"Quick! Clean up! Someone's coming!" -or- "Here! Take these dirty underwear I picked up off the floor and stuff them down the clothes chute." -or- "I'll talk to them in there and you clean up in here." We've all done it. It's the loving thing to do to make things nice for someone. But when making things nice is at the expense of someone -- we have a problem. We have to stop worrying about how things look to the exclusion of having people over. We can't live in House Beautiful or a Southern Living magazine all the time. (Honestly, not even some of the time). We try, but we fail. That failure is "just life", not a fatal flaw of morality.
My children are a gift from God so I share them with the world. Do I keep my child from talking to someone because he's a filthy mess from playing at the park? No. My home, too, is a gift and given to me to share with others.
I'm pretty good about this. Annette Funicello, America's sweetheart, appeared on TV with full-blown MS in a wheelchair and with her mouth a little disfigured, but as big of a smile as she could manage said, "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful." It's a theme of my life. I say it to myself over again and again and have for years.
I do warn guests when they need to use the bathroom, 'I'm not promising it's clean, but you're welcome to it.' Most of them KNOW what a 6yr old boy can do to a previously clean bathroom. And if not, it's time they learn. Approximately half of the population has been or will be a 6 year old boy. Being ourselves gives our guests permission to be themselves.
I have people over when my house is 'lived-in', to LOVE them. How many exhausted moms of preschoolers feel like they can't keep up? How many men feel like they don't measure up? My aunt committed suicide and the toll on the family was horrendous. We can't put so much pressure on each other to 'measure up'. How many times have we seen a teen in the news who committed suicide? In their pain they think things would never feel better than they do in that moment. The response from the rest of the world is that we want to shout from the rooftops that it doesn't matter what everyone thinks or how chaotic it feels - life CAN get better.
By sharing our chaos with the the world, I'm shouting to everyone who walks through my door, 'I love you and you're welcome here just the way you are. Come share some of the less-than attractive places in my life and I'll share your pain with you.'
The test of this was having our priest over for dinner when life was chaotic. As I fed him out of my messy fridge and he sat on my gross floor (I had cleaned it, but you know...) with my smelly dog on his lap he told us that he'd had a black lab as a boy and was too busy for a dog now. He said that not many families with kids had him over - he assumed due to the stress of life - and I saw that us inviting him into our chaos helped fill something in him.
I want my guests to feel loved and I have to be 'real' to do that. Some may judge me, but I want to say back to those, 'This is my best. And a way to love you, because "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."