Be flexible: you will be blessed!

I’m glad I could be flexible with our dinnertime last Sunday night. We really wanted to see our friends. And their commitments on this particular Sunday were going from one thing to another. They weren’t commitments of wasted time. They were commitments of reaching out. Touching lives.

So when we asked our friends to come over for a steak dinner, we were willing to push our dinner out and wait for them, as eight-thirty was the soonest they could get to our house. Not only did we want to see these friends, we knew that coming to our home would be a relaxing way to end a very busy day for them. I had also purchased some steaks at the “10 lb. Meat Sale” that we wanted to barbeque, along with veggies and salad from our yard (and of course yummy bread). My friend brought the dessert (delegation!).

We pulled fresh potatoes from our garden and after baking them first, we sliced and seasoned them. Using crookneck squash and lemon thyme from the garden, we added sweet onions and peppers, olive oil and fresh lime juice and spices. And preparing my steak the simple way, I rubbed olive oil on each steak, sprinkled with Stevia (or Splenda, or regular sugar), and Costco’s steak seasoning – all on both sides. The bread was sliced, wrapped in foil, and placed in the oven.

All food was prepared in 30 minutes and ready for the grill.

One thing I noticed early in the evening was that we usually have music playing as we’re preparing for our company. But as I was setting the table outside on our patio, in the quietness of the evening, I heard the popping sounds of the barbeque. It smelled and sounded just like a campfire. I loved the silence that surrounded this magical sound.

I stood there and shut my eyes and took it all in. I thought of our guests who were coming to dinner. I knew that our time would be good. It would not be taken up with wasted chatter or filled with dreary gossip. While eating our dinner, we’d be talking about things we are passionate about. Mostly relating to people and goals in life.

We all long for connection. We all long for purpose. And what this couple doesn’t know is that they actually help my husband and me to become better people. By cheering, supporting and encouraging us in many ways.

Yes, I’m thankful that I could be flexible last week. I wasn’t always that way! And part of what I am continuing to learn about flexibility is that it starts with a willingness to do something different. To be able to go with the flow, and make a schedule change.

With that willingness a blessing is usually right there ready to follow.

Sandy’s book, The Reluctant Entertainer

If you’re a recovering perfectionist, like me, then you need this book. It was such a breath of fresh air when I first flipped the pages, perused the photos and recipes, and read Sandy’s encouraging words.

Personally, I love entertaining, but in my life stage of three little ones wreaking havoc on anything that moves in my house, I tend to be a bit reticent to open my doors willingly to friends and family.  That shouldn’t be.

The Reluctant Entertainer gives us women of all ages a much-needed boost of encouragement to take a step of faith and use our home in service to others.  Filled with practical ideas, this book is a great tool for helping you flex those atrophied entertaining muscles.

Sandy shares both nuggets of wisdom from her personal experience and practical tips for setting the dinner table, so that you can courageously roll up your sleeves and prepare for guests in your home.

Win a copy!

This giveaway is now closed.

Five of you will win one copy of Sandy’s book, The Reluctant Entertainer.  Here’s how:

1.  Leave a comment on this post, answering Sandy’s question: “When was the last time you were flexible and able to go with a later dinner time? Or that you were willing to try something different?”

2.  For an additional entry, tweet about this giveaway on Twitter, including @SimpleMom, @SandyCoughlinRE, and the URL of this post ( in your mention.  THEN – and this is important – come back here and leave another comment, telling me you tweeted.  Don’t mention it in the same comment for your first entry, or else it won’t be counted.

This giveaway will close this Saturday, September 25 at 11:59 p.m., and I’ll announce the winners soon after.  I hope you win!


Sandy Coughlin is an author, blogger, wife, and mom to three children. She lives in Oregon and loves to develop recipes, cook, and host dinner parties. Read more at Reluctant Entertainer.

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  1. It is fun to be flexible and we have had some great experiences…however, sometimes I my dear friend has said “if I were any more flexible, I’d be a pretzel! Would love to win a copy of your book!

  2. Quite often…when I get calls in the late afternoon from my husband telling me his arrival time at home has changed.=)

  3. I’d love to win the book! I am trying let go of the perfectionist part of me when it comes to dinner. These days, I have to be flexible in cooking from one to four people at any dinner. I still like to have my food look nice on the plate though.

  4. When ever my husband works late we wait to eat with him 🙂

  5. We were actually flexible with dinner time on vacation a couple weeks ago. We stayed with my sister who tends to have dinner later in the evening than we normally do. Here’s to stretching my OCD boundaries!

  6. We have family dinner with at least seven members present every Saturday. It’s a necessity for me to give myself permission to fail when the food doesn’t quite come out the way I had planned. We continue on with the meal and enjoy the company much more. I love your encouragement to continue on with hospitality.

  7. I tweeted!!

    Win a free copy of “The Reluctant Entertainer” at @simplemom @sandycoughlinre

  8. I had to be flexible TODAY when a plan I had fell through majorly (it is too long to write out). It was funny that this post was written in such perfect timing for me. I was devastated earlier today and decided to “roll with the punches” instead. We are going forward but had to make some major changes. I keep thinking that the relationship is more important than the plans! 🙂

  9. I hosted my in-laws for lunch when they called me the evening before!

  10. Last Monday, when my husband was coming home from work and was asked to fill in and referee a soccer game. That moved dinner back an hour, made him (and my daughter) miss choir and I was late for something I had to do. C’est la vie, or “LIFE HAPPENS!”

  11. Any time we get the chance to spend time with friends or family we try to be as flexible as we can. We end up having a great time even if its just hot dogs. This is what memories are about.

  12. Lori Jennen says:

    The last time I was flexible was…. when inviting a couple over from church ended up in 4 couples and the pastor. (my husband extended it….) I did not have enough food in the crockpot at home, but we put out extra things , not necessarily what I would of served with the meal, and it was great. We had a fab time visiting and getting to know these people and our pastor better.

  13. I am pretty flexible with having people over, just horrible at preparing a great meal! My last spontaneous meal was having a friend and her children over for lunch. I had no idea what to prepare, so I made a medley of food – carrots, celery, grilled cheese, hummus with crackers and some strawberries. The kids hardly ate, but us moms had a great visit!

  14. I can’t remember the last time I was flexible with dinner time. My unborn baby seems to be pretty demanding when it comes time to eat 🙂

  15. We used to drag my 4 year old around all the time even when he was smaller. He’s such a trooper and loves going out. We just had another baby and we have not had much spontaneity in a while now. Hoping that changes soon. I like schedules and kids do well with them, but it is good to have the kids be able to be flexible too. If they are not used to being flexible then it is very hard to adjust.

  16. I need this book!

    I can’t remember the last time we pushed dinner out voluntarily. Probably over a year ago when my husband and I had a one-on-one “date night dinner” at home after the kids were in bed.

    I’m not good with entertaining but I have gotten a little better about the possibility. It’s still hard for me to invite people into my “not perfect” home but I’m getting a little better about it… especially with our friends who also have kids. LOL! I’m trying to learn to let go and relax about giving up control and accepting that the house will look like a tornado afterward, creating even more work for myself. I need tips on how to relax because the most important thing is to connect with people we care about.

  17. I try to be more flexible when we have family visiting or we are visiting family. My kids have early bedtimes (because they are early risers), but I try to be flexible and let bedtimes slide to some degree to fit in meals out, etc.

  18. I just Tweeted: Win a copy of The Reluctant Entertainer! @SimpleMom, @SandyCoughlinRE,

  19. I have to be really honest and say that this is an area I totally struggle with! I want the house to be perfectly clean and everything in order before someone comes over for a visit. Having three kiddos does lend itself to more flexibility, but I still struggle with inviting folks over at the last minute if I my house isn’t “perfect”! I am a work in progress :’) So I could really use a copy of “The Reluctant Entertainer”!!!

  20. Heather Boyd says:

    Our condo had been up on the market for 7 weeks this summer so we were getting quite flexible taking our 9 month old to the park for picnic dinners during `showings`. It turned into a lovely way to spend time in and around the neighbourhood we had grown to love, but would soon be moving away from. I would have missed out on some lovely picnics, walks, and exploring had it not been for the ìnconvenience`of selling our home. One of the last times we had to do this the real estate agent was late, and it was well past our son`s bedtime, it was dark out, and we were getting cold. Our son`s flexibility and resilience in coping with this has helped my own approach to changes in our plans.

    (PS The couple that was waiting for their agent that night put in an offer and have now bought our home!).

  21. logsplitter says:

    I am so reluctant…this book is right up my alley! The last time I ditched my entertaining plans was on my son’s recent birthday…I took the easy, flexible, casual route, instead of the usual big party, and it was so enjoyable for everyone, mostly for him! Can’t wait to read the book.

  22. I was flexible today! I fixed a more “supper-ish” lunch because hubby was home with us, taking a bit more time (and trip to grocery store), but it was yummy and worth us all enjoying a noon meal together.

  23. Mother of Pearl says:

    I’m afraid we are the ones for whom other people must be flexible. We have little ones and people always ask what time would best suit their needs.

  24. I’m flexible with dinner every night! But the last time I had anyone over, was Christmas, and I certainly wasn’t flexible. I was panicked and a wreck — I sure didn’t enjoy it! I wish I would have.

  25. The last time I was flexible was when I was supposed to be making a spagetti dinner for a dear friend of mine. She was supposed to come on a Wednesday but wasn’t able to make it at all that night. We rescheduled for a couple of days later. It was still an amazing evening and another good friend even joined us! Good company is always worth the wait. Thanks for the post!

  26. We were flexible last night! We usually eat around 5:30, but my husband was going to be late from work, so I made a special dinner with my two small daughters. We cuddled on the bed and watched the Tigger Movie (movies are rare and special for us) while eating. Then when “daddy!” got home, we all played together before the girls went to bed. After that I made a simple second dinner and my husband and I had a “date.” It was nice to break out of our usual routine for an evening.

  27. I was flexible a couple weekends ago when I reluctantly agreed to take our 4 kids to hubby’s friends’ house for dinner. They have no children, and I hadn’t seen them in over 10 years. After griping at hubby about it for two days, it turned out to be lots of fun.

  28. The last time I had to be flexible with guests was when they didn’t show up! They called right when we were expecting them with an emergency- I could have been peeved- but luckily I didn’t let it get to me and my family and I had an extra special dinner and leftovers

  29. These days with my husband at home nursing his TMJ pain and my toddler recovering from a coloring pencil stuck in her forehead, I have learnt all sorts of flexibility. It means a brunch instead of breakfast since the husband wakes up late, early dinners and mid-evening snacking:-) It also means shifting chores around, reworking meal plans to accomodate visiting relatives and basically going with the flow.
    Flexibility is taking on a whole new meaning for me and hopefully, will become a part of my life.

  30. I wish I could say the last time I was flexible was recently. I’m definitely a recovering perfectionist also.

  31. We live in a tiny apartment (with four kids in less than 1000 sq.ft.!), so it is very difficult to entertain in our home. I love to entertain, but have to get creative to do so! We’ve met friends for a picnic dinner and fun at our local children’s museum. We’ve also met several friends and all their children at a nearby park for dessert. I have also arranged to host events (such as baby showers) at someone else’s house–that is, I do all the work of preparing food, decorations, etc., and my friend just gets to enjoy the event in exchange for donating her house to the cause. A win-win for all, I think. I’ve tried not to let the size of my apartment stop me from reaching out to others.

  32. I am always “flying by the seat of my pants”. My husband is home because of illness and so we eat when he is hungry. Of course, that’s a different time every day. Sometimes friends and family stop by to visit without much notice and I just make the best of it. We have a friend that is a vegeterian so I always have things I can fix for him also. Somehow things always work out and we enjoy the time we have to share with each other. That’s more important than the perfect meal or a spotless home.

  33. I recently went on a long trip with my husband and son (almost 2 yrs old), and we had to be flexible with other people’s schedules, which was difficult. But, by the end of the trip I had realized that it wasn’t a big deal to eat late, go to bed late, or even skip his nap (gasp!) if necessary. It helped me learn not to be such a Nazi, having to have everything ideal!

  34. I have a tendency to entertain elaborately. At my daughter’s recent family birthday party, I held back and just made chili and easy sides. One family was an hour late — food held up well while we wanted and my anxiety stayed low since the food could sit and sit while we waited.

  35. every night this week i was flexible with dinner time. Friends stopped by and the kids played outside and time got away from us.

  36. As a pastor’s wife I am REQUIRED to be flexible. And God always humbles me when I am most unwilling (and struggling with bad attitudes) to have guests that those visits can be the most blessed times to me personally. I am such a hard learner! I would love to have this book, as it is a very important part of my life to be hospitable and I don’t always feel the desire!

  37. With two young kids, moving dinner times around can be catastrophic. However, I’m flexible with what I make for dinner or can meet a friend for a meal during the weekends on a last minute basis. As long as the kids can have a snack on the way! LOL

  38. We ended up making plans to have two couples over for Sunday dinner on Sunday morning at church. Rather than stress about going to the store and making an elaborate meal, we just all agreed to order pizza. Saved memmuch stress and an entire afternoon!

  39. Tweeted about it!

  40. I love reading both your blogs! The last time we were flexible – well, we’re always flexible.
    With a large family and extended family, I try to never set rules or goals, just relax and enjoy the ride. My hubby and I are good at impromptu get togethers and have been known to have two dinners on one night to accomodate our guests.
    Dinner at Sandy’s sounded wonderful. We’re not big steak eaters, but do love our grill!!

  41. Veronica Houston says:

    Talk about being reluctant! I think I have to have everything perfect: perfect house, perfect food, perfect dishes, etc. You get the idea. When the economy was good for us, we entertained a lot, and relished in having company. The down economy hit us hard and we lost almost everything and moved to a real fixer upper with no funds to fix ‘er up.
    My husband’s 50th birthday came around and I had been tucking away funds to get his favorite dinner planned. I wanted it to be very special for him and decided to swallow my pride and get over my inadequate surroundings and invited our pastor and his lovely wife over to celebrate. We had a wonderful evening with lots of stories and laughter. Gathered around our “down-sized” table were blessings in abundance!
    I’d love to win the book, but if not, I hope someone else who reads my post will be encouraged to not cave in to “less”, but see the “more” in sharing themselves with others.

  42. The last time I was flexible was about a month ago when we changed the day and time 3 times so we could have a meal with our friends. It was SO worth it.

  43. I can be flexible if it’s just our family dinner, but when it comes to entertaining, I feel I *have* to plan so far in advance… I think it’s been probably a year since I had people over who ended up being late, and I kind of had to roll with it, and make it work. And then, it stressed me out. =p

  44. Wow, I struggle with being flexible when having people over. I’m not naturally a routine person and I have had to work hard to establish some. When I do break our bedtime routine for example ( I have a 4 and 6 yr old) , I feel there is always a high price to pay the next day. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have enough margin in my life. Hm.. Thanks for this post. It’s a great thing to consider.

  45. Last Sunday I was flexible. I had 35+ people here for root beer floats and cookies. Basically it was a five family wedding shower which ended up being fun and easy. I put the little kids on the kitchen floor … tablecloths under them to catch the spills.

    We had such a fun night, but initially I was worried that we didn’t have enough space in the house to have that many guests. I’m so so happy that we had the party anyway. ccc

  46. Every time I make dinner I open up to flexibility, in each child’s preferences and whether they are able to actually sit still at that moment. Sometimes dinner comes at 4:30 in the form of a platter of food on the picnic table for the kids and my husband and I eat later in the evening with the always awake two year old!

  47. I get to be flexible because my husband works later when there is concrete to put in at his job. Fall is prime time for late nights, because they have to pour foundations before the ground freezes.

  48. I think I am frequently flexible… although not always with a good attitude. I have three little ones under 4 and another on the way, so our house is all about flexibility because things definitely don’t always go my way. However, I am still getting used to it four years after first becoming a mom. It’s hard sometimes!

  49. I am very much a reluctant entertainer…actually a stressed-out, want-everything-to-be-perfect entertainer. It’s made entertaining something that I rarely do or only do with a lot of effort. My most recent flexibility is letting my kids have over neighbor kids for impromptu play, even when the house is pretty messy. Last night we had kids over and fed them rotel on ritz crackers for dinner…everyone had fun!

  50. We are flexible with dinner quite a bit, due to my husband’s variable work schedule. I definitely have to work on flexibility in many other areas, though!! Sandy’s book sounds wonderful–I have a desire to be more hospitable, but at this point in life with 3 little ones, it doesn’t come easily to me, sometimes. I would love some inspiration!

  51. Just tweeted!

  52. Sadly I can’t even remember when I was flexible about entertaining later, past the kiddos’ bedtimes! I’m sure it was in the summer when I could rationalize it a bit more. This book looks great!

  53. I would love this book. I had to be flexible….last week we went to a concert in the park and I realized I forgot to put the main dish in the cooler. We snacked at the concert then had dinner when we got home. Everyone survived!

  54. I have to be flexible all the time. My problem is accepting that my house can be less than perfect to entertain.

  55. My husband invited 2 adults & 3 kids over for dinner at 4:30 one day…when I made my special super spicy chili :).

  56. It really is true…being flexible can bring many blessings. I was faced with this a couple of weeks ago with friends. A plan had been created, however, at the last minute things changed. This would have really bothered me in the past but I kept telling myself to “go with the flow” and yes, it was totally worth it!

    Thanks for the opportunity to win. I would LOVE to have this book!

  57. Well, my third son entered our family a week ago, so I guess you could say I have had to be flexible about a few things lately. I have to just breathe and let a lot of things go. That’s not always easy to do!

  58. I seriously need help with this! We never do anything spontaneous but I really want to! My friends all have kids and seem to have it all together, and the only time we have people over is when we can “seem” to have it all together. The fact is, we are all just faking it and would be a lot happier if we were just honest with each other!!

  59. Had an unexpected guest which put my o c d tendencies into a tail spin. I fixed a meal with what we had on hand and it turned out to be a memorable evening with much laughter and good conversation. If I were more flexible I’d do it more often instead of trying to over plan and make it more complicated than needed. Great book giveaway!

  60. Wow…this book is so me! I’m flexible in our day to day life, maybe sometimes too flexible. But when it comes to having company over, I’ve really shyed away from it since my daughter (number three) was born 2 years ago. Dinner guests and the witching hour are crazy together…not to mention the fact that my DH often isn’t walking in the door until the guests are. This is where I’d love to learn to be more flexible….enjoying time with people in our home without feeling the pressure to make our life “perfect”. Thanks for the reminder that hospitality is not about entertaining :o)

  61. The last time I was flexible with a late dinner was also when we had an out of town guest coming. He arrived late so I fed my toddler son at the usual time, and the grown-ups were able to have a relaxed dinner after he was in bed.

  62. We were supposed to go to an outdoor festival the other day with another family, but it rained. So we all went bowling and then decided to pick up a 50 piece chicken nuggets meal from McDonalds and bring it back to our house to eat. I’ve been trying to think more about hospitality and less about entertaining. I want to be welcoming, and to have some special touches, but I have to let go of some of my ideas about what it means to have people in my home. If I wait to have a perfect house or all the right china or recipes or dishware, then I’ll never invite anyone over. So … sometimes it’s an impromptu meal of McNuggets! And hopefully other times it’s a more deliberate meal that I actually cooked.

  63. After several attempts to get together with friends, we gave up on the usual evening meal/visit and opted for brunch at a pancake house this morning… This was a departure from our usual get-togethers, but a lot of fun nonetheless!

  64. We’re always flexible on meal times when visiting my parents… I think their normal dinner time os around 8pm, and with two toddlers that’s late!

  65. This sounds like the book for me!

    Let’s see, this wasn’t “in our home,” but last night we spontaneously packed up half of a pie I had made and walked it over to our neighbors’ home. On the way I prayed that this pie would minister God to them. 🙂 It was such a joy!

  66. I’m maybe a little too flexible when it comes to meals. Probably the last time I was flexible was last week when we invited extra people to dinner and just made a few more things to make sure there was enough to go around. I love inviting people over at the last minute.

  67. Here is the link to my status on Twitter about the giveaway:

  68. Unfortunately not since I had kids. I tend to worry about the messes, our schedules, etc. Would love to be able to be more spontaneous, and I am sure my family would love it too!

  69. Last night I fed the kids a late snack and per the 4-year old’s instructions, went to the local science museum and out for pizza…we ate at 7:30…the usual bedtime. Everyone was happy. We could have been cranky. We could have held to the rules about dinner time and bedtime, but we didn’t and we had a ball. Note to self: be more flexible more of the time.

  70. Haven’t had a situation lately where I’ve had to do that. I guess I’ve been lucky in that dept. But I do love the look of your cookbook and would be ecstatic if I won a copy!

  71. It has been a while since we’ve had a late dinner – like us, many of our friends have small children and someone would have to hire a sitter in order to have a late dinner with us. We tend to have abnormally early dinners with friends.

    For the last time we had a late dinner, we had an engaged couple over for dinner and it was later than planned because of the prep involved, but very fun!

  72. I’ve learned that with two kids flexibility is necessary for survival. We are constantly being flexible weather I like it or not.

  73. I’m flexible just about every night, because I never know when my husband is going to get home:-(
    Thanks for the giveaway.

  74. The last time our family was able to be somewhat flexible and enjoy a
    later dinner is just two weeks ago. My husband has been traveling overseas
    lately and had just returned from a week in Japan…
    His plane times were changed and he arrived home later than expected!
    We still enjoyed a very late dinner as a family…
    Many thanks, Cindi

  75. Last week. Thanks for the chance to win!

  76. “Tweet!”
    Many thanks, Cindi

  77. Oh I would love to win this book…I also feel the tug of war that happens right now in life when I want to connect and share our home with family and friends more often, but feel resistant because life with three little ones feels chaotic and messy.

    Thank you for the great post and the reminder that today is a perfect time for hospitality, mess and all!

  78. This looks like an incredible book! Thanks for sharing. I almost can’t remember the last time I was truly flexible with entertaining. Maybe a few months back when we met a couple who had just moved here, looking to connect. We invited them over after church and I was able to throw together some stew for lunch. It wasn’t dinner, but it felt great to be able to be flexible and connect with them.