My husband and I moved from DC to Alabama over a year ago.

It’s been a year of renovation and renewal, and it has gone by so terrifyingly FAST. There have been some lonely times, when I wondered why we decided to pull up roots and say goodbye to beloved friends. There have been some frustrating times, when I wondered how I’d ever learn to drive a stick-shift pickup.

And there have been times – like this past weekend – when it all just came together and made sense.

My husband and I hosted two guests from DC, my lifelong friend and sister-in-spirit Sarah and her lovely singer-songwriter friend, Tiffany Thompson. We fit a lot of living into our 20 hours together.

On Friday night, Tiffany headlined a festival at my small church, and she rocked the house.

Living Spirit Festival 2013. Photo Credit: Sarah Bayot

I loved the music, but I loved just being there even more. There was such sweetness in seeing people I love meet one another for the first time, such happiness in hearing their laughter, such joy in listening with my husband as Tiffany played a song she dedicated to us. It was called “Home,” and that was exactly, exactly how I felt.

Photo Credit: Camille Bennett

And while Tiffany was sharing her gift for music, Sarah was sharing her gift for art, fashion and design. She’s created Kicheko, meaning “smile or laughter” in Swahili, a cause-based brand featuring distinctive hand-made earrings. Proceeds go towards orphan care and continuing education in eastern Congo. Essentially, every pair of earrings helps a child eat and go to school.

Photo Credits: Jonathan McGraw, Sarah Bayot

With all this goodness going on, it’s not too surprising that a spontaneous dance party took place after Tiffany finished her set. I wish I could show you a picture, because it was wild. It was like the last scene in a movie, the kind of thing you always wish would happen in real life and rarely ever does.

Ordinarily, of course, I am an introverted ballerina-type from New Jersey who was taught to stand still in church. I’m not exactly a prime candidate for a soul train. But that night, I was too happy to stay in my usual box, so I shed self-consciousness and jumped right into the fray.


One more thing.

It can be scary to invite people to stay with you when your house isn’t ‘ready.’ For example, since our dining room floor isn’t finished, we couldn’t set up a table and chairs. I felt embarrassed about this … for about 5 seconds. But then we sat on the kitchen floor and drank wine and talked for hours.

Hospitality, as it turns out, isn’t about being able to set a table for your guests. Instead, it’s about being present and sharing what you have to give. Sure, stocking the fridge helps. But true friends don’t need things to be perfect. They don’t even need chairs. They just need you

To paraphrase Luke 10:41-42, you can be worried and upset about many things as a host. But really, only one thing is needed.

And all the time we were sitting on the kitchen floor, the lyrics to Tiffany’s song, “Take it and Run” kept playing in my mind: Take in this minute and all that you’ve been given and run.

These are wise words. How often have I caught myself thinking, If only I had a literary agent, a hugely popular blog, a finished house, some chairs …

But as I’m wishing for these things, can I say, honestly, that I’m taking all that I have already been given and running with it? As I’m planning for the future, can I say, with integrity, that I’m giving my best to today?

How many times have I held myself back from inviting people over or dancing at a party because I judged my home and my moves to be ‘not good enough’?

That’s why it was such a big deal for me to jump on the soul train and sit on the kitchen floor this weekend. That’s why it felt so good to put aside perfectionism and live into the words of W.H. Auden …

“I know nothing, except what everyone knows — if there when Grace dances, I should dance.”

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  1. Brenda Steffen August 12, 2013 at 2:52 PM - Reply

    We also just recently moved, so I really appreciate your perspective. “True friends don’t need things to be perfect. They don’t even need chairs. They just need you…” I absolutely love this — it’s so true! Thanks for sharing your weekend with the rest of us!

    • Caroline McGraw August 12, 2013 at 3:13 PM - Reply

      You are so welcome, Brenda! I really appreciate that, and hope you are enjoying your new space, with or without chairs. 😉

  2. Jean Brown August 12, 2013 at 3:33 PM - Reply

    Dear Caroline,

    What a gift to read your entry on this Monday morning!!! Your gathering embodied the type of connections I long to help create a container for. I love your invitation to join the dance that’s possible now…before all the imagined limitations are worked through.

    It’s so good to hear from you and get a glimpse into how this chapter of your life is taking shape since you moved from DC.

    Grateful to share the journey…even via cyberspace,


    • Caroline McGraw August 12, 2013 at 7:43 PM - Reply

      Jean, thank you! I’m so happy that this post was a gift to you today. Thank you so much for all the work you have done to create space for connection. Big hugs!

  3. Mary August 12, 2013 at 4:07 PM - Reply

    I’m smiling–as I hear my husbands’ clients in the recording studio play their music and the producer say “beautiful! I LOVE it!” Out my window is an “unfinished” green house, and out the side door is an “unfinished” huge hole that will someday be aquaponics in the basement, garage on the main, a studio drum room on top. Yes, Jeff and I have been embarrassed too to have folks come over (heck we have monthly concerts and hope to have a B&B, so that’s a LOT of folks!) When they see these “unfinished” projects, when we Paint the picture so they can “see” it too I think it helps it come true. Not so much unfinished projects as Dreams in Process, eh?

    And when you BUILD your home, it makes it more your OWN right? I’d love for you to hear my song HOME (on the website). Thanks for sharing Tiffany’s!

    Last, here’s one of my recent FAVORITE quote from Dr. Seuss:
    “BE who you are and SAY what you feel.
    Those who mind don’t matter and Those who matter don’t mind 🙂

  4. Joy August 12, 2013 at 5:49 PM - Reply

    I love this, Caroline!

    We had lived in our new space for about two weeks – in a town I was only slightly familiar with, so I didn’t quite know where the grocery store and farmer’s market was, let alone what our community offered as far as restaurants and galleries and fun places to visit. But, I was so excited to have an extra room to share, that I listed us on couchsurfers…thinking maybe someone would come through in a few months. Ha! After listing, someone responded right away- and I opened our home, even though it wasn’t “perfect” —they were *so appreciative*. I have hosted several couchsurfers in the past two months – and I am learning so much about myself and connecting from this genuine space of “this is what we have, let’s collaborate and enjoy it”. Your article affirms this for me, thank you! And, I love the quote!

    • Caroline McGraw August 12, 2013 at 7:49 PM - Reply

      Wow, Joy, what a great example of hospitality, and how perfect for this post. It sounds like you are taking delight in sharing your home — congratulations on your new space! 🙂

  5. Tiffany August 14, 2013 at 1:41 AM - Reply

    I loved it. I especially like the last few paragraphs. I think you wrote it perfectly. It’s something we all feel. I know I especially feel it at times. Yet somehow when I go through these emotions, I feel alone at the same time. You totally brought it home.

    • Caroline McGraw August 14, 2013 at 3:53 PM - Reply

      Tiffy, thank you! I’m sure you can relate to the moving/home renovation chaos too … indeed, none of us are alone in that feeling of wanting things to be different. Thank you for helping me see the beauty in things as they are. xo

    • Tam August 15, 2013 at 6:38 PM - Reply

      Oh, how I loved this post and oh, how I can totally relate!! And Mary, your comment also totally spoke to so much of what I was feeling when I read this. Thank you for sharing where you’re at, Cari…and Mary.

      Our always-in-progress house is just about big enough for our growing family, but we love to open it to guests too. We even sometimes make a game of ‘spot what’s new this month’…which most ppl fail on. All to say, I think we often see the shortcomings more clearly than others, and we just need to be gentle with ourselves and patient and loving.

      And finally, I absolutely love the Dr. Seuss quote…is it from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”? That book is on my top 10 reading list for my boys as they grow up!

      Lots of love, Cari…keep dancing and telling us all about it!

      • Caroline McGraw August 15, 2013 at 7:15 PM - Reply

        Tam, thank you for joining the conversation and sharing from right where you’re at — you have taught me so much about hospitality and open-hearted living. Thank you for all the times you have welcomed me/us to your home, and look forward to hosting you guys here someday!! <3

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