And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: 1 Peter 4:8a
The Bible encourages hospitality for everyone. I would like to give you a few thoughts to help your mindset if the thought of sharing hospitality strikes fear or nausea in your system. I don’t think I am being dramatic. I speak with women all the time; they have shared fear and trepidation with me about this for more reasons than we can cover today.
Here are some thoughts, some things I have learned from a lifetime of practicing hospitality on hundreds of people and I do stress “practice.” Oh yes, I have stories, like the time I was in high school, serving lunch to several of the football players that were helping on the farm. They were busy eating, so I did not think that Michael noticed that the cake I was removing from the pan dropped into the trash can. I am stunned, wondering who saw and what I might serve them for dessert. He got up and took it out of the trash can and the guys ate it while laughing about it. Amazing, but teenage guys here. That explains a lot. Even the most embarrassing things can be quite funny if you go with it. The only way I could have prevented more mishaps like this one is to declare that I would never have anyone at my table again.
Sharing the home God gave you with friends is a wonderful thing. The more you do it, the more at ease you will become. You will learn to laugh at inevitable mishaps. Sometimes they won’t be noticed. If they are, friends will be gracious enough not to mention the incident unless you do. I don’t take it too seriously, so a laugh can everyone at ease. Who is perfect? Not me. Let’s just touch on a few things today:
Preparation is the number one tip I can offer in entertaining.
- You will likely never feel comfortable if your home is cluttered beyond your comfort zone. I am not a fanatic with cleaning, but it is important to me to maintain order in most areas. The best upgrade to most kitchen dining areas is to clear surfaces of things that do not need to be there. I am messy in the kitchen. This is why I must begin with clear counters. My kitchen counter or table is not the place to drop a purse, bag or mail, for starters. I remember one of my daughters telling her friends that “Mommy doesn’t allow purses on the table.” I knew this young lady almost as well as my own so we talked about it; we laughed about it. TIP: If a guest comes in and drops her bag on your table or somewhere it should not be, we don’t scold. We gently guide it to a less intrusive area if possible. Otherwise, we practice grace.
- Practice entertaining on your family. Use candles for evening meals. Put a plant on the table. I don’t have any flowers today, but I cut some ivy and put it in a crock on my table. I love it; it shows care. Ivy is fabulous; God made it. One evening, about 30 minutes after our guests left, my friend called from the car. She simply wanted to tell me that she was going to start using candles. Both her sons loved that; they were about 10 and 12 years old. She was shocked that they noticed and that they thought it was great. The simplest touch makes the simplest meal special. Remember to bless your family first.
- Dig that wedding china out and use it! If a plate breaks, likely it can be replaced. The night our home burned down, we ate dinner on beautiful china. We used it as often as we used our everyday stoneware. In fact, they were similar colors, I often mixed them at the same table. My children can never say that it sat in a cupboard, until it burned. What a waste that would have been.
- My practice is to use cloth or linen napkins. We use them everyday. My daughters use them in their homes. The cloth ones were chosen for a combination of beauty, durability and ease of care. Linen requires a bit more care, so I don’t use them everyday. Some linen is nice enough that ironing is not necessary, The soft, natural folds are attractive. Think: Casual elegance. Cloth napkins not your style? No problem; here is an idea that I learned from a friend. She has a large buffet drawer stocked with paper goods that she buys on sale when she sees something beautiful or festive. She uses them with her best china and the look is unquestionably beautiful. Through practice, she has developed confidence to set a table her way. That is where it can get fun.
- Learn to make a couple things well. Cream scones are a cinch. Keep a good jar or two of special preserves or lemon curd. This would make any cup of coffee or tea a party! The freezer is a friend. You can make scones ahead and keep them in the freezer until ready to bake. Here is another tip: Keep some frozen purchased croissants in the freezer. You can find delicious ones online shipped to your home; they are less expensive and far superior to most bakery versions. You set them on parchment before bed and bake in the morning. As they say, “Easy peasy.” It is not as much preparation. It is planning and thinking about it ahead of time. A friend came by for coffee one day this past week. And that is all we had, but I still set a little area for us. I did this as my daughters grew up most every day. My husband liked afternoon tea. (British influence on India.) After Lois and India finished school they would join him at the table for cream tea and bread or biscuit. This is the stuff of memories. I enjoyed their grown-up manners, with appropriate exaggerations. Great memories.
- Don’t forget to have an instrumental playlist. Classical hymns are nice playing softly in the background. Oh, and remember to turn them on. Sakshi reminded me at her recent tea party. How did she know I forgot? Something was missing, apparently, and she noticed.
It takes so little effort to make the simplest of gatherings memorable and most of the effort should be in advance of the invite. By loving your home a little better everyday, in no time you will have a home you will be happy to share at any time. Oh, and in the same way we should not criticize ourselves – it makes people feel uncomfortable – don’t criticize your home. If you are like me, you delight in the hospitality of others and you do not think negative thoughts about others people’s homes. I don’t; everyone has their own way of doing things. We can all appreciate and learn from everyone.
Know what you have; think how you can use what you have. Almost everything can be used for more than one thing; creating with what you have is a form of artistry.
Children love these special times. I had a little boy to tea when he was 3 or 4. What I saw was a young man using his best grown-up manners with the china service. Today he is a fine, young man that I think would be comfortable in most any situation.
Practice makes proficiency. Begin with yourself. Start your day with a beautiful cup for your coffee or tea. This practice will help prepare you to be still and quiet as you begin your time with The One that gives good things.
True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guest. Eleanor Roosevelt