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Sunday afternoons are messy at our house. And I like them that way.

(If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably noticed).

We’ve usually let the weekend play around us with all its Legos and dolls and light sabers and blanket forts and left over pizza. We’ve let the dishes pile up and a pile of, well, everything really, accumulate in the boys’ room. At least one of our children is wearing only underpants. And Pete and I will have napped and then dragged our bed heads up and back into the land of the living when Zoe wakes us and herself up and the late afternoon sun is pouring in the windows across the brown sofas, showing up every single spot or stain or trail of old milk.

It is very hard to open the door when someone knocks on afternoons like that.

When someone arrives without calling or planning, but simply comes over to say hi or to ask the boys over for a play date or to drop off hand-me down clothes for Zoe the last thing I want is for them to catch me right in the middle of my real life.

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There’s panic and a profound desire to hide. Then the reflex to kick everything into the boys’ room and try to wedge the door shut. To fix my hair, rush on a layer of make up, kick off my mismatched socks.

There’s an instinct to hide who I am at my messiest behind a volley of words, excuses, explanations for why the backyard looks like the place where toys come to die. How I’d been watching Peter and Jackson sword fight their way across the dirt and in between the discarded plastic swords that were everywhere except in the toy bin. How I’d cracked open the window to yell out that swords have to be put away before new games are started and instead I just stood and watched the two of them whack and laugh their way across the sunny afternoon.

If I wait for my house or my life to be perfect before inviting someone into it, I might never let anyone in.

I met up with four friends on Saturday morning, and we talked about letting each other deep into the layers of our real lives, selves, fears, hopes, and desperate prayers. It seemed fitting that I was still tired from a late flight the night before, with hair thrown up on my head and no make up, no chap stick, no camouflage.

We get to choose this kind of intimacy. Or not.

“(Y)ou can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, you goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide.”
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine.

I never feel more vulnerable than when a friend is stepping over the threshold and picking her way in between the layers of chaos that say, “We live here. And we’ve never got it perfect.”

And I still prefer the days they drop by when candles are lit and carpets vacuumed. But if I believe what I say about community, then that includes the messy days. The ones where I’ve been too tired to catch up on much of anything.

It includes welcoming my people into the nooks and crannies of my ordinary and remembering not to be ashamed.

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Remembering that to become real, friendship more often than not requires becoming comfortable with the snapshots of life often taken at an unflattering angle. I love how my friend Sharone put it, “I don’t care about the good pictures, really. The world can have your avatars. Give me the pictures you’d never want anyone to see. The things that are unpublishable. Let’s be just us, in the space between photos.”

So I open my front door, wearing the jeans that always fall down without a belt. And my hair pulled back in a pony tail. The red shirt I’ve just discovered has a long thready pull. And no make up.

My son complains about his afternoon and my daughter’s hair looks like she’s slept in the same pony for two days. There’s yesterday’s dinner dishes piled up in the sink, and a load of laundry chugging around in cycles. I haven’t had time to force the boys to pick up their room yet, but you’re welcome to sit down with feet up on the ottoman cover I just washed, again, this time because of orange, drippy, ice cream stains.

Because I want you here. Whether I’m ever perfectly ready or not. I want you.

Just the way you are. Which will likely mean most days, I must open the door just the way I am.

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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Lisa-Jo,
    I jokingly tell people who pop in to “sign my guest book” which means carving your initials into the layer of dust on my coffee table. A very wise woman told me once that the difference between entertaining and hospitality is that in entertaining the focus is on “Me”…my house and how nice it looks, my things, my life. In hospitality the focus on the other person and my first question is, “How are YOU?” “What’s going on in your life?” It’s about welcoming them, not showing off my prettiest facade. I pray that my focus will always be outward so that others feel welcome in my home. I believe when that happens all the toys, clutter, dog fur balls, and dirty dishes just fade into the woodwork. Building community requires a willingness to share our “messy” with others. Loved this reassuring reminder!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      This is SUCH a good word, Bev. Thanks for that. Me and my dusty surfaces will remember that one :)

    • Melissa Greene Campbell

      This is such a great reminder, Bev! I needed to hear that. Bless you!

      • Bev @ Walking Well With God

        Ever since I heard this, it has stuck with me…good stuff!

  • Anna

    Lisa-Jo, you made me cry, really cry. I don’t worry so much about the state of my home (it’s almost always a mess!), but more about my own shameful state. I recently became a member of a large church and in the country I live in new people are expected to take the initiative in social contact (not so in my home country). And so, I’ve stayed a hermit because I’ve been too scared to reach out for godly friendship. I recently came back to faith and I am married to an unbeliever. These things and my own battle with grief and PTSD have made me hesitant to seek friendship, as I’m worried that I would be burdening the other person in my depressed state and also that they would look down on me and not accept me because unlike them, I’m not married to a believer. But deep down I crave godly community and have been praying for it too. Your post made me realize that I need to take a leap of faith and reach out, even if it scares me, trusting that God will go with me and that I really need to stop making excuses. Thank you for your example and these encouraging words.

    • https://Beautybwb.blogspot.com Tricia Johnson

      Anna, I don’t know you, but I’m encouraged by your honesty and sincere yearning for more of the Lord. You already know that God is with you and it sounds like you are ready to allow the Hoy Spirit to open up your heart and home to healing and to other people. Thanks for the courage to share this!

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      Praying for you right now Anna. I know what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange country. Praying for at least one person to make a real connection with. Praying that you find very simple ways to reach out. And praying that people are so open and receptive. May you find company where you least expect it and friendship where you might not have thought to look.

      • Anna

        Thank you, Lisa-Jo. I really appreciate your prayers and empathy.

    • Dawn Bedard-Poulin

      Anna, so many of us struggle with that taking the first step. You are surrounded with God’s love and maybe He’s connecting you with some people online to help you be more comfortable in this situation. I am TERRIBLE at meeting new people. I have serious anxiety in social situations and in day to day life. It’s not easy to make connections with people. My best friend I met because she approached me. She also doesn’t normally take that step of meeting people either, but I was wearing a hair barrette that had horses on it. She and I started talking and we’ve been best friends for over a decade now. Thankfully we serve a God that helps us to speak when we aren’t that comfortable with it. God Bless Anna. I pray you make some wonderful connections.

      • Anna

        Thank you, Dawn. I am terrible at it too. Once I get past that first meeting, I’m okay…but plucking up the courage for that is not always easy!

    • Jessi

      Praying with you Anna! God has blessed me over the last few years by showing me the way to true friendship. I pray that for you. I pray that you’ll persevere when adverity strikes and that you will reap the reward soon of belonging to someone as a true friend on earth!

    • Beth Williams

      Anna,
      Prayers for you my sister! Try to join a women’s Bible study or small group study at your church. That way you can get to know some people well and make 1-2 good friends. Proud of you for you openness and honesty! I will pray that God brings some good covenant friends your way to encourage you and share your life!
      (((hugs)))

  • Danna

    I’m currently reading Bread and Wine. Your post was like a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit. Nudging me to really get this. To listen. Let others in. Open the door- more.
    Thank you.

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      Oh I Loved that book so much too – such wonderful reminders that hospitality doesn’t need to be fancy or fussy, just genuine.

  • Paige Estes

    I love this, Lisa-Jo. And I’m so bad at it. Not just the being real in my home, but being real, just with myself. I have poured my soul out to people and have had either no response or have felt judged and I’m afraid it has made me very wary of sharing too much. I’m always wanting to pray for others, but I very rarely share my life with anyone other than my husband. That has isolated me from having real girlfriends in my life. I tell myself that I’m fine with that, but then I feel that lonely pull. Praying God will show me when to “open the door” to my heart, mess and all.

  • https://Beautybwb.blogspot.com Tricia Johnson

    Lisa-Jo,
    Well, that hurt! The conviction to stop putting on a show and just be real, already, pierced my gut after reading this post. Ugh. I can so relate to the neurotic proving. As a woman, I can easily slide back into the false thinking of my worth is based on the cleanliness of my house. Thank you for this reminder to push forward in holding fast to true security.

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      Tricia, I need to remind myself of the same thing – and that it’s often a gift to other women to let them see us and our homes as they really are.

      • ariailtown

        Oh, for the days of Legos,tea parties with teddy bears on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink because of playing make believe for hours,etc! Now when friends drop in I have no one to blame for the messiness. LOL.
        Jesus welcomed people most of the time except for when He needed to be with Our Heavenly Father. And He certainly wasn’t put off by our mess as He took all of it to the cross because of His unconditional love.❤️

      • Bev @ Walking Well With God

        Amen! In fact I heave a sigh of relief when I walk into a home that is not pristine! I feel more at ease with signs that a home is lived in, not “presented”.

  • Dawn Bedard-Poulin

    Truly my house is like this most days! Last week I was at a friend’s house that homeschools three of her girls. I also have three girls and also a boy that homeschool so we get together regularly. Her couch had books and such all over it. I made a comment that this was one of MANY reasons I love her and her family so much. Her house is real. Yesterday in the midst of doing our school stuff, I just started laughing. I quickly snapped pictures of my couch which was COVERED in books and such. I also took a picture of the love seat which was covered in more books and two baskets of laundry. It tickled me so much.

    I frequently tell people the following: You are welcome at my house. It will probably NOT be clean. I may still be in my jammies. It will probably be a bit chaotic. It will definitely be NOISY. But I will welcome you (even if I’m grumpy) and there will be coffee to share.

    • Anna

      Love your description. Reminds me of my childhood. Mum was more about presence than tidiness too…and it’s something I loved about her!

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      Oh YES I love visiting houses that feel actually lived in as well :)

  • http://www.ordinaryawesome.com/ Lauren @ Ordinary|Awesome

    Ach – I’m trying so hard to break this in me. Whenever we have guests I’m the one running around like a madwoman trying to get everything just so. It has made having guests a real drag – especially for my husband. But this years I’ve been trying to forget about being perfect. I emailed my mom right before having company over this weekend, and she replied “Enjoy your company, and have a good time. Ease up on the expectations. Everyone knows none of us is perfect, so don’t stress about making it seem like it is. Enjoy your kids, your husband and your company. You’re having them over to bless them – so be a blessing. Relax.” My mom lives overseas, but even from far away she’s mentoring me in this :) It made me tear up – as did your post :) I appreciate your reminder, Lisa-Jo – reinforcing what I’m trying hard to learn. I want to be that kind of friend you’re describing!

    • Anna

      That would make me tear up too: what a beautiful-hearted Mom you have and what good advice.

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      I LOVE your mom! :)

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Wow, Lisa-Jo, you helped me identify something I’ve craved but hadn’t put words to. Friendships are truly gifts. I have friends, but I’mr realizing I don’t have many (maybe one? two?) I connect with on a heart-level. It’s easy to put on the facade, feels safe even. But in doing this, I’ve missed the beauty of walking through the ugly, of sharing in the struggles together. It’s when I can trust another with the things I’m wrestling through that true heart-connection happens, and that others feel safe trusting me with their stuff. Thank you for sharing this post.

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      and for me, I’m learning that even just a few I’m willing to let into my mess – that can be enough. It’s such a safe place to be.

  • Teresa Downum

    Gosh, I never worry about my homes appearance. What I do worry of is I walk with a cane and am oftenleft out of social gatheri gs or when help is needed. Of course I can’t lift or run…I van still have value. Society puts su h a stigma on people like me. I am getting ready to venture alone in s New town, New church, New home, New friends. I am nervous. If any have time, prayers would be appreciated. I want my heart to be at peace and open to this time in my life that I haven’t had to do for many years.

    • Wendee

      Thank you Lisa-Jo for rattling my cage of ‘facade’ and pretense. We women try our hardest to keep up, pretend and show-off—we are way too adept at putting on our ‘Sunday morning faces”. Your blog encouraged me to get real, stay there, and let go of all the “what’s this going to look like?” or “What’s she gonna think?” It’s time to just be who we are and where we are…whatever that may look like. Bless you dearly.

      • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

        Love hearing this Wendee!

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      Praying for you now, Teresa. One of our good friends from our old church walked with a cane, but I know how much she loved coming to our Tuesday night ladies group at Panera. It was good to hear from her that she wanted to come and it made us feel so free to include her and simply offer an arm when we were getting in and out. Sometimes just letting folks know you’d love to join creates a great opportunity for them to extend the invitation. Praying you find welcome and community in your new church home!

    • Beth Williams

      Teresa Downum,
      Prayers for the new venture! May God guide you to the right place, church and friends you need! Don’t worry about the cane and what can/can’t be done. Tell others you want to be included–you might be surprised! God works in mysterious ways! I pray for blessings and God’s mercies on you!

      (((hugs)))

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Anna,
    I ditto Tricia’s comment…I love your honesty and I believe stepping into your home and sitting down with you would be a breath of fresh air!
    xx

    • Anna

      Thank you, Bev. You are such an encouragement. BTW love the insight of your comment: yes, it really should be about serving others and not about our worries/concerns.

  • http://faithspillingover.com Betsy Cruz

    Oh you’re making me feel so much better about my makeup-less, messy, frizzy hair days and all the clutter. Friends are friends, no matter what. Love what you’re doing to create community at incourage!

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      Amen – seeing each other with our make up off – both literally and figuratively – is the stuff of true friendships!

  • http://www.Theflawedtreasure.com Kristi

    Yes. Just: yes. Thank you so much for this reminder to not be afraid to let others “catch me right in the middle of my real life.”

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      I need that reminder daily myself :)

  • Dionna Sanchez

    Oh my gosh, Lisa. So, so beautiful.

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      Thanks Dionna.

  • kelly stoutenborough

    thank you..YES, i love this….I need to remember this when I have similar things laying all around house..mostly because after working all day the last thing I REALLY want to do is pick up around the house….and my kids are all older and should do this themselves..but you know its because I would have to “remind” them..FIRMLY…;)

    • http://www.lisajobaker.com/ Lisa-Jo Baker

      I look forward to the day I can put them to work on my house :)

  • Beth Williams

    Lisa Jo,
    Women need to take off the many masks they wear and just be themselves. I love it when people are real and open with me. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not–just be yourself! We are all made for community to love and enjoy each other!

  • http://lifeinspiredthoughts.wordpress.com Amy Hannaford

    Good words and good reminder to stop waiting for us and our lives to be perfect before letting others in! Amen!