping the edge and seat of the toilet and the edges of the bathtub. But yes, the struggle of making people think I am capable is there. But I am obviously not capable of doing it all the time.

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  10. Dear Gina, I don't have children, but I do know what you are saying. My problem is I realized that I did too much for friends and other family and was giving my husband my "left over" time. I did not enjoy the thought and I decided to change (it's still a work in progress). I do say No to more entertaining (I still do some). But one thing that has helped me is each night before I go to bed I make sure the kitchen and living room is clean - this would be the two rooms that anyone would see if they were to visit. I know our is a different situation but do remember your small children will one day be grown and on there own. My friend who has several girls, has a plastic laundry basket in each of their rooms, if she entertains or unexpected guest arrive, each girl grabs a basket and starts picking up stuff, puts it in their room and when guest leave - the girls put it where it goes. You will find what works for you. God Bless, Cindy Norred

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  11. This happens to me to an extent to...but I try to remember my friends are coming to see me, and not my house. I have made it my rule to never Apologize for the state of my house . I remember going to a friends and her bathroom being very untidy, and thinking "ahhh, i feel at home here" :)

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  12. First of all I recommend PRAYER. When I am getting flustered I have to remember to pray. Also I try planning ahead, starting early, and making detailed lists. Lists that list every single thing that needs to be done-not just "clean the bathroom" but 1)clean toilet 2) wash mirrors 3)wipe out tub, etc. I find it motivation to have more items marked off and if you get called away for a moment you know exactly what still has to be done. Plus you can tell your kids exactly which task you want them to do and they won't get lost in the "well I didn't know you wanted that cleaned too". This seems to help tremendously. Plus fix simple foods, make sure the most obvious "dirty" places are cleaned and don't worry so much-life isn't going to end or change for the worst just because the end tables didn't get dusted or the floor didn't get mopped. My mom always says "I don't go over to a person's house to look at their house, I go to see them." Enjoy!

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  13. And I have pretty much stopped hosting as I’m ashamed of my house, my skills. Before attending a Cinservative Mennonite Church I loved having people over. I never thought of fancy food, fancy table, centrepiece, spotless house......if something special was done it was because I could or wanted to. Now I feel so pressured I don’t know how to cope, so I hardly ever invite anyone.

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    1. This is a flaw in the culture, not you... please don't crawl in a shell--show others how simplicity can be enjoyable! :)

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    2. As a Conservative Mennonite myself, who grew up a farm girl, and tries to live simply, I would be uncomfortable in many high-class Mennonite homes. But I ask God to make me into who He wants me to be, and to be that. And I encourage you to focus on your love for Him, and not let unnecessary extras like you mentioned steal your joy! If someone is judging you for that- give it to God! One of my favorite verses in the Bible is not to compare yourselves among yourselves. It sets me free! That said, I do have to admit that I love a clean house, and I teach my children to help keep it clean on a daily basis. But mine isn't new and would never qualify for pics in a magazine!!! Go ahead and be what you wish others could be!

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  14. Lists for small details is good advice, and a sticky note the guest ladies can read and take care of is helpful for me. Oven meals that don't take watching last minute. My husband is working on me to relax and not push the dishes at people too fast.

    For the record, I'm much more relaxed and at home with a lived in house than one where I'm loathe to dampen the impeccable hand towel in the bathroom, if I can even tell which one is to use. :)

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  15. I admit that reading this made me more than a little gleeful :) and I was grinning when my husband read it, so glad that he now knows I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE! :) He is always threatening to not allow anymore hosting because I get too stressed, he totally doesn't understand when I try to explain that in spite of the stress I absolutely love hosting friends and family! I have a couple friends who have mastered the art of not worrying about the toys, and dirty socks and just enjoying their company. I love going to their houses. I also love having them over because even though I still catch myself stressing and barking, it isn't near as severe! Maybe one day I will master the calm hostess art.

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  16. Gina, I so enjoy your blog. This is my first time responding because I usually get your "no reply" email. The hymns you mention in your blogs speak to my spirit. I have loved everyone of them, even the ones I have never heard.
    Your family is in my thoughts and prayers. To speak to this particular subject, I love entertaining and creating wonderful meals and pretty decorations. My biggest problem is not keeping dishes washed daily or things picked up around the house every day so that it is not a monumental task when company is coming. For us, it doesn't help that we are always in a state of remodeling our home. I find that if I make a thorough list, delegate what I can, and make sure I prioritize well (we have to eat if it is a meal and we don't have to have decorations necessarily). I also made a point of teaching our only child how to do certain household chores and made sure she and her father shared in the things needing to be done. I also try to have a bit of a back up plan in case someone doesn't bring their part of the "lucky pot" as my daughter used to call a pot luck meal by keeping easy staples in my pantry or freezer. Lastly, I keep telling myself to breathe and ask God to help me know what is more important thing to do next! God bless you and your family.

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  17. I have been a silent reader for a while, but this post made me want to comment :-) I love your honesty, and the fact that you do not try to appear perfect. I do not keep my house spotless, and therefore find myself cleaning up when people are coming. At the same time, I find myself getting almost annoyed if I go to someone's house and it is always clean. Is that pride or jealousy? Or both? I do think we should not fall into the trap of over achieving in this area, as it could be a stumbling block to others, as was mentioned in one of the above comments. As conservative Mennonites we're taught many good values, but when we begin to make others feel like they can't measure up, then we have missed the point.

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  18. I used to make sure my house was completely picked up and clean before other moms with their kids came over, but recently I realized that sometimes it actually makes the other mom feel guilty of her own not-always-picked-up house when they see my house spotless. The truth is, moms with young children just do not have houses that are always completely clean. It's just impossible. And I've also realized that the other mom will be more comfortable having us over to their place if my house is more "normal-looking" when they come over. So my advice is, relax, and realize that by not cleaning before people come over, you might actually be making them feel more comfortable (and actually more hospitable!).

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  19. For a fresh perspective on hospitality, read Shauna Niequest’s books “Bread and Wine” and “Present over Perfect”. I don’t agree with all her views but her perspective has been such an encouragement to me!

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  20. I would gladly rather see a happy Mommy and Daddy, and respectful pleasant children and a nice meal, than a spotless and impeccable home. There are just some things that are way more important than perfection, after all Jesus was the on that was perfection, we can only try.

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  21. I too have a been a quiet reader for quite some time and felt I could comment also on this subject.

    When I visit with friends/family, I am there to see the friends/family, not look at their house, unless of course it is a first visit and I am looking for the bathroom :o).

    I think the pressure of external forces (ie the internet / magazines etc) and what we think people are thinking about us is a cultural flaw.

    I remember as a child when you'd just drop in for a cuppa because you were going past and end up staying for a meal and sometimes even the night. No time for cleaning or primping. Now as an adult homeowner, I don't mind people just dropping in, but I'd prefer if they'd call to make sure I'm at home so they are not going out of their way. I try to keep a tidy home most of the time and just hope that my guests feel comfortable. I quite often have crafts half done in obscure places, meals in preparation and the floors aren't always cleaned, but this is my lived life and I am happy for it.

    Elaine in Australia

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  22. Thank you so much to all of you. I learned that I'm not alone. Seems like many of us, even in different parts of the world and in different cultures struggle with this area of comparison and expectation. Thanks for your honesty and your great tips. I especially liked Nicole's reminder to PRAY!
    Gina

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  24. wow, so honest, and I remember getting to the point I didn't even want to host guests because my family seemed to really pay the price with my "getting ready!" I am older, and it is a "little" better now, but I still need to get a grip and not be such a perfectionist, and remember, my family's opinion is the one that is most important to me in the end!

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  25. I have to add that it really makes me sad that I host my friends all the time, love it, but would really love to be asked to someone else house as well....it is very rare. I think it boils down to everyone thinking they have to be perfect. I can't tell you how much I would so enjoy just being invited out for a cup of coffee to someone's home besides my own...I hope this encourages others to be a blessing as well as enjoying being blessed:)

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  26. This post was very dear to my heart as I love to entertain but do struggle with barking the orders at my children that last hour before guests arrive. It's such a strange phenomenon as the work could just as easily get done without my blood pressure rising.
    I have found it is much easier to entertain impromptu if I go into the weekend with the basic cleaning done and some food in the freezer. I try to not let it stop me from hosting if that is not done but it can seem insurmountable at 4PM on a Sunday night if the house is a wreck and there is no food.

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  27. I think to a degree, all of us homemakers struggle with these issues. I learned the best advice from my dear grandma 40 years ago..just remember that your guests are coming to your "home".. not your " house"! It has served me well.

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  28. As a visitor, I feel most relaxed in a 'lived in house'. My big sister has always been an exemplary housekeeper (and decorator and gourmet cook!) Her home used to feel kind of sterile, like an upper scale, polished museum. She still enjoys entertaining and feeding guests, but has 'worked' her whole life to not be so compulsive. She would say 'even my own family is afraid to touch anything' She has succeeded in making her home 'user friendly'.

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  29. Dear Gina, I am so glad I stumbled across your blog, and this post especially. I do know how you feel. Firstly don't beat yourself up about how clean or not so clean your house is, as long as it is tidy and reasonably clean no one is going to berate you. Having a young family it is very hard to keep a spotless home 24/7. I am fortunate to have two houseproud daughters to help with all manner of housework. We find donning our housework "uniforms" (pinafore aprons) over our dresses very beneficial in getting into housework mode first thing in the morning. Remember guests come to see you and your family, not a clinically spotless abode. Blessings , Grace. p.s Just before guests are due to arrive we change into clean dresses and hostess aprons.

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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