Saturday, January 23, 2016

The gift of hospitality...

For the longest time I've held back from inviting people regularly to our home.
Not because I didn't want visitors, and not because I don't enjoy making a meal and serving family and friends with a hearty repaste.
I hold back because of silly things like we don't have enough chairs; the table is too small; there's no room in the narrow galley kitchen to keep it tidy with all those pots, pans, plates and people...I could go on, but I won't. 
I knew at the beginning of 2015 that 'hospitality' needed to be high on my list of things to address during A Year of Gentle Domesticity and as it turned out I actually needed that whole year to find a peace with opening our home as it is, to whom ever. 
Maybe I had placed too many high expectations on my family and friends? 
I'd created a picture in my mind that they would be disappointed with our cramped and unusual seating, and wonder why we didn't make the effort to obtain a decent size table with at least four chairs.

For the past few years I've been having the girls (Heather, Barb and Wendy) over for a sewing day every 5 or 6 weeks and though I always felt overwhelmed the day before and the hours leading up to their arrival, those feelings would vanish within minutes of their first hug and beaming smiles. Not once have I failed to enjoy our time together, but still, my trepidation returned with every sewing date made in my home.

Last December something unexpected happened.
I made a deliberate decision to let it all go.
The concerns, the embarrassment, the panic - gone.
It was as though an unwanted stranger had been secretly residing in my home and now that I'd discovered him could swiftly kick him out the door and out of my life. The sense of purpose and joyous expectation towards hospitality which flooded my heart afterwards has never been brighter.

Actually, I've kicked a few unwelcome things out recently that have dramatically changed my life and in the next few months you'll hear about them, but this 'hospitality' thing was a biggie for me because we had family planning a visit in January and with one small dining table, three chairs and eight people I knew the 'joy' factor of our time together hinged on whether or not I was relaxed and oozing genuine unforced hospitality.
And you know what? That's exactly what happened. 

I had a smaller family dinner, the first of many to come, a few days earlier, which was so much fun, so when the big day of the larger gathering arrived I can honestly say there has never been a happier heart than mine. 
Some of us sat around the table, a baby balanced on one knee, others pulled up footstools and ate in the living room on the coffee table, whilst another rested back in the recliner and joined in the conversation between spoonfuls of Moroccan Lamb and rice.
It was a 'serve yourself' dinner with large bowls spread down the centre of the table, so when those in the living room returned for seconds (and thirds) the conversation naturally moved easily between the rooms.

Later that night after everyone was gone my heart felt like it had grown so big it would burst sunshine, and even though I came down with a mystery virus just hours later nothing could extinguish the joy inside me.
Something wonderful had been birthed and I was not going to lose it.

 Yesterday the girls arrived for a sewing day and I knew I was different.
There had been a spring in my step for two days beforehand and my, did I have fun setting out my mis-matched tea cups, plates and saucers on an old tablecloth before they knocked on the door!
 My sewing room chair was wheeled out and placed at the table, sour cherry & cranberry cakes baked, a packet of family favourite 'pfeffernusse' opened, and the kettle put on the boil for coffee...

We laughed, sewed, ate, and laughed some more. 
And I realised something.
Hospitality is not about what you don't have; it's about what's in your heart and the people you're serving.

Like the beauty of mismatched tea cups and saucers. As separate pieces they are lonely and not very useful - but together they create warmth, beauty, and purpose. 

Here's to something new, something wonderful, something that makes your heart expand like sunshine over the horizon at dawn...genuine, heart infused hospitality.



  1. Oh Jenny, your words rang home to me! Our previous home also a rental left me feeling the same, not wanting people over and we didn't! Such a shame, like you say it's about the people not about the space- or lack of it. I enjoy your words, always filled with warmth and such feeling. Here's to many times of sharing good company no matter what!

  2. I always feel welcomed and special in your wonderful home. As you say it's not about what we don't have but making do with what we have and true friends will not see what is missing (really who says something is missing) but what is lovingly gathered there that makes it a home and welcome to all.

  3. Your home is PRECIOUS AND anyone who enters it and would think otherwise, would certainly not the type of person you would want around most of the time anyway if they judge like that. Your hospitality and willingness to share and nurture comes out in your pictures and your blog. What a freeing feeling, Jenny - - enjoy life and with each step, you will free more and more baggage from your life.

  4. Beautifully said Jenny..its how we have all felt at times

  5. Thank you for this post. I needed a reminder.

  6. What a wonderful lesson and what wonderful times you had with family and friends. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Gorgeous pics of the girls all smiling. I am rather a private person and choose when I wish to be social but that is due to the fact that I am often unwell or tired due to sleep deprivation. I, too, have limited space for visitors but that doesn't deter me really. I guess I got tired of having people here and not being invited elsewhere as hubby is in a wheelchair and access is always a problem in other people's homes. I do like having visitors when I have time to prepare. Maybe I shall take a leaf out of your book and make this year a more hospitable one even if it means it is usually here that we entertain. Another lovely post. Thankyou.

  8. Dear Jenny, for too many years I had the "matched set". Until I started going to tea with an older friend. Every tea room table was set with mismatched china and silver. I loved it! Then I met several lovely ladies on-line who loved tea and we began informal gifting. I love every tea cup and saucer that has been given to me. I also have some vintage table linens that I enjoy using.

    I think there is such a warmth to that layered look. Many older friends have passed away and contemporaries seem to move, but I do love the occasions when I can set a tea party or dinner.

    I think your table is just lovely - and so are your friends! Thank you for opening your home to the world and having us in for tea! There are always enough seats.

  9. A simply beautiful post Jen. As we have had reinforced this past year..."home" is who resides there and the love offered....a safe haven to be yourself. Unfortunately the "must have" voices of modern times have been particularly loud trying to fill the emptiness of their lives which at times caused discomfort to others. Thankfully the heart's voice whispers to us what is really important. You cannot buy or fabricate the joy of genuine communion between friends and loved ones. You really feel it when someone shares themselves and what they have with you. I have a simple home...not flash by any means and it took me a long, long time to realise that my offerings to visitors came from a loving place and that's all,that is important. I am so happy for you Jen and wish you many more meaningful times around your table xxx

  10. Oh Jenny this is such a lovely warm nice it brought tears to my eyes!

  11. Oh my goodness
    I understand this feeling - I recently had family come and stay - quite unexpectedly...could have freaked out but decided to enjoy it and it worked out beautifully...and I actually felt quite sad when they left...
    Things I used to worry kitchen etc...
    Our kids have lovely memories of cousins staying....we could not have planned it better.
    Had we planned it I would have stressed out about space and matching things and all the jobs that weren’t done...
    Aren’t we funny...
    Instead life is made up of moments...not things...
    Thank you Jenny
    All the best for 2016

  12. Hello Jenny,

    Home is where your heart is and yours is in your home. The cafe's I eat out at all are like your home, china from op shops, old chairs and tables, always not matching, last week I sat on a old school chair while others had a bentwood chair. As long as your home is clean your friends will enjoy your company. There is nothing more enjoyable than times spent with friends chatting crafting and sipping tea with a tablecloth that someone has embroidered.

    Happy days.

  13. You have a big heart. And a lovely home. Your family and your friends are well kept, very loved. You are the best of hosts.

  14. Yes my dear you have a big heart and a pretty home :)
    I love you ..beautiful post .
    Big hugs x

  15. My dear I cry and smile at the same time
    Can I say again
    Thank you
    Another hug x

  16. There is nothing more charming than mismatched china that someone else loved first. Your home is lovely and so is your heart. Might I say I am jealous of your friends who get to spend the day with you. What a wonderful time that must be. Love to you, Jenny!

  17. What a beautiful post and how great that you can now relax and enjoy visitors to your home. Love your china - gorgeous!

  18. This is a great post. I know exactly how you felt about not feeling comfortable about visitors in your home. We have always been strapped due to medical bills and our home is not as "polished" as many of our friends and family. Your post is a great reminder that MOST people don't give a darn...they are just happy to be there and enjoy the company. (Unfortunately my MIL is not among them, but so what).
    xx, Carol

  19. That was a brilliant post Jenny. I'm the same about people coming to the house. Mainly because I'm so untidy and it means a massive clear up beforehand. I know I can't change my untidiness just have to accept people don't come to see the house!

  20. I love this post. I recently did a personal study on hospitality and this post speaks to me as well. With my job, I make lots of home visits, and I have seen a huge variety of homes... from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. Let me tell you, I am more comfortable in the homes that are lived in, slightly cluttered, and where the people are so relaxed and happy! Through my job, I have learned not to stress about my own home so much!

  21. We are our own worst enemies at times. You are such a clever talented person one would never think this was a problem for you. Wow! Been there. I used to sip a glass of wine before my guests would arrive so I could settle myself before my stitching group. They all have bigger houses,live in better neighborhoods, are retired, play golf and tennis and I am a working woman. We need to remember we are valuable, gifted, giving people and our friends are visiting us not our stuff! Thank you for this post.....I now more I am not alone.

  22. Very well if we can just remember.

  23. A very meaningful post, Jenny! I have always gotten caught up in worry and anxiety when faced with entertaining, but what matters is the spirit of sharing what you have with friends and family. Thank you for reminding us!

  24. Thank you Jenny, I needed this today. I too have been feeling stressed about company and my small home. You have given me great encouragement! Hugs, Brenda T

  25. Love, love, LOVE!! God has been using you in my life! ~ & I'm in California, USA.☺ I love seeing your heart. Thank you for being such an encourager! I so wish I could be one of your neighbors!! until then... I'm going to be more hospitable, & less fearful of what others think, just-where-I-am. Thank you Jenny

  26. Lovely Jenny - so glad you have beat your hospitality 'thing' as it is such a pleasure to welcome people to your home no matter what. xx

  27. This was a wonderful touching post! I have a small house and all my friends have moved to the other side of town (the so called better side). We all started grew up near where I live but when I want to get together they all want to meet at a restaurant on their side of town. I go but it would be nice to set a table with my quilted place mats, embroidered bread warmer linen, etc. I seldom get together because I'm tired of being the one to drive. I do have one friend that loves to go to other towns and try different restaurants-that is always fun. I was into using odd cups and saucers before it was vogue. I would see so many designs I loved I wanted them all. The only way was to buy one cup and matching saucer at a time. I could only find one store willing to order them for me. Among my favorites: periwinkle blue dots with little tiny yellow flowers, Royal Albert's Old Country Roses and a 3 legged cup with pink roses I found at an antique shop. My most cherished cup is part of a Kutani Dragon Moriage Geisha Girl Dragon ware set my Aunt gave Mom. It has dragon with Chinese people on the outside. Inside is a raised form of a Geisha girl. If you hold it up to the light she "comes alive". I can count the hairs on her head (if I wanted to). I admired them since I was little-wondering how the technique is done. Only two cups are in great condition. A third cup must've been broken and one other has a small porcelain chip on the edge. It is too pretty to toss in the bin. I use it for a still life by filling it with a tiny sachet with my initial, long strands of white and pink pearls I drape over the edges making sure the chip is hidden and other little trinkets. So I have no one to come visit but once in a while I sit down and enjoy a cup all to myself. I feel the snooty-too-good-to-come-to-my-part-of-town just misses out. It great when we get together but they don't realize how it makes me feel inside. I will sit and watch BBC's Midsomer Murders, not so much for the mystery anymore because I've seen them all. Now I watch to see the old homes the British seem to love, the gorgeous gardens (I grow flowers too) and they have cups in their old kitchens hung up on hooks to show. Mostly mis-matched! I love seeing the atmosphere. Thank you for sharing

  28. Probably the best post I've read on hospitality.
    Thank you for this. My heart needed to hear it:)
    Amanda from ND USA

  29. Querida Jenny!
    Gracias por recordarnos la importancia de la hospitalidad!
    Yo estoy tratando de recuperarla, es uno de mis propósitos de este año.
    Cariños Vicky Dc

  30. Amen, and amen. I've always thought of your house as charming, and the word applies to those mis-matched things. People come to visit us for the atmosphere and the peace, the friendship and the joy they find. Other details aren't important at all! Every time you have one of these get togethers, at any of the houses, I'm always wishing I were there. That says something about you and your house. =)

  31. Good for you; it really doesn't matter how many chairs you have :-)

  32. Thank you Jenny, you touched my heart and reminded me so much of my younger life. Meetings with friends and family are gifts beyond compare and to be treasured, no matter what colour the cups, or how casual the seating arrangements.... your gathering must have been heart-warming. My mother visited a friend in Canada who, with her circle of friends, collected odd pretty china teacups, saucers and plates to make up what they called 'Harlequin Tea sets' - lovely name for a lovely collection. There are tea-rooms here which use only mismatched crockery and gorgeous vintage teapots, so you're quite 'on trend'. Hope you are planning your next family dinner and listening to your heart's voice as Michelle said (above).
    Val Edwards (Wales, UK)

  33. Such a beautiful post Jenny. I wish I could come to your house for a nice cup of tea and some stitching. If you ever visit Tassie you must come and visit me.

  34. Jenny I can so identify with this post. I am getting better about my thoughts. I have to move the lazy boy chair and a small occaisional table so that four of us friends can get around our dining table to stitch and eat and laugh. They are the best times. I would love to visit you at your home and share a day of stitching and have tea from your lovely china cups. I made your recipe up for Xmas tea and gave as a gift to my sister for Xmas. She loves the tea, has used it all and asked for the recipe to make more. I have some as well and found to not make it up too strong. Thank you. Hugs Shirley

  35. I have to say, I LOVE your home. You have beautiful windows to see the view. Your blue couches, I hunger for. It just looks so homey and happy, which I imagine is from you. You talked about your galley kitchen, mine is skinnier, which reminds me not to eat too much or I won't get in there! Lift your heart, girl, your home is your mansion. My small dining table is full of fabric and blankets, as it's pretty cold in the U.S. Sending my love and prayers, Sharon Lozano

  36. Jenny I would gladly come and visit you and if need be bring a fold up chair and a collapsible mug ;) Because really - I am coming to see you - what I sit on and drink from is totally immaterial. I think - some (a lot)is due to advertising and our own false expectations we build up this perfect image in our minds of way "it is meant to be" and we constantly feel like we fall short of that image and are lesser people because of it. I like you live in a rental property (in fact ready to move again for the second time in twelve months)and that has always played on my mind because I feel that somehow I am not as good as other people because we don't own a house. Truthfully I would love to live permanently under one roof for the rest of my life - but really does that stop love, friendships and the good times that can be had - of course not...
    I am not sure if I have already told you the story in another comment post - but years ago due to circumstances I didn't own a coffee table. but I did find a very large square cardboard packing case. I bought it home, threw a pretty table cloth over it - balanced a pile of books on its corner and voila! a coffee table... A friend of a friend came to visit and she remarked on the beaut size of my coffee table at afternoon tea as we sat around it... I flipped back the table cloth for the big reveal. Her face was a picture!!! But she still came back... The tea, cake, conversation and friendship wasn't altered because of what they were served at...
    Last but certainly not least - I have found that the houses we have rented are just that - houses - unoccupied, cavernous spaces until there is a soul bought in - the people who live in them... A bit like my coffee table which was a discarded box until I made it otherwise... Love your posts - take care now x x

  37. From the pictures of your home, it has always been warm and inviting - a perfect reflection of you! If my friends come over to see my house, then they really aren't my friends...real friends come to see me, not the state of my house, what I have and what I don't!!

  38. Great read Jenny! Something I keep practicing. As women we place too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect in every way. When yet I think secretly we want to relax and enjoy each moment no matter how they fall. Great step in the right direction. High five to you Jenny!!!!

  39. I can empathize with your feelings about your home. I am right there with you and to add to it, the Lupus dictates what day is good and bad. But you are right that we just have to jump in and have people over. If they don't like my home or the company they are not truly your friends. You could never believe how many people you have touched sharing this "fear" of yours. Thank you, because of your article I too will ask people over for an afternoon of sewing and work up to a dinner party. Goal for 2016.

  40. I love this. One day maybe I will be able to have that feeling and invite company over. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I did notice the lovely yellows spread about the table and tea cups. Lovely times.

  41. I love this post. It reminded me of two things. Here in the States, there is a tea room in an historic Inn where I love to go with my friends. They have mismatched cups and saucers and we always love to see them and look to see who got what and talk about our favorite at the table. Yes, together, they all make up a beautiful table.
    Another thing that came to mind was in church when our pastor was having a "time with children." He was illustrating that separately we can do good things, but together we can do great things. He used the choir as an example and had a baritone to sing a stanza of a hymn, then a tenor, then a soprano and an alto. Each sounded nice, but then had them sing together with the organ and it was breath taking.
    Years ago, I never wanted to use my china for fear of breaking them and the expense to replace them, but I got over that years ago. I now collect different patterns and love to use them for different occasions. I want my grown children to remember using them and the fond memories they hold. I want them to want my dishes when, as my dear grandmother used to say, "when I no longer need them." To me, they are treasures.

  42. HI Jenny
    Most of my fancy tea cups are mismatched sets form my husband as gifts and form op shops and sales, Having people over is fun in retrospect but makes you make an effort


  43. Jenny Dear I do wish your words of wisdom could be "taught" to every young and/or struggling person who isn't able to enjoy the true JOYS of life due to "expectations" and/or peer pressure. I was part of a group of ladies who are extremely wealthy and have all the material means available so obviously I always felt "less than" and "not good enough". The stress and pressure just about killed me...however I no longer associate with these women and I am actually able to see how very fortunate I truly am. I no longer feel I have to "measure up" to be IN. I am happy and grateful for all I do have and I know I am enough for friends who really understand wealth and material possessions are not what is important in life. Bless You Dear...

  44. Oh my dear, I'm so glad you've learned this - when I think of my grandparent's teeny tiny house, and how they hosted family reunions and wedding receptions [mostly outside, lol - it was a TINY house!!!] I don't remember not enough chairs, or crowded spaces, I remember the LOVE that flowed from that home. It was a tiny home with a big, big heart. Nobody went home hungry, and everybody went home happy. I remember my grandmother's sister, with her huge fancy home, and how envious she was of my's the heart, for sure.

  45. Mis matched cups and saucers, chairs too, vintage, brocant, has been quite a trend for a while here in The Netherlands!
    A house is a home for the folk who reside in it and those who visit are just passing through.
    Enjoy the monents when friends come to visit! They're there to see you!

    Now,at a time when refugees are fleeing across Europe, looking for safety and a place to call home, one should be thankful for what one has and can share with others.

    Love your blog!
    Take care,

  46. Mismatched tea cups and saucers with lovely vintage linens sounds wonderful to me. These things mixed with sweet loving hearts is the most wonderful.

  47. Such beautiful sentiments on hospitality and beautiful pictures of it!!! :) I enjoyed this post when I read it last week and am so glad you linked it to the Art of Home-Making Mondays. It is perfect!

  48. What a wonderful story! My grandparents were homefront missionaries, and often had people for dinner in their tiny frame house. There would be 20 or 22 at a time, and some of the ladies sat on their bed to eat, while the men got the table, and children had mats on the floor. It was raucous and fabulous and made for many cherished memories. Music and laughter, good friends and loved ones, and good food make the most humble setting wonderful! Your home is a delight! Thank you!

  49. Fabulous post, Jenny. Thank you. I too turned over a page to accept people into my home more often. I have completely moved around the furniture in our small flat to have a table and library end and a homely sitting/read/sew/craft/tv end. I have mismatched cups/saucers and tea pots collected from 'charity' shops in each town/city my husband or sister and I have visited for the day. Now we don't drink tea/coffee but dont think anyone minds drinking hot chocolate out of mismatched mugs or cups as long as we are all together. The little teapots are used for fruit tea and shortbread or flapjacks may be provided (depending on diets). It is lovely to find so many of you that had the same trepidation as I. By the time I had cleaned everywhere and fussed about as a ME sufferer often I was too exhausted to enjoy their company. Well done and thank you, again. Hazel


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