I have a serious organizational deficiency. No flat surface is safe around me. I joke that my superhero name is "The Piler" (my husband, Craig, jokes back that someone with that name is no hero, so I guess that makes me a villain). My domestic challenges have been so bad that this week I used a large chunk of my Groupon money to pay to have a professional organizer come over and teach me how to de-stackify my life. Yes I did.
As we're on spring break this week I've taken some time to tackle a major challenge area for me---my fabric stash. When I'm in the middle of a big sewing project, I just don't think about where I'm putting things; I let fabric pile up all over the place and everywhere. I hauled up yards and yards of fabric and I had it in a variety of places all over the dining room.
One night while I was in the middle of this project, Craig randomly called an out-of-town friend to see how he was doing. As it turned out, this friend and four of his buddies were actually 90 minutes away from us and heading in our direction on their way from Colorado to Florida. As I was juggling piles of fabric I overheard, "Seriously? You're coming through St. Louis tonight? Want to stop over for a bit?" I looked at Craig. I looked around the room. I laughed. And then I headed to the kitchen to turn the oven to 375. These friends would need cookies---and coffee, so I started the coffee pot, too.
The organizing project I'd started wasn't one that could be easily put away, but instead of making the room look like I'd never started the project, I simply folded everything up, restacked it in baskets, and did the best I could to make the room prepared for guests. There was a time in my life when this scenario would have stressed me out and I would have frantically run around the house with empty boxes filling them with every out-of-place item around. I would have tried to make the room look as home magazine cover-worthy as possible (and resented the perceived obligation to do so in the process).
Now (thankfully) I know what's a little more reasonable. I know what I can do that shows intentionality and preparedness to those coming over without being fake in how I keep my home. I think this is the true key to hospitality.
In Andi Ashworth's book, Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring, she quotes writer Karen Mains as saying, "Entertainment has little to do with real hospitality. Entertaining says, I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking. Hospitality, however, seeks to minister." Ashworth follows this by writing, "Our willingness to let others see our imperfections and to receive them in theirs opens the way to honest exchange. It's risky. Facades crumble, and we are exposed as the vulnerable, still-on-the-journey-but-haven't-arrived-yet people that we are. But we also are able to offer the grace of a true home."
Thus, at 11:30 on a Tuesday night, with warm cookies and fresh coffee, old friends caught up on multiple years' worth of anecdotes and laughs while the piles around us seemed to grow smaller. I was glad I'd spent more time eagerly anticipating our friends' arrival than setting the stage for it.