About the Author

Jen encourages women to embrace both the beauty and bedlam of their everyday lives at BeautyandBedlam.com. A popular speaker, worship leader, and author of Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, Jen lives in North Carolina with her husband, five children, and a sofa for anyone...

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  1. Jen,
    I love the heart of the people who extended you that kind and welcomed invitation. They weren’t worrying about themselves – how visitor worthy was their home, how would they appear, what would you think of their surroundings? No, their focus was on you and making you feel welcome in a new and strange community. I believe that true hospitality shifts our focus from “me” to “them”. Reading this excerpt, a young woman my husband and I have met on dog walks, comes to mind. She is new to the area, single, works long hours, and doesn’t have much time to meet new friends. We do have a big fenced in back yard where her dog and our dog (who get along just dandy) would have a good old time. I’m sure she would welcome a home cooked meal and some fellowship. Okay…going to do this. Thanks for the urging on and loved this post 🙂 Being a Steelers’ fan from the ‘burgh – we are pretty friendly at heart lol.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

  2. I do not inherently crave girlfriend relationships. I just turned 52 and can’t name one woman I am “friends” with. I love football, remodeling houses, and working with wood. So I am not a typical ‘girl’. I have been blessed with an amazing family but often wonder if there is something off in me that I don’t need girlfriends.

    • Forgiving me for jumping in here, but I just wanted to encourage you. I don’t think anything is “off” in you. But I do know that Jesus will show you the why and how in His perfect timing. I do have girlfriends and a few that are my closest confidants, but I do not crave connections with others. I crave solitude & quiet if I may be so honest. I almost passed this book up based on the title alone. I’m glad Father pushed me to investigate. I will be praying for you and if you think to, I’d appreciate prayers for me to keep my heart wide open knowing I can trust God to give me the solitude I need and crave. ❤

      • Lori – so glad you didn’t pass this up and I love your encouragement to Dodee.

        You are so right, pushing through with a wide open heart is exactly what Jesus did (and he craved his solitude too :))

        Dodee – there is nothing off about you at all. We are all wired differently, although we are also scripture also speaks to the beauty of community. That doesn’t mean a bunch of girlfriends, but maybe there’s another rehab loving friend you could get connected with to share that hobby and go from there.

        PS. I am a HUGE football lover. Saturdays and Sundays, my friend 🙂

    • I dint think there is anything “off” in you. I’ve just turned 60 and I dont crave girlfriend time. I love time with my best friend, but if she had to cancel anytime it wouldnt upset me at all. Im happy with me and my own company. I have my hobbies and interests. Im not particularly a girlie girl either, always been a “tomboy” at heart. We’re all made different….let’s celebrate our differences!

    • Maybe there was a hurt but I get it also. I spent more time with dad growing up so I relate to men easily it takes effort but I do have a few female friends whom let me enjoy the feminine side and I have few that are off the beaten path that don’t fit the girl mold. Hang in there and be open. God can do amazing things.

    • Be the you God created you to be. When I go shopping it is to the shop with wood and such. Dodee I get it and find it reassuring that others are cut out of a jigsaw. I do ask for God to put people in my path who I can encourage to be themselves, and she just left here.

  3. Your story reminds me of the precious families who extended hospitality to us over the years. I am inspired to do the same! I am excited about the challenge before us to invite someone to join us. Thanks for sharing!

  4. It’s amazing how God is always working in our lives. He seems to always give us exactly what we need exactly when we need it.

  5. I definitely feel like a failure inthis department. I moved to our ew neighborhood 18 months ago with my husband and two children. We had a major renovation right from the start and we knew it but it was more time and energy than I ever imagined. I wasn’t able to connect the way I would have liked or so I was thought I wanted. A nice neighbor dropped off a beautiful basket of peppers and other vegetables and soon welcomed us over for a home cooked meal (after seeing that our whole kitchen was gutted and we were living in our dining room with the bare necessities).
    She too opened her home to us and made a lovely dinner. She was less concerned of what her home (although her home was very comfortable and cozy)and three boys were but very focused on getting to know us and making us feel so welcomed. I have been wanting to return the kindness but either haven’t had the time nor the energy to make it happen. I feel like it takes so much energy to have some one other than old friends and family to our home. I really want to be less concerned about my messy life and more focused on sharing this gift of life with others, I am going to try my best to make these connections as my New Years resolution was to improve my friendships and be more hospitable. If not only for me but for my two children. I will continue to look for guidance and support from incourage because I know I need it.
    And to Dodee, I too have never really felt the need to make female relationships a priority but now I am finding that it is what GOD inspires us to do if not for ourselevses but maybe YOU are the light that will shine upon that friend who needs you.

    • Gina – you are never a failure. WE all have different seasons, but I’d love to encourage you to not put so much pressure on for making it extra special. The last thing we need are more “to do”s, right?

      She knows you were in the middle of a reno, so maybe you start by inviting them for dessert or even a spontaneous root beer float party (no meal prep, no baking, but soo yummy). I did that once and because it was spontaneous, there was no pressure to have everything just so.

      It will be so worth it, but take off any unnecessary pressure because it can be as easy.
      🙂 Can’t wait to hear.

    • I would love to hear how it goes. And remember, sometimes when I’ve done it, people have said “NO,” but I’ve learned it’s ok because extending the invitation makes an impact whether they are free or not. ONe week, it was 3 different families before we got a Yes. 🙂

  6. This post and challenge speak volumes to me today…I AM the new person. Having recently relocated to a new state, my husband and I just left behind our family, friends, jobs, and church family after a lifetime in the same region. And, as today is my 56th birthday, that lifetime is long and those roots are deep. My husband received a promotion, which required the move, but I haven’t found new employment yet. I’m feeling the isolation described here. After trying many churches, we think we have now found the one that might be home. While previous congregations have been welcoming, this one has been exceptionally so. People welcomed us warmly and expressed interest in us our first week, and people welcomed us by name and embraced us some more for week number two. We have begun to feel like we have a place here, thanks to the hospitality in this church.

    • Oh Ellen = I feel that depth of your move deeply and so encourage to hear you may have found a new church home that has welcomed you warmly.

      Who knows, maybe you’ll find another woman in the same position and you can be new friends together. 🙂

  7. I loved your story. I, also, have had trouble making girlfriends. I have friends but most of the them I keep at arms length. I have always felt I couldn’t trust women. Growing up with three older brothers I noticed how different men were in their reactions with other men. They would get into arguments, even duke it out sometimes, and then within an hour be outside playing football. As if nothing ever happened.
    We lived next door to a family that had a daughter my age. She was a big girl and a bully. When we would play she would push me around, take my things, and if I protested at all she’d fly into a rage. Then she would tell the other neighborhood girls how mean I WAS and tell them not to play with me. Out of fear of her they would do what she asked and they wouldn’t speak or play with me for weeks sometimes. As I grew older I noticed the same thing in High School. If a girl got upset with you it wasn’t enough for her to “hate” you on her own, she had to recruit a bunch of her friends to hate you along with her. So, I grew up thinking my best friend was always going to be my Mom, (and she was), and to be very careful of women. You just can’t trust them.
    Once I became a Christian my heart did change, but, in all honesty, I still have a reluctance to embrace women. Participating in church activities has helped me immensely.
    Our church does what they call “fellowship dinners.” My husband and I have participated in it for the past three years and it’s been such a blessing. It’s done for three months in the beginning of the year. If you choose to participate, you sign up to have a dinner in your home with 2 other couples the months of Feb, March & April. Each couple takes their turn at being the host for one of the months. The host of the month is encouraged to either invite a member of the church they would like to get to know better, or someone from outside the church. The other two couples help the host by bringing the salad to accompany the dinner and the dessert. In the past two years my husband and I were grouped with people from the church that we barely knew, but by the end of the three months we have made wonderful new friends!
    I love to bake and I love opening my home to entertain. A new family has recently moved up the road from us. This week I am going to bake banana bread, or cookies, and take them over to them to welcome them to our community.
    Thank you so much for challenging us step out of our comfort zones.

    • Trust and friendship – phew, it’s a powerful things, isn’t it? That fear of rejection can run deep and I’ve had to lean into my brave that scriptures continually talks about knowing that my invitation may not be accepted. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear that you’re slowly stepping into new friendships with women and fellowship groups like that can be such a neat way to connect.

      I will wait anxiously to hear how it goes with your neighbor. Thank you for being faithful to step out of your comfort zone knowing there’s risk involved, but I know it will mark them in a powerful way. 🙂

      • Thank you, Jen, for your lovely email & reply. I truly enjoy reading all the articles from (in)courage. I thank God for all of you and the blessing of your outreach & ministry.

  8. I have always been reluctant to meet people. They always leave regardless of what they say. I have many acquaintances but after 67 years, I have 2 friends. One for 40 years and one for 25 years. These 2 ladies would be there in an instant regardless of distance or circumstances if I needed her and I would do the same for either of them. I am closer to the one of 40 years than anyone in my family.
    I have recently moved and thought that the ladies in my prayer group would stay in touch as they had promised, no, they have not !
    I will pray for them and of course, I forgive them. I’m sure they had good intentions however, I have written and emailed and only a few email replies the first month, now nothing! Sad really! We had been in a group together for 6 years, you would think they would be kinder?
    Oh well, people show their true colors when you can no longer baby sit their kids or give them a ride to church I guess? They really didn’t want to be friends, they just liked what I could do for them! Again, why I only have 2 friends! I love them through Christ!

    • Oh Linda = I am so sorry to hear about the pain of those friendships. It’s hard when we don’t have the face to face interaction that keeps everyone in touch. Busy schedules sometimes get in the way of best intentions but that’s never an excuse.

      TO think you have two soul sisters that have walked with you for all those decades is a true gift that many don’t have. Thank you for sharing about them. It gives me hope that some of my friends will be in touch all those years later.

  9. “Our soul aches for invitation”, so aches the souls of those around us. Using that at as a jumping off point makes extending hospitality less scary!

  10. Jennifer,

    I remember when I was in college out of state. I had just moved into an apartment in this new state. The night my parents left neighbors brought me dinner-nice cooked chicken, veges & desert. They continued to feed me and welcome me into their home. She won a super bowl party and I was invited. That night we had a huge blizzard. Most churches were closed. The wife and I went over to the nursing home across the street and shared our left over pizzas with the exhausted workers. We also helped with the patients, seeing what they needed and getting it if possible. I will be forever grateful to them for caring for me like that.

    I go to the assisted living where my dad lives. Each time I say hello, smile and chat with some of the residents. Trying to make their day.

    Our little church will make welcome baskets for new families in the area. We get household items, food, etc. and put a bulletin in it. Someone will take it to them and say Welcome to the neighborhood. We want them to feel welcomed, & loved like Christ!

    Blessings 🙂

    • Beth –

      You are making such a difference and while you may not get that immediate feedback, someone will share the story of how you reached out and loved them just like you are telling us the story of your college neighbors. 🙂

      Keep on loving them.

  11. I pray that I will show hospitality in everything I do. A smile to a stranger, a simple act of looking someone in the eyes and asking, “How are you?” and then, really listening. Thank you for this message. I will continue to think of ways to show God’s love and show hospitality to others.

  12. Jen,

    Thank-you for sharing your sweet story. This reminded me to take action on making a connection that I have been meaning to for awhile now.

    Have a blessed day,

    Penny

  13. Thank you… it’s bittersweet to reflect.
    We moved to a new town, as my husband was called to lead a new community of faith. We left our old home, and came expectant and inspired to serve in this new ministry. However, it’s been such a painful journey.
    We been here 3 years, and this congregation have done little to welcome me into this family of faith.. in matter of fact, it’s been the woman who have blocked and placed hurdles before me in becoming an active member of this community.
    They adore my husband, but my girls and I have been purposefully ignored.
    I’m very sad and isolated.
    After 20 years of marriage and ministry, we as a couple no longer worship together.
    Oh, how I long to be included…. accepted… to serve… to share what God can do through me… to worship as a family again…
    Did we hear God’s call wrongly? Am I being punished?
    Why are the doors slammed in my face, and that of my children while opened for my husband?
    I have another 8 years in this place… the thought sickens me.
    Will I always be the outsider?
    I’m a living testimony of the pain that comes, when others refuse to offer hospitality.
    So another day faces me… with more questions that answers.
    An isolated day, behind the walls of my home.

    Please, please… offer hospitality! A challenge to all and reminder of the consequences when we choose to live insular lives, not widening our circle to include.

    • My heart is aching for you as I hear your longing for community and I wish right now I had an easy answer, but I too, have been in that place of isolation and it’s a painful, painful time. My church answer is that it truly did bring my closer to the lord because I had to cling to His truths that I am not alone, but it didn’t make it easier in that exact moment.

      When I am exhausted, I found I isolated myself more and so I didn’t have it in me to reach out. While you feel as if they don’t like you, would it be possible to invite just even one or two over and share your heart with them, express your desire to be in fellowship? If you feel you’ve done that, then I would plug in elsewhere with yoru girls and you extend an invitation to maybe others or find a bible study outside this group of women, just so you can feel part of a growing community of women who can encourage you in your walk. Wish you live close to NC. I’d love to have you and your girls over for some coffee because we all need one another.

    • Here’s another reply from someone down below

      Dear Whispers from a broken heart,
      There are many communities that struggle with welcoming the new pastors wife. Call it fear of letting go of control, of change in the routine.. it doesnt justify the lack of welcoming but knowing your worth is found in Christ will perhaps give you the courage to perserve.
      Be the change you want to see. Kill them with kindness and the love of the Lord. Remember its his eyes that see the heart and he bares our pain and sorrow. For love of the Lord and the example of his loving presence that dwells within you be the example of Hospitality for your daughters, it will be the gift that allows them to get through challenges in relationships later.
      (especially dealing with difficult people) I will be praying for you and your congregation. May the Lord God in his infinite wisdom guide you and may the promise of his word keep you in peace.

    • Father, I lift up my sister, Whispers of the Heart to you. Lord, she’s hurting, she’s lonely and she longs for connection. Would you please soften the hearts of even just ONE woman in her church to welcome her, invite her to coffee or lunch. Then maybe others would see that she’s a person who loves you and is there with her husband to serve. Please send friends for her children as well in that church. Work in her heart and the heart of their children that they can also reach out to others and be welcomed. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

    • Praying that you will find that ONE in your congregation who is also lonely, overlooked and wanting to be part. I guarantee you, there is at least one there who is not mean-spirited. In the meantime, can you still minister in other areas to pour out your love and gifts on hurting, lonely and forgotten people? In the nursing home? Veterans hospital? the Homeless? Hospice Care? Or start the ‘Card Ministry’- a lot of churches used to do this before the internet. Sending birthday and anniversary cards to the congregation. Please don’t let the Enemy block your gifts of Love…

      • Thank you for the encouragement… will continue to open the eyes of my heart, so I can see His way for me. Amen.

    • I’m going to take a step of faith, and go to church this weekend.
      Let’s see what God will do. AMEN.

      • God will meet you there… with strength to love, grace to forgive and eyes to see who needs you the most…. your Husband will appreciate your presence and smiling face. Trust that the Enemy will try to rob you… but remember HE IS THE ENEMY… not the ladies who have hurt you… Praying for miracles!!

  14. I’ve found that we love to be invited. Off the cuff. By a stranger. To the table. Last week at Starbucks a young college girl overheard me say where I attended HS. She turned to me and said, I went to Palos Verdes High School! And so on it went. She had moved to San Luis five days earlier. Who doesn’t need an invitation after five days? I said, would you like to come for waffles on Sunday? I’ll invite some other college kids. She came. We ate. She’s a vegan. She still ate. And when she got ready to go she asked, Do you do these waffle things a lot? I said why no but if I do it again would you like to come? And she said yes. She’s due here this Saturday at 8:15. This time for blueberry stuffed French toast.
    It’s not the offering that matters. It’s that you offer. Pray for Shannon.

  15. Dear Whispers from a broken heart,
    There are many communities that struggle with welcoming the new pastors wife. Call it fear of letting go of control, of change in the routine.. it doesnt justify the lack of welcoming but knowing your worth is found in Christ will perhaps give you the courage to perserve.
    Be the change you want to see. Kill them with kindness and the love of the Lord. Remember its his eyes that see the heart and he bares our pain and sorrow. For love of the Lord and the example of his loving presence that dwells within you be the example of Hospitality for your daughters, it will be the gift that allows them to get through challenges in relationships later.
    (especially dealing with difficult people) I will be praying for you and your congregation. May the Lord God in his infinite wisdom guide you and may the promise of his word keep you in peace.

  16. While my Tuesday morning group with longtime friends who are peers (I am 74! how did I get that old?) is definitely a precious time for me – we share, laugh, cry, vent, and then engage in an hour of prayer, I am so grateful to connect with several young families – younger than my own children. They offer diverse perspectives, share their life experiences, etc. It is intellectually stimulating and a real blessing.

  17. I missed this yesterday and tomorrow I leave for the rest of the week to go babysit for my daughter and son in law so that they can volunteer for Tim Tebow Night Out for disabled teens in their area. So, I guess my hospitality will be with my grandchildren this weekend! Really spending time with them: reading them books and playing games and giving them undivided Grandma time. 🙂

  18. I was fasting for answers about our family ‘habit’ of isolation. Asking Abba to show me how to break it’s hold over all of us (generational) I ‘found’ this blog that day….. I take it as from the Lord for a practical step forward…. we are now having a dinner party Friday night to celebrate my ‘Born-Again’ Birthday. This for me is a big step. Thank you for your encouragement.

  19. He is pursuing me….through this challenge he is showing me the way to teach my young daughter how to step outside the bubble of comfort and reach out to others. Ive been praying on how to help her make connections in a positive way and this study has given me some tools, courage and inspiration to draw from.

    • So thankful to hear that, Amanda. I know you wrote this over a month ago, but I’d love to hear any updates with your daughter. It’s so important for us to model it, but also so challenging.

  20. Had our dinner last night that was in response to this post. 18 people total. It was a lovely evening. Lots of food and talking. Then this morning the Enemy started in as soon as I woke up. I could see the things I ‘should have’ done to make it better (better seating arrangement, less people, didn’t introduce everyone etc) And the email from someone who was upset that they weren’t invited. We have been alone for mostly 10 years since moving to this country. (Including a walk through cancer treatment for our DIL) So for us to even have this evening was a big deal. My Hunny grabbed my hand and prayed right away that all the good would not be robbed from us. It’s time to break this ISOLATION…. and it’s up to us to do it!!
    Thanks for the encouragement… and the challenge… can’t wait to see what next Tuesday brings! <3 <3 <3

    • Oh Hadassah – Some how I missed this second post and now it’s been over a month since you wrote it and I’ve got goose bumps waiting for an update. 🙂

      What a joy to read that you took this step and not just with one other person, but EIGHTEEN?? That’s amazing. IT’s so easy for Satan to sneak back in and bring doubts, isn’t it? It’s means you’re onto something glorious for the Kingdom or he wouldn’t care.
      so thankful for your hunny who replaced truth with those lies AND I am sorry about that email. I know your heart wasn’t to Not include anyone, but no matter the “Good” we desire, some things slide by.

      I’m curious about how you mentioned it’s been the generational cycle of isolation that you want to break. Has it been modeled and that’s all you’ve known? I am so amazed at your bravery for stepping out, naming what needs to be broken and allowing the Lord to lead with you doing something about it.

      Hope to hear your update!!!
      Love Jen xoxox

  21. Oh, how I love this! I read years ago that the difference between “entertaining” and “hospitality” was that entertaining is “come into my house and see all my lovely things…” where hospitality is “come into my house and help cook in my kitchen, make yourself at home, fall asleep on my couch…”. I LOVE hospitality!

    Years later (a few moves later) we invited our kids’ piano teacher and her cancer stricken husband over for a meal. We were all pretty broke, and with 3 kids under 10, I’m pretty sure the house was pretty torn up. As she helped cook in the kitchen with me, I glanced over to see her husband sound asleep on our couch. Sigh. My heart smiled a bit that he was THAT at home with us to do that. Now I TRULY understood the power of hospitality.

    Now, we move fairly often, and I don’t wait for others to invite me, but I DO use other’s responses to measure the friendliness of a church or group. I love when people will set aside pre-conceived notions to get together for fellowship. Even a cheap take out meal can be a feast for the soul! I’m so glad God made us for sharing hospitality with others! It’s a true ministry to the soul.