Thursday, May 8, 2014

On gathering around the table.

I’m taking a break from food today to share a little story about gathering around the table.  I have had these thoughts circling my head for nearly a year and finally wrote them down.  I debated on whether to share or not, but Paul encouraged me to publish so here goes.


Do you know the feeling when you read an article or book or watch a video that so strongly speaks to your heart that you just can’t help but put the feelings into action?

A year ago I read Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist.  Immediately upon starting the book I fell in love with this woman – in a fellowship, sister-in-Christ kind of way.  And she’s a foodie, so, duh.

She wrote the book, which is a collection of love stories about food, people, and people gathering around food and how lives intertwine and how we connect to each other, and to God, through the nourishment we need – nourishment via food and via connection with others.  I immediately connected with her because I find deep value in connecting with people around the table.

If you have ever noticed before, the tagline of my blog is “Expressing my love for food, for people, for life.”  I just quickly typed that sentence out when I started my blog not really even thinking about it but there is so much truth in it….loving people and life through the food we eat (literal and figurative food) is so meaningful to me and it’s now – over three years later – that I’m actually learning how that should play out in my life.

I love to feed people.  Alongside my favorite foods, I also crave connection, conversation, eye contact, and laughter with people.  I love the idea that God can work through me through food I create.

On gathering

But something that seems so easy can be so difficult, at least for me.  I know the feeling I get when, after a night when our house has been full of people and full of laughter and great food, we close the door, and turn to each other and say “that was a great night.”  But for some reason, actually getting to the point of stepping out of my comfort zone to actually invite people over is difficult for me.

I get extremely caught up in being the perfect hostess.  Will my house be clean enough?  Will the food taste good?  What if someone doesn’t like Mexican food?  What if they feel like they have to show up out of obligation?  What if I don’t have enough food?  What if I don’t have time to pull weeds?  What if I forget to buy toilet paper?

Really, I’m that neurotic.  It’s so stupid.  Really, really, stupid, that I would possibly consider missing out on the opportunity to invite people in to our home because I’m afraid someone will be offended by my weed-ridden yard.  Seriously.  Someone (read: me) needs a gut check.  Because all of those I just listed, all of those went through my mind late last week AFTER I had invited eight people to our house on Sunday for dinner.

After everyone had gone home that night, though, my heart was so full.  And all I kept thinking to myself was how easily I could have missed that opportunity.  How easy it would have been for me to ignore the desire to invite people over.  How easy it would have been to skip cleaning the house, to skip the grocery shopping, the cooking and sit on the couch and watch Netflix instead.

I would have missed out on countless conversations and some great laughter.  In a short four-hour time period, eight adults and one toddler gathered in our kitchen, shared some margaritas – the adults, not the toddler – some enchiladas, salsa, and fixins’ and we talked about work, about church, about life, about babies – those existent and non-existent – food, travel, and music.  In only four hours!

I think that if I could get over myself more often, I would find that people don’t really care if I get around to dusting every square inch of my house, or if the deck got cleaned off or not.  I think they care for us to open our homes, open our lives and open our hearts to them, to meet them wherever they are – tired, energized, sad, happy, and any emotion in-between because, let’s face it, sharing a meal around a table-full of people will fill your heart, every time, over and over again.

Well, there it is.  I’m resolving to open up our table more often to connect with people in a meaningful way, in hopes to share some delicious food – and wonderful life moments – along the way.  Thank you, Shauna for the beautiful inspiration.  

How do you feel about inviting people in or about hosting?  Do you get caught up in the preparation?  Do you get nervous?  How do you overcome it? 


40 Responses to “On gathering around the table.”

  1. #
    Julie @ Table for Two — May 8, 2014 @ 7:36 am

    Omg, Cassie. I think this post was written for me because I feel the EXACT same as you. I LOVE cooking for people and the IDEA of having dinner parties at my house but when it comes to actually doing it, the entire week or month that it’s supposed to happen, I get major anxiety and I end up dreading it. I dread the “mess” that’s going to happen when people come over, I dread everything I have to clean up, I worry people will be bored and have a horrible time, etc etc. I know I need to change because so many people think I’m a fake cause I cook all the time for the blog but never for them (haha, they don’t really think that, but I sometimes feel that way!)..I hope your resolution for opening up the table more works and that you’ll have the courage and be able to set the worries aside! I need to do the same; maybe we can hold each others’ hand and do it together 🙂 xoxox

    • Cassie replied: — May 8th, 2014 @ 8:16 am

      I’m so glad I’m not alone in these feelings. Yes, let’s hold each other to it! 🙂

  2. #
    Lisa @ Garnish with Lemon — May 8, 2014 @ 7:45 am

    I love this Cassie! I think people just love to be together, and I overthink things a lot as well. Just keep it simple and focus on being together, the rest falls in to place. Thanks for sharing your fears. xoxo

    • Cassie replied: — May 8th, 2014 @ 8:17 am

      Thanks so much, Lisa! It feels good to write it all out!

  3. #
    brandi — May 8, 2014 @ 7:59 am

    i am the SAME way! and i also love this book. i have a built-in excuse that i use way too often – we live too far out of town, and no one wants to come this far. which, can be true sometimes when people are busy, BUT that doesn’t mean i should never ask.

    thanks for posting this, Cassie 🙂 I might just invite people over this weekend.

    • Cassie replied: — May 8th, 2014 @ 8:17 am

      So glad I am not alone! 🙂 I always make up silly excuses. No more, though!

  4. #
    Victoria — May 8, 2014 @ 8:05 am

    Shauna’s mother’s day booklist featured the book “The Nesting Place” which I think would be an EXCELLENT follow-up to this post. (I also LOVED Bread & Wine!)

    • Cassie replied: — May 8th, 2014 @ 8:07 am

      That’s hilarious. I haven’t read that post of hers yet but I just added that book to my Amazon cart. Now it’s a must!!

  5. #
    Meagan @ A Zesty Bite — May 8, 2014 @ 8:33 am

    I’m at the end of this book and I LOVE IT! It makes you fall in love with food all over again and realize how it can bring people together.

    • Cassie replied: — May 8th, 2014 @ 10:04 am

      Yes! I love the “falling in love with food all over again” part of gathering.

  6. #
    Ali | Gimme Some Oven — May 8, 2014 @ 8:40 am

    I love everything about this! I still have to gear myself up sometimes to have people over — although in my case, mostly because of just being an introvert or not having a clean house! But without a doubt, anytime I push past myself and just have people anyway, I never regret it. Like, never!!! The key is just to remember that each time I’m feeling introverted. 😉

    I have so many fond memories of happy hours and such at your place! You are such a thoughtful, wonderful entertainer!

    • Cassie replied: — May 9th, 2014 @ 8:38 am

      Thank you, friend. I definitely miss our impromptu Friday nights!

  7. #
    natalie@thesweetslife — May 8, 2014 @ 9:30 am

    ahhh I totally share your passion for community around the table and, like you, I definitely have had my fair share of meltdowns over making sure things are “perfect”. Life is messy though, and community is too, so I’m determined to embrace it all! 🙂

    • Cassie replied: — May 8th, 2014 @ 10:05 am

      I think embracing it is the key. That’s just a difficult thing to do!

  8. #
    Mom — May 8, 2014 @ 9:45 am

    Party Anxiety, which, in your family, has been handed down from generation to generation – it’s a real diagnosis 😉 (I am in the “medical field” now and so I am certain that this is a real diagnosis)! It always seemed funny to me that we could gather as family and never blink and eye but invite some close friends and it’s a party and along with the word party comes the “party anxiety”! I am getting better with age and of course my age involves wine – lots of wine, because I am lots of age 😉
    Love your honesty, Love your writing, Love your parties and Love you to the moon and back!

    • Cassie replied: — May 8th, 2014 @ 10:07 am

      I know I come by it honestly 😉 Thank you for being my encourager! xo

  9. #
    Laura (Tutti Dolci) — May 8, 2014 @ 11:07 am

    Love this post, Cassie! It’s so easy to think everything needs to be perfect before we can gather around the table, but that’s so not true. Thanks for the reminder that it’s more about the heart of bringing people together!

    • Cassie replied: — May 9th, 2014 @ 8:47 am

      Thanks, Laura. I wish it wasn’t so easy for this stuff to not consume us!

  10. #
    sarah k @ the pajama chef — May 8, 2014 @ 11:14 am

    i love this. we just moved and while i would LOVE to have all the people from other stages of life over–those i am comfortable with–we live 200+ miles away from them now. so now it’s the fear of inviting the new people over, that i don’t know. i’m not concerned about the food, but rather how my decorating (or lack therof) looks because i am not really that into decorating…at least not the pinterest-perfect rooms online. it can be hard but it’s so worth it. in fact, i just invited a couple we know from church over. 🙂 so thanks!

    • Cassie replied: — May 9th, 2014 @ 8:42 am

      I totally get it, Sarah. We moved over a year ago and it takes a while to feel comfortable in a new space…just to step out of your comfort zone. Best wishes to you in your new home and new city!

  11. #
    Alysa — May 8, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

    Thank you for sharing your heart with your readers! I too struggle with seeking perfection and controlling others perception of me. Like you, I love to cook for others and play host, but at the same time I hate it. I hate the overwhelming need to make everything appear to be perfect. It’s ironic because as Christians we acknowledge that we are broken and imperfect, yet we try so desperately to hide it. Truth is no one notices if the weeds aren’t pulled or the bookcases aren’t dusted if we pour ourselves into them during their visit. If we shower them with our love and are able to be fully present in that moment then they will walk away thinking about how delicious the food was, how fun the night was and how special your friendship is. By allowing all the details to consume us, we deprive them of the experience they truly deserve and for that matter we deprive ourselves of the experience we desire and deserve.

    • Cassie replied: — May 9th, 2014 @ 8:41 am

      Thanks so much, Alysa. You are right on here. Thanks for reading!

  12. #
    Stephanie H — May 8, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

    Cassie – Thanks for sharing. I’ve had these same thoughts. A lot of the time I’m really self-conscious of what my house looks like, what I am able to serve and entertaining in general. I appreciate your thoughts and will work on opening up my home to friends (without feeling guilty of wondering what they think of me).

    • Cassie replied: — May 9th, 2014 @ 8:40 am

      Thanks, Stephanie, it will definitely be an ongoing work in progress for me. Hope you are well!

  13. #
    Sues — May 8, 2014 @ 7:54 pm

    I need to let loose a bit more when entertaining, too. I obsess and go crazy and just need to enjoy it for what it is: Having people over and enjoying time together (and good food!)

    • Cassie replied: — May 9th, 2014 @ 8:40 am

      Yes, exactly! Thanks Sues!

  14. #
    sheila — May 8, 2014 @ 10:10 pm

    I can’t wait to see you in a week and talk about this book. Love it. Love her. I used to get caught up in all the little stuff, but has my life became fuller, and busier, I had to learn to let many things go or I was going to risk never having my table full. Mostly my house is a mess, but no one ever remembers that, they always remember the laughter and of course the FOOD! xo thanks for sharing. Sheila

    • Cassie replied: — May 9th, 2014 @ 8:40 am

      Now I’m even more excited to see you next week. I totally relate to a fuller, busier life. It’s time to let some stuff go!

  15. #
    Julie — May 10, 2014 @ 12:37 am

    What a thoughtful and heartfelt post! As I am probably nearly twice your age (!) this brings back memories of when we first began entertaining early in our marriage when our girls were little. I always had to push myself to host get-togethers until it dawned on me that when invited to a friend’s home I NEVER judged the food they served and NEVER EVEN NOTICED how clean or not their home was…too busy enjoying the food, wine and friendships. I’m sure you are the same way!! Your friends will not be any more judgmental than you are…they are just grateful for the wonderful evening you are providing!

    Trust me….you will only regret the parties you miss hosting/attending…never the ones in which you participate. Then, as the years go by, you will hold close to your heart so many irreplaceable memories!!

    Oh….and thanks, I originally stopped by here looking for 5″ skillet cookie recipe! ha

    Blessings to you, your family, and friends!

    • Cassie replied: — May 12th, 2014 @ 10:09 am

      Julie, thank you so much for your words. You are EXACTLY right and it’s such a good thing to keep in mind…”your friends will not be any more judgmental than you are”. Incredibly true words.

      Thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed the skillet cookie. Blessings to you as well! C.

  16. #
    Bobbie {the vegan crew} — May 12, 2014 @ 10:32 pm

    I love this post. I’m often the same way. “Oh, no, we can’t invite the Smiths over tomorrow night, that doesn’t give me enough time to plan the perfect menu, go to the store, prep the food, brush the cat, clean this, do that…what about in two weeks?” What really matters is simply embracing and experiencing community with others. Sometimes I need a reminder, but I *never* regret opening our home (even if we end up eating take out) and always end the evening with a full heart.

  17. #
    Whitney @ The Newlywed Chefs — May 13, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

    Friend, I loved this post. Someone recommended that book to me, and now it’s a must-read on my list. I think if every woman is honest, when entertaining, the main thing that goes through our brains is “what will they think of us?” Whether it’s the food, how big your house is, what kind of cars you drive, or where you bought your couch, we want to be perfect with everything. I struggle with this as well. Our pastor talked about this actually this week, and focused on God calling us from pride to humility. Pride is a distortion of who we actually are, thinking too high (or too low!) of ourselves. Perfectionism falls into this because it can keep us from having an accurate picture of who we are. When we start being vulnerable and allow others to see us for who we REALLY are (not how good our food is, or how nice our table setting is, or how perfectly lit the room is), we can focus more on true relationships in a posture of humility. I try to remember this attitude of humility when welcoming others into our home, but need to be constantly reminded that perfectionism can lead to pride. I think I’m rambling now, but this post really spoke to my heart!

    • Cassie replied: — May 19th, 2014 @ 10:24 am

      Hi friend! I’m so glad to know I’m not alone! I love your take on it in regards to humility and pride…it’s so true! Miss you!

  18. #
    Sarah — May 14, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

    I love love love that you wrote this post. I agonize over things being imperfect, stress over silly details and sometimes just forget to exhale. But you’re right nothing beats that feeling of your heart being full after an evening filled with happiness and companionship. I am going to remind myself of that often 🙂

    • Cassie replied: — May 19th, 2014 @ 10:23 am

      Exactly, Sarah, just exhale! Thanks for reading!

  19. #
    Kitty — May 16, 2014 @ 8:56 am

    Amen Sister! I have always love having people over, but I let stuff get in the way of it. I’m a foodie too. I have just recently come across Shauna and plan on reading her book. I’m doing If Table with 5 ladies, we started last month. A Friday evening, we gather around the table and discuss four questions on a certain topic. It’s based on Act 2:46 ” Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” 2 hours/4 questions/6 women
    Tonight, we are gathering together.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Cassie replied: — May 19th, 2014 @ 10:22 am

      I love that idea, thank you for sharing!

  20. #
    Sandy@ReluctantEntertainer — May 19, 2014 @ 11:44 pm

    I have to gear up, too, after how many years? But I don’t want to miss out on the gifts that others bring to our lives! Agree with EVERY WORD, Cassie! 🙂


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