“Do you actually enjoy doing this?”

I can’t remember if my husband said these words or I made them up. Either way, I know he’s thought them before.

Because I’ll snap about the state of our home before people land on our porch. I’ll taste the soup and hate the seasoning, consider throwing it all in the trash and ordering pizza instead.

I once rinsed a cooked pork loin under the faucet to take off some of the salt and then had a minor meltdown in the bathroom. That same pork loin was placed on a clean, white platter dusted with herbs for folks to consume.

I get nervous when I think of all the people I invited that might not really know each other. The pressure to make connections, ignite conversation when it runs dry, and keep cool when guests take that first bite can feel overwhelming.

Gathering people in my home doesn’t always come easy. Even though friends graciously remind me that I was made to do this.

You see, I get tired and cranky too. I’m an introvert but often resemble an extrovert. I love the kitchen but sometimes I don’t want to cook. And to be honest, I don’t really want to scrub the toilet or wipe down the sink covered with dirt and hair.

And sometimes, I don’t feel like being vulnerable.

Because there’s that middle place, you know? The one that lands between small talk and going real deep. Where you’re not quite skimming the surface and talking about the weather but you aren’t exactly sharing all the mess and pain either.

I don’t really know this place. I tend to sway hard one way or the other.

I give it all away or hold my cards real close. I’m not sure how to stand in the in between. And both places can leave me feeling exhausted. From sharing my whole heart to masquerading around as someone I’m not.

And yet.

Call me crazy.

I still gather. I still love it.

I miss it when it’s been too long. I need it like air or water or dark chocolate. Because deep down I know this —  it’s not really about me and how I feel.

It’s about them. And it’s where my gifts align with the burdens of this world.

This isn’t to say I’m an incredible hostess, cook, or home decorator. That’s not it at all.

It means I feel suffering real deep. I recognize loneliness and isolation because I’ve lived it. I know how it feels to be uninvited and unwelcome.

I was nine when I vowed to never make anyone feel discarded. Because I had felt the sting of it.

That thorn has pierced my side longer than I’d hoped but it’s helped me uncover the very place I’m called to remain, abide, and lean in harder to.

Even when it’s uncomfortable. Maybe even more so.

Even when I believe God called on the wrong gal to carry out the job.

Because when I get real quiet, I hear this, “Be the invitation, Maeve. That’s all I’ve asked. Open your door, serve the bland soup, and give freely. Forget about landing in the middle, give it all away because you’ve got nothing to lose.

Sometimes the gifts we’ve been given, the things we might actually do well require grit and obedience. They test our patience and cause us to sweat.

And in the end, when all is said and done, it’ll be hard but it’ll be worth it because we’ll feel used up. We’ll know our place.

We might find that the broken pieces of our past become the arrow guiding us forward – pointing us in the direction of blessing others in mighty ways.

We’ll find our stories are linked and woven into each other. And remember how good it feels to live in community.

We’ll find it’s not about being ready, it’s simply about being willing.

So let the cards fall where they may. Allow the thorn in your side to do more than hurt.

We might find a calling and realize a clean home and perfectly seasoned soup won’t heal the wounds of this world on their own.

We have to be the invitation first.

We have to build longer tables and save someone a seat.

That’s where true restoration begins.

Maeve is a writer, people gatherer, and kitchen dweller. She currently serves as the Community Manager for hope*writers, an online space for uplifting and encouraging other writers. She shares the musings on her heart over on Instagram & the blog — come say hello!