Can we just get real about parties? I’m so bad at them. I love gathering with people. I love warm and cozy homes. I love good food. But sometimes, as in most of my waking life, I do not have it together enough to host these kinds of events. Because I’m a pastor’s wife, it’s probably assumed that I have an innate gift for hosting. I don’t. I really, really don’t. I’m really good at buying dinner rolls and putting them in my own basket and showing up at someone else’s dinner party.
I co-own a small home décor boutique so people assume my own house is put together. It’s not. Any energy and time I have is devoted to my husband, my son, my friends, and my shop. Last year, two of our Christmas stockings hung from gaudy snowflake hooks. One was broken; like the giant snowflake snapped in half and I still hung that sucker on the mantel. The icing on the cake? I had no third hook for our newborn son so his stocking hung from scotch tape. It’s true.
This doesn’t even come close to competing with the year before. Patrick and I were asked to host the first stop of the progressive dinner for church board members. They would leave our house and head to another pastor’s house where everything was perfectly in place. It is a rare gift to present perfect meals and make guests feel at home, but they do it with such ease. Knowing that our guests would be leaving our house and heading there makes this story that much better.
We had recently opened the shop and I was working full time. Taking off work just wasn’t an option, so I left my husband in charge (the one that usually counts on me to do creative and pretty things).
I left recipes and instructions and Patrick took the afternoon off to prepare for eleven board members and their spouses. This was still our newlywed phase when I had next to no legitimate, grown-up, home décor. I had an obnoxious table runner from the clearance section at Meijer to throw on the middle of our Ikea table, and that was about the extent of my Christmas cheer. I laid out bowls for Patrick because he’ll be the first to tell you that bags of chips are perfectly acceptable serving ware.
I arrived home from work twenty-three minutes before the dinner began. The stars really aligned for me that night, friends.
Patrick did an amazing job. He utilized every recipe and vague instruction I left. He even did the dishes as he cooked, unlike the other person living in the house who uses seventeen bowls, eighteen spatulas, five spoons, and a band saw when she bakes cookies (see: Ashley Cooper).
When guests arrived, Patrick greeted them while I tried to finish up last minute details in the kitchen. The kitchen and living room are divided by a wall so no one could see my flushed face as I raced back and forth from the oven to table. By this time, the living room was packed. For seating, we had an inconveniently designed couch, oversized ottoman, and foldout chair from my college dorm. I asked Patrick to stall by giving instructions on the appetizer-style meal.
“…And in the other crockpot, you’ll find bacon-wrapped sausages… try to eat the ones that are cooked,” he confidently announced.
He actually said that…to people…with ears. You guys. I died. I did a dramatic soap opera faint against the refrigerator because I knew no one could see me. Try to what now? We were now all involved in an involuntary game of Russian Roulette. I had visions of board members in hospital beds sick with salmonella. If I had been a guest at this shindig I would have quietly found my coat and hightailed it out of there while the lining of my stomach was still intact. Instead, our guests were gracious. They were kind and understanding and complimented our tacky décor and even our food. They thanked us for our ministry. And best of all, I got to leave my house about an hour later and enjoy two hours of carefree fellowship at the other pastor’s house, eating the most adorable individual mousse desserts I’ve ever seen.
While I think we’ll all agree that heart is more important than hosting abilities, I’m working on entertaining guests, one stocking holder and completely cooked appetizer at a time.
Ashley Cooper lives in West Michigan with her husband, Patrick, and their son, Maddox. She spends most of her time proving to be the poster child for the INFP personality type: founding multiple businesses in mere minutes and accepting Oscars, all via daydreams. She craves and values deep human connection while tiring easily from too much of said interaction. Her love languages are coffee, chocolate, and kind words. Ashley grew up in the church and has never known her life without Jesus. But it’s in the recent years that she’s discovered the value of the Church and what it means to live a life of relational ministry. Learn more about Ashley at harrisandwillow.com.