Overcoming The Fear of Hospitality

This is a guest post by Karen Yates at Finding Rest.

Two months ago, I hosted my first dinner party.  Ever.  To say I was nervous is an understatement.  I was 35 years old and petrified.

I never learned how to set a fancy table or make a 5 course meal.  I mean, where does a grown woman learn to be Martha Stewart, if it isn’t modeled to her when she’s young? 

And I never minded that I never learned.  I grew up in a small town, and my house was the house where all my friends gathered—we’d swim in our pool, play ping pong, play board games, watch movies, and eat buckets of popcorn.

I may not have been taught how to embellish a pasta, but my parents taught me to greet with a smile, have authentic conversation, say thank you and mean it.  And that was always enough.

Since moving to Orange County, though, I’ve watched many friends, most of whom are from ‘the OC,’ host incredible dinner parties, plating their food, drizzling with teriyaki glazes and fresh pineapple pinched with cinnamon.

Tables are decorated with seasonal centerpieces, votives, cloth napkins, fancy wines.  Evenings are themed and sometimes rated, and everything about the night, from the food to the conversation to the decoration is first-class, stunningly gorgeous.

I’ve wanted to reciprocate.  I’ve wanted to fit.  But I have an ill-equipped kitchen and zero confidence.  Not to mention, I’m trying to be myself—and myself serves frozen chocolate chips over a game of Settlers of Catan.

One thing I questioned, if this is how they show their love for me, how they ‘do’ friendship, (serving me a lovely meal in a lovely way), are they disappointed that I’ve never done anything remotely similar for them?

I’ve never meant to only be a taker.  I’ve just been afraid to try to play catch with a bunch of major leaguers.

{You know that scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding when Cameron Diaz sings karaoke and makes a fool of herself?  Yeah, I was pretty sure that was going to be me—except over cheap flatware.}

Two months ago, I decided enough was enough.  I was sick of feeling inadequate.  I spilled the beans to my neighbor—a confession—“I’ve never hosted a dinner party before.”  She was so encouraging, and so loving, and so not judgmental.  “I will help you,” she offered.  And the planning began.

I invited a few precious friends and their spouses for dinner.  (These friends I trusted would love me even if the whole thing flopped.)  I had diarrhea for 24 hours before hand (um, did I say that out loud?)—yes, I was that nervous.  I started setting up 8 hours early.  I recruited the help of my gracious neighbor, who loaned me place settings and serving platters and wine glasses.

I swept my kitchen and vacuumed floors.  She helped me set the table, roll the napkins, decorate centerpieces.  I planned an Italian menu, and suggested my guests bring with them something to read/share about what they’ve been learning.   And by the time they arrived, I was so overwhelmed with joy.  Because I did it.

35 years old is not too late to learn something new.

What insecurity are you up against as a mother or homemaker or friend?  What might you gain by trying something new or intimidating?

I want to encourage you—if I can do it, you can do it.  The first step is deciding to try.

Karen Yates is a writer, blogger, non-profit consultant, and homeschooling mother of 3.  A lover of sushi and Chopin, Karen writes about Christian culture, mommy parables, radical living, books, and finding rest in God.  She lives in southern California and blogs at www.KarenEYates.com.

Do you want to learn more about hospitality?

You can sign up for my FREE 3-part video series on hospitality. We begin by first starting where any Gospel-Centered discussion should start: with the Bible! We then take that Biblical definition of hospitality and practically apply it with a beginner’s guide to hospitality – everything you need to know to have the confidence to start extending hospitality – today! Sign up HERE for free!

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  1. I love your honesty, Karen! I’m so glad that you stepped outside your comfort zone, and that your neighbor was so sweet to help you! Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. I’m proud of you! We tend to shy away from the things that intimidate us or that we don’t think we are good at. Usually, it’s not that we are “not good at it.” It’s just that no one has taken the time to show us how to do it properly! Most of us are teachable if we’re willing to learn the skills — from being a good wife to being a good mommy. That willing spirit to learn and change will serve you well when you do start that family! :)

  3. Oops … just remembered this was posted by Karen who already DOES have kids. Well, I’m sure that teachable spirit serves her well in mommyhood! :)

  4. What a great post! I have also just hosted my first dinner party and this post pretty much sums it all :) I think it’s more about the hospitality & good intentions than the food we put up.

    I’m currently involved with Strangers for Dinner (www.strangersfordinner) where we aim to help people meet new people (& make good friends) over dinner parties. I’d love for you to try us out and tell me what you think :)

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