when pancakes taste best {hospitality}

So….thank you.

When I wrote that ‘random’ post last Friday, I never thought it would be one that would garner many comments from you. I can’t tell you how encouraging your words were and are to me. There are many days. Many days. I wonder if anyone gets anything worthwhile out of my ramblings and joy in photography. I am a very normal mom, very un-cool, very plain and the reality that this blog has in some way brightened the day of another or encouragedย  someone – I’m very humbled by that and grateful. Honestly, it blows my mind. I truly appreciate your life-giving words to me on that post. I never really understand why people would want to read this blog, so reading the reasons you wrote – wow, it just meant so much to me to see my blog through your eyes. Thank you.

This weekend my family had the opportunity to host Anna (For the Love of Joy) and Kimber (Kimber Creates). Anna and I met online years ago when she started advertising on my blog. Kimber took a recent SnapShop and has read my blog for while, but I’ve never met either in person before this weekend.

As much as I enjoy hosting friends, there is one member of my family that goes crazy for a “girl party” – what she calls any time a girl of any age visits our house.


I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been trying to become a better hostess and learn ways to make others feel at home, in my home. The first guest that stayed in our ‘guest room’ was an author. He had written a book on hospitality. When he came to stay with us, we didn’t have a bed yet. He slept on a mattress on the floor. I did my best to make it inviting and welcoming. But, let’s face it hosting an ‘expert’ on hospitality is intimidating. I wanted to use the excuse that we didn’t have a ‘bed’, that the bathroom was still under construction, that……….. Chris, wisely, wouldn’t let me.ย  At the end of his stay, he made a point to tell me that hospitality is not in how cute the bed is or the thread count of the sheets. He said hospitality is in how guests feel and that guests really just want to be invited in to my family. He told me I made a great host.

I’m not sure that he was telling the truth about me being a great host, but his words were the encouragement I needed to hear. These days we have a much cuter bed for guests, but his words still ring in my ear…guests want to be invited in to your family.


As I was cleaning up from the weekend, I noticed I never attached that drawer pull to the guest side table. I also found my missing blue flip flop under the bed…hospitality is not in how cute the bed is…it is in how the guest feels.1.25.14-5

Lesley, Anna, Thuy, Kimber, Me (Katy joined us for dinner, but had to leave before we snapped this)1.25.14-7

When I was in college, I spent many school breaks at my roommate Mandy’s house in Wyoming. Most of those visits we would stay a night or two at her grandparents’ cabin in the Big Horn Mountains. Her grandparents kept a guest book. I always enjoyed thumbing the pages and reading the words of guests from several decades. Those little notes painted a beautiful picture of the history of the cabin and her grandparents. We started a guest book for overnight guests…it has only been a year, but I already like looking back and remembering all the visits and guests.1.25.14-8

We really didn’t host much before we built the studio space and guest bed area. Our three boys share a bedroom and the girls share a bedroom. We could have hosted more before we had the extra space, but I think we were intimidated by the idea of inviting people to stay overnight in our crazy. Because it is crazy.ย And do people really want to be invited into our crazy?

When we built the studio space, our dream and prayer was to be able to use it to bless others. Sure we would enjoy the space, but we really wanted to use it for others as much as we could. My sister gave me a perpetual calendar book last year. I’ve begun using it to record the ‘happenings’ in the studio. We’ve hosted baby showers, birthday parties, overnight guests, Chinese New Year’s dinner, our church small group, a family luncheon following my grandpa’s funeral, and other random events. As I look back over the last year, I am so grateful for how our prayer has been answered. I’m grateful for a space is already filled with many memories – both beautiful and heartbreaking. I’m thankful.1.25.14-9

So we are learning to invite people in and that often means things are messy. It means while sitting at the dinner table, a little boy decides to use the bathroom without closing the door. It means spills on the floor and reminding kids to make good decisions. It means letting people see just plain ole’ us and all our many imperfections as individuals and parents. It means risking that when they see the ‘real’ us, they may not like what they see.

It also means knowing the sweet joy of gathering around the table, sipping coffee, eating pancakes and experiencing the gifts found in relationships.

For some reason, the coffee and pancakes always taste better with friends.

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  • tara - such freedom comes when we realize over and over that hospitality is welcoming people into our family and into the stories of who we are.

    gosh. i hope i continue to get this simple truth.

  • Annie Baker - Love this post, Ashley. The interview you posted last week really resonated with me. I made a major effort this weekend to be a mindful and intentional parent this weekend. What a difference in my mood and my boys’. I love that little book you featured (intentionally or not). I just ordered it for myself. That seems like a simple way to reflect on the days simple moments. Peace!

  • shayna - so lovely. and so encouraging. i know that i can get a bit anxious about hosting. but try and remind myself, what is it that i love about being hosted and try to emulate that.
    thanks for sharing,

  • Becca - Thanks for posting this. I am always apprehensive about having people over because of our craziness. God has blessed us with our home and we are to share it. I need to get over my insecurities and just have fun! Thank you!

  • Meredith - I love reading your blog. Your guest house/studio space is awesome! Do you know where you can find that perpetual calendar book (that one is really cute!)? I would love to start recording little bits of life like that.

  • Janine - I love that saying “guests want to be invited in to your family.” I think you do a wonderful job doing that with this blog. You host all of us on a daily basis and don’t even realize it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Katie - The timing of this is very personal as we just hosted friends and family for my daughter’s 2nd birthday (and some of the guests stayed over-night due to the snow storm). As much as I lament the unfinished, the un-decorated and the dirty in my home, my mother told me the best thing is when the guests feel that THEY are FAMILY. She reminds me to not stress getting everything visually perfect to the point that I am too tired to be a welcoming and friendly host, but rather give them all the comforts they need, then be a friendly, loving “servant” to ease their bodies as they rest from travel. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • kristin - I agree with your hospitality expert. I love visiting an imperfect home. Somehow knowing someone else has the same messy life I do is comforting & allows me to feel at ease. Your space is charming & beautiful & the missing knob is just endearing.

  • Jenn - what a sweet post. special times with friends and hosting get togethers. I bet you are a wonderful host. crazy times and all. I loved your random post last Friday. ๐Ÿ™‚ my little girl gets crazy happy when we have people visit. she is my little host for sure. love the shelving you have in that first picture of your sweet girl.

  • Anna - Thank you for allowing us into your home and taking such good care of us. I love your crazy because it reminds me of mine and reassures me that crazy is normal, crazy is a blessing. I pray that I can use my home to bless others too and instead of waiting on a big house, I should start now in my cozy small home. I am so grateful for our friendship!

  • julie :^) - What a great reminder. Some of my favorite people to visit have very little but they have warm hearts and easy going, joyful attitudes–they always have lots of people enjoying their home because of it. It is the love people remember most of all. I never thought of it as making you feel part of the family, but that is it! Lovely!

    Love what you did to the bed. Makes me want to wrap something in pretty fabric.

  • Bailee - Ashley, I love your blog! A friend introduced me a year ago and I have been hooked! I was just curious if you all live in an actual house or if its a space you just turned into a home? From the pics it seems like a studio space-which is my dream! I’ve gotten a lot of ideas for future living from you and just was curious what kind of space you had! Thanks for all you share, and the randomness! Keeps it interesting

  • cynthia - Thank you for all your sharing! Yours is the one post I look forward to every morning! I love it all the good and imperfections – that’s life and I’m glad you’re brave to share with the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • cynthia - P.S. I love the subject variety in posts – such insightful glimpses and discoveries! Thanks again!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Becca - I just want you to know that when others ask me what my favorite blog is yours is at the top of my list. I’ve been reading it for years. I strongly believe that people can see your light through your blog. They see the care with which you have designed your home and your presence. You are so kind to invite people to see a small portion of your life, and the reason it is exciting to read every day is that you live a good life, you love Heavenly Father, and you care about your children. In a world where good is cast aside and superficial is celebrated, it is refreshing to find someone who just cares. Cares enough to try their hardest to spread their love. I know I have been influenced by your beautiful chicken coop and lovely garden. It gets me excited to see others living this way, because it gives me hope that one day we will get our hobby farm. It was fun sharing your chicken coop photos with my husband, it just gets us so excited. Your blog is just a little different, it is light, it is full of inspiration, it is full of love, it is full of humility, and people are drawn to your light ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Georgia - Lovely post about hospitality. Really. But I am a little ADD lately. Have you noticed how that picture of Firecracker in her SuperGirl shirt looks like she is taking off to fly? So cute!

  • Thuy - Thank you for inviting us over into your home and I am glad to know that we all have our own verison of craziness in each of our homes and your bunch is all sorts of wonderful. I am thankful for our friendship and the opportunity to get to know you and your sweet family more and more.

  • Heather B - It’s so interesting to read you question your hospitality! While I have no idea what staying with your family would be like (from the pictures, I imagine quite lovely), I would venture to say that your website is the definition of hospitable. You invite us into your home and family with such grace and honesty that when I describe your blog to others the word I always use the words “homey, comfortabl, honest”… So while you might not think of it this way, you have been a stellar hostess to us internet peeps for a while!

  • Abby - Hospitality is such a challenge for me. The thought of inviting people over (even just for dinner!) is totally overwhelming! I think it is because I make it way more complicated than it needs to be! Thank you for this post!

  • misti d. - I have been searching your blog for over 30 minutes! I am looking for a quote/saying you had on your big chalkboard……something about God’s laws ect. I can’t find it anywhere. I wrote it down when I saw the picture originally but now I can’t find it:(
    Can you help me please ?!?

    thank u

  • Aaren - Hi Ashley:

    I have been reading your blog for a little over three years now and have not missed a post in those three years.
    Why do I read your post every day you ask?
    Because your blog is inspirational, motivational and full of happiness….and I thank you for that.:)

  • Natalie Fowler - Gah! Ashley! I love that you said you wonder if anyone gets anything out of your ramblings. I totally get that. BUT, you have NO IDEA how much I get from your blog. To me, it’s priceless. I’ve been reading for almost 2 years and you are SUCH an inspiration to me. I tell people about your blog all the time. I explain it like this, “Go check out this amazing blog run by this godly wife and mom, Ashley. She is my mommy/wife role model. I want to be a mom like her one day. She just oozes love for her family. And she has incredible design sense. GO READ IT NOW!” Thank you so much for writing. You genuinely provide guidance for me with how I want to raise my kids and it makes me truly excited to be a mom. <3

  • natalie - he’s right- it’s all about the invitation to be part of your family. even if little boys forget to shut the door. ๐Ÿ˜‰ <3

  • Tracie M. - The crazy thing is that WE are the only ones who notice the smudges on the walls or the toothpaste in the sink. I NEVER notice that stuff when I’m invited into someone’s home. I love the sitting around the table sharing conversation while the kids play and if they make a mess, well, it’s all clean-up-able! Thanks for this post!

  • Elisabeth - It is so true that good hospitality is so much more about just welcoming people in rather than providing the prettiest place to stay- our family loves to visit our family friends in Vermont, not because they have the best guest quarters (although their guest quarters are nice), but because we love spending time with their family and exploring their neck of the woods. So many of my favorite memories have been formed standing at their kitchen island, mixing pancake mix with their kids. So thank you for that reminder.

  • Heather - I had to laugh about one of your boys using the restroom while a guest was there. With two young girls of my own, we have had this happen many times! They are not shy and we haven’t quite hit the modesty phase which will come in time. Until then, we’ll chuckle and make excuses. I love your blog (found it in the Parent’s issue)! As an amateur photographer, I love looking at your pictures. You work is creative and inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

  • MaryAnn - I too have been a fan/follower of your blog, first, for your photography, and second, for you parenting. Both are beautiful, moving, and inspiring. I browsed through the other comments and didn’t see this asked, so sorry if I missed it somehow, is the perpetual event book from your sister a recent purchase? Do you know from where she purchased it? Thanks!

  • Alysa - Lovely post Ashley! I actually thanked a friend a million times today for inviting me into her crazy! I texted that I wanted to stop by and she said, “House is messy, I haven’t showered, and the baby’s still in his p.j.’s but come on over!” That’s authentic camaraderie at its best.

    Love the idea of using a space to bless people. That’s my prayer for 2014 about our home. Fostering fellowship and peace for others in this space.

    That fabric on the guest bed frame is gorgeous.

  • Savannah - Ashley, I so love your blog. I think I came across it through No Hands But Ours, but I can’t really remember. Not only do I love hearing about your day to day life, I love your photography, craftiness, and decorating style. It quite literally inspired how I decided to decorate my dorm (in the best way I could to make it feel cozy). Your photography pushes me in my own work. Your faith and family life provides an example of how I strive to treat the friends and family in my life, and some day hopefully my own children. I’ve always been the quirky child, teenager, and now young adult who spends large portions of time on the internet reading the blogs of women who’ve forged paths ahead of me. And I am so glad to name you among the ranks of those women. Thank you for sharing your life with us. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Lacy C. - Yet again, you post something amazing! Love, love, love your blog. I too, would like to know where the perpetual calendar book came from. Thanks!

  • Emily - We’re moving this summer and one of my hopes is that we’ll also have guest space. Right now there’s just not room. I’m going to bookmark this as a reminder that it’s not about perfection, it’s about grace. Thank you

  • Emily - I just found your blog the other day, and I love your writing, heart, and photography. This is a great post. Have you read the book Bread & Wine? By Shauna Niequist. It’s a lot about what you wrote here–just opening your home and heart to people and not worrying so much about the details. You would enjoy it.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I am so thankful for you. I love your beautiful family… every ounce. I love that Firecracker likes to sing to us and that Little One likes just to be with us. I was relieved when your yard looked like a version of mine – with toys and kids every which way. And one day, I will be able to make that yummy granola (?) breakfast you made. Still makes my heart warm.

  • Heather - Totally unrelated question, but have you ever considered keeping honey bees? Just curious. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Katie - Thank you for this post. I found it so encouraging! My husband and I have been renting our smallest home ever for the past three years, and I feel as though I’ve lost touch with being hospitable. Our one-bedroom apartment feels like just the right size for the two of us (and our baby on the way!) but feels so tight when we have anyone over that I’ve stopped trying. Thanks for the encouragement to welcome others into our home.

  • Becky - I found the book!

    Thanks for such a great post. I never comment, but have been reading your blog daily for two years. You inspire me in so many ways…parenting, decorating, building, caring…you rock, momma!

  • Katie S - That first picture, might just be one of my favorites ever of sweet Firecracker, and that is saying a lot because I have followed this blog for awhile now! Your awesome!

  • Ruth@GraceLaced - So…I’m really wishing you and your fam were coming to my place this week for Chinese New Year hot pot and/or jiaoze making. Wouldn’t that be fun?!? Looking forward to hugging your neck in March.

  • Jenni - I absolutely love this! Just from the years of reading your blog I could get a good sense that you are very hospitable, cute sheets or not, extra space or not. I always things the crazy, and the kids makes things feel less awkward. It does get harder as a family gets bigger, just less space, but I love how the Lord has used your studio space in so many ways to bless others!!
    We try to make it a point to have a family over at least once a month for dinner, it’s not always easy, but I am always so glad that we did it!

  • Kimber - The hospitality bug has bit you. You got it right all the way down to kisses on our pillows and remote control fans. We loved it so much. It was such a relief to see dishes in the sink and hear little reminders to make good decisions. I learned how to graciously parent and to have a servant love for my husband as I watched you and Chris work as a team in every area. So grateful for this new friendship! You and your family are something special ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for this weekend!

  • Kirsten J - You are golden. And I’d love to be invited into your crazy ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Taylor - I love that dress that Firecracker is wearing! So adorable!



  • Cassie - After reading this post I think you would love Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. Have you read it?

  • Amy - I imagine that you must be an amazing hostess! Your blog has always seemed to invite us to be a part of your family. I love this blog. For 2 1/2 years now it’s been a part of my almost-every-day experience. Your family has literally become a part of my family’s life. Thank you for everything you do and everything you share. We have been so inspired by you in many ways. I took a cue from you recently to “be a better friend” and started making cookies for people. Unfortunately it took four batches to get one batch good enough to give away, lol!

  • christina larsen - Reading this post about hospitality reminds me about my grandma. She was an amazing host. I remember her friends driving down from Nebraska to visit them in Missouri all the time. With little notice, she would greet them with coffee and treats. They would sit around the kitchen table and share stories. To me that was hospitality, always ready to greet someone into your home with little or a lot of notice. Thanks for allowing me to conjure up those memories.

  • Holly - Simply Organized - That excited photo is crazy awesome! Love the bed too.

  • Reem Faruqi - love this . When there’s space in your heart, there’s space to accommodate. I love your blog ~ don’t know if my last comment under the random post went through, but I enjoy the smattering of your images of life. They’re beautiful, natural family images, something we don’t get enough of. I love your non-posey-style. I can learn so much from your photography. Keep up the great posts :)!

  • Reem Faruqi - I also strive to capture non-posey-images too :). Those are the best ones!

  • Tiffany - What a great reminder! I am bad about not inviting guests due to my chaotic house. I am always worried about the loud sounds, my children’s constant need for attention, etc. I recently had a sweet friend visit and was honestly shocked when she told me that she enjoys visiting me because our home is “full of peace.” I think that God was showing me that He can still work through me even though I may feel like a mess!

  • Carissa - Love, love, love, love, love. I was going to write you and ask more about your “journey” into hospitality and the space you use and what not. It’s like you read my mind.

    Really hoping to hear more on this topic in the future, purely because it’s something I struggle with and am really trying to better myself in. Always good to see you have comrades and glean wisdom from them, you know? Anyway, thanks for your openness.

  • Lolailo - I’ve admired (even envied) many of your amazing pictures till this day, but girl… that”girl’s party YAY attitude”you got to capture of your little girl is way too much! That girl is going to rock it when she grows older!!

    Congrats for such a nice job, and so amazing “random” pictures of your beautiful family and friends!

    Hugs from Spain! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kate - I read this on the same day as I read your post…..”it is no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: “you matter to me and to God.” You may think you are saying “come over for a visit.” But what your guest hears is, “I’m worth the effort.” – Max Lucado.

    THis really really resonated with me. I’m looking all the time for ways to be more hospitable – and in my old life (before travel and kids) I was (am) a nurse. I love sharing life. I think maybe that’s why people love your blog so much, because it’s like being invited (even in a small way) to come and visit with your family, it’s like you make us matter, because you’re so willing to share yourself…….but I could be wrong ๐Ÿ™‚ I just know I love being invited into your world through your blog – it feels like hospitality to me, and certainly healing. All the times i have cried, laughed and smiled – or realised something wonderful about myself or my own life. You really are changing the world.

    Much love

  • AshleyAnn - Kate – thank you SO MUCH for sharing that quote and your encouraging words to me!!

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  • elizabeth H - I’m stumbling for words here…
    Mostly because i can’t say it better than what Kate wrote.

    I struggle to feel that I have {space} for guests,
    & the pressure for it to be beautifully perfect often paralyzes me.
    Your “stepping out by faith” into the obedience of “building a place, then they’ll come” is such an encouragement.

    He meets us & He uses us… Just*where*we*are.
    Our home is always open to you friend.

  • Alicia Beard - Thanks for encouraging me to be hospitable in whatever season of life I find myself. My husband and I are newlyweds (married just over three months), and we are still in the process of unpacking. We haven’t invited friends over yet due to our chaos, but I think we could do some quick picking up and invite them over to feel like a part of our family.
    Continue to share your heart by writing!

  • anne Adams - Could you tell me how you did that cute bed frame with the fabric?

  • Kathy - This made me cry. I love to cook and share meals. I rarely do, since I am worried about my very imperfect house and clutter in some rooms, reading this made me a little more willing. Pride gets in the way, but I am thinking of someone right now to invite for tea.

  • Cynthia - I love the idea of hospitality and can not wait until we have a home that is big enough for even one more person to visit…. I would imagine that you would be an amazing hostess (enter my favorite quote…”You’re a great hostess cupcake!”) because I see you as being someone that is in-tune with other’s wants and needs plus the fact that your home looks so inviting in photographs…I can only imagine how cozy and loving it feels in person. My daughter loves looking at the photos on your blog and asks me constantly if we can come hang out so she can play with Firecracker…so you need to know that even in pictures your house looks inviting! I have been in love with Madeline L’Engle my entire life and one thing about her that I love is her big ol’ farm house with room for family and friends to stay in, and that has become a dream of mine, and I love seeing how you are making that happen in your own home!!

  • Michelle - Love this post! Would you mind sharing where your sister bought the perpetual calendar book and it’s title? Looks like something from Anthropologie but I can’t seem to find it online. Thanks!

  • Tami - How did you get that look on the cement floor in the photo of your daughter jumping with her hands up? I tore up carpet in my house and that’s the look I want. Thanks,Tami

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