Why I Continue to Invite: Loving the Imperfect Welcome {Guest Post}

April 25, 2018

We've had the honor of knowing Sue Moore Donaldson for a few years now and love the simple way she offers encouragement and easy ways to show God's love through hospitality and mentoring! Sue is nothing if not honest and real about how she chooses to share the love and hospitality of God (however imperfectly) with others. We know you're going to love her and her wisdom as much as we do. (We're also giving away a copy of her book Hospitality 101: Lessons From the Ultimate Host A 12-Week Bible Study! See details at the end of this post!)

Because God welcomed me perfectly, shouldn’t I welcome others perfectly?

That doesn't happen. Ever.

I've learned to love the imperfect welcome. With me, it's the only kind, yet God kindly uses imperfect offerings--culinary fails, awkward conversations, and a house with mice and no walls. In spite of my messy self, God does sweet wonders for those extra people at my table. So I keep inviting, anyway. Cooking and hosting, imperfectly--and I love it.

The Imperfect Invitation

I knew I needed to invite Michelle from work for coffee. I reached for my phone and texted:

"Michelle! Want to come for coffee or tea?"

Almost immediately, I received a text back . . . from a different Michelle--Michelle from the neighborhood!

"I would love to! I'm free now!"

Well, now. What would you have done? Probably what I did:

"Come on over. I'll put the kettle on."

I was a little disappointed. I was looking forward to getting to know Michelle #1 better, but God had different plans. That afternoon, I learned Michelle #2 had lost her mother to cancer when she was 22. Wow. I was old enough to be her mother and here she was, two doors up and now at my table. And she and her husband were expecting their first child! Another wow. Who would help her when that sweet baby would arrive with no grandma? Moi, that's who.

My husband, Mark, and I were subsequently invited to our first "Reveal Party." He asked, "What's a Reveal Party?" I said it had something to do with blue and pink frosting. We went and ate cake -- with blue frosting.

Now Michelle #2 might text at any time, any day: "Can you walk at 4?" And I know exactly who it is. I drop what I'm doing and get myself out my front door. She's on her way to knowing God’s welcoming heart. All because of an imperfect invitation.

The Imperfect Meal

In the interest of proper planning and following Mom's footsteps, I made Jell-O and a chicken rice casserole on a Saturday afternoon and invited Fred, Mark’s boss, for Sunday dinner the following day. Fred was a believer and divorced and loved a good meal.

The time came, and we dug in, sort of. First of all, the Jell-O didn't set. Who ruins Jell-O? Who even makes Jell-O? Fred laughed and let it pool on his plate. I realized the rice was too dry and crusty. I mumbled an apology and started to remove it from table. Fred stopped me and began scraping the rice from the casserole dish as hard as he could (it took muscle!) while explaining: "I’ll take some more--this is how my mother made it!"

I couldn't believe it. I was raised on chicken rice casserole and Jell-O – a true cooking fail.

Later, over coffee and dessert around the fire, God restored the heart of a lonely man. We loved Fred, and that afternoon, he knew God loved him, too. All in spite of an imperfect meal.

The Imperfect House

Mark began our remodel and what we thought might be a 6-month remodel turned into a 13-year remodel. We didn’t have walls--just white paper flapping in the wind. I wore a raincoat inside, and mice turned up in startling places.

Then, my friend Ruthie’s husband left her the month of their 40th anniversary. She mentioned one day: “I hate eating alone.”

We aren’t meant to eat alone. (I’m sure that’s in the Bible somewhere!) I met Ruthie at the door with a neck wrap heated in the microwave made from an old tablecloth and rice. I heated another for her lap and tucked in an afghan for good measure. We sat and ate and talked and cried. Every 30 minutes or so, I’d reheat the wrap and tuck the afghan closer around her knees. She stayed and stayed.

Ruthie didn’t mind the wires hanging from the ceiling and cement floors. She did eat one less meal alone, and no one noticed the imperfect home.

Is your welcome imperfect? I get it. That’s the perfect kind.

Invite anyway, and watch God work his sweet wonders.

Sue's a wife of one man-in-plaid and mom of three daughters--who keep her either at the bank or on her knees. She writes about God’s inviting heart at www.welcomeheart.com. Her most recent book, Table Mentoring: A Simple Guide to Coming Alongside, will encourage and inspire you to mentor others and be mentored yourself with practical advice and easy to implement ideas. She speaks for women's conferences, MOPS, and retreats; series and event topics listed on welcomeheart.com. See and hear a bit of Sue here

Are you looking for more resources? Have you checked out our books?
Our newest book, the 100 Daily Acts of Friendship for Girls is written specifically for girls aged 8-12 as they navigate friendships in upper elementary and middle school. With a scripture, short story, reflection questions and 50 fun activities to do with you or friends, it's a wonderful way to encourage your daughter, niece, granddaughter, God daughter and her friends to build healthy friendships from an early age.

And our adult friendship devotional, The One Year Daily Acts of Friendship is a perfect compliment to our book for tweens. With a daily scripture, story, and friendship prompt, its encouraging and slightly challenging (in a good way!) as you find, keep, and love your friends.   

We've also written two kindness devotionals, The One Year Daily Acts of Kindness and 100 Days of Kindness. They tell the story of how our families embarked on a one-year journey of kindness, and include our successes, failures, and the encouragement you need as a family to incorporate kindness into your own life.

We would love to walk alongside you in encouragement, inspiration, and community. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram as The Ruth Experience or sign up for our monthly newsletter (no spam, ever), here.

If you already have one of our books and love them, we'd so appreciate it if you leave a review on Amazon. God redeemed it all in the most incredible ways. 

Kendra, Julie, and Kristin

(Today we are once again linking up with the lovely Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee.)


  1. I have tears in my eyes as I read this. I've no words to express myself. This is beautiful.

    (I struggle trying to leave a comment on blogger sites as it won't let me use the Name/URL option, so it is anonymous now. :(

    1. Thank you! If you want to send us a quick message with your name and email, we'll make sure you're entered in the giveaway! Our email address is theruthexperience@hotmail.com :)

    2. Funny as we all feel anonymous at times yet we serve and are loved by The God Who Sees (a la, Hagar's story) - so thanks for commenting, and bless your heart and your table. sue

    3. I remember a friend inviting me over for lunch one day and serving up bagels with some lunch meat and cheese. It was such a simple meal but we had a great time and I realized that it's not the size or quality of the meal that matters - or the perfect house, but it's the time with a friend. Thanks for this great reminder, Sue!

  2. Thank you for this blog entry. This was really really good. Very encouraging.


  3. As a woman who is in the midst of a 25 year remodel, I'm thankful for your story and for your perseverance in showing up with grace at your table as the main ingredient!

    1. Well, I must say that sometimes I forget to add that most important of ingredients, just like I forgot the cranberries and caramel chips (whaaaa???) in my scones just now - but pushed them in just in time. God is so gracious and good (and so were the scones - my recently widowed non- believer friend just left w/ an extra two in her purse.)

  4. Your transparency is so refreshing. Thanks for reminding me to read today. My aunt and uncle are coming to my imperfect and experimental chicken something tonight. Invited them just this morning. they love me, and I try to love on them, however imperfect I am!
    Next up, neighbors across the street.

  5. This is so beautiful. I, like your anonymous reader above, am also fighting back tears. This a true testimony to who God is and how God works. #HeartEncouragement

    1. Isn't that the truth! May we never forget it. Thanks, Brittany.

  6. Sue you made me cry. I love your heart so much and really want to be your neighbor (pictures Mr. Rogers all the sudden)...

    Each story is gorgeous. This is what my heart craves so badly, and as I wonder where all the people like this are in my world, I can look at myself and see maybe it's me who needs to step out and quite waiting on another. #ouch

    You and your hubs are such wonderful souls (imperfectly wonderful). It's wild how God uses "us" to help people but how they equally touch our lives right?

    I really need this other book of yours. Going on my list! (hugs)

    1. Maybe you'll win, dear Megs! (: Or maybe i'll send it along w/ a crate of Kraft mac n cheese. (: I waited at one time in my life and kept waiting ... until I invite a slew of surprised older women - Sue can cook? No, but I could read - and life's been full ever since. (#don'twait)

  7. I wrote about being God's kind of perfect yesterday. I know about cooking fails though I can cook pretty well ( never learned to makes biscuits ), I have been known to boil eggs and forget them, finding them scorched. One night, there was a sudden burst of explosions, like five or six gunshots. My mother and I had a laugh, my eggs had exploded. Thank God for timers and angels.

    1. can't live w/o timers nor angels. I've been known to turn off a timer in a sort of irritated way, wondering What in the world was that on for?? Oops. #scorching Love the egg story, Rebecca.

  8. I enjoyed your imperfection sister! You have inspired me, we have old, old carpet that is quite frankly embarrassing but who cares, love is love!

    Remember your always welcome to drop by for a cup of inspiration, old carpet & all!

  9. I want to be brave and show people love! :)

    1. Congrats Sarah! You are the randomly chosen winner of Sue's book! Email us your shipping information at theruthexperience@hotmail.com and we'll be sure to get a book out to you!

  10. I think I've said it a million times, but I'll say it again! Oh, how I wish I had Sue just down the street from me to make me smile and invite us into her beautifully imperfect hospitality ♥

    Thanks so much, Sue, for joining me at #MomentsofHope! You are a blessing!!!

    Blessings and smiles,

  11. Sue, I have known you for many, many years and never thought of you as being imperfect. But that just shows us how wrong we can be. I love to read your writing about what happens in your home. Talk about imperfect that would be me. We used to entertain from time to time but anymore we don't do that much of it. But thanks for all that you share with us. God is a perfect and will guide us from day to day. Love you.
    Becky Jones