The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.
—Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine
Every time I read this quote from Shauna Niequist I think “Yes! That’s what I want my home to be! I want people to feel safe and loved in my home. I want them to know that they are seen and heard and that they matter. I want them to walk away feeling valued.”
And according to Shauna, the way to do that is to show them hospitality. It’s to invite them in and love them. She doesn’t say that the heart of hospitality is about creating a space that is so perfect and immaculate that they wouldn’t be able to find a piece of dust if they tried. She doesn’t say that the heart of hospitality is having the most beautifully set table they’ve ever seen or the most delicious food they’ve ever had. No! The heart of hospitality is about creating a space where people can feel seen and heard and loved. Now sure, that might include some cleaning and preparation and a beautifully set table and delicious food—but that’s not what it’s about.
We can create a safe space in our home for others to come into by really listening. We can put judgment aside and love people for who they are, not who we want them to become. We can look past the walls that people put up and see the hurt and pain they are trying to hide. We can enter that pain with them. We can be real with the hurt and disappointment in our own lives, and through our vulnerability invite others to authentic relationship. We can ask good questions. We can dig deeper. We can embrace. Hospitality is so much more than patterned napkins and pretty dishes and complex recipes. It’s loving people, where they are at, despite their flaws, in light of their pain, because of who God has made them to be.
But that doesn’t mean that hospitality can’t have anything to do with setting a nice table or preparing for your guests. Yes, most of the time hospitality will look like a friend in crisis dropping in, or inviting someone in even though there are piles of dishes in your sink and you haven’t showered yet. But sometimes you can make those special preparations to tell your guests that they were planned for and that you had them and their enjoyment of a meal or time together in mind. And there can be so much joy in that!
If you are new to the idea of hosting a couple or group of friends over, can I give you a simple idea? Try hosting a wine and cheese night where each person or couple is in charge of bringing a cheese, pairing, bread or cracker, and wine. This makes entertaining SO simple since the only food you have to prepare is your portion of the wine and cheese contribution and then you can really focus on creating a cozy environment for your dinner party. And it doesn’t have to be elaborate. As you can see for our wine and cheese night, all I did to spruce up the table was lay down a simple runner and placemats and then put matching napkins (from the dollar store!) on the middle of the plate. I finished it off with a few cutting boards for people to put their food on, and voila! A simple, yet beautiful table, ready to be adorned with people’s scrumptious food!
And this wine and cheese, it brought a group of people together. It was the setting for a night of laughter and conversation. It created a safe space where people were free to be themselves and share who they are.
We did a brie cheese with jam… so easy, and such a hit! Simply buy a wheel of brie cheese and some jams or preserves (we did apricot and raspberry… both were delicious). Cut the top rind of the cheese off and put it in an oven-safe container, spoon a generous amount of jam on top, and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 8–10 minutes (until it’s bubbling). We served it with crusty bread and crackers and a sweet wine.
I hope that you are inspired to invite people into your home, create a space for them to feel loved, and on occasion throw a fun party that’s simple for everyone—especially you, the host! Hospitality doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to be hard. It can be simple and lovely and loving. And remember, at the heart of it is creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. And yes, sometimes wine and cheese can do just that.