The other night we had a group of friends over for dinner. Our attempts to “keep it small” were delightfully thwarted and we ended up with some 12-14 people over the course of the evening.

These are the nights where my heart is so full I think it could burst. I think I never want to leave this town. I think it just might be my very favorite thing in the world – to feed people, belly and spirit.

This was a sweet night, though not one easily prepared for … all weekend I had been banished to the couch, kleenex and dayquil in hand, fighting off an unpleasant head cold. We had been out of town the week before and nothing was coming together. Add in a few unplanned last minute guests (though quite welcome) and an accident on the interstate that delayed my homecoming by almost an hour, and the evening was shaping up to not play out as well as I had hoped.

And what had I hoped for?

Perfection. Obviously.

I love to open my front door to friends, but I love to open it when the inside is clean and the dust bunnies are long gone, candles are lit and fresh flowers sit on the table. Something yummy has been bubbling away on the stove for quite awhile and a bottle of wine is ready to be poured.

I usually open my front door while my sweet husband scrambles to shove the last of the laundry behind the bed and all the other clutter into the closets …

But that didn’t happen last night. I thought it did, but it didn’t. I walked in the bedroom halfway through the evening to find the coats and bags of our dear friends piled on our bed, but the rest of the bedroom was just as I had left it that morning.

Cluttered. Clean laundry unfolded in baskets everywhere. Piles of books and computers and a half-knit scarf. My shoes spilled out of the open closet doors. I sighed.

I had made an apple pie instead of cleaning my bedroom. The day before, I had spent some much-needed time resting instead of folding the laundry.

And I think I’m okay with that.

I’m learning that nobody really likes a perfectionist. I’m learning that I don’t really like myself when I’m trying to be one. That pretty much everyone in the world would prefer apple pie to a tidied bedroom, and certainly the people who gathered at our table last night would.

One of my favorite authors, Lauren Winner, writes it this way:

But to be a hostess, I’m going to have to surrender my notions of Good Housekeeping domestic perfection. I’ll have to set down my pride and invite people over even if I haven’t dusted. … As Christians, we aren’t meant simply to invite people into our homes, but into our lives as well. Having guests and visitors, if we do it right, isn’t an imposition because we aren’t meant to rearrange our lives for our guests—we’re meant to invite our guests to enter into our sometimes-messy lives. It’s this forging of relationships that transforms entertaining into hospitality.

So here’s to inviting people into our mess … our books on marriage and grad school, our half-knit scarves and empty tissue boxes. Our laptops and gigantic air filters. Take them all!

And take with it my pride, because it causes me enough problems, and my notions of being the perfect hostess. I love to open my home, but it takes a lot of the fun out of it when there is too much pressure to be perfect. I’m anything but perfect. (I’d like to make the perfect apple pie, but that’s a sweeter kind of perfection all together.)

We are lucky to live life with the people that matter, that won’t judge us because our books are piled all over the floor and we just haven’t had time to fold the laundry yet. Tonight I am grateful for each of them. And I’m grateful for this journey of soul-exfoliation that I’m on with Lord … He’s stripping me down to my core and stealing away my pride and insecurity and filling me up with grace. It’s not an easy road, but little moments like this one are good for my spirit. My imperfections are dramatically on display, but it doesn’t really matter because I know I am loved down deep.


One thought on “messy

  1. Mel, this is a hard thing to learn (especially for me!). I still care more than I should about that “Good Housekeeping” image. It’s so clear that when folks come over, they really just want to spend time together! They’re not counting how many pairs of shoes they can spot in one room…

    By the way, Lauren Winner is a professor at Duke! Mike hasn’t had any of her classes yet, but he may before his time is through 🙂

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