Be the Invitation

“Do you actually enjoy doing this?”

I can’t remember if my husband said these words or I made them up. Either way, I know he’s thought them before.

Because I’ll snap about the state of our home before people land on our porch. I’ll taste the soup and hate the seasoning, consider throwing it all in the trash and ordering pizza instead.

I once rinsed a cooked pork loin under the faucet to take off some of the salt and then had a minor meltdown in the bathroom. That same pork loin was placed on a clean, white platter dusted with herbs for folks to consume.

I get nervous when I think of all the people I invited that might not really know each other. The pressure to make connections, ignite conversation when it runs dry, and keep cool when guests take that first bite can feel overwhelming.

Gathering people in my home doesn’t always come easy. Even though friends graciously remind me that I was made to do this.

You see, I get tired and cranky too. I’m an introvert but often resemble an extrovert. I love the kitchen but sometimes I don’t want to cook. And to be honest, I don’t really want to scrub the toilet or wipe down the sink covered with dirt and hair.

And sometimes, I don’t feel like being vulnerable.

Because there’s that middle place, you know? The one that lands between small talk and going real deep. Where you’re not quite skimming the surface and talking about the weather but you aren’t exactly sharing all the mess and pain either.

I don’t really know this place. I tend to sway hard one way or the other.

I give it all away or hold my cards real close. I’m not sure how to stand in the in between. And both places can leave me feeling exhausted. From sharing my whole heart to masquerading around as someone I’m not.

And yet.

Call me crazy.

I still gather. I still love it.

I miss it when it’s been too long. I need it like air or water or dark chocolate. Because deep down I know this —  it’s not really about me and how I feel.

It’s about them. And it’s where my gifts align with the burdens of this world.

This isn’t to say I’m an incredible hostess, cook, or home decorator. That’s not it at all.

It means I feel suffering real deep. I recognize loneliness and isolation because I’ve lived it. I know how it feels to be uninvited and unwelcome.

I was nine when I vowed to never make anyone feel discarded. Because I had felt the sting of it.

That thorn has pierced my side longer than I’d hoped but it’s helped me uncover the very place I’m called to remain, abide, and lean in harder to.

Even when it’s uncomfortable. Maybe even more so.

Even when I believe God called on the wrong gal to carry out the job.

Because when I get real quiet, I hear this, “Be the invitation, Maeve. That’s all I’ve asked. Open your door, serve the bland soup, and give freely. Forget about landing in the middle, give it all away because you’ve got nothing to lose.

Sometimes the gifts we’ve been given, the things we might actually do well require grit and obedience. They test our patience and cause us to sweat.

And in the end, when all is said and done, it’ll be hard but it’ll be worth it because we’ll feel used up. We’ll know our place.

We might find that the broken pieces of our past become the arrow guiding us forward – pointing us in the direction of blessing others in mighty ways.

We’ll find our stories are linked and woven into each other. And remember how good it feels to live in community.

We’ll find it’s not about being ready, it’s simply about being willing.

So let the cards fall where they may. Allow the thorn in your side to do more than hurt.

We might find a calling and realize a clean home and perfectly seasoned soup won’t heal the wounds of this world on their own.

We have to be the invitation first.

We have to build longer tables and save someone a seat.

That’s where true restoration begins.


Maeve is a writer, people gatherer, and kitchen dweller. She currently serves as the Community Manager for hope*writers, an online space for uplifting and encouraging other writers. She shares the musings on her heart over on Instagram & the blog — come say hello!

12 Comments

  1. Aimee Wiley

    Oh, Maeve, this is beautiful. You are a lovely gatherer at hope*writers, and you are an equally lovely writer. Thank you for sharing this gentle encouragement with us.

    Reply
    • Maeve

      Aimee, thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. I am so touched. So grateful to be a hope*writer with you, to be walking this road together & helping each other along the way. xoxo

      Reply
  2. Joe'l Povolni

    Maeve,
    Thank you so much for sharing. So much of what you put into words expresses my heart as a fellow introvert, one who enjoys gathering people at my home and one who struggles with how much to share or not share and how there is never enough time to get everything right before the doorbell rings and guest have arrived. And I have experienced the messed up meals too. Your encouragement is beautiful!

    Reply
    • Maeve

      I am right there with you. Thanks for sharing so honestly too — it is a tension, a beautiful & hard tension to live inside. But it’s so worth it too and we are refined in the process. And for that, I am so grateful. Thank you for reading & offering here — your encouragement & kind words mean so much to me. xoxo

      Reply
  3. Laura Thomas

    Maeve, this speaks to my heart! “Be the invitation”- yes and Amen! I love everything about hospitality yet it’s such a struggle… but always, always worth it. Thanks for sharing—I’m a fellow hope*writer cheering you on!

    Reply
    • Maeve

      Hi Laura! Thank you for reading & offering such kind words of encouragement. I am cheering you on as well! You are right, it is always worth it! I feel that fullness once everyone leaves & I breathe it all in or we’re all crowded around the table together. It’s like a magic hovers above the space. So grateful for you! xoxo

      Reply
  4. Diane Muldoon

    Maeve…oh, Maeve….It is a struggle. I have hosted 80 people at holiday parties with antique quilts covering all the mess, even in the kitchen.
    People had a wonderful time and always wanted to come to our parties…Early on, I realized that if I could not be perfect, well, why try…
    No one likes perfect anyway.

    Every Wednesday night for 18 years I have hosted a quilting group. At first, I baked Irish soda bread and put out nice dishes. Then my husband… lay dying, paralyzed in bed. I asked my friends to come anyway and they did. Soon, they took turns with the treats and we served them all on mismatched paper plates. When my man died, I never made Irish soda bread again, but my friends still came and we still laughed. Now at my old age, I am raising my three grandchildren. My house is always a mess, unless the part-time nanny comes….but friends still come. After death, my priorities changed. I do not care any more about mess, I only care about love. Please invite me to your parties. xoxo

    Reply
    • Maeve

      Diane, your words are so beautiful and powerful. My goodness, I am incredibly inspired & so deeply touched. I’d like to read a piece on hospitality from you because I think you understand it in ways I don’t yet — thank you for your insight. “I only care about love” — that line hit a chord with me. Because isn’t that what people remember? It isn’t the delicious bread or fancy plates, it’s the way you make people feel. Thank you so much for reading & sharing a piece of your story here too. It’s blessed me so much. xoxo

      Reply
  5. Ronda

    I feel like we are twins on this. I feel the same way so many times – I love having people over but stress about it so much before hand. I loved what you said about our gifts require grit and sweat and patience reminding me if I’m going to use my gifts well it will take work. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Maeve

      Yes, we are cut from the same cloth Ronda! It’s such a balancing act — a willingness to surrender and let go of control. Which never feels that easy to do. Thank you for reading, I am so grateful & encouraged by your words!

      Reply
  6. Debra Laughlin

    Maeve,

    By the way, one of my favorite authors is Maeve Binchy from Ireland. I also struggle with perfectionism and it is EXHAUSTING. Many times it is a joy stealer and I have to fight it back! Great words and and solid message . Thanks

    Reply
  7. Dane Valerie B. Magaway

    “And sometimes, I don’t feel like being vulnerable.

    Because there’s that middle place, you know? The one that lands between small talk and going real deep. Where you’re not quite skimming the surface and talking about the weather but you aren’t exactly sharing all the mess and pain either.”

    —–on point! I could have never described it any better.

    Reply

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