I have learned that cooking and hosting others is one of my love languages.
My junior year of college was the year I moved out of the dorms and into a house with my own bedroom, a non-community bathroom, and a full kitchen. My love for hosting probably started with the group of sophomore girls who came over for Bible study each week. I had so much fun testing different cakes and cookies and cheese dips on that group of girls – who typically had no problem finishing it all before they left.
Once Eric and I got married and moved into our own little house, I couldn’t wait to invite people over for dinner. I spent so much time looking through recipes trying to figure out the perfect meal to cook for our guests. Hosting a church community group of 12 or so has been one of my favorite things – despite spending half the day in the kitchen and cleaning the house, there is something so energizing for me to have others in my home.
I daydream about throwing fabulous dinner parties, whether I am feeding four or fourteen. I want to create sensational centerpieces and have soft music playing in the background and provide a place for community to happen in a very coordinated, looks-pretty-in-pictures type of way. I get giddy at the idea of matching serving dishes and a full dining room table.
The reality, though, is that my dinner parties never end up exactly the way I picture them. I build up these grand ideas in my mind of things to do to make it more of a “party” than a standard potluck, but then I get to the day and time goes faster than I think. And I realize that there is not enough space in our home for everything. I have to accept the fact that we rent a home with outdated wallpaper and limited counter space. Pinterest kitchen remodels are something I can only store for the future, and our dining room table is barely big enough for four people + food, six if everyone really loves each other.
And honestly, if we have a group bigger than six, we will probably use disposable dishes and silverware, thanks to not having a dishwasher.
Despite my desire for the perfect party, I have learned that a successful dinner party has nothing to do with how well the presentation is put together. It’s all about the people.
Community happens when I let others into my little kitchen, bumping into each other as they finish a salad and I organize the silverware. It happens when we do crowd one-too-many people around our dining table, or pull up some camping chairs for additional seating. It happens over the sink full of dirty dishes after we eat, and it happens on the screened in porch as we enjoy dessert.
Community happens when I let others into the less-than-picture-perfect and I let them get involved. I am learning to be okay with not having everything sorted out in my life, and – even more challenging than that – learning to admit it to others.
But it’s not about the coordinated dishes and the pretty place card holders. It’s about authenticity. And I long to rest in the authentic instead of stressing over unattainable perfection – both for parties and for relationships.
I am still learning. And confession feels good.