I shoo the dog from the cramped kitchen, greet new arrivals, and point to the bottle opener’s location — “The next drawer over. No, other side. There, in the front” — sticky sauce splatters the stovetop. Breathe.
“What can I do to help?” she asks.
I feign casual confidence: “I’ve got it under control” — and change the subject to her family’s most recent adventure.
The truth is, I don’t know what needs to be done. Or how to articulate it. So I might as well do it myself.
Avoid the stress of hosting?
Does this happen to you? Last-minute details keep you from enjoying time with your guests. And when someone offers to help, you’re so busy doing that you can’t think if there’s anything someone else could do.
Summer’s around the corner and, with it, the opportunity to host year-end celebrations, picnics, and potlucks. But can you host a meal, and truly enjoy your friends, without all the stress?
Is There a Better Way?
It began unintentionally.
My head throbs. But I’m unwilling to cancel tonight’s social event.
I can always excuse myself early; there’s no reason others can’t have fun!
Knowing my middle-aged brain is more compromised than usual, I list all the menu items and tasks to perform on our kitchen whiteboard.
I work my way down the list, erasing items as I complete them. When guests arrive, I hear the familiar question: “What can I do to help?”
“I’ve got it under control …”
I stop, look at the whiteboard, and say, “Could you finish the deviled eggs?”
Ahhh … My headache begins to fade.
Other guests offer to help. I ask one to cut strawberries. Another wipes down the picnic table.
Peals of laughter and conversation fill the air as we prepare the meal together.
Reduce the Stress in Your Celebrations
We’ve since perfected this dinnertime ritual:
- Line the countertop with the necessary serving dishes
- On a sticky note in each dish, provide simple instructions (e.g., fruit salad — strawberries, blueberries, banana, grapes).
- Hang a list of non-food instructions on the fridge (e.g., bring chairs from the garage)
Now you can enjoy your guests from the moment they arrive rather than ushering them into the living room with drinks.
Or tripping over them as you attempt to balance food prep and conversation.
You’ll create a welcoming atmosphere and your guests will feel at home — nothing says “you’re family” like being asked to set the table!
You may even avoid scrubbing sticky sauce from your stovetop.
Need more ideas for focusing on fun and fellowship instead of stressing out about shindigs? Stop by my blog to grab your free copy of Helpful Hospitality Hints: How to Host a Meal Without Losing Your Mind.
Kendra Burrows delights in encouraging others to see God’s grace in the everyday — when she isn’t chasing the animals (and boys!) out of her kitchen. She’s still learning hospitality requires we share it all, not do it all. Connect with her at www.kendraburrows.com.
“I keep asking God, ‘Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it’!” My friend Lynn* has devoted years to following God’s call on her life.
But now, she’s at a crossroads.
“I’ve been crying out to God for direction,” she tells me, “and I have assurance that He is with me. But I’m not hearing any clear next step from Him for this new season. I feel stuck.”
Lynn knows, in her head, that there’s no perfect step-by-step plan.
“I just wish I knew for sure what to do next,” she sighs.
As we continue our conversation, I realize she’s afraid. She’s afraid of taking risks, afraid of messing up at such a pivotal time.
She wishes she could get absolute clarity and direction before taking her next step.
But so often we don’t find clarity and direction before taking action — we gain clarity and direction by taking action.
The One Thing You Need to Clarify Your Current Calling
Do you sometimes wish that your current calling came with exact details of what to do? Maybe a step-by-step plan so you know for sure you are following God’s “perfect” plan for you life?
Maybe, like my friend Lynn, you’re trying to navigate a life transition, all by yourself.
The problem with this approach? We quickly become isolated without even recognizing it. We get stuck in our own heads — ideas, options, and worries swirling wildly around — until fear takes over and paralysis sets it.
For my friend Lynn, her next step was to connect with a group of her Like-Minded Peeps.
And if you want clarity about your current calling, you need to find your Like-Minded Peeps, too … people who achieve what you desire to accomplish.
The Power of Finding Your Peeps
The rewards of connecting with your Like-Minded Peeps are numerous.
- You’ll replace confusion with clarity.
- You’ll exchange that stuck feeling for renewed energy, inspiration, and creativity.
- You’ll move beyond over-analysis as you watch others take imperfect action that leads to success.
- You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of new ideas.
But the benefits of finding your Like-Minded Peeps goes beyond you.
Collaborating with your Like-Minded Peeps won’t just add a little to your life; the benefits of mutual contribution and encouragement will multiply in everyone’s lives.
Best of all, you’ll be reminded of what is so easy to forget during times of change.
One Small Win: Your calling matters. You make a significant difference. Yes, you really do.
It’s time to find your Like-Minded Peeps.
Click here now to download your Free Cheat Sheet “3 Ways to Find Your Like-Minded Peeps.”
(*Not her real name)
Mary Lou Caskey trains Christian coaches and communicators to influence hearts through the power of story. If you want to become a transformative storyteller,to connect with Mary Lou and get her free quiz, “Is It the Best Time to Share a Personal Story?”
It’s a Thursday night and you just invited a friend over for dinner later this weekend.
You’re excited to reconnect and share a meal — until you get a text from this friend: “Hey, just wanted to let you know that I am now a vegan. Hope this won’t be a problem!”
Your heart sinks and anxiety kicks in. What will I make? None of my dishes fit this diet.
Accommodating dietary needs
Does accommodating a dinner guest with dietary restrictions overwhelm you?
Is there a friend whom you’ve avoided inviting over for dinner out of fear that you won’t have a meal that will be both enjoyable and fit his or her diet?
As a gluten intolerant person, I get it. When I first cut gluten out of my diet it really frustrated my friends, family, and me.
(In case you haven’t heard … some gluten free items taste a little like chewing on cardboard. Here’s a list of my favorite go-to gluten free products that I always have in stock.)
At first I created a Pinterest board and started cooking new meals from scratch using special gluten recipes.
Over time however, after adding a few staples to my cooking supplies, I discovered a loophole that made cooking for my diet a breeze!
One Small Win: Rather than making an entirely new dish from scratch, create dishes you already love and modify only the ingredients that don’t fit the diet.
Let’s pretend your signature meal is some kind of pasta dish with meat sauce, but your guest is a vegetarian.
You can make the dish as usual, but leave the meat sauce on the side. You can also make an additional, meat-free sauce and have it on the side, giving your guest options.
Maybe your guest eats meat, but is gluten intolerant? Use certified gluten free pasta instead, and research your other ingredients to see if any of those need replacing.
Here is a worksheet to make this process easier if you are a visual planner like me!
Remember, if all else fails, ask your guest if he or she has any meal recommendations or if specific ingredients will be a problem.
Asking doesn’t make you look dumb; on the contrary, it shows that you care!
Your dinner guest will feel loved and cared for with your efforts and consideration.
Kelsee Keitel is a graduate student, writer and speaker, living in Indianapolis, IN, with her newlywed husband. She is passionate about cultivating sisterhood through vulnerability and introducing young women to the freedom and abundance of life in following Christ. When Kelsee is not snuggled up with a book and sipping tea, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or chatting with her mom.
You can read more about Kelsee’s ministry, Detangled & Free, over at kelseekeitel.com or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.
When I was pregnant with my third child, my doctor put me on bed rest for eleven weeks because I went into preterm labor. I was overwhelmed—to say the least. I was allowed once daily trips down and up the stairs, and a shower every other day.
Everything I did happened in bed—except sleep! Because who can sleep after lying around all day? Oh, and the medicine they give you to prevent labor is actually a stimulant, which doesn’t help. (C’mon people, this is modern America, can’t we do better?)
Overwhelmed became my middle name
That time was scary and frustrating, and I needed LOTS of help taking care of my then four and two-year-old babies, and my poor overwhelmed hubby, who could barely keep his head above water, despite the help we received.
What I learned during those weeks, and subsequently, as I endured four back surgeries in six years, is that when a person is facing overwhelm like never before, there is one thing they crave: normalcy.
During the last few weeks before my due date, my doctor released me to go on one outing a day. So one Wednesday, I chose to go to swimming lessons with my kids.
Previous to my forced bed rest, I dreaded those hectic afternoons—hurried, sweating bullets in the tropical temps of the indoor pool, trying to get unruly toddlers to comply. Sadly when I was fully healthy and able, I often wished those afternoons away.
But when I couldn’t do my regular chaotic life, oh, how I wished for normal.
My mother-in-law (a godsend) stepped in for swim lesson day. She wrangled my littles into car seats, wrestled them into swimsuits, drenched herself during the post-swimming shower routine, and somehow managed to get their sticky, wet limbs stuck back into dry clothes.
For any woman who does this on a regular basis, you know this is a heroic feat!
And all this was done for one purpose: so that I could have a dose of normalcy in the midst of my overwhelmed life. So I could watch my tiny people do their big kid kicks, get splashed, and sit in a wobbly, uncomfortable, plastic chair at the side of the pool.
But really, so I could have small dash of normal in the midst of my overwhelmed life.
A few hours of normalcy is one of the biggest blessings I received in those bed rest and back surgery days. If you want to be a friend who loves well in times of hardship, consider giving the gift of normal.
How to help a friend who’s overwhelmed
Here’s a few ways to help create normalcy:
• Take them to Target or the mall (even if they need the wheelchair)
• Go to the movies (recliner seat theaters are perfect for infirm friends)
• Go out to coffee
• Offer to accompany them to their kids’ events (you do all the “heavy lifting” if needed)
• Help with their household tasks like laundry, dishes, cleaning so they can focus their energy on time with family.
One Small Win: Call a friend who’s experiencing a hard time (illness, stress, loss of a loved one, cancer, infertility, divorce, etc.) and offer to do one of these “normal” things with her!
For more practical ways to support those you care about in the rough patches of life, you can pick up a copy of Sarah Beckman’s, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, which releases February 14, 2017.
Sarah Beckman is an author and speaker, living in Albuquerque, NM, with her husband, Craig, of 24 years. They have three delightful children ages 15, 17, and 20. Her experience on both sides of the “bed”—both being helped and helping others—provide her authentic viewpoint for her book, Alongside. When she’s not writing or speaking, you might find her in the kitchen creating something to share with a “neighbor” in need.
Her passion for loving her neighbor has fueled her life and ministry for over 10 years, giving her the opportunity to address audiences across the country. She has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also works as a communications coach and corporate trainer.
When you and your husband were dating what did he do when you guys were not together? What did he want you to do with him? And how long has it been since you have done that activity with your husband? This week initiate an activity that your husband used to love. Whether it’s his favorite hobby, sport, or pastime, it’s time for you to get involved – be his buddy today. It is a great time to get outside, days are longer and the weather is warmer. Do you need to reserves a court, schedule a tee time or offer to go to the gym with him?
Most guys don’t spend a lot of time hanging out with their buddies—you are his buddy. He married you to have a built-in friend who he can do all those fun things. (The fact that the two of you can have sex is definitely a bonus…)
It’s vital for men to build friendship into each other’s lives, and as wives, we have a responsibility to encourage our guys to hang out with other good guys. However, in most marriages, our husbands will be looking to us to do life with.
My husband loves to go to the woods, build a fire and have a cookout. I’m more of a white tablecloth kind of girl. But, you know while we were dating I was the happiest “camper” around. I prepared the food for our open flame. I bought cute hiking boots. I joined him on seemingly endless hikes surrounded by mosquitoes and poison oak. While we were dating, I would have hunted wild moose just to be with him.
Once we were married, many of my husband’s favorite activities were put on the back burner… I would love to be able to say that I encouraged him to have his “guy time,” but there was a house to clean, kids to raise, and jobs to get to. Watching all six Star Wars movies and trekking into the mountains would have to wait until our kids were grown (and possibly into early retirement…).
It’s time to think about those things your husband loves to do with you—his buddy. Maybe it’s hiking up a mountain, hanging out at Best Buy, or watching his alma mater’s football team play at the local high school. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not—your fun will come from watching the look on your husband’s face as he reclaims some of his long forgotten loves. (Video gaming anyone?)