Monday, July 23, 2007

Opening the Door

I am not domestic. I think it's safe to say I am not exaggerating about this. My home stays in varying states of mess. I hate to cook. I do it because I have four children, but I despise it. Everything about it. The planning, the shopping, the actual cooking, the cleaning-up afterwards. My home is not beautifully decorated. It's desperately thrown together in an effort to look like adults live here, and not college students. There are a few pictures on the walls. There are even curtains in the kids rooms, but selecting them was painful reminder of where I am lacking. There are photographs everywhere, though. Books and photographs. It's easy to see where my interests do lie.

Oh I've tried, of course. I have made lists and schedules, bought books and subscribed to Internet sites that send me constant email reminders of what I should be doing to keep my home clean, my life organized. But none of it works. If I am forced to be honest, it's just not a high enough priority for me. Except occasionally, when it bothers The Man too much or my disorganization causes me to lose something or miss an appointment. And then I redouble my efforts once again.

It's something I struggle with constantly, this obvious shortcoming in my personality. I joke about it often, in a self-deprecating way. It's a defense mechanism against the nesty types. You know who you are. I come to your home and everything is beautiful. No matter how many children you have, your house is not overrun with toys. It's decorated fabulously and, most importantly, it's immaculate. There are no dishes in your sinks, or rings around your bathtubs. There is never a basket of wrinkled laundry waiting to be folded next to your ottoman (where mine is now). There are no stacks of papers and there is certainly not permanent marker "artwork" on your master bedroom carpet. And don't get me started on the yards. That's a whole other post.

You people intimidate the tar out of me.

And so, I don't entertain. Unless you are related to me, or a friend of many years, you probably have not been to my home for dinner. That' s not surprising really. Someone who's house is generally messy and doesn't like to cook, wouldn't entertain, would they?

But there in lies the problem. My insecurities about my home-making skills, and what they correspondingly must mean about me as a wife and mother, have inadvertently created a wall. It's hard to reach out to people, to create new relationships if you are unwilling to invite them into your home. There is something intimate about breaking-bread with someone. Something that invites confidences and laughter. It shows trust and longing for a deeper connection. And let's face it, we have four children, the days of inviting people to "meet us out for dinner" are long behind us.

I also believe that as a Christian woman, God is calling me to reach out more to others. To show love more, to welcome others into my inner circle, to be a better friend. I believe hospitality is something that God calls us to, as a result of our love for Him. But it's a calling I have been fighting tooth and nail for years. I have been putting it off, until I somehow morph into a better housekeeper, until my home is better decorated, my lawn better maintained. Until I won't be embarrassed for them to see the inside of my fridge. And it's not because I don't want to love others. It's because I am afraid that when they see me for who I really am, see my shortcomings, that they won't love me back.

But, this week I finally did what I said I would do countless times. At Sunday School yesterday I invited a couple, that I had been longing to know better, to my home for dinner. They already live in my neighborhood (and have seen the weeds in the flower bed) and have a baby girl that I am hoping will be a future friend for Clara. So, it seemed like a good place to start. I am challenging myself to do this regularly. And I am challenging myself not to freak out about it and spend the next two weeks in a frantic cleaning, decorating, weeding frenzy. I will make sure my bathroom is clean, I will make sure the kitchen won't scare them. I may even scrub out the fridge (it's been on my list anyway) but I won't pretend to be someone I am not. This is about trying to build real relationships. It's about letting someone in to my inner circle.

And if my inner-circle is a little dusty, well that's okay. Right?

12 comments:

slouching mom said...

Ahh, Joy. I am like you in this. I don't like to cook, and I am not much of a hostess. I, too, wish I could be more spontaneous about inviting people over.

I think you've just motivated me to try. ;)

Lori said...

It really sounds like to me that you are actually quite comfortable with who you are. I think that's the most important thing. I have several dear friends who do not consider housekeeping and organization a high priority, and yet I have never felt anything but completely comfortable in their homes. I think it is because they make no apologies, and are simply who they are. They are warm, and funny, and welcoming, and in the end, that is what counts.

I too struggle with extending hospitality, but not because of a reluctance to bring people into my home (I'm sorry, I'm kind of one of those nesters), but because it is difficult for me to let people in on an emotional level. There are all kinds of walls and barriers we can put up. I am working on bringing mine down a bit too, while still being true to myself.

Spice Girl said...

At least you've never had mushrooms growing in your bathroom. That's all I'll say about that. :)

Don and Lynn said...

If people can't accept you for who you are, are they really people you want for friends anyways? That's what I always ask myself. If someone is so shallow to actually judge someone based upon what their yard and house looks like, who wants that person as a permanent fixture in their life? Not I!!! The people who really matter and who really love you will do so regardless of cleaning abilities, whether or not you have make-up on, what clothes you wear, etc., etc., etc. It's great that you branched out to someone and decided to be brave!!! Way to go, girl!

Christine said...

Someone like me! joy, it was SO good to read this. I too am messy. but the thing is i LOVE a clean house, and every now and then i can accomplish it. the problem is it never, never lasts. i hate my fridge, my yard, my office. it is also hard to see some of my friends who have immaculate houses every single day--it's intimidating!

i think i am going to invite someone over now. . .

nutmeg said...

Girl, where do you live because you need to come to dinner at my house! You sound like my kind of housekeeper. I used to obsess, but once my husband said something that made me stop: People don't sit around the Thanksgiving table reminiscing about how clean their houses were when they were kids. Life's messy. Why clean it up when it'll only get messy again?

painted maypole said...

I could have written this post. Who are these women who keep their home immaculate? I think they have no hobbies.

thirtysomething said...

Ahhh. Someone else who lives in my world. I HATE cooking. Desperately in all forms. I am not much for cleaning, although at times i like to organize my chaos! With my four kids running around, if I tried to keep it clean all the time, it would look wierd--like "Mommy Dearest" house or something--creepy. And I would be tired. Tired and four kids do not go well together.
So, whoever comes into my world and sees the dust, notices the bathtub ring, trips on the occassional toy, or catches glimpse of the always-overflowing laundry basket, well if they can't handle it, they will have to reconsider what is important.
Stay calm, and remain true to who you are. People notice that too--more than the dirty fridge.

Amanda said...

Good for you, and lucky for them, you are a beautiful soul no matter the state of your house.

bubandpie said...

Ah! I get it! You put the C.H.A.O.S. in chaos! (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome, for non Flylady subscribers.)

The thing is, messy houses have always felt more hospitable and relaxing to me. I can't relax when I'm a guest in an immaculate house.

Lisa writes... said...

You're singing my song! I too am domestically challenged, not because I choose to be so much, I just do other things instead. Glad to know I'm not alone!

spaz said...

You know me better than anyone and we are just alike in our core make-up. I too faced the fear of inviting people over. My experience is that inviting people over forces me to clean up. No, not immaculately, but I stay up late sweeping or doing a quick wipe-up in the bathroom. Backwards logic, I know. Also, I live in fear of someone dropping by unexpectedly. or what would happen if I fell and broke both wrists or something and someone had to come over to help? The fear of what they would find in my home keeps me motivated. Is that weird?