Open the Door | My Thoughts on Bread & Wine

 Bread and Wine Cover

I did something brave this year that honestly felt more courageous, more gutsy than writing any blog post or book, or even spilling my life-story in front of college students. My gutsy act? I invited people over for dinner.

I read in Bread & Wine (a wonderful book that you just have to read) that women tend to feel shame about two things: their bodies and their homes. Amen? 

Maybe it’s growing up in the South or maybe just watching my mom entertain, adding an Mrs. to the front of my name gave me a lot of shame about the state of our house and my hostessing skills. I fret if people stop over and there are dirty dishes on the counter, shoes littering the living room floor, and toothpaste in the bathroom sink.  It feels like a statement about my worth as a wife. Or worse, my worth as a woman.

It doesn’t matter if I wrote a book, gained 10,000 more views on my blog that month, worked a full-time job, and managed to exercise—if someone sees my imperfect house, it feels like that’s all that defines me.

I’ve learned little quirks about our house over the past two years; the crock pot fits perfectly on the washing machine; put the veggies waiting to be chopped on the dryer to keep them from taking up counter space; open the doors to let cool air in so the oven doesn’t turn the house into a sauna. I’ve also learned some valuable lessons like a clove of garlic is not the entire head, if sausage is in something it usually needs to be browned first, and never put anything on broil unless you plan to hover by the oven.

I’ve had to get over myself little by little and invite people over for dinner, “open the door” as the Shauna says. I’ve made pizzas piled high with arugula, overcooked roast, served steaming plates of Thai food, crafted homemade mojitos, and even cooked Christmas day dinner for my in-laws.  We’ve had unannounced visitors and surprise dinner guests.


“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t looking to be impressed they’re longing to feel like they’re at home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd.” –Bread & Wine

Shauna is such a master of reminding us to stop taking ourselves so seriously and relax and celebrate and just be. I really hope I get to meet her someday.

Anyways, I really had made a great deal of progress especially after reading Shauna’s wonderful book and finally decided to invite a couple over. But it wasn’t just any of our friends; it was a couple that happens to have an exquisitely decorated home, something you’d see on the pages of Veranda or Real Simple. The wife is an extraordinary cook and someone who makes you feel right at home the moment you walk through the door. Regardless of how inadequate I felt, I was determined to open our home to them . . . as long as everything was perfect.

I changed the menu seven times the week before, made half a dozen trips to the grocery store, and Michael and I cleaned the house so spotlessly, that at one point Michael thought I’d left until he saw our dust ruffle fluttering and found me under the bed with a rag.

Ten minutes before they were supposed to arrive, everything went very wrong. A fire! In our oven!

Within five seconds, the smoke alarm was blaring, our house was filled with smoke and curse words were flying. If you thought I was the sort of Christian who doesn’t cuss, I’m so sorry to disappoint you. In the Dean house, cooking sometimes calls for cussing.

On top of the smoke, we don’t have central AC. The house seemed to swell with heat, exacerbated by the open doors and 100 degree summer air pouring in. I dapped my sweaty forehead and swatted a fly off my forearm, just as our friends arrived.

Oh. dear. God. Help me. 

As these stories always go, it was a splendid evening and they didn’t care one bit that our house was sweltering or that the food was far from perfect. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have serving bowls or linen napkins or that we had to eat on a card table smack in the middle of our living room. They stayed way later than we’d ever expect a couple with a two-year-old in tow to stay—and I think it was because they felt right at home. Success.

I think their daughter must have picked up on our self-consciousness—because right after they put ‘big girl underwear’ on, she went #1 right in the middle of our floor and falsely, yet proudly announced it over and over,

“Poo-Poo! I went Poo-Poo! Poo-poo!” . . .

At least 8 times. And I think she clapped.

You see? Right at home. All we had to do was open the door.

Do you stress about having people over? Do you feel your house needs to be perfect? Do you need to just open the door and stop fretting?

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5 Responses to “Open the Door | My Thoughts on Bread & Wine”
  1. Jami Crowley says:

    I loved reading this today!!! I was thinking oh my goodness- I totally can relate!! I, too fret about having a clean house and get “stressed” when I see unmade beds and several pairs of Van shoes scattered around our family area.
    I am a single Mom of three teen boys and we live in 2 bedroom apt. My oldest son’s room is actually is a “space” created by curtains hung from the ceiling sectioned off in our family room. The other tow boys share a room each have their “own” side decorated as they wish. This family room is also our “office” (desk in the corner) and dining room table right next to it!! I can eat and pay my bills at the same time!! (That’s not such a good idea is it?? Ha ha
    I have to admit sometimes I feel embarrassed that I don’t have a big nice home with four actual rooms and a kitchen big enough for a table too. If I know someone may be dropping by, I run around crazy trying to make sure it’s clean-no shoes in sight/beds made/no visible dust!!
    Reading your article today made me laugh yet, realize what is truly important that this space is a place is full of love and feels like “home”. I am definitely going to go get this book you mentioned, “Bread & Wine.”

  2. Sarah says:

    I’ve also been thinking about this lately… house cleaning usually gets pushed to the bottom of the pile of responsiblities and it’s always a source of stress for me–the place where all my “working mom guilt” lives. I feel like if I invite someone over they will immediately judge me and think that I don’t love my family… crazy where our minds can go. Lately I’ve been feeling convicted not to let my feelings of inadequacy stop me from opening up my home and life to others.

  3. Hi Ruthie! Great, encouraging word to all of us busy-bodies, who feel like we need to excel in every little thing. Your blogs always speak to me and make me chuckle. :) I plan on featuring this in our health channel in FaithVillage. Would you mind finding the “Bread & Wine” book in our bookstore and posting this as a review? Thanks!

    Here’s the link to the book in FV Books:

  4. Rae says:

    Can I just say thank you for being real?! As a perfectionist who desires to entertain, I found this post incredibly encouraging. Cussing over my burnt chicken and having people visit an apartment the size of a small child is less intimidating when you see others do the same and still extend their heart.

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  1. […] or my cooking. I don’t have the gift of hospitality and when I open my door, my goal is for people to feel at home, not to wow them with my perfect decor or from scratch cooking abilities. That’s great for […]

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