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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    • I don’t know why this is do true for me other than my Mother was that way, but her Mother, my precious Grandmother was the opposite!! People dropped in throughout the day…she always had food available and you never knew who would show for dinner. She was gracious, never apologizing for a messy house…would throw thngs off a chair to give a place to sit for a guest. It was such a happy place!
      Thank you for your story…I vow to switch to Grandma & Mary’s (& yours) way of entertaining! Bless You!

  1. Jen,
    Your story really resonates with me….I needed this reminder. I KNOW this, but there is still that nasty, prideful part of me that doesn’t want to seem like I can’t keep up with the rest of the world. But, as you so beautifully described, hospitality is not about US…it’s about THEM. Entertaining is saying “Come look at my house and my beautiful decorations and my perfectly prepared food.” Hospitality, on the other hand, says, “Come in. Make yourself comfortable amidst my mess. Let me pour you a cup of coffee and tell me what’s going on in your life.” Big difference. Shifting the focus…that’s what we need to do. Your story is a perfect testimony of what can happen when we let hospitality reign.
    Advent blessings,
    Bev

    • It’s something with how I’ve written about hospitality for years and yet, I continually need the reminder. I’ve been diver quite into the topic of biblical hospitality (we’ve stretched it so far from its original intent) and I’ve been convicted over and over again. I needed that.

      Always much love for you, Bev,
      Jen

  2. Lovely! My gift, and my husband’s gifting, is hospitality and while we used to open our home all the time, including a weekly Saturday morning Bible Study including a full breakfast, we haven’t hosted in more than 2 years. I’m embarrassed by my home as we live in an apartment and my husband is a clutter maker … in every room a clutter maker. Our home is filled with clutter of his and two kids and while I try to not let it bother me, my type A personality cannot breath at times. It’s hard, and frankly I’m now embarrassed to open up this home. I’m tired of trying to make it lovely. I’m asking God for new eyes to see the love and kindness and joy that reside here; asking to see through the clutter so I can live and be welcoming again.

    • oh Mary – I feel you in a deep way on this one. I’ve struggled with clutter too and there is that fine balance, isn’t there? My home has never been perfectly Southern Living clean since we’ve built our house(19 years ago), but I find that I focus on my main living area.

      Can I tell you my crazy trick I did one time? I was so overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start, but knew people were coming. I grabbed two huge Rubbermaids and literally put everything in them. I didn’t think through a “donate, keep and throw” pile like all the books tell you to.
      I just put it in the boxes and shoved them in the second bedroom and closed the door. I could breathe again. Everything was marginally picked up and I had a wonderful afternoon. The things stayed in those boxes for weeks and then I realized that I only needed TWO THINGS in the whole two weeks they were in the room. I got rid of the boxes. 🙂 For me, it was a band aid that worked for that time. Yes, an oversimplified version, but it made a difference. Maybe you can invite those friends you’ve wanted to have over and join me in a Tornado, Rubbermaid Dump. 🙂 I have a few more rooms upstairs that need it.

      Bottom line, we are in this together and I know the women will be blessed by you just extending the invitation. xoxox

    • Wow, Mary, I totally get where you are coming from. We used to host a lot more when the kids were little, then my husband got a much harder job and he was the carrier of conversation. But I never knew when it was a good time to invite when he would not come home stressed and definitely not want company. Also with now 2 teens in a small house I just didn’t love my home anymore. We just went on a vacation and stayed at an airbnb and the small cottage was so cute! So I came home ready to now incorporate some of what I saw in her decorating that small space: some things I bought immediately were placemates for our wood table, solar sidewalk lights, and a $40.00 area rug for my entry room. I plan to buy 1 or 2 more for the living room and bedroom. I am feeling better already. I guess I am doing something about it instead of feeling sorry for myself. And now I have time. Also I am staring to clear out the clutter we all have brought in. I have taken 2-3 loads to the local Thrift store. That at least makes me feel we are getting somewhere and unloading. 🙂
      Thanks again so much for your honety!! Tina

  3. I am definitely in the camp that invited people over in the midst of an imperfect home…because if I didn’t, I would never have anyone over. I wasn’t always like this. I used to majorly stress my family with the whirlwind cleaning and preparing before company came. It was horrible for everyone. Now I’m willing to be more transparent. More of a “love me, love my mess” theme, no longer shoving things into already overfilled closets. I do load the dishwasher and clear away what I can, but perfection has been kicked out the door so that I can open it up for loving on others. We miss out on so much when we allow our stuff to dictate our ministry to others. And like you, I know others appreciate my imperfections because it releases them from it as well. Such a timely devotional today. Thank you so much!!

  4. How true is this ?!!:
    We need to see another person’s “bedlam” up close and personal to be certain.
    Thank you for this very timely reminder as the days of advent get busier and my life starts to feel more frantic…..
    Blssings and peace to you

  5. I moved into my own apartment, after empty nesting in August. I’m always going to have people over when I have it all in order. Your words are causing me to rethink my desire to have it all in order. I just need to open my boarders!

  6. I had my girlfriends over for brunch yesterday and my tree was also untrimmed! I let people bring whatever and I delighted in the fact that my toddler was well behaved prior to the visit so I could prepare and get my house in a working order… ie toys scattered across mostly dog hair-free carpets. My house is never perfect but the company and the fellowship always is. I truly believe Jesus is always faithful in showing up in the midst of both our messes and our tidy abodes. And I will never look back remembering the imperfections, only three good memories that come in the midst of extended hospitality, no matter how flawed.

  7. I always feel if I invite someone I should make sure everything is perfect. If they just show up, then I am fine with an accept me and my home as is moment. I am most recently more focused on being always ready. Not with perfection. . .but love. I am always ready to accept guests. . .and my guests can tell you it’s even ok to show up Christmas Day unexpected and unannounced. It’s happened. . .and it turned out perfect. . .boxed sweet potato casserole and all. Not because of the perfect preparations. . .but the fellowship and love. I hope to cultivate greater hospitality by planning and inviting more. But I feel as long as people know my doors are always open I must be doing something right.

  8. As a Hospitality worker, I Really loved your post, being a Good Host is about the Warmth inside and of Friendship, God will always do the rest

  9. I do find it super difficult. I find it super hard, the vulnerability of it. Even though people say it doesn’t have to be perfect, it still feels like it does.. I really struggle with the clean home thing, it seriously is a challenge for me. I am not really a hide and move the mess somewhere else kinda person. I like to leave the mess, because then it will bug me and I’ll make a decision about it. Except, the decision is never quick to come, all the time.

    • Lynn – I certainly understand this. Sometimes it feels like people say, “It doesn’t have to be perfect,” but then if we’re vulnerable and let them in, we might get hurt. While that’s happened once or twice, I find that so much more often, people just love feeling welcomed.

  10. Thank you thank you thank you. I am close to panic about inviting people over, so to see I’m not the oddball and God isn’t angry with me for not having company, to see others struggle and yet conquer……. An encouraging word, and I have hope that I can also do this thing!

  11. We’re scheduled to host a Christmas party at our house this Friday. It’s turning out to be an extremely busy week and now we have a hole in our kitchen ceiling because of a leaky water valve—-and the hole won’t be patched by Friday! I’m trying hard to embrace it all. I’m even thinking of decorating the hole in the ceiling with garland all though everything in me wants to make excuses for it instead of making light of it. Your article is reminding me not to worry about it and to stop making excuses for my sometimes messy life! Thanks!

    • I’m thinking about your party tomorrow evening and pray all is coming together how you’re hoping. Remember, even if those last minute details don’t happen, your guests will appreciate the warmth and coziness of the invitation and time together.

  12. Yes, I love hosting people but so often talk myself out of it. “Oh, they’ll be too busy,” or “I don’t really know them,” or “It might not work when people don’t know each other.” And then the thought, “I always invite people, they come, but they rarely invite me back.” I think we need to be really brave to do this and mustn’t overthink it, just do it.

  13. Sorry ladies, I’m still a perfectionist. There’s a mess in the floor under my great niece’s table, I’ve got laundry to go in the dryer, I’ve got sacks of stuff for Goodwill. The physical therapist visiting my aunt will be here Wednesday, so I’ll be cleaning. I truly have had to let things go knowing other people aren’t nearly as organized or interested in detail. Having a mess is no fun, but cleaning all the time take always from fun. It’s a balancing act, but I’m learning. I think it was wonderful to let the ladies help you, what good friends to understand.

  14. Exactly what I need to remember in my quest to be hospitable… I always tell myself they will never see my dreamscape! Realizing most people don’t need the perfect setting but the perfect connection. Keeping it real…

  15. Jen,

    Hospitality is truly all about the people. My motto has always been “Martha Stewart doesn’t live here.” Life gets busy and hard at times, but God wants us to be in communion with each other. I don’t care about your house I just want to get to know and love on you. I want real honesty-doing life together. I can pray for you and have a good time also.

    Blessings 🙂

  16. I used to be “related” to Martha Stewart. In fact people called me that. I’d only invite friends over if my house was perfect. Thanksgiving table was set like a magazine cover . I made Christmas happen for my two kids and family. Then I got really sick in 2007. I’m still struggling with my visual function, having burned eyelids that oreventbtears from bathing my corneas.
    I made do with what I can do for the day. I accepted friends over despite the “bedlam”. I thought TRUE friends would love you for who you are and what had happened to me, alone struggling, in pain & in lack. Then a dear bud saw the garage (although the flood when water heater busted & after construction messes, thieving on top of my painful
    Condition were all known to the friend), said,”That garage! My garage is organized.”
    It still stings because I’m a very organized person. Even stuff in my kitchen drawers are organized. But I had to let go of certain things to heal my eyes.
    How do you practice hospitality when people you thought you could trust will hurl words invited that sting your heart more than an arrow’s pierce!
    How do you practice hospitality shen you offer coffee (the only cheap one I can afford) & the friend tells you,”Liz ,I don’t like your coffee, it doesn’t taste good.”
    While I am a Christian and the friend is not
    I can’t go past the hurts despiteme forgiving and praying. The uninvited words keeps creeping up quieter than a church mouse but pounces like a roaring lion when I least expect it.
    How do you Christmas when you’re in so much lack you barely make your mortgage and the people you thought were friends hurt you so bad? Instead of being gracious enough to help.. ?
    Lord what’s the purpose of all
    My pains?

    • Dear Liz, they really aren’t being friends if they only compare their “awesome” to the honest reality of your life. I’ll be praying that your heart heals and that others will show some genuine Christlike kindness. ❤️

    • Oh Liz – As I hear your words, I am so sorry for the discouragement and pain you’re feeling. I wish I was there to sit with you, pour some coffee and share a bit of life together amidst our difficult times.

  17. Just think – almost a missed opportunity for a new memory of your friends decorating your tree together! I’ve discovered that good friends do not mind the mess, and sometimes are more forgiving of it than you might be on yourself.