Celebrating the Season and the Art of Simple Hospitality
Growing up, my summers were marked by grilling out with family, catching fireflies in the backyard with my cousins, swimming with the neighborhood kids, and firing off firecrackers at my grandparents’ home in Florida. While there are a multitude of memories, one in particular stands out from a childhood summer of mine.
I was about nine or ten and was little Miss Independent. I begged my mom to let us have a party and invite my extended family over to grill out one Saturday evening. She agreed, which I did not take lightly given our home environment. Upon her acceptance of this proposal, my creative mind started racing with all of the things to prep for said grill-out. One day, my mom and I were at our local department store. While we were moseying around, I ventured into the summer patio section and found the most adorable plastic dish set—cups, plates, and bowls with tropical palm trees, hanging monkeys, and piña coladas. This set screamed summer and I knew it would be perfect for the grill-out party we would be hosting. I somehow, with my wit and charm, convinced my mom to let us get a set of six or eight of these tropically-inspired dishes and even a matching tablecloth. I left that store feeling like a grown woman ready to host the most epic of grill-outs, summer-themed and all.
I remember feeling so empowered, so excited to have people in our home. It really had nothing to do with the cute, tropical plates and cups. While that did add to the summer aesthetic, I really just wanted to go out of my way to make each of my family members feel loved and thought of. I wanted them to enjoy their time at my home. We didn’t often have many people over at our house because my dad’s temperament and behavior were unpredictable. Deep down though, I think I was born with this natural gift of hospitality. Not many ten-year-olds beg their moms to have a party just so they can help with the preparations and enjoy the buzz of inviting others in and sharing in fellowship with one another.
My heart for home and hospitality is rooted in this deep desire to gather people. I wasn’t raised witnessing this frequently. It wasn’t a part of my home environment and lifestyle, but boy when we had family and friends over or I experienced that at other homes, it invigorated my soul. I felt alive, seen, known. Gathering people in the dwelling of our homes is a special thing. Nothing compares, in my opinion. We simply don’t experience the same impact when we meet friends at a local restaurant. Gathering in homes is unique and beautiful because it’s an invitation for someone to enter into your most sacred space. It’s an invitation to become vulnerable and to spur each other on in love, share in each other’s victories and sorrows, laugh, cry, and break bread together.
Because of my experience growing up in an unhealthy home environment, I yearn to create that space of welcome and warmth within the walls of my own home as an adult.
Hospitality is a lost art in today’s day and age. We are a culture that posts more about our lives on social media than actually sharing that same information with the people we are physically around. We are a culture stricken by the paralysis of perfection and comparison that leaves us feeling more lonely and isolated than ever before. It’s easier to sit on our sofa and connect with someone across the country or globe from a screen than to go out of our comfort zones and engage with another in a physical context. But when we aren’t sharing life with one another in the physical, we are missing out on so much for the sake of our spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being. We miss out on the opportunity to spur one another on, to serve others, to commune, and to hold each other accountable to how we want to live each day. We miss out on the messy because we are more concerned with keeping up the appearance of perfection across our screens.
I believe we need to get back to the basics of hospitality, back to the heart of gathering and sharing food under the roofs of our homes. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be fulfilling. Summer is full of opportunities to break out of the normal routine of life and to be spontaneous. I love the simplicity that comes with summer. We don’t have to fill the pages of our calendars with activities, but instead we can choose to savor each day and enjoy whatever it may bring. This is how my summers were spent and I have so many memories from the spontaneous adventures. So, how can you host a summer soirée during the next few months? Don’t worry — I’m not suggesting you host a typical soirée…you know, the formal, evening kind of party where jeans and a t-shirt won’t cut it. To me, a soirée can be simple, casual, and most definitely should involve food and fun.
Examples of Gatherings to Host
Healthy Recipe Swap—Invite a few friends over and ask each one to bring a healthy dish that is a home staple. Have each person provide several copies of the recipe. This is a great opportunity to find new, healthy recipes and to also allow others to participate in the hosting. For so long I felt like I had to provide everything when I was hosting. I put a lot of undue stress on myself. I am learning that it is okay to ask for help and to allow others to offer to bring something. There are times when I get to say, just show up and I’ll take care of the rest, and those times are a blessing to our guests. But there is nothing wrong with inviting others to participate and to help provide for the feasting table.
Sunday Tea Time—We love Sundays. We love the slow that comes with a Sunday. For a while we were hosting a monthly Sunday brunch with several friends. It was so much fun to just enjoy each other’s company and get lost in conversation and not even feel the need to keep track of time. More times than not, brunch turned into dinner as we snacked on brunch leftovers for round two. If you don’t have the time to prepare an entire brunch or to let the hours slip away, host a Sunday Tea Time. After church or in the afternoon, invite a few friends or another couple over for some tea, coffee, and small pastries. This takes the pressure off of preparing an entire meal. One thing I loved about my time in Africa and about the African culture is their tea time. It felt like every day we were there we spent an afternoon at someone else’s home just drinking tea and visiting. It’s so simple yet so special. Communing doesn’t have to be formal or fancy for it to feed souls.
Slow Cooker Meal Prep Party—I’ve never actually hosted or attended a slow cooker meal prep party, but I have heard of other people doing them, especially for a new mama to help set her up with meals when baby comes. I love this idea of women gathering in a kitchen and helping each other prepare good, healthy meals for their families for when life gets busy and hectic. Dinner can sometimes be a drag and be the last thing we want to do after a full day, but it doesn’t have to be. Gather some friends and share in conversation and laughs as together you prep meals for the next few months that can be thrown into the freezer and available to pull out on those extra frenzied days. And when you pull that meal out of the freezer, you will be flooded with memories of the hands that helped prepare it and the fun that ensued in the process.
Gathering people in our homes shouldn’t be a burden or cause undue stress, but instead should breathe life into your walls and bring your heart rest. Often, we think of rest as catching up on lost zzzzzs or being alone, and while these are definitely aspects of rest and can be necessary at times, I think rest can also be found in sharing our homes with friends, family, neighbors, and our community. I find rest when I can sit on my sofa, chat, and drink wine with friends and be fully present and enjoy the company. Sharing in community and conversation like this is crucial to maintaining good health—physically, mentally, and emotionally. We need human connection. We were built and designed for it. It’s absolutely necessary for thriving through life.
My summer grill-out some 15+ years ago left an impact on me. While we laugh today about the tropical monkey cups I so desperately wanted, I really remember the experience of having my extended family over to share a meal with my parents and me, a not-so-common occurrence. I’ll also have you know that my mama still has these dishes, not because we love them, but because of the memory and story behind them. My heart was full after that evening, and it has remained full to this day because of that special memory. I want to take that fullness and continue to offer it to others by inviting them into my home to experience similar feelings of connection, to spend a few hours letting our lives intertwine, and go beyond ourselves, and to savor the good of simply sharing life with those around us.
So grab some friends and host a summer soirée. Grill out, drink wine on the back porch, prepare slow cooker meals, or simply have a coffee date in your breakfast nook. Food and fellowship are nourishment to our hearts and our souls. Tag #IDThrive in your photos so we can join in your gathering!
ABOUT MEGHAN MEREDITH
Meghan Meredith is an Air Force wife currently stationed in Los Angeles, CA. She is the founder of HomeBodySoul, a lifestyle wellness brand for women where she seeks to inspire and educate women on how to best steward their homes, bodies, and souls. She is a Certified Personal Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor, and a Health/Wellness Coach. She and her husband currently have no children, but love their fur-baby, Nusu! She drives a yellow Jeep, which she feels is very reflective of her personality. She loves green tea, being outdoors, and slow mornings.