But my background is very different from that of many other women. On a flight home from the Midwest, I struck up a conversation with a lady on the plane and we started talking about reluctant entertaining. With tears in her eyes, she told me how she tried to entertain earlier in her marriage, but by the time company would arrive, she'd be sick. She'd run around the house all day, trying to make everything perfect, until she literally became ill. She said she had a perfectionist mother who held impossible standards, especially for a working mother. To her, entertaining was a jail cell—not the enjoyable garden that included the deep connection with other people that she wanted it to be.

So now her family has resorted to eating out. When it's their turn to entertain, they head to a restaurant. These bad feelings haunt her to this day. Her children will likely feel the same way, which is one of the main reasons I set out to write this book: to set families free from the generational jail cell of perfectionism and isolation.

Think about kids. They don't start out in life being perfectionists. They learn from us. To this day I still struggle with wanting the kitchen to be perfectly cleaned or the kids' beds to be made before their friends arrive. But I know the perfect family does not exist—at least not in my home. Our imperfections and the little messes that surround us make us much more relatable when others come to visit.

When Abby decided to bake a cake for her brother's friend David, she got right in the kitchen and started baking. I backed off from helping out because I wanted it to be her thing, not mine. Abby had one goal in mind: to practice what she had been taught—hospitality. Sure, the kitchen was an utter disaster when she finished, and as I looked over at the lopsided cake, I just had to smile.

She was determined to make her own frosting, adding homemade strawberry jam to it. And even though the cake was far from perfection, I'd have to say the taste was perfecto! As we gathered in the living room with a bunch of teenage boys, Abby brought out the cake lit with candles and we all sang. The homemade cake, imperfect as it was with icing dripping down the sides, was not the focus. The focus was making David feel special on his birthday.

Success is defined when our children and their friends can relate, laugh, engage, and see beyond themselves. Our place is often messy, but it doesn't matter because our kids are reaching out and sharing what they have in the best way they know how.

Things don't have to be perfect in order to share our lives with others. I'm still learning this lesson, and my hope is our kids are catching on too!

I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I'll call the unloved and make them beloved. In the place where they yelled out, "You're nobody!" they're calling you "God's living children." --Romans 9:25-26 msg


 Excerpted from: The Reluctant Entertainer: Every Woman's Guide to Simple and Gracious Hospitality by Sandy Coughlin
Copyright © 2010; ISBN 9780764207501
Published by Bethany House Publishers

Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. 

 Sandy Coughlin is creator of the popular blog Reluctant Entertainer, which she began in 2006 to help women get past their entertaining fears. Sandy has been featured on national media outlets including Dr. Laura, Moody's Midday Connection, Kraft Foods and Family Magazine, Yum Food and Fun Kids and Library Journal. She has also blogged for SCJohnson.com, AWomanInspiredConference.com, Kyria.com, and other online publications. A busy mom of three teenagers, Sandy is active in various volunteer organizations, and she enjoys hosting parties, cooking, and running. Sandy is married to Paul, and the family practices hospitality in their hometown of Medford, Oregon. Visit Sandy's blog at ReluctantEntertainer.com for more information.