One of the hardest things about the culture where I lived in the Middle East was the definition of cleanliness. See, no matter how clean I thought our home was (not that it was ever spotless, with two preschoolers underfoot), it paled in comparison to my average neighbor.

See, my local friends—when they cleaned, they cleaned. There was hardly a time I saw a dust bunny in their homes—and to boot, it was an honor if you dropped by unannounced. Swinging by to say hello usually turned into a two-hour tea, complete with pastries and undivided attention.

And if you’re doing the math, then yep, giving me honor was to swing by my place, unannounced. Where I lived with little people. In a culture that values cleanliness.

Needless to say, it made me nervous.

But you know what I learned? Rarely was there a time that I wasn’t loved because our house wasn’t clean enough. Even if my home was a disaster compared to their pristine dwellings, local friends never said a word. They just smiled. And loved. And usually laughed at my language blunders.

I’ve taken this to heart and carried it with me as we’ve traveled to myriad homes. It’s not easy, mind you, but slowly, slowly, I’m chipping away at my perfectionism, and learning to not wait to invite friends over for dinner because my home isn’t perfectly organized. Or dusted. Or less sticky. Or bigger.

Community and hospitality are about relationships.

It’s not about impressing one another. It’s not about one-upping each other, sizing each other, or wringing your hands with worry about what the other person thinks.

It’s about being yourself and seeing what happens. As I’ve set up home over the past decade, I’ve come to just jump right in and meet new people. I can’t wait for the long-time resident to realize I don’t know anybody—it’s me that needs to say hi. And I’ve learned to be okay with that.

But even though I’ve lived in three drastically distant dots on the globe since Simple Mom started four years ago, one thing that’s stayed pretty constant is my online community. I’ve been beyond blessed to make some of my closest friends through the Internet, and I’m forever grateful.

This little spot in the blogosphere has readers as different as vegans and chickens. Moms of littles, moms of college students. Dads. Married, no kids; singles. Christians, Muslims, those who just don’t know, and everything in between. Vegans, probably. Guessing no on the chickens.

We all read, and share, and encourage. We’re all blessed by the Internet.

One of the other sites I write for, (in)courage, has something very cool up its sleeve. It’s called (in)RL, and it stands for In Real Life—basically, it’s an amazing way to meet other women locally, in your community.

Sign up for a local meet-up, and on April 27, you’ll watch a webcast in your jammies from the comfort of your own couch. Then the next day, April 28, you’ll gather at a local (in)RL community—or if there’s not one in your area, you can start one in your home, your favorite coffee shop, or wherever. You’ll watch live online content, chat with the women around you, and have a ball making new friends.

Basically, it’s a conference without buying plane tickets. It’s only $10, which covers the cost of a t-shirt and a pack of greeting cards as a gift to you (this isn’t a money-making venture, in other words).

How cool is this idea?

Watch this video below to learn more.

Yesterday, Amber shared her thoughts about the necessity of girlfriends. Tomorrow, head to Sarah to read her words.

What’s something you’ve learned about the power of community in your life?