November 24, 2014

How To Create An Atmosphere of Gathering In for the Holidays - or any day!

Aaah yeah... if I were a bird - I WOULD fly around seeking out Autumn!  I think one of the things I love most about Autumn is simply just how cozy it is! 

Image by Karrilee Aggett

Even when the temperatures are falling outside, the invitation is open to go out, enjoy that crisp Fall air, and then retreat to some place warm and inviting!  

I think it is easiest in the Fall to create a space that is nourishing and welcoming.  All the lit candles, and yummy scents of the season - maybe it's just me, but there is something special in the atmosphere around this time of year that seems to beg for Community!

It helps that the holidays are not quite here yet, but they are approaching quickly. We turn our thoughts to family and tradition and we continue (or begin) to count the blessings and we find ourselves ever more thankful this time of year - even when there are so many things for which we are not giving thanks... it seems that the atmosphere itself is charged with a bit of refocusing and looking for the good. 

The idea of the holidays is still a bit dreamy (and unrealistic, maybe.) but for me,  

Hope springs eternal in the Fall!

I wouldn't say that hostessing came naturally to me... we did very little entertaining as I grew up. But I have learned and practiced and tried (and failed) and now, I can honestly say that I am happiest when I have my family and/or a few friends gathered in close... coffee and talking, games and laughter, snacks and a movie. It doesn't really matter, I just love having people in my home.  I was challenged myself last year (thanks to this post by Shauna Neiquist) to be more spontaneous about it! Less Pinterest-worthy entertaining, and more heart-to-heart, spur of the moment get togethers!

Recently (due to the holidays, I am sure!) I have been reading posts and articles about battling Perfectionism... about the pro's and con's of the (dreaded?) Drop In, and about the stress of having people fill your home for the holidays and I get it... I really do!  I can come off all Hostess-y and Chilled... but I admit if my doorbell rings unexpectedly, my heart races and I scan the rooms with panic in my throat and vulnerability fogging my vision.

You see - I like things picked up... put away (-ish) but I am not a clean freak.  Oh - it's clean... but it's no where NEAR spotless.  My Little is all grown up and out of the house so for the most part things stay where I put them and if there is a mess, it's our own doing.  Our house? It's lived in ya'll!

But more than readying my Home for company, I want to prepare my heart for Christ... I want to prepare Him room, first in me... and then fill up with His Presence to overflowing so He pours out all over my home and guests.  Some days I remember it's easier to do this first off... before any of the Bossy Lists come into focus again.  On other days, I take breaks in the midst of the busy for a worship song or just a few quiet deep breaths to invite Him in.

My favorite is to combine all of those things... with a candle softly flickering and my Bible and One Thousands Gifts journal open, pen in hand... ready to count on before the day unfolds... coffee in hand, prayer on lips, worship poured out in the quiet... both inviting and releasing His Presence to linger through out my day!

In this world with Pinterest and the amazing Blogosphere, you can get tips and ideas on how to decorate and what to make and what little I can offer in those regards could get lost in the shuffle... but more important than decor and recipes, this is what I know:

The house can be spotless, the menu divine... 
but if you have not done the work of
creating an atmosphere of Gathering In,
-well if you, like me, have done it both ways
then you know the difference! 

One leaves you exhausted and glad that it's finally over...
The other refreshed and ready to do it again (someday!)

So here are my easy tips of creating an atmosphere of Gathering In for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or any time you plan to fill your home for any occasion...

Don't worry.  They really are simple:

1.  Determine what the Agenda is for the party/meeting/gathering... 

2. and stick to it!

Is it fun and games; an evening of laughter and relaxing? Then keep it light... pray that your guests have fun... and prepare your heart ahead of time!   

Is it for a time of prayer and worship; a time to dig deeper in the Word? Then set the mood with dim lighting and soft music, be prayed up and in tune, and prepare your heart in advance.  

Is it a family dinner chalked full with family drama brewing; an attempt at peace making or simply a date to reconnect again over the table? Pray for your guests and prepare your heart in advance.

Are you seeing a pattern?
Yes... it's that easy. 

No matter the reason or the season... no matter what decorations or party favors are dug out and displayed, the most important How To that you need to remember is this:

Before the first guest arrives...
Invite Him In!

If you want to create an atmosphere of welcoming, of safety and love... of grace and laughter... if you want to create a home that feels warm and inviting... then before or during or after you do all the work of cleaning and arranging, of baking and table-setting, of stressing and fretting all the What If's and If Only's... then take a moment and breathe deep and prepare Him room...

Oh - He will always come! He's waiting to be invited in to all of your celebrations and festivities... to all of your every days.  ...and not in a religious, every-gathering-must-contain-the-Gospel sort of way - but in a real life, I-LOVE-you-and-want-the-BEST-for-you, and I-am-relational-and-I-LOVE-it-when-you-open-your-heart-and-your-home-and-be-relational-too sort of way! 

And that way? 

Well... that way is just always, always better! 

How about you?  Are you a natural hostess with the mostess or does having a house full stress you out?  

Either way... preparing Him room will help bring a bit more grace to the Gathering!

If you, like me, enjoy a few special touches in your holiday decor, as a DaySpring affiliate, can I just say - they are having some amazing Pre-Black Friday Sales right now! It's the perfect time to pick up a few pieces, as well as get in some early holiday shopping!

* Updated post. Originally Published on Novermber 21, 2013

Linking up with Holly Barrett for #TestimonyTuesday

...and with Kelli Woodford with the
Unforced Rhythms Community

How can I be praying for you this week? I would be honored to talk to God regarding whatever is on your heart!


  1. Karrilee, such a great post. You are so right. It really is essential to invite Jesus in first. I like my house clean but like you, it's lived in and not spotless. I have been contemplating inviting some friends over for a Christmas gathering. I think it would be so much fun and I am not going to stress over it but rather just enjoy that time with them.

    1. Tara... Just Do It!!! I love that you are already thinking ahead and already deciding to not stress out over it! You won't regret it! A couple of years ago (while I was still into my Pinterest-style planning) I decided to host an Ugly Sweater Game Night... at first, I was so disappointed that only 4 people came... four people? Why would people not want to come and play games and laugh? But - we had such a great night! I am trying to have more 'open house' style gatherings... whoever comes is welcome and that way I am not discouraged if it is just a few! It's about the connecting!!!

  2. I think we must be soul sisters. I love Autumn for all the same reasons you listed. I have old vintage hymnals almost exactly yours in my house, and I am all about making little stops and tuning into Jesus to get through my days, and especially to live as a person of invitation.

  3. I love serving and hosting, but my house is small so too many can make me feel overwhelmed. I think the important thing to remember this holiday season (and every day, actually!) is the condition of our hearts. That matters so much more than the condition of our homes. Thanks for the encouraging post, Karrilee!

    1. Heather, I love that you love doing it though! So many get stressed out and talk themselves out of it all together! Smaller get togethers are often my favorite - even though I like to plan for 'events' - it's usually those intimdate dinners that grow the roots of friendship deeper! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. I just love the coziness of Gathering in. My best get togethers were simple affairs that focused on people more than all the other stuff.

    1. Amen, Barb! It's true - even though I tend to love all the other stuff too - it really is about people... and Him! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Your tablescapes and vignettes are beautiful and inspiring! LOVE all the yellows too!

    1. Julie, thanks so much for hanging out a bit here... and yes, I love the yellows too (obviously!) - so warm and cozy! Have a great Thanksgiving!

  6. Even just your pictures here make me feel cozy, warm and invited in. I haven't had a lot of opportunities to be hostess in my years of apartment living, but I can certainly say that the homes I've felt the most comfortable in where not the most beautiful and put together, but the ones where there was an open, relaxing, generous atmosphere of welcome. I think you touch on that so beautifully here :-)

    1. Thanks so much Amber! We have lived in Apartments our whole marriage, but the one we have lived in the most is quite spacious for an apartment and I can take that for granted because we have been here so long! We are also quite private which is not 'normal' for apartment living! Girlie... you are welcome here anytime!

  7. Amen! This is so my heart for hospitality! I listen to the keynote for Allume give by Shauna Neiquist and she spoke on the same thing! I am so thrilled that there is a movement arising among women for true hospitality! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Heather - Amen! I need to go listen to that... I love Shauna and I know she gave three easy tips and they were great, but I don't remember what they were! So thankful you stopped by! Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. I always feel the warmth and welcome here, Karrilee! You are a natural! Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving!

    1. And I am always blessed to find you lingering here, my friend! Happy Thanksgiving! xoxo


Thanks so much for stopping by! I always love to hear your thoughts! Remember to: Speak Life - Be Love - Shine On!

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