How to be Bravely Hospitable in an Imperfect World

I recently said that Jesus was the most hospitable person who ever lived. One of the ways I seek to be more like him is through hospitality. You can find that thread in my bucket lists, in my calendar of events and as a place in my heart.

Living out hospitality means opening my home to the teenagers, my sisterhood community, my beloved family and the couples we are lucky enough to have as loyal friends.

Hospitality is also a state of the heart. We can grow a friendly and welcoming heart that opens the door to engaging beyond the shallow. Write cards. Send texts. Schedule coffees and breakfasts. Give invitations. Show up in your own little ways as often as you can.

Hospitality has a practical side. I have a system within my home and in my calendar to create space for hospitality. At the end of this blog, I have included a few tips and lists to make hospitality from the heart and home within reach.

Humble Hospitality

In the meantime, I am about to tell you how I stay extremely humble with my hospitality. Let me rephrase. The forces of the imperfect life keep me extremely humble and I just go along with it. I am sharing with you in hopes that my imperfection will store up some joy in your heart. From that joy, I truly hope you’ll put yourself in the path of hospitality.

House Parties

I love celebrating. I recently had a house party for my husband’s birthday. I do what I can to have a seemingly spotless house. At the end of the day, there are always a few gaping holes in my plan. At this party, I didn’t have time and/or overlooked the teenager bathroom which doubles as the guest bathroom. Whatever you think a teenage bathroom looks like, that’s what the bathroom looked like. There was also the red spaghetti sauce stain on the kitchen backsplash and the sink disposal that broke during the party. Whatever. Imperfect hospitality.

Back yard garden get togethers

My Pre-Rehabbed Home

I was scheduled to teach a Follow Your Call class at a friend’s house. One of the ladies turned out to have severe cat allergies. The last five weeks of the class shifted to my house. We had just moved in and the rehab was not close to done. At that time, the entire back wall of the house was sliding glass doors from the sixties with peeled off decals. The stains looked like grime that any good housekeeper should have been able to scrub off, but could not actually be scrubbed off. Add broken vertical blinds that allowed sunlight to blast down on the women who sat on the couch. This gives new meaning to hot flashes. Whatever. Gorgeous imperfect hospitality.

Moving in day. That is exactly what the glass looked like until we replaced it all!

My Disturbed Dog

I have an emotionally disturbed dog who bites anyone who touches (yes, physically touches) my husband. He barks like a madman locked up in his crate during the entire “hospitable” event. To polish the night off, he runs after you like a midnight game of man hunt when you try to leave through the front door. Whatever. Imperfect hospitality.

Hunter, our dog

My Discipleship Failure

While I raised my kids, I followed in my mom’s footsteps and reached out to the homeless community. Like the good disciple of Jesus I aim to be, I bought a lot of fast food and groceries and sent my oldest in the streets to deliver along with an uplifting word. Because he is a pleaser, he did exactly as I asked. So you wonder, how did that go? Is he a leader in a homeless ministry? No, he is a young adult who flinches at the sight of a raggedy dressed person approaching him or his car. He rolls up the windows or accelerates like his life depends on it. Whatever. I tried. Hospitality failure.

Generally, To My Shock & Disbelief

I have a friend who witnesses the weirdest things when we are together. For starters, I invited her to come in my house  – – for the first time – – when we were doing some kitchen project in our old townhouse. The pile of stuff in the dining room was outrageous. I have no reasonable explanation why I let a new friend inside. My husband was mortified.

The second time she came over, an oversized, disgusting Florida roach crawled out of a kitchen cabinet into plain view. When I visited her house, I fell into a pile of actual garbage in her back yard.

Another time, as I was trying to be my authentic self, I somehow shoved a shoestring French fry with ketchup straight up my nostril. That burned like hell.

All that I can say is that, for the last decade, God has used my life to show her (and me) that hospitality and authenticity live in the same space as imperfection at its height.

What can I tell you? I still aim to be friendly and welcoming in my heart and in my home.

Ridiculous Attempts at Scoring a Ten

Last story. In 2021, I aimed to have one monthly sisterhood event at my home. We lunched and usually watched a break out session from a prior IF:Gathering and then discussed. It was my goal for no woman to lift a finger. So lame of me to create such a burden of hospitality upon myself. Anyway, at the end of one of the events, an outspoken sister said, “you know, you really look like $%*#. You should get some rest.”

Here is the conclusion: Be hospitable. Be real. Open your home. Open your heart. Make it easy. Make a mess (of yourself). Do it often.

Love always,


In the Home Hospitality

  • Over time, acquire catering style white dinner plates and app plates. Store them in a handy spot to pull out for a crowd. Put them back in the exact same spot for the next time you need them.
  • Do the same with 24 stemless wine glasses. Make sure everything can go in the dishwasher.
  • Look out for cotton dinner napkins and place mats on sale. Keep them folded in a cabinet so you can set a fun, colorful table anytime you want.
  • Whenever you can, fill vases with flowers from your yard or from the store. I also love handmade paper flowers that I often use instead of fresh.
  • Keep on hand bulk stuff from your favorite store. Things like marinated artichokes, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate and olives. I freeze my favorite breads. If you can pull it out and put it on the counter, you are now quickly hospitable.
  • Invite people over for dinner. Have a potluck. Make friends with the prepared food section at your fav store if that works for you. We have a massive picnic table in our back yard. We put up lights, play music and have an evening in the “garden”. We don’t live in a mansion or on the water. We don’t even have a pool. We don’t care. We have fun.

In the Heart Hospitality

  • Call friends and acquaintances on the phone from time to time. I always start with, I’m one of those people who likes to talk on the phone. I can hang up and text you if you want. You choose.
  • Pick different people to get to know over a season and have coffee with them once a month. See how God uses you and how God grows the friendship.
  • Step it up and start something. Start a group text. Start a creative, monthly meet up at a local tea shop. Start a Marjane game like my friend Dana. Lead a work out like my friends Lynn and Debbie. Host an IF:Table. Invite friends to your second home for a getaway like my friend Astrid. Read a book outloud with a friend like I am with Sara.
  • Pray out loud next time you have the opportunity. Say the truth. Laugh as you speak. Ask for what you really need. Welcome others do to the same.
  • Think about the little things you are good at or want to be good at. Give that imperfect gift to others. Invite others to give with you. Don’t think too much about the imperfection. God knows. He’s got your vulnerable back.

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New Year Discovery: How to Choose Your Word for the Year

Two weeks into the New Year, I am ready to put pen to paper.

From November until now, the calendar has been moving me. From gathering to gathering. From place to place. From person to person. Because of good practices and policies, the movement didn’t knock me down. This season’s calendar was not easy living, but planned and possible.

In January, my oldest moved into his college campus after returning from a semester in Italy. My daughter and I returned from a service trip to the Yucatan Peninsula with her school. As I began this post, today is the first day of 2023 in my book.

A Word for the Year. But First, a Wrench

For the last three years, I have been choosing a word for the year. I tinkered with the idea prior to that. Because no intention backed it, the word choice blew with the wind and didn’t serve any long-term purpose. As I spent more time choosing it, I was able to let the word of the year lead and bleed like a watercolor painting into the next twelve months of the year.

Before I get into tips for choosing a word of the year, I am throwing a wrench. James throws a lot of wrenches at us in his short book. The verse below casts deep reality into literally everything we set out to do in the month of January, i.e., words, resolutions, goals, lists . . .

Now listen, you who say:

Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Instead, you ought to say,

If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.

As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

James 4:13-15

James’ words are harsh. If we can move past the sharp edges, the wisdom will flow with us as we choose our word for the year.

The wisdom is that God is in the words, resolutions, goals and lists. God is also omniscient and sovereign. Only he can work together good beyond our human understanding.

As he works, our words, resolutions, goals and lists have to be moldable in his mighty, loving hands. Therefore, be committed and flexible with your New Year choices as 2023 rolls out. Legalism or, in the alternative, passivity won’t serve you. This is the wisdom we will take with us as we delve into the joy of choosing a word for the year.

How to Choose Your Word for the Year

Part One: Reflection

Reflection is the way to begin. Go backward to 2022 to go forward to 2023.

  • Categorize your digital photos into the twelve months of year. Write a list of the events, trips, birthdays, places and people that were meaningful for each month.
  • Page or scroll through your 2022 calendar. Notice busy seasons, projects, checklists, the color of the pens, emojis or stickers you used. Be aware of your patterns, highlights and highs and lows. Write down any takeaways from this practice.
  • Page through your journal. Notice when you consistently wrote entries or had significant gaps of time. Look for recurring emotions, verses and inspiring quotes. Write down a few that are meaningful or jump out at you.
  • Write a list of the books you’ve read, podcasts you regularly listen to, bible studies you completed or your favorite tv shows or movies from this past year. Jot down your take away as you see your media choices.
  • Bullet five successes and five failures or disappointments from 2022.
  • Review anything else that is important to your daily, weekly or monthly practices.

Part Two: Observation

What are the common threads? What do you see recurring in your notes and lists? Write down three themes that have come up the most.

Now, narrow down each of the three themes to one or two words.

Part Three: Choose

Which of the three resonates with you the most? What makes you the happiest? What lifts your spirits? What brings a tear to your eye? Which word do you feel the most motivated by? What word or phrase can take you into 2023 with peace and inspiration?

If you are wondering how long this process will take, I suggest reserving 1-2 hours. You can split the time into two sittings or one long spread of time. I usually do this alone, but there is also value in meeting with a friend. You may not do a ton of talking as you work through this practice. However, the accountability of starting and finishing together is valuable.

My Word of The Year

The last few years, my words of the year have been a continuum. I included a few notes so that you can catch the flow.

2021: Shed

Shed the Overwhelm. Shed the Need for Stuff. Quit the Things. I did that in 2021. You can read all about it by clicking here. The quick version is that I removed from my calendar every event that was not work, family or close friend related. I didn’t go to church in person either. I resigned from organizations and leadership communities. I let the white space in and waited through this sacred season of winter in my life.

2022: Rise Up

After all the shedding of 2021, the time came to Rise Up. I was ready to be unmuted. I revisited my desires again. I wrote about the process of being unmuted in July of my Summer Discovery Devotion. You can download the PDF and read the July entries.

Rise Up was a year where I endeavored to be consistent with my creativity – – something I had not accomplished in the past. I wrote bucket lists, a summer devotion and blogged regularly.

I vowed to honor my body and committed to beach walking and yoga. I attended 118 yoga classes. I walked more than 100 times as well.

I committed to walking the long road of SAT’s, college apps and decision making with my son. We did that together and he is now living his next season of life with confidence and commitment.

In 2022, I had a few more Rise Up goals, but these are the three I am most proud of.

2023: Inspiration

For the last two years, I have met with a friend only once a year. In 2022, she asked me how my year of Shed went. I shared that it was hard to shed the overwhelm and quit the things.

She then asked, “what is different now?”

The answer spontaneously came to me. I was getting my inspiration back.

A long time had passed since I looked out into the blue sky or basked in the sun or stared into nature and heard the Holy Spirit speak to me. Of course God had been with me. However, I love the part of myself that hears and sees inspiration, and that got lost.

Inspiration has been found.

Inspiration is my word of the year.

If you’d like to share with me your Word of the Year and your process choosing it, email me at or share in the comments below.

If you are curious about what is next this month, I plan to share my process of creating New Year Inspiration Boards – – which I think you will love. You can view my Pinterest Inspiration Board in the meantime!



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Five Truths About Following Your Calling

1. There is no such thing as 100% confidence.

In my world, I want to know how everything is going to work out at the time of taking the first step. I’ve had to change my thinking on this. If you’ve done the legwork and the door is open, it’s probably time to walk through the door. Although the effort and preparation may belong to us, the outcome does not. If the arrows are pointing in the same direction, just start walking.

2. All good things require some risk.

Stepping into your calling is not safe. Safe is where you are right now. As long as your dreams stay dormant and your life risk free, you won’t have the thrill of knowing what you are capable of. You won’t know how much the world needs to see your dream in motion. Acknowledge upfront that risk will be part of your journey. It may just be the motivation that keeps you moving and growing towards your calling.

3. A little nausea goes a long way.

My brother who has taken several positive career risks says, “Feeling like you’re going to throw up is a sign you’re on the right path.” Often, the most meaningful decisions we make cause some internal ruckus. If we seek to stay continuously calm, we won’t have the adrenaline we need at just the right time. When you are stepping out, take the internal “crazy” you are feeling as a sign of the importance of what you are stepping into.

4. Bring a friend who believes in you.

In our highly individualistic, competitive world, it’s easy to undervalue our need for others to walk with us on our personal journeys. We need encouragement from trusted friends and family. We need advice when deciding next steps. We need a springboard for our thoughts and ideas. If we are functioning from a place where we believe that this world has space for all of our gifts and talents, we will let people in. 

5. Don’t avoid the F word. 

The only way to improve and grow is to try and try again. I personally hope that my failures are on a small scale, but we will all face them when we try new things. Don’t allow your fear of failure to immobilize you. Simply accept that failures will happen. If you bring a friend with you, you won’t have to recover and learn from failure alone. That same person or community will be there to help you process and gain confidence to keep stepping out and into your calling.

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