Our backdoor. The bottom is stained in dirt from kids kicking it open or closed. The metal part that held it open broke off a while back. We fixed it. It broke again. It is swinging open more than it stays closed. Nearly every day I look out its window and see a group of kids digging in the garden or swinging on the rope. They start filling the yard soon after school buses drive down the street dropping off kids.
It is a rare day that no one outside of our family of 7 steps on our property.
Neighbors. Family. Friends. Some invited. Others just ‘in the neighborhood’ and stopping by.
Recently, I received an email asking me a few questions about hospitality. I feel like the last person qualified to give any advice on hospitality. When I read tips for hosting others in my home, I end up feeling like I come up so short. It seems like most hosts have it all together. I have nothing together, but there always seems to be extra people around here.
I decided to keep a tally for the month of March each time someone not in our immediate family visited our home.
143. The final count was 143.
That number even surprised me. I’m a introvert – you won’t find me at blogging conferences or big get-togethers. I joked with a friend last week that the only thing I am allergic to is crowds. I crave alone time, quite and calm. (a bit of an oxymoron for a homeschooling mom of 5!)
I also crave beyond the surface conversations and treasure any time I can gather those I love.
I would far rather sit at my kitchen table with a friend than wine and dine at an elaborate venue.
143. Of course there were several repeat visitors, but the majority were backdoor friends & family. These are the kind of friends that don’t mind my messes. They don’t notice the kids are shoeless or the one boy that never has on a shirt. Maybe they do notice, but backdoor friends never seem to mind. They don’t mind the ladder in the living room or that I offer up a bag of pretzels as a snack because I haven’t made it to the grocery store and the cabinets are bare.
Backdoor friends have taught me the most about hospitality.
They give me the okay to not have a perfect home or clean floors or gourmet meals.
Backdoor friends teach me to slow down and to invite interruption instead of focusing on a task list that will always grow.
Backdoor friends seem to actually like my messy and ignore all the LOUD kids running in and out around us.
Backdoor friends are the ones that show me that welcoming others into my real life is not just okay, but it wanted.
I don’t have anything to teach on hospitality. I’m learning as I go. I get it ‘wrong’ all the time…really more like every time we have someone over.
- A group of girlfriends were staying in the studio for a couple of nights. One was very pregnant and it was the middle of winter. We forgot to turn on the hot water heater. For 2 nights those girls took ice cold showers and never told us.
- A sweet friend, who is a food blogger and author, stayed with us. I spent the day making lasagna for dinner. It was cooking in the oven for an hour. When I went to pull it out, I realized the oven had broke. We had to cook the lasagna in the microwave. I promised them a great latte in the morning. The next morning our espresso machine broke.
- Before we had curtains on the studio windows, two friends stayed the night. They didn’t tell us that we forgot to turn off the outside lights so they had bright lights shining in their windows all night.
- One of our first (non-family, non-kid) guests was an author known for writing on hospitality. All we had was a mattress. On the floor. For a hospitality author. And like a backdoor friend, he made me feel like it was the best bed he had ever slept on…
My point is if I wait to host until I get it hospitality book perfect, I won’t host. If my goal is to have the pinterest guest room with all the little details that are so special and picture perfect, I won’t host. There are many people that offer hospitality and they can do all those things – every detail is perfect, every item in its place, every crumb swept from the floor. At least for now, that is not the season I am in. If I wait for that season, it will mean waiting until my kids are out of the house. If I wait for that season, it means my kids would miss out on all the fun they have when welcome others into our mess.
So I will fight the temptation to think what I have is not enough and my mess is too messy. I’ll offer up coffee, pretzels and full of energy kids.
Right now, coming to our house means you automatically become a backdoor friend. You are invited into our imperfection. You can sit down for a less than gourmet meal on a cute plate. You can have a cup a coffee and slow conversation….with a lot of noise and active kids on the side. If I see you overly worried that your kid might spill or break something, I’ll ‘accidentally’ spill or break something first to put you at ease. You can take a deep breath and stop worrying. I’ll tell you there is nothing in my house that I’ll cry if it gets broken. Maybe it comes from having an eternal perspective or from living in Oklahoma where every spring I’m reminded that a tornado could sweep it all away. Either way, it is all just stuff and you being able to relax in a hustling, high stress culture is far more important.
When first time guests leave I recount and second guess everything. I have no idea how people actually feel after they leave our home. I know they aren’t walking away talking about what an amazing cook I am or how they can’t believe how spotless my home is. My mind first goes to all the things that went wrong and I cringe at how I am pretty sure I forgot to clean the bathroom. It happens every time. I could stay there – full of self doubt and wondering if hospitality is something I should give up on. But I choose not to stay there. I choose to push through the self doubt and the risks of inviting people into my mess. I push through because it is worth it.
I hope our guests leave feeling seen, heard, and genuinely cared about…I hope my home feels like a spring breeze…welcoming, warm and making imperfections look lovely.
I hope my backdoor stays broken.
I hope everyone who enters through the front door, leaves as a backdoor friend.