I can't tell you how many comments people have made to us that they are amazed at how social we are despite having a newborn. We have actually become more social now that we have Malachi. Seems weird I know, but it works for us. I am a very social person, but as an introvert, I need down time. When I worked full time, I had a greater need for down time on the evenings and weekends. Now, I get down time during the day. So evenings and weekends are fair game. We know the way we spend time with people will change as our family grows, but we are doing what works for us right now.
People have used the word hospitable a lot with us. I appreciate that, but it feels a little too virtuous for me, like we are doing it because we should. The truth is, we just like to hang out. We like people, and we want friends. And I'll be even more honest, it has more to do with Joshua than me.
Let me tell you a story about Joshua. When he was in high school, he felt left out. Much like a lot of us did, I imagine. And in his adult life he has felt left out at times, and so have I. There have been plenty of times we went to a new church and no one said hello, or went to a party and were given the cold shoulder. Whereas many people would withdraw at that point, Joshua has decided that as much as he can help it, he doesn't want other people to feel that way. So he goes out of his way to make people feel included. He invites people to stuff like it's his job. Seriously. If he sees someone new at church or in the group, I can guarantee he will try to talk to them, and likely, get their number and invite them to something that week, if not that very day.
That is a gift that I admire and respect about my husband. I won't say that I don't enjoy all of these gatherings, but to a great extent I am just along for the ride. I get to be the Hostess with the Mostest. It's a great gift, because if I was left to my own devices, I would be home by myself a lot more, often feeling sorry for myself because I don't have any friends. We have honestly both felt that way at times. Our solution was to do something about it.
I think if they are honest, most people will tell you they are lonely, wish they had more friends, or don't feel like they connect with people. It doesn't have to be that way. I want to share with you a few things we have learned as we have tried to be more intentional about making friends.
1. Take a risk. Tell someone you want to hang out with them, and schedule it then and there. We all know how easy it is to keep saying, over and over, "we'll get together soon!" And it never happens. So bite the bullet, and set a date.
2. Have people over. Especially when you have kids, going out can be a hassle, and expensive. So, have people over. A lot. Do it potluck style, so it doesn't rest on you to make the food. Or, if you are short on time, invite people over for coffee, or dessert. It doesn't have to cost a lot to hang out with people.
3. Invite people even if they never come. Have you ever felt left out because you weren't invited? We have. A lot. It has made us realize that people want to be invited.
4. Do what works for you. Joshua prefers large groups. He never wants to leave anyone out. I tend to feel lost in a big group, and prefer small groups. I can get to know people better that way. So we do both. Sunday afternoons are reserved for getting to know a couple or family from church. Everything else if fair game for Joshua to invite the world over.
5. Plan a regular event that makes it easy. We often do a fire in the backyard. Sometimes we have S'mores, sometimes not. But it is an easy thing because I don't have to clean up or plan for a certain number, and I can leave to care for Malachi if I need to. Someone else I know does "Front Porch Fridays" regularly, which is a similar concept that I love. Wish we had a comfy porch.
6. Invite people into your life. Our goal is not entertainment. It is community. We want people to enjoy themselves, but if they haven't connected with anyone, it's a waste of time. We invite people into our lives by having an open home. We love people stopping by, joining us for a quick dinner, or just hanging out while we do what we do. It's fun to have company while I'm doing the laundry or taking care of Malachi. Just hang out, or better yet, help me! Or you can bring along your bills, thank you notes or whatever you need to do and do it with company!
7. It's not just about having friends. You can hang out with people all day, but if you never let people see the real you, you will feel as lonely as ever when the party is over. I have found that when I am open with people, they are open with me. Don't wait for the other person to be vulnerable. Do it yourself. You will be glad you did. This is something I am constantly working on because it's hard for me.
8. Don't get bent out of shape if people say no. It used to make us feel bad when we planned an event and no one showed up. We saw it like a popularity contest and we were not the cool kids. Eventually we realized that wasn't true. All that mindset did was make us feel bad about ourselves and hold a grudge against our friends. People are busy. And it takes time to build relationships. If they can't come, oh well. Maybe it will work out next time.
9. Don't worry about a messy house. For years, I didn't want to have people over because the house was too messy. My husband, the ultimate social butterfly, really helps me with this. I remember the first time we hosted people together. It was a couple of months before we were married, and though it was Joshua's house, I was the significant other who kept things together. I will never forget the heated words we exchanged 5 minutes before people arrived when I tried to make Joshua iron the table cloth. I have learned to loosen up since then, mostly due to my husband's constant reminders that hospitality is important enough that if it can't be done with a clean house, it needs to be done with a messy house.
I would love to have a well-appointed home someday, with land and gardens, plenty of space to cram people who come to visit, a haven for the weary, a place to connect spiritually, enjoy and create beauty, to be loved on, laugh, cry and connect with friends new and old, to eat amazing food that we grew ourselves, or got from other local sources, and receive other good gifts that we have to share. In my dream, this house is always clean and decorated with the sights and smells of the season. It's a treat for people to come because the setting is ideal (think winding paths with willow trees and seasonal flowers, mountain streams and a pond for fishing and swimming) and the toys are awesome (think ATV's and big screens with surround sound). Yeah. It's never gonna happen.
I do have dreams, but what we have is probably better for now because it's forcing me to be real with people. It doesn't leave the impression that only people with spotless homes decorated just so, with special dishes and platters for company, can invite people into their lives. Those things are great, but people don't come to your home for the fresh bouquet on your shiny counter. They come because of you. So hopefully, if ever we do have the dream home, these things we are learning will transfer. I wouldn't mind having the best of both: real and ideal. That's what I'm talking about.