Once our first few friends arrived, I grabbed one of my chalkboard signs, scrawled the words, “Come Right In, We’re Out Back,” and set the sign on the front porch Then we all grabbed a beer or a glass of wine and went to sit under the big white tarp my husband strung up over the patio. Rain wouldn’t stop our party.
We had cleared the dining room, too, and set it up in case our friends preferred to stay inside rather than sit outside in the waffling weather. But everyone seemed happy enough to sit and chat under the tarp while the gentle drizzle then sudden downpour then gentle drizzle played out above our heads.
We love hosting our friends. I didn’t necessarily know this would be such a big part of my life and my marriage. I’m not sure I realized that opening up our doors and inviting people in would be something that I would want to do so often. I wouldn’t have guessed that spending all morning and afternoon cooking and prepping and decorating would be something that gave me such pride, but it does.
Chad and I plan parties and barbecues and dinners in a thick journal-type notepad. He started using it a while ago for our gatherings and I’m glad he did. He fills the pages with the RSVPs, the menu, the grocery list, sometimes even more intricate details like how to set up the yard or what food will go in what dish. It’s like a chronicle of the times we’ve celebrated holiday parties, Oscar affairs, and dinner dates. It’s a history of the food and drinks we’ve fed to our friends and family as they make themselves at home.
The day of a party, we divide up tasks. Chad always makes the bread if there’s bread to be made. I take on salads and side dishes, chopping up veggies and setting them aside for various dishes. Chad mows the lawn; I sweep the patio or wipe down the table. We both stir and dice and season. We coordinate oven temperatures and cook times. We take turns washing dishes in between other tasks so we don’t end up with a mountain of dirty dishes by the end of the night. It’s a constant string of activity that lasts right up until the first friends arrive, and often beyond then as we finish up cooking and plating and grabbing the napkins.
After everything is cooked and served, there’s usually no other plans to attend to, no schedule to follow or stick to. We just enjoy the company, chatting and catching up, laughing and telling stories. On chilly nights outside, we’ll light the campfire and talk around the glow. The friends around us — from work past and present, from church, from wine club and school and childhood — they gather and the make their own connections. They find things in common and ask about each other’s lives.
At the end of the night, with sore feet, we wash some more dishes and talk about the day, or flop onto the couch with one last glass of wine, and we’re content.
When we bought our house, we were conscious of the fact that it is really God’s house to use, to bring people together, to provide shelter and sanctuary. We were intentional about welcoming people in and creating space. From the beginning, we knew we wouldn’t be the only ones living here. We might be the only ones who sleep here every night and spend every day here, but we aren’t the only ones who belong here. So when a friend grabs a glass from the cabinet without needing to ask or wanders upstairs to look for a place to lay the baby down, we’re glad. We’re happy to make you feel at home. You belong here.
Come right in. We’re out back.