A few months ago, my husband’s friend Shawn was passing through town and needed a place to crash for a night.

Without question, we said he could stay with us.

The week leading up to his arrival was hectic, and the weekend wasn’t much better. I tried not to be overwhelmed by the thought of having a house guest, even one as nice as Shawn.

I apologized as soon as I greeted him, for the chaos of toys and cheerios littering the wood floor.

He laughed and said “I have four kids – I’m used to craziness.”

I let out a small sigh of relief, but thoughts of inadequacy crept quickly back into my mind as I prepared my son Elias’s bed for Shawn. (We don’t have a guest room, so Elias slept on an air mattress so Shawn could be comfortable in his bed.)

We need to get a bigger bed for Elias so guests don’t have to sleep in a twin.
We really must buy some blinds for this room’s windows.
There isn’t even an alarm clock in here.

Then I went to the hallway linen closet and pulled out some clean towels for Shawn. As I placed the towels in the bathroom, I looked around at walls half stripped of blue 90s wallpaper. I shook my head as the thoughts came back.

We really have got to get this wallpaper done.
This bathroom would be so much prettier with a new light in it.
If only we had more time…

The next morning, Shawn mentioned our bathroom wallpaper removal project.

I quickly apologized.

He laughed and said, “I know how hard it is. I used to do painting.”

When Shawn left, he hugged me, thanking me for our hospitality.

Shawn’s kindness left a profound impact on me. He reminded me of an important truth – hospitality always wins.

Why do we as women put so much stock in our home’s appearances? They do not have to look like they are from a home dec blog to be welcoming.

They can have ugly wallpaper and still be inviting.

Because it’s not about the wallpaper. It’s about the love and the people.

I have never left someone’s home and remembered if the shelves were dusty – I remembered the conversations had and the community shared.

This month, many of you will be hosting an (in)RL gathering your homes. (I was planning on doing the same until yesterday when I secured another space that was a bit more convenient for Nashville folks). I want to encourage you that if you are like me, you might have a lot of items on your home to do list and feel like your home is not perfect. Maybe cheerios can always be found underfoot – because who can win that war? – and that’s okay.

Because your door and heart are open to real community happening.

By Jessica Turner of The Mom Creative

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  1. 1

    I am guilty of apologizing for my home. When I visit friends and they do the same I reply, “I didn’t come to visit your house. I came to visit you!.” Great reminder today! Thanks!

  2. 3

    I JUST posted on FB about this earlier this week. We moved into our new home in January, and I’d really hoped to be ‘settled’ by now. BUT, factor in some major home projects that had to be addressed immediately (not expected), one bedroom that is entirely un-usable right now, 5 kids, and a ton of boxes yet unpacked, and normal LIFE…you can see my dilemma. I love to have people over, though, and I’ve been in a season of loneliness/depression/overwhelmedness and I just had to get over it. I invited a sweet friend over for dinner and our favorite TV show and just went with it. We declared the downstairs off limits for the kids to show off their bedrooms this time, and my friend didn’t even bat an eye – because she came for the time to connect and hang out with our family, not to inspect our house. :) Thanks for this reminder today! :)

    • 4
      Diana C says:

      So funny to just read this. I invited a new friend over for later this morning and was just thinking about how I should be cleaning my kitchen floors and didn’t have time to vacuum but now my baby is sleeping. I came on here to read for a minute before getting started and this post is what I found! Thanks for the encouragement to be genuine with our friends and not put pressure on ourselves to have the perfect home!

      • 5

        i too have a friend & her kids coming over later today! i told her last night that my house is a wreck (we are doing a little office remodel/spring cleaning). i always have my house somewhat picked up before guests, but i made peace with it late last night that i am going to hide the craziness. my friend always used to think that my house was always perfect & it made her feel so much better when i showed her the room where i hid the mess when friends come over..ha! that room is why we are doing the remodel & spring cleaning of all the stuff i hid in there :)

  3. 6

    Oh the things we get so caught up in! Shauna niequist writes about this in her new book, bread & wine, and hits it spot on.

  4. 8

    Oh, how I wish my home could look like all the perfect pictures from a home decor blog! This post makes me smile- totally my thoughts when we have guests! Thanks for reminding me I’m not the only one and that people matter more than “things.” My guests often have cheerios stuck to their feet and receive slobbery dog kisses when they come to the door but hospitality IS far more important than the details of a perfectly clean and decorated house. Good reminder! Thank you!

  5. 10

    I enjoyed this, my mom just left this morning she’s been visiting for 3 weeks. She slept in my youngest daughters room because we don’t have a guest room either. So my living room became my daughters room. I must say it has been challenging but we seem to have all hung out together in one room for the past 3 weeks when we are normally just all separate. So I know all about that list that goes through your mind when you’re looking at your home.

    But Shawn was so right it’s all about the hospitality! Leaving my mom today she said, “Thanks for everything” that warmed my heart.

    Thanks for your story I too know I am not alone. Wish you were closer to Clarksville I have become leary trying to drive to Nashville. Have a great time! May God continue to bless you and your family

    K. Smith
    Clarksville, TN

  6. 12

    Oh my, the timing! We will be gladly hosting a couple of girls (just overnight) who are with a choir that will be performing at our church tonight. As I sit here (at work…) I am thinking about all the things that need to be done at home. Our bathroom is also in the “middle” of being finished, and the things that need to be moved to make room for air mattresses, dusting, etc… Thank you for the reminder to hold to the heart, the hospitality! :)

    • 13

      It will all work out. It always does. I am sure they will be grateful to be in your home. As my friend Nester says, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

  7. 14
    Katherine says:

    Thanks for your wise post. I am an empty-nester and can speak with the wisdom of hindsight, and hospitality does indeed always win. Another winner in the same way was taught to me by a saint now at home: when your guests leave, never let it be the food they remember most, but rather the sweet fellowship around the meal. Some of our sweetest memories are over a meal of leftovers on paper plates.

  8. 16
    Ana Forbes says:

    thank you for sharing.

  9. 17

    Yes, we are pretty tough on ourselves. Why why why… It’s easy for me… our family is me and my husband. I’d like to think our home will always be this clean and put away… I wonder…

  10. 19

    Beautiful message, Jess. There is such truth in the fact that it’s more about the hospitality than the state of the home. So thankful for your heart and the ways you share it.

  11. 21

    I wholeheartedly agree that “hospitality always wins”. I love to entertain in our home and always love it when the first thing someone walks in they say, “your home is so welcoming and inviting” – they don’t say, “hmm, I see you haven’t swept your kitchen floor” or “what do you feed your dust bunnies?” – yep, hospitality always wins!

  12. 22

    I am TRULY guilty of this!!! There was a time when I would’ve invite anyone over. I would clean until I turned blue in the face, but then would turn around & apologize for things that folks didn’t even notice, i.e., the house needing repainting, carpets need replaced, basement steps are weak, every room needs repainting. In fact, I always get compliments on how ‘cozy’ my home is. Isn’t it funny the things we freak out over? :-)

  13. 23
    Beth Williams says:

    When I visit people I want the company–time spent with them! I always tell people Martha Stewart does not live here. It is clean, neat, organized, and that’s it.

    I value time spent with people more important than worrying about a clean house & most people understand that!@!

  14. 24

    This is what I have been trying to fully embrace with the purchase of our first home. I’m far from fully getting it, but this encouragement is so helpful. Thank you so much for your words of grace!

  15. 26
    Michele says:

    Such words of truth Jess! I’ve been working to overcome this stress too as I host a Bible Study and find myself scrambling to clean in the moments before guests arrive, preparing candles and dishes to look nice more than I prepare my heart through prayer. I have a book about having a Mary Heart in a Martha World that I’m hoping is an encouragement too!

  16. 28

    Jessica,
    Thanks for the reminder about hospitality always wins. I once heard a speaker at a MOPS conference who said the difference between hospitality and entertaining is that entertaining focuses on you and your home, whereas hospitality focuses on your guest and their comfort and feeling loved and welcome. I’ve always kept that in mind over the years…wise advice! Thanks for sharing!
    Blessings,
    Bev

  17. 29

    Yes, sadly I think we women do know this all too well. We shame ourselves, compare ourselves, and think a lot of “if onlies.” When I had little ones, if someone unexpectedly showed up at the door, I would absolutely panic. Then I’d let the person in and start apologizing for the mess, my lack of decor, point out every house flaw, etc. How often did I forget to graciously just put on the kettle for some tea? It took me a very long time to get over this, which I had to do when I started regularly hosting Moms In Prayer groups. There was no way I could stage my home every week. And everyone could care less. Instead, so much gratitude has been shown me for merely opening up my home. Oh Lord…

    • 30

      We regularly have people over for dinner, and I do think it is one of the best ways of getting over ourselves and a “perfect home” mentality. There is no such thing.

  18. 31

    I love this post so much! I want to be known as a woman of hospitality in all areas of my life. I find so much grace and comfort in the fact that God is looking more deeply at the intention of opening my home instead of its outward appearance. Beautiful post.

  19. 32

    Thank you for this post! I also have an Elias (and a Noah and a Jude) and Cherrios underfoot :) …and yet even with three little boys running around the house all day I expect it to be as clean as my Mother in Law’s and as put together as a page out of a Pottery Barn catalog. And that’s just not real life…especially at this stage of raising little ones. Hospitality when defined as a warm and welcoming, not picture perfect, is definitely an area I want to grow in. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • 33

      Yes, someone once kindly reminded me, this stage with all the toys and cheerios everywhere, will pass. And you will miss it. So enjoy life, cheerios and all.

  20. 34

    Hospitality is at my heart, and I always try to make sure guests feel comfortable and welcome. However, I came undone recently at the hands of an 8 year old whose family was over just to spend the day. I had tidied up before they got to my house, and had thing just so. While chatting his mom while his siblings played outside with my kids, he informed me, “Your house is really dirty.” I was mortified, because I didn’t think it was. After they left that day, I admit, I had a bit of a cry–because I thought hospitality was about something more than a show. I guess sometimes that depends on the guest? As a post-script, his remark hasn’t stopped me from hosting play dates, a brunch or a birthday luncheon. (But I admit to thinking twice before having that boy back anytime soon … is that wrong?)

  21. 36

    We no longer have cheerios or small children around. When we moved in to this house the bathroom had this terrible wallpaper and my sister was coming to visit and we got busy and put something up that looked so much better. And when the Bible study were looking for different homes to meet in I didn’t feel like our home was up to what the others had. I hosted my first Bible study several years back and am still doing it. We have a very loud Chui dog. His bark is a whole bigger than he is. We put him in his kennel and he is better in there by himself.
    Becky

  22. 37

    You are SO right, but it’s a hard lesson to learn. I find myself always apologizing for the clutter and chaos in my home. I’m just not a housekeeper (or a decorator, for that matter) and I’d love to have a beautifully appointed home that is always perfect when people stop in. But it’s just not me. And that’s okay. I love the title of this post. :-) Thanks for the reminder!

  23. 38

    Such truth in that. We often see much more of our “imperfections” than others would see anyhow.

  24. 39

    I woke up this morning with one thought. “I’m going to get this house organized today!” How Quickly that changed! I forgot some important paperwork that had to be faxed, I had an appointment, and I was getting frustrated. I got a call from some friends reminding me that i was supossed to have lunch with them today. i sat in my car and prayed. “God, what is this? Is this from you?” And then I looked at my phone. I started to laugh as I heard his voice telling me that this lunch date was going to an important opportunity for me to witness. So thank you for being Gods voice for me today!

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