In between the Doorbell and the Cheetah Print

“Mark, would you mind carrying the heavy basket of laundry to the bedroom, please?”

It seemed counter-productive to lug away the pile of unfolded clean clothes without finishing them, but I knew that people would be arriving shortly and I wanted the crumpled jeans, rumpled shirts, cheetah print underwear out of the living room.

Stacking mismatched mugs and clanking glasses, I put away the clean dishes and started another load. Slippery salmon-smelling plates clattered as I slid the bottom drawer back into the machine and poured in soft detergent soap. I lit a candle, flung wide the windows, and quickly swept the wood plank floor.

Borrowed books and paper piles lined my desk, covered the dining room cut-out windowsill, and stood tall in several corners of the room. I grinned and nodded. Lego warriors, gold ninjas, and minuscule plastic swords lined the wide living room window mantle, and sunshine stroked yellow light onto long green plantain-leafed houseplants.

“I’m not going to have the house perfectly clean,” I told Mark. “On purpose. I want people to feel welcomed and safe, at ease in a lived-in home. I know too many people who have been afraid to invite people over because they thought their homes needed to be perfect. I want to break that image.”

Shoes still rampaged and queued up in messy rows in the mud room. Curls of dust glowed in the edges of some stairs, but I pulled up sultry jazz saxophone music and ran faucet water up to the silvery tea kettle’s brim.

Calling three newer women at our church and three longer-established women from the church, I left quick texts or breezy messages about a casual spontaneous coffee time at my house. And I had no agenda except to create a place for women to connect, to feel safe, and to build relationships.

This spontaneous adventure in open-door living is special to me, because I’ve seen life unfold over bulging couches, from within green metal patio chairs, and atop flimsy cotton picnic cloths flung across deep green grass. The beauty of relationships and conversations that bud, unfurl, and spread wide delights me, and satisfies holes and hungers deep inside others’ lives too. 

While I would still prefer to have the pink panties and the toppling piles of socks put away before you arrive, I am freeing myself to rest on the days when they are not. It’s not perfectly clean, but you are perfectly welcome.

The doorbell rang this afternoon, and I threw open the door. Wind whistled and whined, barreling past the house in a flurry of red and yellow leaves. I poured hot coffee while my new friend swirled and stirred cocoa powder.

Welcome. You are loved. You are enough. You are delighted in by our Abba Dad God. Sighing, I sank into the peace and grace as deeply as my guest did.

Share this post:


  1. cabinart on October 19, 2015 at 6:54 am

    Jennifer, there is such freedom in letting go of needing to present a clean and decorated house! I've decided that now after living in this place for 16 years with shabby shredded furniture, people are coming to see me, not my house. And it puts them at ease to know that I am a bit of a slob.

    Good for you for adopting the open door policy!

  2. Leanne Mills on October 19, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    I love your post! It's a wonderful reminder to put people before things. And I've had to remind myself that it's even okay to just have popcorn and Koolaid…people crave company, more than the food. That's hard coming from a generation where it's all about having the right meal, complete with salad and dessert. My daughters-in-law have been a huge example to me in that…we can have a delicious, easy meal with 2 or 3 items and not spend the day slaving over the stove. Last time we had company over we had kabobs and some fruit. It was so easy and so delicious and took me no time at all. And was way more fun! =)

  3. Bill (cycleguy) on October 19, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    I would say housekeeping is not my wife's spiritual gift but that could create some tension here. 🙂 But we have always had the idea of wanting our house to look lived in. Not a mess but not spotless either. And if you come by for a visit on the spur…well…what you see is what you get. It is HOME to us. And you are welcome to share in our home.

  4. Wise Hearted on October 20, 2015 at 9:33 am

    ONe reason I like to declutter is for this very reason, it makes more room for people and they don't have to worry about messing things up, the less the better works for me. Lovely post Jennifer, I am sure those ladies appreciated your home and your hospitality.

  5. Cheryl Barker on October 20, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    What lucky ladies to be invited into your home and feel the warmth of your welcome, Jennifer. I bet it really hit the spot for them — and for you, too. God bless in all your adventures! 🙂

  6. Unknown on October 22, 2015 at 1:35 am

    Beautiful. Your home is the kind that all of us want to be invited to and the cup of coffee or tea mean more than just the setting, but they always seem to taste better with folks like you. Being the example of real is to what we're all to be about. Thanks for the reminder, Jennifer.

  7. Dontmissyoursunsetlady on October 24, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    I wish more Christians were like you! Great post! Long time no read.

  8. Jennifer Dougan on October 27, 2015 at 9:29 pm


    I agree, and we have shredded, mended couch sections too. 🙂

    Wish you lived closer.

    And this welcoming approach to life breathes welcome everywhere to people, I believe. I'm still a novice at this, but want to get better.

    Jennifer Dougan

  9. Jennifer Dougan on October 27, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    Leanne, I agree! Popcorn and Kool-aid, or carrots and dip… even nothing to eat if just fine. People crave relationships and true connection, huh? Food is only incidental. A friend of mine years ago spontaneously invited a bunch of us young moms and kids over for lunch and we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And it was a gift to just BE together.

    Nice to talk with you again. Yes, your Liz is good at this laid back welcoming graciousness too. I like that in her.

    Jennifer Dougan

  10. Jennifer Dougan on October 27, 2015 at 9:41 pm


    It sounds welcoming and relaxed. Nice! 🙂

    And your wife has to deal with the added pressure — whether real or perceived or projected– of being a pastor's wife. Good for her for setting the tone of refreshing welcome and grace. That's what I strive for too, whether I've swept or not.

    Jennifer Dougan

  11. Jennifer Dougan on October 27, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Thank you, Betty. De-cluttering is a great tool. I need to get rid of more, in fact. 🙂 I love the heart attitude even more too.

    Jennifer Dougan

  12. Jennifer Dougan on October 27, 2015 at 9:49 pm


    It was a treat and reminder for me too … this new pattern of sinking into grace and welcome and already Enough. I'm glad a friend could enjoy it then too.

    Jennifer Dougan

  13. Jennifer Dougan on October 27, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks, Floyd. It's fun the community that springs up between all of us on social media too.

    Jennifer Dougan

  14. Jennifer Dougan on October 27, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    TJ, How fun to hear from you!! Thank you.

    How are you? What have you been up to lately? Any recent conferences?

    Jennifer Dougan

Leave a Comment