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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  1. Jen,
    I used to host Bible study at my home. This was the first meeting of a new group that I didn’t know so well. I had asked all the ladies if they were okay with dogs (big ones, but with insides made of marshmallow). Most had pets of some sort so they said that was fine. I also mentioned that if George wasn’t in on the activity, and if I put him out on the porch, he would sit and whimper pathetically because he would want to be part of the group. All was going well after coffee, tea, light refreshments, and chit chat.

    We moved into the family room and sat in a circle. George took a special liking to this group so he decided he wanted to lie right in the middle of the group and join in on the lovin’. So he flopped lazily on his side on the floor and started to doze (mind you he was a 90 lb black lab). About ten minutes into the discussion, the Sacred scripture we were reading began to be accompanied by a not so sacred aroma. One by one, I saw the ladies politely wiggle and fan their noses. Yes, George was passing gas big time. Long story short…..George got ushered outside; I got all the ceiling fans going and the door opened to clear the stench. So much for making an aroma pleasing to the Lord. LOL.

    George has since passed, but all the ladies in the group love to tell about that first meeting with each other and George’s special contribution. Come as you are and accept my offering – such as it is. We’re all in this boat called Human together. Love, love, loved the “back seat baking” story!! That’s priceless.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

  2. We were new in town and new to our church, and so we had taken on the goal of inviting one couple or family each month to our fixer upper home. It was a great way to get better acquainted with our community, so one summer evening I pulled the steaming blueberry pie out of the oven for dessert and was dismayed at how poorly it had thickened. Later, at the dining room table, as I served it, my observation was confirmed: I was essentially serving blueberry soup between 2 crusts.
    Later, as the after dinner conversation progressed, we began talking about the Fair that was coming soon to a neighboring town. My friend Nita did not divulge the fact that she was a judge for the blueberry pie making contest that was a high point of the fair every year, and I did not learn this until much later. She had eaten my blueberry soup pie without a word or a gesture or a facial expression to betray her expertise or her thoughts on what a pie should be.
    What a profound example she was to me of accepting a friend “as you are!” Soggy pie and all!

  3. Our Wednesday night Bible Study gals were meeting around Jewel’s big homey kitchen table. Greta, their energetic and lovingly friendly Visila dog was in the room and busy checking things out. She is an inquisitive dog, and we always have to guard whatever we might have in the pockets of our coats and jackets. She loves to grab a kleenex, a piece of gum, etc. Many times we would see she had found a treasure of some sort, and have to get it out of her mouth–maybe a piece of candy we had forgotten, or a used tissue. One evening we were in deep discussion around the table when I looked up and saw Greta had found a treasure of some sort. We were always afraid she would choke on something, or eat something she should not, so we quickly went into action to help her release it from her mouth. Imagine our surprise to discover she had an unused tampon in her mouth, which one of us (whose name will remain anonymous) had stored in her pocket in case of an unexpected emergency. , We laughed and giggled with glee until we nearly fell off our chairs!! We still reminisce about it years later!! Greta still watches us at Bible Study , but is now often behind a partitioned off part of the room. 🙂

    • Oh my goodness!! That’s hilarious! Can you even imagine (wait – yes, you can.) I have a very funny response to that story right now, but it may be TMI. wish we were telling these stories in real life over a cup of coffee. 🙂

  4. Jennifer,

    You pack some great truths in this post. “The most profound gift of hospitality we can give is assuring one another we are welcome exactly the way we are”. I add a hearty amen to that. This world calls for perfection & everything tied up neatly in a bow. Life gets busy & messy. It is comforting to hear other’s stories funny or sad & know you are not alone. We need to start being real with each other & quit pretending everything is ok. We are still flawed human beings & don;t always have it together. Sometimes we burn casseroles or have problems with aging parents. This world needs some laughter put back into it. Your stories help do just that. They open the door to true friendships.

    I have a good friend who I do life with. She and I can share everything. We went through aging parents trials together. Every other week she comes over & we talk. Nothing is sacred between us. Our “song” is “Oh you’ll never hear one of us repeating gossip-so you better be sure and listen close the first time”. HA HA.

    Blessings 🙂

  5. I just want to know the recipe. Something a 10 year old can make in a move car is right up my alley.

  6. Jennifer, I love this! Thank you for creating a place where being ourselves is not only tolerated but welcomed. I think I’ve told this story before but we invited some neighbors over for dinner one night. (Neighbors who document their lives on social media and don’t do anything on a small scale!) I nervously chopped vegetables for a salad while trying to appear gracious and welcoming while my husband grilled pizzas. As we sat down to eat, the daughter of the neighbors signed, “bug” and pointed to her salad. Where was the trap door??! I just wanted to disappear. The daughter never stopped smiling. She just threw the bug away and kept eating. Later, the social media post I was dreading only said what a great time they had had sharing dinner together with neighbors.

  7. This is wonderful!

    The first simple story that came to my mind happened many years ago, when I was much younger. My husband and I led our church’s College & Career group for some time, and one evening when we had a young couple over (or perhaps a small group), I did as I normally do, and attempted to finish the food preparations, while engaging in welcoming conversation. I offered them some soda and got out the plastic bottle to pour some.

    I must interject with the fact that I definitely have a one-track mind. I have a really hard time doing more than one thing at a time, at least not successfully. (I often wonder how I’ve survived these many years as a mother, but that’s another story.) So as I chatted, I proceeded to vigorously shake the unopened bottle of pop and then open it to pour some for our guests.

    As you can imagine, the next few moments were messy and shocking, and probably quite embarrassing…since everyone knows you don’t shake soda like you would a jar of juice!

    I honestly don’t remember the outcome, but I hope we enjoyed a good laugh at my blunder…probably while mopping up sticky soda. 🙂

  8. Thank you to those of you who prayed yesterday, that we could have our Grandchildren stay with us this week. There is a possibility that came about just today that we may be able to have them for an overnight, an answer to prayer! We pray that it will come about and that it will be longer than even an overnight. We continue to pray that the parents would be turned to God’s truth in loving, godly parenting and out of some terrible destructive philosophies from the pit they have been following. And for healing in all relationships.
    Thank you again so much, and hope this encourages you all to continue in prayer for your needs and others too.

  9. Funny thing I have discovered over time. Shame tried to prevent me from inviting people over because our home was, well, needing a little sprucing up. I realized that the attention I wanted to give to our home was for my glory. Sure, I like to have my home tidied up to make people feel special, but it is more the details of how I demonstrate care than a perfect place to go to that matters. The irony I found in my hospitality is that people sometimes feel more comfortable in our slightly imperfect home. They don’t feel the need to compare and feel at home. So I threw a party this past weekend in my home that still needs the walls to the staircase painted (going on 8 years now) and I did not mop the floors first (gasp!). We did manage to sweep, but more importantly, we wanted to serve them, minister to their souls and provide delicious food. Thank you for this post!

  10. “For those of us brave enough to step forward in confidence and just open the door, a God-honoring, life-giving legacy awaits.” Well said, Jennifer! Your story and all of these new ones added here just may start a wave of come-as-you-are hospitality! Let the fun (and support and encouragement) begin!

  11. My boys had a crossover ceremony for cub scouts recently and we were supposed to bring a side dish. My daughter had had ballet class until noon and we had a few hours to go get the groceries, get home and get them put away, make a side dish and get to the ceremony by 5. That should be plenty of time, right? Ha! I had my two young daughters in tow and I ran out of time to finish. I didn’t want to miss my boys receiving their Arrow of Light this year, so I buckled up the girls, put my cutting board, knife (wrapped in a towel for safety), bowl of almost finished pasta salad and block of cheese in the van and off we went. I pulled out my supplies and there on the picnic table at the pavilion in the woods, I cut up my block of cheese and finished my pasta salad just time to sit down and see the ceremony.

    And wouldn’t you know I had a lot of compliments on that pasta salad that evening.

  12. Jen, I just want to take a minute, or five!, to share with you how God has been working in my “sphere of influence”! A little background will help ~ I’m married to an amazing man for nearly 40 years, his mother was a caterer so ever since we’ve been married, hosting & hospitality has been a part of our lives. I’m the cook at our church as well as overseeing many large church wide & community outreach events. One of the ministries near & dear to my heart is working with university students; I’ve hosted many dinners at our home for kids who crave a home cooked meal! One of the young ladies said to me about a year or so ago that she wanted me to teach her to cook meals “her future husband would enjoy”. I’ve prayed about that comment so many times during the past year, waiting patiently for God to show me how to use that to glorify Him……

    When your book came out, God layed it on my heart to facilitate a bible study in my home (I am NOT a teacher so this is huge for me!) to go through the book & video series together. WOW ~ we aren’t even finished yet & God is moving BIG time! Hearing the ladies stories week after week is inspiring to say the least! Now comes the REALLY good part ~ God has opened yet another door for me as He continued to PUSH me out of my comfort zone. Beginning this fall once college is back in session, I will be facilitating a deep, year-long bible study for young women who are newly married or in a serious relationship. The first 7 weeks will be dedicated to walking them through the Bible study “Just Open the Door”, followed by studies, discussions & prayer about the blesses & messes of marriage & relationships, plus cooking tips & tricks along the way! Every other month, the women will prepare a meal, then the husbands/boyfriends will join in to share dinner, fellowship & bible study. I’m so excited to see how God glorifies & enriches these sweet, young couples!

    Thank you for inspiring me to Open my Door to bigger, more God-filled opportunities than I could’ve ever imagined!
    Tammy Jennings
    Bowling Green, KY

    • Tammy – I can’t begin to tell you how much I LOVE EVERY WORD OF THIS!!!! In fact, I’m pulling myself back from packing my car and heading your way now to talk about all. the.things. with you. 🙂

      As you get into the study with them, please reach out again and we can set up a time to do a Facebook live together or a FaceTime call with your group. I’d love to do that.

      You mentioned the bible study, but did you by chance read the book first? If you didn’t, I share about a woman named Jan who did something similar with me when I was in high school. She had us over, taught us to cook , would have bible study and then would feed the guys. You are about to make SUCH an amazing impact on these women.

      Thank you so much for sharing with me and for saying yes to investing in this next generation. I am cheering you wildly from NC.

      xoxo
      Jen

      • I DID read your book first ~ it has been inspiring me & encouraging me all along this incredible journey! I highlighted so many parts of the book, it would’ve been cheaper to highlight the parts I didn’t want to remember!!! I’ve shared bits & pieces with my group of ladies throughout the past several weeks. You & your words speak to my heart, which is why I just had to write to you & let you know what an impact you’ve made! Consider this your encouragement for the day ~ keep writing, keep sharing, keep loving Jesus! Oh, and YES, how amazing would it be to FaceTime my group of young women in the fall!!!

        Blessings,
        Tammy

        ps … I don’t know where “Home” is for y’all but our home in Kentucky is always open should you find yourself hankering for some amazing BBQ, a new Corvette or some country music!