About the Author

Jen encourages women to embrace both the beauty and bedlam of their everyday lives at BeautyandBedlam.com. A popular speaker, worship leader, and author of Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, Jen lives in North Carolina with her husband, five children, and a sofa for anyone...

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things we love
& you will too!
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Reader Interactions


  1. I can relate. Sure it was just a friend for a sewing day, but it had been on the calendar for a month and already rescheduled once (I didn’t realize Thanksgiving was a wee bit earlier than usual this year) for the day after I was to return from halfway across the country.

    Did I mention that our return flight on Friday was cancelled? And that we had to fly into a city 2 hours away (I’m so thankful that my sister agreed to drive up and get us)? And that the freeway on the way home was closed so we didn’t get home until nearly 1am?

    So on Saturday, 2 hours before she was scheduled to show up, I was trying to pick up my car from our original airport and tracking down our luggage. My husband was prepping meat to be smoked…

    And we had the most wonderful day, even into the evening when we had dinner with my friend and her boyfriend, and my sister and her husband (who we invited at the last second). Sure nothing was picked up, and I barely had time to clear off surfaces for sewing but my friend’s boyfriend said first thing on walking in, “You have a great house. It’s so homey and welcoming.” Blessings and fellowship come from opening up our imperfect homes!

    • Kendra – it sounded like everything was stacked against you opening your home and still you said, “Yes.”
      And then to have a MAN of all things take notice of your welcoming home? I love that. You are modeling for that new couple just what it means to take time for others. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Our home may have unfinished projects and may not always be clean, but from the moment we saw it two years ago (in its unfurnished, ugly-wallpapered state), it had a “home” feeling about it. We bought it from the couple who built it themselves in the 50s and raised their family in it. It’s hard to describe – it like all the love has soaked into the walls over the years and surrounds you when you walk in. I do my best to keep that going!

  2. Absolutely LOVE it!!! Thank you so much for sharing the side B of life and how things go sometimes. And what a blessing to still offer the invitation and have shared life together. Sometimes, I know I miss the forest for the trees when it comes to hospitality and it’s such an encouraging reminder. Thank you

  3. I love opening my home and being hospitable. However, I have learned about myself that I go into manic mode preparing for these events days ahead getting everything just perfect! And I have recently wondered “what was all the fuss for?” Recognition? Reward?

    None of this matters- as your verses point out and as The Lord places them on my heart when I am lead to open my home we are asked to be hospitable without grumbling! Ouch! I think I grumble…..

    Thank you for your words. I need to put away my type A attitude in this manner and show love and hospitality whenever I am able to. And just like you’re experience here (which looks like a wonderful get together among friends, minus kids ๐Ÿ˜‰ I will be blessed beyond measure for welcoming in others.

    • It’s so easy to get into that panic mode, isn’t it? We all do it, but it’s finding that balance between perfection and just “Welcome, I am so glad you’re here, regardless of the ripped vinyl flooring that welcomed you.” (oops, I’m getting on my own personal tangent.) ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Thank you for this! I just went through this last week. I had my parents, my husband’s parents, and my 86 year old great aunt arrive for Thanksgiving on Tuesday (a day early b/c they were all afraid of traffic), I still had to keep up with the 4 kids’ busy schedules Tues. and Wed., feed everyone and then, make Thanksgiving dinner. The 6 guests left on Friday afternoon and I was a wreck. Unfortunately, we had planned to host my son’s soccer team on Saturday for a big end of season party. My husband is the coach, and he really enjoys inviting the team and their families over. I woke up Saturday morning certain I was going to cancel the party (that began at 2). The house was a wreck, I hadn’t cooked a thing, or shopped. But I knew how important it was to my husband and son. So I made a super quick trip to the store, stocked up, went for the pre-made meatballs instead of my usual homemade for subs, picked up a bunch of convenience food and chips, threw together some hearty potato soup, and planned to just open up the house and hide in my room. Guess what, I had a great time, 50+ people shared a wonderful afternoon, and no one asked why my house was a mess. Lesson learned.

  5. yes! Just yesterday. My dining room table and most of the room was (and still is) covered in shopping bags, boxes, wrapping paper, bows, tissue paper, etc waiting for me to finish wrapping Christmas presents. And still one garland and lights sat in the entryway waiting for me to wrap it up the side of the staircase. Along with other toys and such not put away very neatly, the house was kind of a disaster. I was having our children’s pastor and his fiancรฉ over for dinner and I really wanted the house to be “done” for them (OK, mostly for me) But finally in the end, I just decided to leave the dining room as is and I let the kids eat in the living room and us adults sat around my kitchen island to eat and chat. It was fine. They certainly didn’t mind and there was an odd sense of peace in my heart that I didn’t have to “look perfect” or have it all together on the outside. Being real is freeing!

  6. The perfect encouragement for me today!! I recently decided to make this next year my growing-in-hospitality year, but I always feel like such a failure at it. You give me courage that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. Thanks so much for your words!

  7. I’ve always had problems inviting people into my home. At first, because I had small children who keep it cluttered, then teens, etc., and now I’m using the excuse that my house is old and needs repairs. But the truth is, I’ve been hurt a few times by less than sensitive remarks (I cleaned my house one day before a coworker came over, but the furniture and carpet were worn and old, and I did the usual “Sorry the house is a mess” when she walked in, and she replied, “Don’t worry, mine gets messy like this, too!), so the fear is real to me. I pray to know women who have less than perfect homes, but who will be genuinely true friends, and that I will be a true friend as well.

  8. I loved this story. Thank you for sharing. While I would love to have a “perfect” house as much as the next person, I don’t let it keep me from having people over. I like to visit with people, not dust-free furniture, and I assume others feel the same. We moved here from out of state and I have found it hard to make bosom friends (as Anne of Green Gables would say). I think part of the problem is that many women are so concerned about their house and what they serve that they choose to not have people over at all. They’re always more than happy to come to our house so I assume it isn’t me. ๐Ÿ™‚ I would love to encourage people that others just really want connection and companionship. They aren’t taking notes on your decor or your menu. They just want to be with YOU because they think that YOU are special!

  9. We were going to have a Christmas party this year…but I cancelled it. Not because my house isn’t perfect (it never is), but because when I sent out the invites not a single person responded. So I cancelled everything because my feelings are hurt. I don’t even want to try. That’s what I struggle with the most. I can deal with some clutter or a fine layer of dust because I haven’t had time to do a deep cleaning. But I absolutely cannot deal with feeling like I don’t matter to people.

    • Oh Melissa,
      I am so sorry that happened to you. It is especially hard at the holidays to feel lonely. I pray that your real friends will rise up and gather round you.

    • Oh Melissa –
      My heart hurts reading this and believe it or not, I can relate. I know many of the women reading this can relate.
      Loneliness is a place I’ve struggled with as well, but often I’ve realized it’s not because I don’t matter to people, but we all begin to get so caught up in the day to day details of life that we don’t take the time to open our eyes to those around.

      Personally, I know how I am with invites, and it’s no excuse, but I am HORRIBLE about RSVPing. Sometimes it will be a day or two before the event and I will just remember that it’s sitting on my counter and I never responded.
      I hosted a bridal shower for my niece this summer. We invited around 50 people and weeks went by and we didn’t hear anything, so my mom offered to start calling people. She finally got a handful of responses. The day before, 20 more….the day of? 40 people showed up.
      It’s a sad commentary about the lost art of etiquette, and again, I am a complete offender, but I bet your Christmas party is more about that than anything.

      But you know what? It doesn’t matter. It still hurts and I am sorry. Wish I could give you a big ‘ole hug, sit down over a cup of coffee and just share some life together.
      I’d love that, so if you’re ever in NC, I’d love to have you come share some of my bedlam with me. ๐Ÿ™‚ The door’s always open.

    • I think many of us have been there. I’ve organized activities, invited 30 people, and had 2 show up after only 3 or 4 tell me they can’t come. Because of this, I try to remember to support others when I know their party likely won’t be well-attended. It’s difficult, but sometimes I feel like I’m back in high school, fighting jealousy of the “popular” kids. I’m still learning about who my true friends are, and who just is nice to me when I’m around. But they are there. The measure is not whether or not they show up (or sometimes even respond – I can be an airhead too!). But they will show true concern, offer to help, remember you without having to see you face-to-face – they will love you. I honestly need to do better myself, showing the people around me that I care. Some that I call friends I know are sometimes as lonely as I am, but I get so wrapped up in my life that I don’t stop to give some attention to those outside my immediate family. Sorry for the book here – I just wanted you to know that you’re not the only one!

  10. This is so good to remember. No one is perfect, but I have found that the more comfortable I feel with a friend, the less I feel I need to strive for perfection. They already know me and like me, so I don’t feel the need to work over board. Does that make sense?

  11. Thanks for defining hospitality in this way:

    “Hospitality isnโ€™t about creating a Pinterest perfect home. Itโ€™s not even about the yummy food … Itโ€™s about just deciding, ‘Yes, I am available: when ever, for whomever.'”

    I agree with Lisa above that when real friendships are fostered, my desire for perfection decreases, thus eliminating the stress that can be associated with hospitality. Thanks for reminding us what is important.

  12. This was so good! I force myself to invite people over when the house IS a mess and not perfect because it keeps me from my perfectionistic OCD tendencies. My friends tell me “we come to see you, not your house” and I finally got to the point where I believe them. Hospitality and perfection cannot go hand in hand because the one is based in love and the other in fear. Since “perfect love casts out fear,” being hospitable in spite of a messy home has brought me freedom from fear of what others think. It’s a lovely place to live!

  13. jennifer, i love god’s timing. people coming over shortly and i completely messed up the recipe with no time or ingredients to spare. totally winging it. we’ll see what comes out of the oven and how we bond over it! thanks for the encouragement. ๐Ÿ™‚ -kris

  14. Jen, I am so glad I took a break and a minute to read this. Absolutely it resonated with me. I love welcoming people into my home but there was a time in my life when everything had to be perfect or at least appear perfect as I closed the door on the mess – both literally and figuratively – and didn’t let anyone see that part. I loved playing hostess but I did for all of the wrong reasons. Thankfully, God didn’t leave me there and has blessed me with huge doses of perspective. I still love entertaining and opening my home every chance I get and I still have to push down Martha’s voice in the back of my own head as I let go of “perfect” in pursuit of purpose. I have recently started my own blog http://welcomecompany.wordpress.com about my life and welcoming company into it so I was particularly blessed to come across your words today and I look forward to visiting your blog as we both have similar hearts for hospitaliy. And apparently similar piles of laundry and dishes in the sink that need attention.

  15. We were invited this past Sat to someone’s house and I was so relieved and encouraged to find their house with toys strewn around, with dinner not yet done, with veggies needing to be cut up and all the chaos that comes with having young children. I sighed and thought, “yes, I *can* do this too”. I can have people over with our mess and clutter, our disorganization and chaos. It was actually an encouragement to me, a hospitality-timid person to see this because it gave me permission to be who we are, mess and all.

  16. Thank you for sharing that wonderful party…I would have cancelled…I really do not know why I have such a hard time inviting good friends over….I know they do not judge or criticize…Our home is not Better Homes and Gardens worthy but it is nice. My parents never entertained, maybe that is something…but I know I can change it… taking that first step is the hardest part….Praying about it…

  17. I am frequently a guest and rarely a host. Recently my 13 yo daughter has been having girls over to study. I work full time and our house is the far from BH&G’s, but we clean up the kitchen, bathrooms and gather as many dust bunnies as we can and they come…they study, laugh, visit and share… How I wish I could do the same… and yes it is lonely, my friends homes seem prefect to me. I would love to have an open house Christmas party, just stop by and visit for a bit, enjoy a cookie, hot chocolate…. and friendship. Praying that the Lord opens my doors!
    Thank you for sharing.

  18. I needed to hear this. My mind spins with all sorts of reasons why my house isn’t the best location for an event. I am reconciled to our non-decor, but what about the toy mess. The dog-what if someone is allergic? We have a steep driveway-it is an accessibility nightmare with a couple of stairs at every entrance. Another voice whispers to me that I should invite anyway. Let the people decide if it is the right place for them to come. How will we know unless I give them the opportunity?
    There is no telling what experiences we might have if I choose to listen to the one telling me to share what I have and not worry about what we don’t have.

  19. Your post was just what I needed to read today. Just last week I had planned a Bead for LIfe event at my home and then the day before I spent the day in bed with the flu. But my friends were excited to support women in Uganda with their shopping so I carried on. The snacks were 1 sweet and 1 savoury – no one minded! The sink had some dirty dishes – no one commented! And within 2 hours we sold $1300 worth of jewellery with every penny going to the cause. I need to step out of my comfort zone a whole lot more – thanks for being real. I love that your friends helped you decorate the tree – that’s what real friends do!

  20. What a wonderful post! I suffered the loss of a very close friend once in a situation like this. It has been many years ago, but I still remember it vividly. We used to stay over with each other when I went to a conference in the town she taught in or she would come and visit us when we moved out of state for a time. She married late. She dated the brother of her now husband for a long time, but it seemed to be an on and off thing. She would call me and unload all and I would try to help her. But one day when she called I was in the middle of cleaning my house. She was home to her mother’s house a few miles from our house (my husband and I). I absolutely refused to leave my housework and go to meet with her. I was driven to get it clean once a week. And I mean DRIVEN. Nothing short of death interfered with my schedule for cleaning.
    Well, years have gone by now. My kids have left home. My husband is very ill with congestive heart failure. And this friend may call me once a year to see if we could get together. She only lives 70 miles away, but she is home often to see her mother who also is 90+ and needing 24/7 care but is in her own home. And why does she not come to see me anymore………
    In retrospect I had a great aunt that I was very close to from birth to the day she died. My aunt was not a cleaner. I never gave it any thought when we would go to her house for Sunday dinner after church. And very often she would invite other people from church to come to eat on the spur of the moment. Did she rush home and clean before they came? NO! Her house was in order, but rarely dusted and only occasionally vacuumed. We had more fun going to her house, as did the entire community, After her husband died in his 50’s she went through a lot of grief, but picked up after and got totally involved in the church, community, 4-H, clubs, and she played organ at a local funeral home.
    So there you see two different ways of living. Who do you think was the happiest? She was not left with alot of money, but she could always find food in the house for visitors.
    We live in a Mary and Martha world. I still have problems inviting someone in on the spur of the moment if I know my house isn’t in order. But there is one truth. There are very few people who open their homes readily to visitors at any time, place, circumstance, that don’t have alot of friends.
    God wants us to invite these people in. Odds are they won’t even notice the cobweb or dustbunny in the corner. It can make all of the difference in the world to them—and as in my case, it meant I would lose a very good friend forever. Darlene

  21. I’m teetering on the edge of sending any invitation out for an idea that’s been milling around in my head for awhile now. I’m very excited about it, but don’t know if it’s one of those ideas I create for myself or if it’s God-breathed into me. ( I’m trying to cut back on the pursuit of my own ideas and get quiet long enough to hear what HE’S calling me to. ) I really want to initiate a group that begins with a little study in the Word, on whatever topic He brings to mind and heart, to search out all the reasons why we can be encouraged to believe big things are afoot for us in Heaven, to relearn to believe that God is good and good for His word (there are so many in need of this message, no? even within the Body.) But the really exciting part of the idea is to then take what we’ve discovered in the Word and apply it right then and there, before we leave our gathering. By writing out encouraging notes to people who are on our hearts, little notes of prayer, Scripture, thinkings of you…and address and stamp them before we leave. So it’s kind of a micro Bible study/secret sister society all rolled into one. I can see it in my mind, but haven’t been able to put it into words in an invitation yet. I’m not so much worried about the state of my house (I’ve accepted that it’s a never-ending series of piles that move from room to room) but rather the worries that I’m not qualified to lead a study (funny since I taught for 10 years before the kids were born) or that no one will have time in their schedule and it will just fizzle after a few gatherings. But I’m dealing with it through prayer and talking to God about those obstacles. I know He’ll bring me around if it’s His idea and things will unfold without my effort even being a part of the equation. Thank you for sharing your triumph because it helps me to see how a beautiful thing can arise from less than ideal beginnings ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Thanks for this encouragement, Jen. I just spent an hour or so in a coffee shop just trying to sort out all that we having going on in the next month. I am completely overwhelmed and so NOT in the Christmas spirit. Your post has really helped me reexamine my motives and has helped me see that if it doesn’t all get done, oh well. I needed that.

  23. What a great reminder, not only about the value of true hospitality, but of the beauty of friendship. Each week, we open our home to college students for bible study. I used to stress about getting the house spic and span, but we are going on three years hosting the study, and I have realized this past year that they don’t mind if the floor isn’t sparkling and all is not perfectly picked up. They love coming into a HOME with real PEOPLE living in it. They also like brownies, but the Ghiradelli mix satisfies them and is easy for me! They have helped me to relax and enjoy the value of true hospitality. So much so that, as we have been getting to know a great young couple in our church, I have been brave enough to invite them over to share delicious LEFTOVERS!! We all had a great time, and my fridge was cleaned out in the process!

  24. We live in the Netherlands. And Dutch houses are small. I love to invite people over , have them at home all the time, cook and bakje. But the size of the house makes me cringe. nevertheless, I host a Mums and tots Bible Study group of 8 women and their babies. On my IKEA table that I cant extend more than now lays all those lovely baked stuff and toys amidst all these, these women still come and never want to miss a week. They rather have it at my house that anyone else’s (who have bigger houses). That really keeps me going and at times when i am worrying about that perfect house not yet in the market to buy, i think about how much they love my tiny house and how much i want to invest in them…. using the gift of the Holy Spirit .. Hospitality……

  25. Yes, I can relate!!! Many times over! I have opened my house for a monthly, sometimes weekly, womans Bible study for over six years now, so I know the feeling. Some times I just ‘don’t feel ready’.
    The most recent ‘feeling’ of this happened this month. My husband and I have hosted a Christmas party for our friends for the past 7-8 years. This year I just didn’t know if I felt up to pulling it off. With my husband unemployed right now, it has just put a damper on the whole season. After days of going back and forth, determining in my mind the pros and cons of ‘just doing it’ opposed to letting this year pass by without it, I have determined that amist all my down feelings of our situation, I would feel WORSE to let the season pass by without this get together. And after speaking with a few of the yearly attendees, they really do look forward to the fun, the food and the fellowship!
    So, as you said, it is not so much the presentation of your hosting abilities, it is just the fact of opening your home!
    Have a blessed Christmas season!!!

  26. This brought tears to my eayes. I love that you felt free enough to let your friends help you decorate. I’m usually too particular to allow anyone else to do things for me.

  27. Dear Jen, I love this post as I sit here and rest from food prep for tonight’s get-together. I am a newly retired homeschool mom, all the rest of my friends are still homeschooling. So long story short, I made a promise to myself that once a month I will have guests over, I’m slowly but surely getting over my “perfection” mode, guests come and see us, they don’t see my tiny house, the chipped paint, my mismatched furniture…and if they do, they don’t mention it. I am beginning to look at hospitality as a blessing to others that has deep ancient roots to our faith. Btw, am hosting young homeschool moms almost 1/2 my age this evening! I am so looking forward to sharing!

  28. Thanks for sharing this! When I was younger, my mom often would cite the house being a mess as a reason for not having people over. I’ve been married for a year now and we have tried to be intentional about having people over and not making ourselves crazy in the process. After several family get-togethers at our house that I didn’t enjoy because I was too tired from cleaning all day, I have determined that as long as the bathroom gets a 5 minute cleaning anyone is welcome. I try to clean a bit more than that when possible, but no more “I have to clean the garage just in case someone decides to go rouge and go out there.” It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has people over without a perfectly cleaned home ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. This is the post that I really needed to read today! I have such a hard time getting past the “my house must look perfect before we can have anyone over” mindset. We have a beautiful home, and no kids to blame any messes on anymore, so I just need to have the courage to invite people over. Thanks for the nudge.

  30. Jen, your blog always inspires me to put aside agendas and fronts and live each day with joy and appreciation. Though I am years older than you and probably most of your readers, I am here to say stop wasting time striving for perfection because it serves no purpose except to give one undue stress and feelings of self disappointment. I wish I had had your blog available years ago when my children were little. Now I can only hope to pass along your wisdom to them as adults starting families. My family and friends are my true treasures not my house and its contents- messy or not! Enjoy your treasures!

  31. After reading this, I’m considering inviting friends over to decorate. I’ll feed them. They’ll decorate my house. Sounds like a good deal to me. And I bet they’ll have great new ideas about where/how to use the old stuff.

  32. I always LOVE my friends who have a ‘lived in’ home. It makes me feel so comfortable to walk into someone’s messy house. Why is that? Because they are real, and living life how they should. Because their house looks like mine – and the messyness makes me feel so much at home.
    And when I walk into someone’s perfect house (like Martha Stewart), I feel like an inadequate failure…like “why can’t I accomplish this?”
    So I make sure my house feels like HOME (not Martha Stewarts), a place that is lived in, loved in, and played in. Be a real person that your friends can relate to.
    I say this after many years of trying to be Martha!

  33. Thank you, Jennifer, for your heart-warming story and timely reminder, especially as the harried holidays begin. You are so right: make our (imperfect) homes and families and selves available, and watch what God can do! I’m reminded of a story I read years ago about a woman (I’ll call her Jan) hosting a guest. As they sat talking, Jan was dismayed to notice an orange peel on the floor, in a spot where the guest couldn’t help but notice. It suddenly dawned on Jan–that little bit of trash was undoubtedly giving her guest a little self-esteem boost. Perfection had not been achieved in this house — she could relax. That’s a precious gift to give to anyone!

  34. Several years ago I found a simple sign that now hangs in my home. “Be warm. Be welcome. Be at home.” Things always need dusting, put away, vacuumed, etc. But memories made and fellowship with friends and family come only once. This sign reminds me that while my home may not be picture perfect, neither is anyone else’s. The fact that I’m welcoming others into my life to share it all (good, bad, and ugly!) is what is important. If my guests experience the 3 things listed above, then the gathering is a success!

  35. Ladies, I just wanted to let all of you know how touched I was by so many of your heartfelt replies to this beautiful post. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you or about the pressure and hurt we as women feel about putting ourselves out there and opening up our homes. Jen’s story and your honesty and vulnerability has moved me to put my own story to words. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here. I hope only that it might be a blessing and an encouragement as you have been to me.

  36. Jennifer, I loved your post and must say, as I read it I felt a nudge to open our home to others. I too, have had experiences where I hosted a party and very few came. That’s hard to go through, but no one said it had to be another party. For the longest time as I worked through complicated grief, our home was not open. But, now I feel so full of joy I want to experience hospitality again. We live in an age right now where people are settling for an imitation. They let the social media replace the face-to-face and everyone suffers. Thank you for your wonderful post. I also appreciate the comments because many of your responders also hit on another issue. Not having a nice enough home to open. The truth is my home is nice, I just don’t have furnishings enough. But, I still want to open my door. I pray God will give me the courage to do it. And I believe your post was the beginning. Thanks so much.

  37. Great post! My motto has always been: “Martha Stewart doesn’t live here…I do”. I don’t do much in decorations and such, but if people wanted to come for a meal I would be more than happy to oblige.

  38. I definitely struggle with this, but am learning that life is about relationships, not having everything perfect before you let anyone in. Thanks for sharing this, a similar situation happened with me lately.
    My parents called and asked if they could stop in for a visit on Sunday night, and we had just gotten home from a weekend away. We had our pj’s on, laundry was everywhere, no coffee to offer them, but they didn’t mind. They just wanted to sit and catch up, and be with us.