Imagine this ‘how to show hospitality’ story. Those neighbors you invited over for dinner ‘sometime soon’ were out for a walk and stopped to chat with your lawn-mowing husband. They told him they were free for tonight if that worked. You bite your lip as you’re looking him in the eye after he’s come into the house to ask if ‘we’re free.’ In that split second, you’re gauging just how bad things are in the living room and the bathroom and how empty the fridge is.
And then you remember the definition of stress-free hospitality and that you’d wanted to open your home more easily, so you say, ‘Absolutely! Give me 45.’ (See the “Wrap it Up” section for the end of the story.)
A happy hostess has discovered several keys to the happiness and joy of opening her home and entertaining people. She has found that hosting can add purpose to her life. It enables her to bless, encourage, and even empower those who enter her home. Some view it as a type of ministry.
That discovery of biblical hospitality took time, study, and a complete change of attitude for this Happy Hostess! Are you familiar with the Bible account of Jesus dropping by the home of his friends Martha and Mary? As you might recall, Martha is in the kitchen throwing together as special of a meal as possible while her sister Mary is in the living room chatting with their guest, sharing a special gift with him and hanging on his every word. This totally erks Martha (I know this feeling!) because she’s back there slaving away with the cooking, last-minute cleaning, and a million other things that NEED to be done to put on a company dinner.
Of course, the point of the story is that Mary gets it. Her heart has informed her this is Messiah, and she wants to hear every word He has to share. Martha (for whatever reason) hasn’t picked up on His importance, or she’s determined from her upbringing or her Type A personality that ‘doing’ is the more important thing. On a deeper level, it doesn’t seem this story is pitting the doers against the carers. Happy Hostesses can be both Martha’s and Mary’s, blessing guests with their time and attention and preparing tasty food in a comfortable setting.
The History of Hospitality
Many books have been written about being the perfect hostess and entertaining like a pro. I have a copy of the Host & Hostess Book, copy-written in 1940. It originally belonged to my mother-in-law Jean, and I assume she received it as a bridal shower gift. Here’s a little excerpt from the chapter on Luncheons:
It’s a woman’s world when it comes to luncheon parties. Lunch before bridge, lunch for a visiting guest, lunch for a club committee, for a new bride, or a bride-to-be, no matter what the occasion is, naturally you want the party to be a success. Where is the woman who doesn’t want to impress her guests just a bit, at least, with a party that has distinction and charm? Yet, the simplest kind of party can be just as enjoyable and different as a more impressive function if it is well planned attractively served.
The chapter discusses invitations, setting the table, serving, the different types of luncheons, and menus and recipes to consider. It gives this social introvert (me) the beginnings of a stomach ache thinking about all these details!
The Host & Hostess Book was written for a completely different time. However, some titles written for today’s entertaining hostess carry the same sentiment in a different setting. You’re Invited, Elegant Entertaining is one such book. Many impressive, fancy ideas for producing events set you apart as a hostess. It has value for the recipes and decorating ideas, but the approach feels more like getting ready for a high-society wedding than hanging out with friends at home.
Another recent book, Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt, takes a different view of entertaining. I highly recommend it! The author encourages confident and hesitant hosts while graciously opening your home a lot more value and even stating that it could change the world. This book has many DIY ideas, suggestions for unique ways to bless others with your hosting, and biblical support for being a happy (loving) hostess.
Y’all Come Over by Rebecca Lang looks at ‘charming your guests with new recipes, heirloom treasures, and true southern hospitality. As a relatively new Texan, the title jumped out at me, and I’ve found this book to be very informative and fun, full of photos and recipes.
Considering older books on entertaining as well as their current counterparts, it appears there are two main views of hosting or entertaining. These can be stated in a variety of ways.
One quite informal way: 1) Strut your stuff. 2) Share your stuff. Another way: 1) Stress to impress. 2) Peacefully love. Or 1) Entertain while raising your social status. 2) Open your house while opening your heart.
The happy hostess has a clear understanding of hospitality. A simple definition of hospitality is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” The key concepts are friendliness and generosity.
Opening your home to friends or family takes a little work, sacrifice (depending on your confidence and experience level), and a bit of an other-centered attitude. Your guests are your primary focus. That doesn’t mean your goal is to impress them, work to make your home like theirs, or buy expensive things to make sure they think highly of you. It’s just the opposite. Your focus is on giving. Giving and serving, including a tasty meal and a fun, enjoyable time. And, most importantly, giving your guests your attention. How wonderful would it be if you entered someone’s house and were made to feel that important and treasured?
This is a short list of types of hosting you could be doing now. Like this week! We’ll talk briefly about the challenges of hosting people in your home. But, for now, let’s look at some possibilities of events you could close your eyes, take a deep breath, and agree to.
Like the graphic says, it’s a starter list meaning there are probably a million other ways to gather and host people, whether in your home or in a park! Are you getting a little spark of excitement reading the list? Thinking about how fun it would be to jump in and pull off one of those ideas.
Here’s a goal for you: Pick one of the ideas and invite a couple of people for tonight! (no later than tomorrow night!)
For most extroverted hostesses, the challenges of holding a dinner party include taking care of all the details, inviting a good mix of people, and ensuring the recipes have been tested beforehand. If the host is socially introverted or shy, these challenges are compounded by social discomfort, feelings of inadequacy, and maybe some performance anxiety. Most women with that set of challenges tend to forego hosting. They might opt for lunch or just grab a coffee with one or two friends, which is a great starting place in growing your hosting chops.
One of my main purposes in writing this post is to encourage those of us who would rather be home watching NCIS reruns than hosting any kind of social gathering to give it a try. I’m hoping that no matter what our shyness quotient is; we just might discover that opening our homes and hearts could be very gratifying!
Other challenges women could face might be living alone or in tight quarters – a small house or a tiny apartment. With a little ingenuity, these challenges can be overcome. Some might not even see them as obstacles. Living alone and hosting go very well together! What a great way to make new friends and possibly find a cool roommate. Small spaces would probably limit the number that could attend a gathering, but that eases up other headaches…fewer people to feed for one! Most apartments have gathering spaces that can be used for social gatherings, and you don’t even have to clean or decorate!
How to Show Hospitality in the Stress-Free Zone
Let’s assume you’ve decided to host. Maybe tonight, maybe next week, maybe for the next family birthday party. If you’ve committed to opening your home to people who don’t live there, you might be experiencing some stress just thinking about it.
Do you remember your first day at work for that career-level job? I sure do! I was quaking in my boots standing in front of those small children wondering who I thought I was, thinking I was a real teacher! But, each day, month, and year got easier, and my confidence grew. It’s sort of the same thing with hosting. Experience brings comfort and confidence. Practice makes perfect. Except that’s one of the first tips on ‘stress-free hosting’.
#1 Let go of perfection.
Aim for enjoyment, ensuring your guests are content and taken care of. Go ahead and search Pinterest for ideas, but don’t let yourself fall into the comparison trap because you’ll surely be stressed!
#2 Spend some time planning.
Sketch things out, consider the menu, cleaning, and decorating. (See The Happy Hostess Checklist.) Even if you haven’t got much time before the doorbell will be ringing. Having a list always lowers my stress level. Here’s a Checklist to help!
#3 Keep it SIMPLE!
And, cheap and not fancy, and familiar. DO NOT try a new recipe out on your guests. Simply putting it together will increase your stress! Keep a list of comfy, proven recipes for the different events you might be putting together. Also, you can keep ‘company foods’ on hand for a last-minute thing.
If your people are hoping for dinner, and this happens regularly, having an emergency meal in the freezer or fridge is extremely smart. A frozen lasagna, some frozen pizzas, a bag salad, or a big platter of nachos can do the trick. Another possibility is stretching what you had planned for the family. Maybe adding another side or an easy entree. Last-minute guests can’t be picky. They will love the meal because they don’t have to cook!
Let’s Wrap This Up
Remember those neighbors who were coming for dinner in 45 minutes? The time with the happy hostess and her friendly husband was fun, relaxing, and a wonderful chance to begin a new couple’s friendship. The hostess speed-cleaned the house while opting for a frozen lasagna, rolls, and a green salad. She remembered they still had chocolate chip mint ice cream in the freezer. (Thank goodness for pantries and freezers!) The two couples filled their plates and sat in the living room visiting, laughing, and getting to know each other.
The wives will walk together in the morning, and the husbands will check out the new golf course on Saturday. Oh, and there’s a picnic planned for the lake end of next week. That last-minute get-together blessed the hosts and their company; the cool thing was, it was no big deal. A stress-free and very fun evening in an open, welcoming home.
We have shown a little of both works in the Martha and Mary reference (the doer and the career). But, as with most things, different situations could elicit different responses. It would seem, though, with the informal gatherings we’re focusing on, that having a host who can serve a gracious meal while making her guests feel important and welcome is a valuable gift.
Hopefully, the hosting tools included in this post will be helpful as you tiptoe out of your comfort zone. The Company’s Coming Speed-Cleaning Checklist is a God-send when you get that last-minute call. And the Happy Hostess Checklist will give you ideas for any hosting event and help with the practicals for a low-stress and enjoyable time (for everyone). Also, this post will help with Easy Meals, and another post deals with Company Coming at the last minute.
Have fun as you grow in your happy hostessing. I’m right there with you! Working against the temptation to forego a get-together for just a quiet evening. Nothing wrong with quiet evenings, but you might find that having a few friends or neighbors join you might even be more enjoyable and rewarding!
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Finding a new purpose in living and joy in the day-to-day was the goal when author Kathy Rowland and her entire family (adult kids and grandkids) moved from the PNW to Texas several years ago. The focus of Quiet Hollow is to encourage ‘next chapter women’ – those who are retired, empty-nesters, or have found themselves without a spouse to jump back into life. And, she shares multiple tips, ideas, and possibilities toward that end. Kathy completed her almost 30 years as an elementary teacher and hopped into over a decade of volunteer work, side hustle-type businesses, and grandchild care before discovering her unique and fulfilling purpose for the next chapter of life. What you read on Quiet Hollow is a large part of that calling. Another part is the happy life she’s leading in Central Texas in the same neighborhood as the 3 big kids and her 5 grandkids. She and her college sweetheart husband made sure to add a pool to their new Texas home, so there are lots of noisy, splashy days in their little oasis of a backyard. Come join her on Quiet Hollow in a conversation about finding and living the life you were created to live in this later stage. The chats will be full of laughter, support, faith, and inspiration to create.