Never having lived in a neighborhood where we’ve actually known our neighbors, we wanted to change that. Our family decided we wanted to live life with those in our community, rather than drive into our garage and put the door down behind us, shutting out any chance of getting to know anyone.
Three cross country moves and various neighborhood and city changes means we’re now in our seventh house in ten years of marriage. Finally though, with tons of transition tucked into our belts, we’re itching to settle and grow roots…but that’s something that needs to be done both organically and with intentionality.
Deciding we simply wanted to open our doors, we begun just inviting people in. My first Book Club gathering was two weeks after moving into this house and we laughed and chatted amidst boxes that surrounded our living room.
No one cared one bit.
Shortly after that, I invited in ladies from our neighborhood, moms from the kids school, sports, and church. I wanted to give busy women an excuse to dress up and I called it, a “Let’s Party Like Girls” night (click here to see year 1 + year 2)
Last summer, we had dinners in our backyard, calling each one “An Evening to Nourish”. Faith, age, and station in life didn’t matter at these evenings.
I didn’t seek to combine a group of like-minded ladies, but rather went out of my little bubble and welcomed in women I both knew well and really wanted to know well. Most of the time, I sat around our table with women who had never met one another…but they certainly knew each other by the end of the evening. Phone numbers and hugs were exchanged at the end of each Nourish event.
We felt nourished. Not only because our bellies were full, but because our hearts were.
Lately, the desire to be more intentional about inviting families into our home has been on our hearts and decided doing Outdoor Movie Nights would be a great way to begin. We’ve hosted tons of them these past few months (so many in fact, that we decided to make a quick diy screen rather than hanging a sheet on the fence)!
I think we've been able to host so many though, because we decided that although we’re big fans of going all out for parties and events, something quick, simple and manageable needed to be reality. I needed to remind myself that if I made a big deal out of planning, it wouldn’t end up happening very often.
The whole point was to get to know our community…not throw the bash of the century.
Not wanting to spend more than a handful of dollars on these evenings, I decided to reuse wooden pallets I’d accumulated for a big picnic we’d hosted this summer. Spreading them out around the backyard, we covered them with blankets or tablecloths or even a few yards of fabric I’d found a few years ago at Goodwill. I just used what I had. Knowing evenings are beginning to get chilly now that fall is on it’s way, I also put out extra blankets to wrap ourselves in (These grey fleece ones are from Ikea and cost $3.99 each).
Since we wanted as little prep as possible, we decided to forego using our microwave, and simply bought a big bag of pre-popped popcorn at the grocery store and poured it into brown paper lunch sacks. I didn’t have enough to fill every bag to the top, so I cut the bags down a bit…which was probably good anyway because most nights I end up throwing out a dozen half-eaten sacks anyway.
I love tossing fruit into a big pitcher or jar of water rather than serving kids soda because well…kids and soda equal insanity. They never seem to mind and it’s easier on my pocketbook anyway. Depending on our crowd, we usually put out some adult beverages too.
Doing as much beforehand as we can makes having people over even more manageable.
I often make my favorite slushy cocktail and slide them into the freezer a few days beforehand and shop our house for pillows and blankets, folding them into a pile the day before, so we don’t need to scurry around the house making sure we didn’t forget anything.
Target, Ikea, and Goodwill are my go-to stores if I end up feeling we need anything, but I’m generally a huge advocate in using what we have. Shop your house!! Don’t put out anything fancy that can’t be washed…remember, people are going to be eating and drinking while lounging on these things.
Have a blanket with stains?
Who cares, it’s going to have greasy popcorn spilled on it anyway.
The goal is for people to feel comfortable, that they can unwind. Being present in your home should be a breath of fresh air to their soul. Let them feel Jesus when around you. It’s not about everything matching.
It’s not about throwing a Pinterest-worthy event.
This is about hospitality being an avenue to minister to our community without them feeling we’re shoving Jesus down their throats.
Your home doesn’t need to be perfect. Your yard doesn’t need to be pristine. You may live in a rental or something you feel is too tiny to entertain well. But you know what?
Imperfection is authentic.
No one feels comfortable in so-called perfection anyway.
Let the love of God shine through us all as you open your homes to your neighborhood. Because you might be the closest thing to Jesus they’ve ever met.