“Don’t get so stressed out. I thought you liked cooking and entertaining, how can you get so stressed over it?”
My husband, who I affectionately call Beau, asked me this question just minutes before some new guests arrived to our home. I wanted to respond with some quip or at least a good defense but I couldn’t. He was right – why am I so stressed while I’m doing something I claim to love doing?!
I thought about this for weeks. Maybe I don’t actually love cooking. Or maybe I don’t like entertaining guests? I started to think about the times I did enjoy it and the times I felt it was a “success.” It was usually when I had prepared a delicious meal without mistake and it was especially a success if compliments for my meal and hospitality were overflowing.
At the time I thought there was nothing wrong with that. But as I analyzed why I get so stressed and if I really love cooking I realized my main goal was two-fold, perfection and praise for my efforts.
Beau encouraged us to take a deeper look. Why were we inviting people into our home for a meal? In his book, A Meal with Jesus, Tim Chester also makes room for us to seek why we invite people to our table:
“Meals can be a visual representation of our hearts…Consider how your meals express your vision for life. Think about who’s invited. How they’re served, what you hope to achieve and the layout of your home. Do they express the vision of the Kingdom of God?”
In those months Beau and I talked about why we do love entertaining and what our aim is. Our mission for our table is to invite others and serve them and love them extravagantly so God can use it as an opportunity to reveal His ultimate invitation to His table.We invite. We Serve. We love. All to participate with God and ultimately bring people into His Kingdom so that one day we will be reunited at His grand feast.
It did not take long for me to realize that none of what I truly desired for inviting people to my table came close to serving a perfect meal or racking up compliments.
So we put a few ideas into practice. The first was, do not try a new recipe on first time guests! I constantly wanted to try some new and exciting and potentially fussy meal on new guests so I could impress them. Not only was it a little more complicated but also, because I did not know the recipe it required all of my attention to cook the meal instead of also being with the guests.
Next little action we put into place: no need to have the meal all prepared by the time the guests arrive. We generally have people over around 6:30 or 7:00pm. By then I am famished and I am sure my guests are too. But I generally could not start cooking the meal any earlier because I have a full time job. So now, we create a type of happy hour environment for our guests. Beau pulls together a simple cheese plate or his famous bacon wrapped dates. He is also in charge of making delicious drinks for as our guests arrive. It takes the stress of getting the meal cooked quickly off me and it also opens room for great company and conversation in the kitchen.
Also, I started to have some simple tasks for my guests to do. I realized that often some of my guests wanted to help in the kitchen. So I set aside small things, like chopping an onion or grating cheese… so the guests that want to help can participate.
Lastly, Beau and I make sure to re-focus just before guests arrive. We remind ourselves that this is not about a perfectly cooked meal or compliments. It is about Jesus. You know how we do this little re-focus? We do a cheers to Jesus. We take a moment and lift our drinks; we both say a few things to Jesus and end with a clink of our glasses and a hearty cheers to Him. He is, in fact, the guest of honor.
Gosh it feels a little silly giving these no brainer tips but I love them because they are transforming how we serve. They have created a different atmosphere in my heart and I pray at my table. It completely changed my outlook, that a successful night is not determined if I come away feeling great about my meal, my home, my hospitality… but if my guests leave feeling great and loved and heard and seen.
How do your meals express the vision of your life? What are the small, creative things you do in your kitchen or at your table so your intentions line up with your heart? Please share in the comments! I’d love to learn a few more tricks of the trade.
And here’s a cheers to Jesus. To the One who calls us to His table and reclines with us. May He sustain and renew us this day.
- 12 slices of bacon (1 package)
- 24 whole, pitted dates
- 24 toothpicks
- Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
- Lay a single-layer of bacon strips on a plate and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes (repeat with remaining bacon)
- Cut strips of bacon in half width-wise
- Wrap individual dates in half-strips of bacon, secure with toothpick at overlap
- Place on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, checking at 8 minutes
- Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes