Monday, June 30, 2014

When Hospitality Hurts: Perfection and Frozen Pot Pies

In my guest blogger series, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to discuss one of the questions found at the end of my book, When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up. Today's question is about Sarah Dunn Clarke. Thank you to these fellow writers for participating! Enjoy this essay from my colleague, friend, writer and fellow antiques enthusiast, Kelli Worrall. 

Sarah Dunn Clarke was struck by God speaking to her, asking, “What are you doing to decorate your heavenly home?” In our culture, it is not uncommon for women to become obsessed with home d├ęcor and cooking. We exchange recipes and crafting ideas on Pinterest and other social media sites. How might our domestic obsessions limit our impact for God? Or can we use them for Him?

I made my foray into the world of interior design when I was about four. My mom opened wide the wallpaper book, and I picked a pattern for my room. Pink and blue Holly Hobby dolls for three walls. A coordinating stripe for the fourth. I chose a blue carpet remnant to cover the floor and complete the effect. I was hooked.
          My taste, of course, has evolved over the years.
          In junior high, I persuaded my mom to buy gold plaid furniture for the family room. It was the 80s. Then I discovered a kerosene lamp and some framed photos of our ancestors in the attic. I placed the lamp on a secretary desk. Hung the pictures above it on the wall. And fell in love with all things antique.
          In my 20s, I lived in a tiny, quirky upstairs apartment in a dilapidated house. It had “character.” Especially after I rag finished the walls. Painted a checkerboard on the floor. Hung baskets and plants and flea market finds everywhere. And splurged on a vintage armoire.
          When my husband Peter and I married, we bought a spacious Victorian condo with high ceilings and large windows and wood floors. We furnished her with an elegant pair of sofas, facing each other in front of the fireplace. And a dining room set acquired from (none other than) fellow antique enthusiast, Jamie Janosz.
          Now we live in a 1920s Craftsman home. Slowly we have replaced our more Victorian things with simple, clean-lined pieces befitting our Arts and Crafts abode. And now I also have a never-ending list of plans and projects and potential purchases—in my head and on paper—taped to the inside of a cupboard door—that will bring her up to a Pinterest-worthy place. (Actually, we did put her on the market last year, so there are already some pictures of her here.)
          You could say that decorating is in my DNA.  That’s the positive way to look at it.
          But I admit. It can also be a problem.
          When my delight in beauty morphs into an obsession with perfection.
          When I hold my husband to my same impossible standard. And nag him about what is not necessary. 
          When a day at home with my kids becomes more about controlling their clutter than cultivating in them creativity and compassion and a Christ-centered life.
          When I spend a frantic Friday preparing to host a church small group. When I feel put out and pressured. Rather than utterly blessed. When I let it become more about what they think of me. Rather than what God thinks of them.
          When I forget that hospitality is much more about our hearts than our home. And I forget that it should hurt. It should require sacrifice and humility. Of course it should.  
          A few months ago Peter proposed a new approach. He invited another family from church to join us on Sunday evenings for a Bible study and a meal. But he would do all of the work. I reluctantly agreed.
          Then I bit my tongue. As we welcomed them into a house that had been tidied, but not scoured. As Peter just popped frozen pot pies into the oven and didn’t even bother to wrap them with foil. As my blood pressure rose and I sensed that familiar feeling of shame. But then. As we opened God’s Word with them—week after week—and let it do its good work.
          Peter has since let me take back the hospitality reins. But his experiment was not without good effect. His point was made.
          True hospitality does not put on a show. Rather it welcomes—with open arms—other weary and wounded souls to commune with us.
          In our home. That is really His.
          Not as we wish we were. But as we are.
          Sometimes polished. But more often dusty. And usually a bit burnt around the edges.

Kelli Worrall is a professor of communications, writer, and speaker. She lives in  McHenry, Illinois, with her professor husband and two wonderful children. Read more from Kelli at or connect with her on Twitter @KelliWorrall.
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