I have an open home policy. 

Having this open home policy means I open our home to my kids’ friends hanging here. There are lots of sleepovers, late, late nights, and pouring cereal bowls at 2 a.m. for hungry kids while they watch a movie. 

Having an open home policy means I open my home to hosting my beloved women’s ministry and my adored teen ministry, where laughter is heard and heavy talks are shared. It means opening up your home to church small groups, family gatherings, and even the entire high school swim team to come through your doors. Where the home is packed full of beautiful souls that find comfort in one another and apparently comfort in this place. It also means having one friend over for coffee, finding solace in the quiet conversations while sitting on your dirty couch.

Having an open home policy means that food is constantly made, drinks are regularly poured, and ongoing clean up is a sometimes time-consuming and tedious task. 

Having an open home policy means I often say yes, even when I’m tired, overwhelmed, and too busy. It means saying yes, even though your nervous about how it will go. The cost is sometimes high, but the payout is a fulfillment and joy that comes with having these connections, this place to welcome and love those who show up. 

The greatest thing about this open home policy is that my home isn’t that special. We don’t have all the high priced ticket items that can entertain kids, and we don’t have space in this home for the masses, so it gets a bit crowded at times. Our home is pretty average, nothing extraordinary. All it takes is some bulk Mac & Cheese and a fridge full of drinks for the kids. A bottle of wine and some veggies and crackers and cheese for the adults, and well—they come.

I am not a good cook, nor am I a good hostess, when it comes to extravagant details—I battle the demon of anxiety and get overwhelmed by the messes and the madness easily. I worry people won’t be served the way they deserve to be served, and I wonder if I’m doing it all right. I’m often donning my comfy fleece leggings and oversized sweaters, or my gym shorts and t-shirts, un-showered or made up. 

And no one cares. No one.

I realize there’s only one thing you need to do when having an open home policy. 

All anyone really needs is a heart that says “Welcome, you’re important here.”

Every time I have people in this place, I thank God for the ability to have people in this place. I mean, it’s all about the people, right? It’s rarely about the place. I believe God wants it that way.

And if your heart is in the right place, then everything else falls into place.

It’s not about the place, it’s about the people.

So for those of you who don’t feel comfortable having an open home policy. For any of you who feel ill-equipped to have people come into your home. For all the people who think it’s just too much work to cook and clean and deal with people invading your space-

I encourage you to try the following:

1. Go to Costco and buy bulk Mac & Cheese, chips, sweets, pop or sports drinks, cheese and crackers, veggies or fruit, and paper products. Perhaps get a bottle of wine, coffee, or tea. No need to spend much—just whatever is cheap and easy.

2. Take deep prayerful breaths and ask God for strength, courage and an open heart to welcome people into your home.

3. Invite people over. Whether they are your friends or your kids’ friends—no matter. (Maybe try both?) Whether it’s just one friend, or many- no matter. 

4. Welcome your guests into your home with open arms and you’ll notice that not one of those people will care one bit about the state of your home, the noodles boiling on the stove, the messes and the madness made in it all—because it’s all about the congregating and the connecting. THAT is the gift you offer when you open up your home.

5. When those guests leave, you might be overwhelmed with the possible clean up, maybe you’ll be overstimulated and exhausted. But as you clean up and recover, I promise you, you will be smiling and reflecting with pure JOY in having opened your home and welcomed people in. You will realize that it really was about the congregating and connecting, and not at all about your home, what you served, or how you looked.

So remember, having an open home policy really just means having a heart that says “Welcome, you’re important here.”

That’s all any guest really needs.

Promise. 

This article originally appeared on The Mom Cafe.com

Christine Carter

Chris Carter is a SAHM of two pretty amazing kids. She has been writing at http://themomcafe.com/ for six years, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration and faith. You can also find her work on For Every Mom, Blunt Moms, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Mamapedia, Her View From Home, Huffington Post, MomBabble, and Scary Mommy. She is the author of "Help and Hope While You're Healing: A woman's guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness."