Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hostess Anxiety

Do you hesitate to have guests into your home for a meal?  I do.

It all starts with a thought popping into my mind or Jamey's suggestion, "We should really have so-and-so over.  I'd really like to get to know them better."  Right on the heels of that thought comes, "What would I make?  Would they like that?  That means cleaning the house...and the windows really need washing as does the dining room floor...."  By this time, my anxiety is mounting and I tell myself there isn't enough time and they probably have plans already anyway.

I can talk myself out of it lickety-split.

Why?  Let's cut right to it.  Because of my own insecurities and expectations of/for myself.  I have this incredible talent of ruining things for myself before they even start.

And I loathe it.

I do this to myself other times, too.  I create stress in places where there should only be joy and thanksgiving.  I take something good and nit-pick it apart until I've micro-managed every detail to the point that I'm on some level actually dreading it.  Once whatever-it-is starts, I can (thankfully) enjoy myself and I'm always glad we hosted/went/participated but I ruin the expectation part of it.

The other month in Sunday school our class was talking about Mary's response to the news that she would give birth to the Messiah.  Oh.  My.  Word.  But what did Mary do?  She sang.  And praised God.  Seriously?!  God bless her indeed.  I hate to imagine my response because I think I know what it would look like.  I'd instantly develop knots in my shoulders and neck muscles.  I'd probably get a headache.  I'd certainly make some sort of list and then lie in bed at night playing out all the ways things could go wrong.

God knew what He was doing when He chose Mary.

I'm sure she had questions and reservations, but she chose joy.  She chose to set her concerns aside and accept the miraculous gift that God had given her.

Do we accept His gifts as gifts?  Or do we just find ways to worry them into problems?  This is my prayer for this season of my life- that I can recognize God's good gifts and praise Him for what they are- good gifts.

As far as the fear of hosting goes, I want to share some ideas that are helping me move past my ridiculousness hesitation:

1) Make a double or extra portion of a meal and stick it in your freezer, so when the urge to host comes along, you'll already have the main dish made.

2) Keep those fancy dishes in the cupboards.  This may go against what other people say about using those pretty dishes instead of hoarding them away, but when I put a white tablecloth and my good dishes on the table, I see a stark contrast between my table and the state of my house.  Every day dishes and mismatched sliverware, to me, mean my house can look lived in- dust bunnies and all.

3) The point is being together!  Not producing the most perfect meal.  One of our favorite meals with friends is pizza and applesauce- that's it!

4) Show that you are a normal, human being.  When it really comes down to it, I don't want my guests to think I'm perfect, because I'M NOT!  If they see dust on the piano and stray legos in the corners, maybe it will encourage them.  I certainly don't ever want someone to leave my house feeling inferior.  I want them to feel part of the family.

And so, I challenge you this winter season.  See God's good gifts for what they are and celebrate them with others, casting aside our anxiety and ridiculous (and impossible) expectations and instead rest in the fact that we are the wonderful, beloved children of God (legos, dust bunnies and all).

So, go on.  Email or call that person or family you've been meaning to invite over.  Keep it real.  Keep it simple.  Choose joy and look forward to the evening. Pin It


  1. The comment about Mary's reaction reminded me of the book a group of friends and I are reading/studying. It is called Having a Mary Spirit: Allowing change from the inside out. It has spoken to me each time I read it. I recommend giving it a go!

  2. Oh Jane Jane Jane...I SO could have written this post. But mine would include awful filthy carpet, dingy walls, and the list could go on and on. And on. I never have people over. I did at one time. But not anymore...I've become too self-conscious of the condition of our home and feel like that's all people see. It's sad really... I have actually been thinking about this a lot lately...

  3. My husband and I always say we need to invite so and so over but we never do it. I go and buy really pretty paper plates and napkins and they sit there. I have a book entitled, Practicing Hospitality, The Joy of Serving Others by Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock. It is pretty good. You might enjoy it

  4. From reading your blog you show you have a heart for God and his people. I wish you lived near me as I would love to have you as a dear friend to help me in that same way.


  5. You spoke right to my heart. I have such a hard time inviting people into my home because my home is far from perfect. It's something I'm working on because I believe God does call us to hospitality. And, I think about the homes where I have felt the most comfortable & enjoyed my time the most....they were always the homes that felt lived in...that felt real.

    1. P.S. - I should clarify that when I said "It's something I'm working on" I'm not referring trying to make my house better. I meant I'm working on getting past my own fears and anxieties about having folks over & trying not to worry about what they would think of my mess. But, maybe you already knew that's what I meant. :)

  6. I have such hostess anxiety! It is mostly about my house being too messy. I rarely have anyone over other than very good friends or family who I know will not judge me. Thank you for this encouragement and the much needed perspective!

  7. Hi, you sound so much like me! When I went to graduate school, I had such a perfectionist mentality that I was afraid to turn in any parts of my dissertation - because they "weren't good enough". I finally managed to trick myself into showing it to my advisors by telling them as I handed it in that "this is just a rough draft, a REALLY rough draft, to get input before going too far" somehow that took some of the pressure off.

    These days I try to remind myself that "Perfection is the enemy of the good".

    For a while, I had same feeling hosting - stressing over perfection. Then one day I consciously thought about how it was when I went to other people's houses - I didn't care if the dishes were matching - I didn't care if the food was simple. I identified the things that mattered to me when I visited and from then on I made sure that that was what I focused on. For example, I don't care that the windows are dirty but I do care if a bathroom is gross. Thinking about that made me not stress as much because I realized that there were very few things that HAD to be done to have guests over.

    Plus, once I had taken the step of deliberately not making things perfect and I saw how well that went - it was so much easier to do it again and each time the stress was less until now I love to host.

  8. I can't believe that you just posted could have been written word for word by me!

    I too, forget to take joy when a chance at hospitality presents itself, instead, I choose worry and anxiety. I only find the joy once the event is over and then I am quite sorry that I spent all that time worrying...grrrr.

    Just yesterday, my Sister-in-Love left a message that she has a lay-over in our neck of the woods and would like to spend that time at our house. Instead of rejoicing that I would get to see her and forgetting the fact that she purposefully chose to spend time with us (we have a large family and she had many choices), I focused on cleaning the bathroom, putting fresh sheets on the bed, dusting, cooking, etc. By the time I sent a response I was not very excited at sad.

    I need to remember that she is coming to see US, not our home. So right here and now, I promise that I am only going to "do a zoom" (my Mom used that term when she just wanted to tidy up the house quickly) and then I am going to enjoy the time with her...what a blessing that will be.

    Thank you for sharing this post, it meant so very much to me!


  9. I really needed to read this post! I struggle with the same thing. Last week my husband invited some people over and I freaked out. No joke, I said "Well we really need to paint the doors and trim first".... and then I started painting the doors and trim. I totally know how ridiculous that is!!!!

    Thank you for writing this post! I'm sure that I will refer back to it often!

  10. OMG, I feel your pain...I would love to have people over....there was atime when our home was the place to be... But nowadays I find myself thinking how much my friends would think the evening was boring, etc...some of my best friends have never been in my home.
    And its not a bad place to be...just can't bring myself to invite anyone over.

  11. "I don't ever want someone to leave my house feeling inferior!" That is quote worth keeping! Big-burly nugget of golden truth! Thanks for sharing!

  12. You hit the nail on the head!

    (and an extra bonus of using not-fancy dishes? If your guests help out with dishes, they'll believe you that you don't care if they break something, which is harder if you're using the wedding china.)
    (p.s. let guests help with dishes or prep if they really want to - there's something about being able to give back and work on something together that really helps cement comfort and relationships.)(of course, if they hate doing dishes, let them off!)

  13. oh yes, I am like this too! But I didn't used to be: we used to host friends, very casually with no sweat, quite often. I think, for me, I've gotten a bit more introverted AND parenting/working/marriage takes most of my people energy and I don't have a lot left over. But we do really enjoy ourselves when we set up a date with friends. I'm inching towards making a concrete goal for myself (once a month, or something) because otherwise I just find every reason to put off inviting friends.

    I love thinking of Mary choosing joy. I'm going to ponder that, too.

  14. This just made my morning! I love your humor about the uncomfortableness of life's situations. Oh we are frail, silly humans at times and to think God loves us anyway. Smile.

  15. I always think of a dear older lady in our church we attended many years ago. She knew how much I loved turkey and always bought up a bunch at Thanksgiving to keep in the freezer...whenever she roasted one for Sunday dinner she and her husband would invite us over spur of the moment. I remember standing in her tiny kitchen peeling potatoes and she would pull a container of her redhaven peaches out of the freezer and we would take turns digging them out with a fork while we prepared the rest of the meal. No dessert, just simple basic food. We had to clear her table off of magazines, etc. to have a place to sit....their place was well lived in, and always made me feel at home. What a shame it would be if they never had us over because of the state of the house, or anxiety. I am thankful every day for these two lovely people and their willingness to open their home and hearts to us....whenever I entertain and start feeling uptight, I think of Anna and what it meant to me fellowshiping over a beautiful simple meal and I start to calm down and enjoy the moment. I hope I can pass that on to someone else. Blessings, Janet

  16. I want to give you a serious virtual hug. I share almost every word with you. My recent excuse has been the total mess my teenager has made of my living room, but since he leaves soon for basic training, I'm going to use the dread of his absence to spur me to 1) clean up and 2) invite other older, single women from my church to share meals and conversation with. Perhaps fill voids for all of us after his departure?

  17. My husband is retired from the Christian school ministry. Entertaining, especially on a budget, is common to us. We have some standard menus, and we also are not afraid to host a potluck if the availability of funds dictates. I am a Christian counselor, and I tend to adopt counselees who have finished with me. We call this group Other Family, and they are here often. In short, we do this about three times each month. It's like riding a bike...gets easier and easier. We don't do any of the hard stuff, like themes. We do only stuff like soup night and taco night.

  18. Dear Mama JJ's friend,

    My story about hostessing is here, if it's any help:

    I think letting people in to see your ordinariness is a huge gift--it lets them be ordinary too. Every single one of us is plain old ordinary, when it comes down to it.

  19. Funny - when we first met you I always felt the same. Your house is always so clean! Hope you never wash the windows for me dear :) Fly Lady describes this feeling as one of CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Although I've always been fairly relaxed about my house cleaning (my mother has a sign in her kitchen that says, "Housekeeping Rule Number 1: Lower your Standards."), I feel really in control with her daily 15 minute missions. Also, I've learned so much from you about having kids do their share of the house work - it's made the whole world simpler. Thanks for always being an inspiring parent and homemaker.

  20. Thank you for sharing this! I never have anyone over just to share a meal unless it's for a birthday or something and then it's such a major production that I am left exhausted and promising never to do it again. I always worry about what to make and if people will like my cooking. I really want to change this. Right after I read this, someone from our church meal ministry called and asked me to take someone a meal and I said yes - not huge but it's a start!

  21. This post is encouraging to me. Thanks! I just read part of Table Grace by Douglas Webster which also talks about inviting people over. For me, it is stressful, but I want to do it more. I agree that keeping it simple is important. Thanks.


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