Back in January friends hosted a silent auction to raise some money for other good friends serving East Asia. Instead of auctioning off items like a weekend trip to Aspen or a 2013 Corvette, all our friends chipped in and donated personal resources and skills. For example, a dentist offered a free teeth whitening and a triathlete donated 5 training sessions. So Bruce & I (being neither dentists or triathletes) donated a dinner party for 3 couples, discussing a Trinity Forum reading (I'll explain more on that in a second).
Another little backstory/side-note: Before Bruce and I went through the whole "had a 4th child/not feeling social" season of 2012, we used to have people over all. the. time. I'd have moms over for lunch with babies lied up on blankets. We hosted several themed New Year's Eve parties...with a live band. In our Chicago, pre-kids/no job/grad school days we would hang out with another couple, eat $5 pizza and play "Halo" on x-box, until 2 or 3 in the morning (truth).
Bruce and I are social people. But the last time I've hosted anything in our home was well over a year ago.
Amazingly 3 couples bid on our "book discussion dinner". Even though it took us 8 months to pick a night to gather, that night arrived this past weekend.
There were just a couple of problems, mainly the state of my home:
my office...when cleaning out the closet under the stairs. true story.
I shared with a friend how I didn't know if I could pull off hosting a dinner party. How our dining room table was covered in Legos and how I needed to paint the hallway walls and how I wasn't even sure what to cook.
This was her advice:
"Sometimes we need to be okay with inviting others into our mess."
Whoa. That smacks ya upside the head...on so many levels, amIright?
With her words, my hosting fog began to lift and my mind remembered the magic of hospitality.
How I can obsess about crumbs under the table, but when people start filling the space, all I see are smiling faces. How thankful people are to be invited and welcomed and don't even care that I haven't painted the walls in 10 years.
How this home which is a second skin to a mom, becomes an art gallery and museum to guests. Those masks from South Africa stir conversations and the painting hanging in our dining room, the one I bought at a market in Rio De Janiero inspires conversation about how a gathering of shanties on a hill can captivate your eyes.
Sometimes those things which bring stress (dirty surfaces and cluttered counters) distract me from really seeing the beauty.
Inviting others into my "mess", allowed me to see through their eyes the personality and stories I take for granted or have forgotten.
Besides welcoming them into my messy space, I began to worry about the menu. So I turned to Pinterest for inspiration only to (as usual) become overwhelmed. My husband's wisely suggested I make our "first date dish" (the one his family called "special chicken" and we called "company chicken"). It was a reminder that we don't need fancy, just familiar. Because sharing a familiar favorite with friends is more heart warming than a gourmet dish discovered, but never tried.
(post party update...the two items I did pull off Pinterest were the items that flopped. Didn't even end up making the green beans I'd found on a site. My word of wisdom for a rusty dinner party hostess...stick to what ya know.)
The other magical part of hospitality I had forgotten was the conversation. Sitting around the table not only eating delectable food, but discussing the thoughtful words of Os Guiness & Nathaniel Hawthorne.
A few minutes in and my brain would start synapsing again and smart words would be exchanged.
With husbands and wives intermingled, the conversations tend to remain united. Not divided between women and men, kids vs. sports, shopping vs business.
With the Trinity Forum readings (thought-provoking 30-page booklets written by a classical author, with an introductory essay by a modern-day author), something amazing happens when eight individuals talk about a subject outside of their personal story--individual world views emerge. How we interpret life and faith and culture become evident. Our eyes our open to another person's perspective.
So if your dining room table is covered in Legos and your serving dishes have collected dust, I'm encouraging you (maybe even challenging you) to step out of your comfort zone.
- Invite three couples over for dinner (maybe even people you don't know that well).
- Pick out a fun 30 page reading from Trinity Forum (link here).
- Plan a menu of family favorites (don't go for fancy, just familiar).
- Welcome others into your mess (although truth be told I did spend the day picking up clutter, fixing a hole in the wall, and wiping down surfaces).
I would love for you to come back and tell me how it went. What did you learn about yourself? What food did you make? What topic did you discuss?