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My love for hospitality began when I was ten years old and a giant ornate bar was delivered to our dining room complete with a crystal whiskey decanter and a set of brandy sniffers.  I don’t think we had ever owned anything quite so nice and I was completely awestruck at the possibilities.  My sister and I bartended for hours on end, with the likes of chocolate milk, apple juice, sweet tea, and some fancy swizzle sticks.  Sometimes we would dress up in our snazziest clothes and pretend to be the patrons, holding our pinkies out just so while we sipped on beverages from dainty glasses.  Apparently, this was an eat-in bar establishment because my favorite part was to set the tables and take the faux orders of a host of make believe (and very demanding) restaurant goers.  I hustled.  I was in it to win it. I took CARE of my customers.  I hired my sister off and on but I didn’t hesitate to fire her if her enthusiasm waned.  Now I’d give anything to work beside her everyday.  She’d keep me organized and she’d make me laugh all day.  Alas, I didn’t know how good I had it.

(Go ahead and take a minute with this photo.  There’s a lot to study here.)

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I perfected the art of running the home restaurant over the next few years until it all came crumbling down in 1983.  That’s the year CMT launched and from then on, I set my sights on becoming a country singer.  I convinced myself I sounded just like Wynona Judd and spent all my free time parked in front of the television, fashioning microphones out of every possible thing.  Over the years, I keep coming back to my oldest passions so now I still sing karaoke and I read everything I can get my hands on about hospitality—what it really means and how we can incorporate into our lives.

(I even wrote an ebook about it, which I’m planning on beefing up and re-releasing later this year. So, if you want it in its current incarnation, you better get it soon because it will be removed from my site for a while.)

After all those years of serving and studying and reading, here are 3 secrets that will help you overcome resistance when it comes to sharing your life with others.

1. It’s NOT about your home

You think it is but it’s not and I would venture to say that you are waiting until everything is just perfect before you open up your home (or yourself) to others.  I wrote about this in my hospitality ebook and I still believe it’s true.

Hospitality is not about inviting people into your perfect home, it’s about inviting them into your imperfect heart.

People don’t need a perfect guest room or a guest room at all.  They just need you.  The you that is comfortable enough in her own skin to offer herself to others.  The you that is not afraid to be vulnerable.  The you that will leave the to-do list undone in order to sit face and face and share your life and your stories.  I can’t tell you how many things I left undone last week when Paige came to visit.  I had to keep reminding myself to choose relationship over perfection.  I hope she could feel how much she was loved and celebrated.  So many times I’ve screwed this up, but I’m finally starting to see the magic that happens when you make others your priority.  And if you need more help in this area (like I do)  my friend Myquillin wrote a book all about learning to love the home you’re with.  And I’m always pinning stuff related to this topic on my favorite Pinterest Board, Hospitality with Heart.

2. It’s NOT about your food

Now listen.  I know what you’re thinking.  If you saw my Facebook post last night, you know that I’m always talking about food and how my husband adores me because of puffy tacos and the best beef stew and ALL THE FOOD that I love to yammer on about.  No ones loves or appreciates the power of good food like I do.  But guess what?  It’s not the main thing.  Not even when you’re having company.  Yes, I think we should try to get better at serving up some tasty food.  Yes, it’s important to teach our kids the power of table fellowship.  But one of my favorite visits with a friend in recent memory had nothing to do with the food.  She bought a few store bought snacks and some fruit and we shared our hearts for hours.  It’s not about the food.  Focus on people and the rest will work itself out.

3. It’s NOT about you at all

This is the key to almost everything in life, not just hospitality.  If you can learn this precious lesson, your life will be full and blessed.  Train yourself to walk into every situation asking,  How can I be a blessing here?  How can I share myself in a meaningful way?  How can I break through the normal barriers of communication and get to the heart of things?  How can we laugh and have a good time?  What are this person’s needs and how can I help meet them?

This one thing has totally transformed everything about my life.  I have to crucify my own doubt and insecurity and that nasty little voice in my head that wants me to always guard my heart.  It’s daily, hourly work.  But you will find yourself with a full and beautiful life when you finally realize that it’s not really about you at all.  What a relief!

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Ironically, I’m just as passionate today about feeding people and singing karaoke to them.  I wish you could get one without the other, but I never wanted to be a one trick pony. Back then, I couldn’t have given two hoots about the disastrous state of my own room or of any other room for that matter.  I was there to serve.  I had a one track mind. And I think if my years as child restaurant owner taught me anything, it taught me that the people are the only thing that matters.

(The added benefit of loving people in this radical way is that they’ll be crazy for you.  Just ask Wynona.)

What are the barriers that keep you from sharing yourself with others?

I have a list a mile long but I think speaking them aloud (or writing them down) is a good first step in overcoming them.

51 comments on “The 3 Secrets to Radical Hospitality”

  1. This is a perfect reminder for me to practice radical hospitality, especially as I sit here with a newborn in my arms. People want to stop by to visit with me and meet the baby, and they don’t care about the piles in my laundry basket. Great encouragement, Edie. Thanks!

  2. I just love it when you write about hospitality! I wish I was as uninhibited about playing hostess now as I was as a kid! Back then I never gave a thought to the house (although it seems like my mom stayed on top of house work even back then) or the state of my own disastrous room when friends and family came for visits because I was to excited to see them and spend time with them.
    This post was very motivating, as usual, to get over myself and focus on the people!

  3. I love this! I don’t comment often, but read every post…you are such an inspiration. Wish you were my neighbour 🙂
    Blessings!

  4. I am hosting a book club at my house this week. And I almost backed out, like hovered over the send button on the e-mail, nearly backed out, but last minute hit send and then let out my breath… Our house is soooo far from perfect right now (see my blog for proof!), but between The Nester and yourself, you’ve given me the courage to go for it! Thank you for the inspiration!

  5. I often shy away from having friends over because my house isn’t clean or I don’t have fun food….but in reality my friends don’t care. This was a wonderful encouragement of where to keep my focus. Thank you.

  6. Yes, yes, and yes! I agree, completely! We had some friends over the other night, and we had the simplest menu, but it was awesome, and stress free, and I loved it. I was able to focus more on the fellowship and not worry about the other stuff. Love your ideas. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  7. I couldn’t see the pictures but maybe it because I’m in Brazil? Loved this post. The book Bread and Wine really changed my view of hospitality. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it helped me to be more lavish/generous while at the same time less perfectionist.

  8. This: “Train yourself to walk into every situation asking, How can I be a blessing here? How can I share myself in a meaningful way? How can I break through the normal barriers of communication and get to the heart of things? How can we laugh and have a good time? What are this person’s needs and how can I help meet them?”

    This may be the most insightful thing I have ever read on the subject! Really, though, this can apply to EVERYTHING we do everyday! It should NEVER be about us! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  9. So glad I recently found your blog, and that I’ve become a subscriber. For the past week I have been struggling with a lack of desire to host my family’s Easter celebration because I hate having to rush home from church and fly into kitchen mode. After reading this, I’m going to focus on what a blessing it is to provide my extended family a chance to spend time with my mother, who is turning 89 this year and in early-stage dementia. Who knows how many more Easters we get to have with her? Or if she will know any of us next year? Thanks so much for inspiring my new and improved attitude! Like Katherine who commented earlier, I too wish you were my neighbor! I’ll be ordering your e-book on this topic, as I definitely have more lessons to learn in this area. Thanks again!

  10. I have a new little guy (5 months), and have kinda gotten out of the hosting mode I used to love. This was just what I needed to hear. Thanks for always sharing your heart. Your blog is always so refreshing for me!

  11. Right you are, Edie. It’s hard not to focus on trying to perfect everything.

    I have to think that your lovely home and good cooking are at least bonuses to your guests.

  12. Thank you so much for posting this today. It really spoke to me. I almost never entertain because I am so worried about how clean my house is and lets face it, I am not a great cook. I would really love to let go of this anxiety and insecurity and really allow people in. Whenever I stop by my neighbor’s I never care if I have to step over toys or clear a space to sit or that her son’s toddler underwear are hanging from her chandelier in the entryway. (I notice but I don’t care. It makes me laugh) I just need help remembering this when the tables are turned. Thank you so much for insight and inspiration.

  13. You are always inspiring and I always want to hug you after reading a post. Gonna have to get together in Knox-Vegas soon. . . Which brings me to one of the reasons I don’t get together with others very often. I always have a very long running list of things I should be doing. Cleaning, cooking, spending time with my kids (and their homework.) I don’t invite people over except the have to times which are my kids birthdays. I don’t even meet people out for . . . Anything. A big excuse is money. We are struggling but have been for the last six years! I spent this last weekend cleaning out clothes and at one point made my children all stop and look around the living room. There were only 3 t-shirts in the room that we had purchased to support a friend with cancer. EVERYTHING else was given to us! Clothes were on every surface, including the floor, in stacks. We are so blessed. God always provides and gives more abundantly then we could ever imagine. I gave away a bunch of my ‘dress clothes’ to a new neighbor who had to get a new job because of financial difficulties. She kept asking if I was sure. I told her that if I ever needed those clothes for a different job than the one I have I am sure God will provide them for me. If I am going to step out in faith then I need to step out in faith! This is my new motto. It applies to hospitality too! I think this summer you are going to have to swing by Farragut for a visit. (Notice I am still procrastinating until my kids and I are out of school but I am putting it out there and it is going to happen!)

    Love to you! Thanks for always picking me up and sharing His word! I’ll be in touch soon!

  14. oh man are you right! it really is as simple as that. i do love having people over, but i do worry too much about that other stuff. i’m sure you and paige had a wonderful time! i can’t wait to pick her brain about the visit 🙂 oh, and my daughter can sing like nobody’s business – really! and i used to play that song and sing along and think “maybe she and i could be the next Judds! – she can do all the singing and i’ll just hitch along for the ride!” 🙂

  15. Thanks Edie! I love your straightforward approach and I needed the reminder to keep the focus on other people. It made me happy to think of you and Paige “porch sittin'” this weekend 🙂 I am told that I am a good cook (by kind guests), so my advice is to stick with dishes that you have made and enjoyed in the past, and if in doubt do what the Barefoot Contessa says – assemble it (buy some it from the store)!

    • Yes, love that advice!
      I’ve already been thinking about easy, yummy food for summer guests.
      I do a lot of cooking ahead and freezing so I can just enjoy people when they get here.
      🙂

  16. I don’t know why I used to be so open to sharing my home and my life but I tend to think so much about the work it will be after then to just enjoy the time with family. I am hosting my husband’s family this weekend and I am going to try to approach it with a different perspective.

  17. Oh, I love this so very much. My husband (the extrovert) and I (the introvert) bought out home a year ago based on the idea that we would have this space to host people and be a blessing in their lives. I’m happy to say we’ve hosted many a people, and it’s been wonderful, but I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy. This was just the reminder I needed!

  18. I miss having people over –somewhere over the years, raising teenagers, having grandkids, we just lost it. I remember as a young mom reading Karen Main’s Open Heart, Open Home and I just loved the way she wrote about the spiritual aspect of hospitality–not entertaining.

  19. Thank you for this Edie. I need a strong reminder at this very point in my life to think of what joy it brings me and my family visiting us here in NC rather than stress about visitors seeing my imperfections and “disrupting” our routine. I am learning to accept your point that It’s Not All About Me! It is selfish for me to worry as I am thinking of myself and not my lovely visitors and guests coming to spend time with my children and me. I thank you for bringing this home.
    Irene

  20. My favorite book on hospitality is an old one by Karen Mains—”Open Heart, Open Home.” I think the title may have been changed at some point when it was re-published. I like Edith Schaeffer’s book as well (though not as much), but it is v-e-r-y long.

  21. Edie, I had a troubling time in 2010 and went to speak to the very wise female Pastor in my church. As I proceeded to tell her about my heartache she stopped me mid-sentence and said, “It is not about you”. She went on to say that if we as Christians, and as humans in general, could get that concept, we would live our lives so differently. I have really tried to practice this each and every day, and I find so much more happiness in my life. I love how you applied this towards hospitality…..and you are right. It is a spiritual aspect. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Thanks – I needed that! And I have seen this at play in others’ homes; the more ‘relaxed’ my host is about his or her environment, the more focused he or she seems to be on making a memory or spending time with me! And that is a good feeling. Not to mention, the more relaxed I am about settling in at their house.

    The dawn of CMT in 1983 just made me want to sit and make googly eyes at Randy Travis, knowing for sure that he would receive my loving vibes and wait for me to turn 18 so that he could marry me and sing Forever and Ever, Amen to me every morning. On the front porch. In our rockers.

  23. Another tremendous post. I have several quotes from you that I hardcopy into my journal. You are one of my mentors.
    I love the photo of you pouring the beverage. I can really see the resemblance of your dark haired daughter to you.

  24. Another wonderful, heartfelt post that gets to the heart: people and their worth. I love to have people over for whatever reason and for how ever long. Once, in a group full of people, I had a friend tell me that my home and life are so perfect (they most certainly are NOT) that to her, I’m “intimidating”, which is the last thing I want to be to others. She was very careful to say that it’s her own limitations and insecurities that make her look at me this way (she is unorganized and scattered by her own admission), but it hurt me. Where is that fine line of being welcoming hostess without going over the top??

  25. Hi Edie, I just discovered your blog a few days ago and I am devouring it! You are my new best friend even though you don’t know it yet….I said a prayer for you today. Please keep up the good work. You are so inspiring.

  26. Oh I love your heart for hospitality! You’re so right about choosing relationship over perfection–something I’m sloowing growing in. 🙂

    I did 31 Days of Real, Simple Hospitality last year and could just go on and on about sharing the (imperfect!) home you have. Now I want to check out your eBook! 🙂

  27. well said. Thank you so much for the reminder this morning. It’s not about showing off your home or your hostess skills, it’s about making your guests feel welcome. My husband makes delicious elaborate meals but I never request them when we have guests. Today for our Easter lunch with some family I asked him to make potato salad and we bought everything else to make a sandwich station. Guests can make their own so no one takes away time from fellowship to sit over the grill. I think this attitude is one I need reminding of as I freak out over my children’s toys scattered about in the family room I spent and hour last night cleaning. My guests have kids too and might appreciate the unspoken invitation to relax and have fun 🙂

  28. I just read your article in March Lutheran Witness and came to your website. Like so many of your responders I have the imperfect house. I am compulsive quilter (and quilt teacher} so my dining room table and extra tables and sewing machines are set up all over. But I’m also a cook and baker of sweet ‘goodies’. I usually make the dessert for our Wednesday night Bible study which is preceded by a light supper. So Thursday morning coffee is usually accompanied with tasty leftovers. I, like the others need to forget all my quilting MESS on my window bench and just enjoy (and listen) to my friends. I will tag your blog in my ‘favorites’ so I can enjoy you quickly each time. Like you I LOVE BEING LUTHERAN.

  29. These are great. I think that is why I struggle with guests: first, I get mixed up with what is important; second, it takes being vulnerable to be good at it. But, it is truly more meaningful when you can do these. Thanks for posting.

  30. Great post, so true! Nice to see it in writing, it makes it more than just a thought. By the way love the black and cream comforter, do you know the name of it, or where to get it? Thanks

  31. Thank you so much for posting and then pinning this!
    I am a young momma of two little ones who is a total perfectionist but when my husband got suddenly very ill and had to have emergency surgery two weeks ago, I had no choice but to let people into my messy, crazy disorganized, in total holiday disarray home to care for my kids so I could be with my husband. For two weeks I had people in my house. Where having overnight visitors for this amount of time would usually stress me completely out and require weeks of planning and prepping, I found it all to be a blessing. My husbands family saw all my imperfections and they wrapped me in love. They saw my dirty sticky floors and my piles of toys and laundry everywhere! They saw me living in running shorts and sweat shirts with hair on top of my head and living off of coffee for two weeks while I ran back and forth to the hospital. They were so helpful with anything on my never ending to do list! They just wanted to be here and help us. They just wanted to love us in our time of imperfection and need! My husbands motorcycle riding totally tough biker dude uncle took time off of his two full time jobs to come care for my frilly dress and tutu wearing southern bell two year old. He baked cupcakes and jumped in mud puddles with her. He built pillow forts with my seven year old…. It wasn’t about my house being perfectly organized, spotless and prepped. (I was later told my ocd organizing makes them nervous! Haha!) It was nothing about my cooking (trust me! It’s not good! They were more than happy to get take out or venture to a local resturant for some chow!) and it was sooooo not about me because I was a hot mess, and not my usual put together self. It was all about family and time and being together and love.
    Thank you for writing this. It couldn’t be more true. When i had to be the one accepting help I found it much more difficult than being the one offering help!
    We hve two more surgeries to get through over the next 6-12 months so my house will be full of visitors and company for the next year but now I won’t stress. I will plan a little more but I will see it as a blessing, because that is exactly what it is.

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