HOSPITALITY: Letting People Into Your Hot Mess

    I just want to be clear: I am the kind of person that cares what people think. When people come into my home, I'd prefer that they would take one good look around and say to themselves, "WOW! Noelle has really got her life together!"

     The problem is that I don't.

  I am not just talking about cooking, cleaning, and home decorating. So what if you discover that I am terrible at staying on top of my laundry? I can live with that. What I don't want you to find out is that...

  • My husband and I fight sometimes.
  • My kids don't always get along or obey.
  • I start screaming when we are running late to anything.
  • I struggle with anxiety.
  • I forget to pay bills on time.
  • I'm on my phone way too much.
  • I'm always trying to lose weight but never trying hard enough.
  • I don't always get to my "quiet time" with Jesus everyday because busyness or Netflix gets the priority. (cue: shock and horror from reader)

     These are just some of the things I would prefer to keep from you when you are a guest in my home. Like shoving the miscellaneous clutter into a junk drawer or a spare closet...I want to hide the hot mess of my life to give the appearance of a picture perfect life.


      The desire to appear perfect keeps me from being hospitable.

  I don't mind "entertaining" because when I am "entertaining", I can play the part of the perfect host, wife, mother, domestic goodness, and "spiritual" person. I can let you see what I want you see. I have constructed the parameters of which I will "let you into" and you get a piece of my real life but... heavens, no... you won't get to see ALL of my real life. I can get away with a lot of "pretending" with social entertaining but I can't be insincere with hospitality. 

 Hospitality is letting people into your hot mess.

It's letting people see the real me...the unedited, unfiltered version of my life. It's being willing to invite people to my table even though I know my table is far from perfect. I might not have the finer things of life...or a Pinterest-worthy home... or the perfect marriage... or children that sing "Kumbaya" on cue... but I still have an open place at my sticky, crumb-infested table for a person who needs to somewhere to belong.

Hospitality is saying, "There is room for you here.    It's a hot mess but your welcomed to be here."

     The mistake I have made over and over again is that I assume people want perfect. I assume people want to be inspired by my excellent life skills (or so I pretend to posses). I assume people are looking for me to have it all together but - 

      The truth is that people feel most at home with what they can relate to...and nobody can relate to perfect. 

      There is no need to "wow" folks when it comes to hospitality. The only requirement of hospitality is to make others feel "welcomed". And I can do that. I can make folks feel important and wanted. I can be a listening ear, an encouraging voice, a helping hand... a friend who is there... hot mess and all. 

  In the end, we all need to a place to belong.









I am just going to lay it all out on the table here:

I was not always a safe person.


  • I spilled people's secrets.
  • I gossiped about friends.
  • I judged folks like a freakin' professional.

I was not always a safe person for my friends to be vulnerable with until...

I realized I needed a safe person I could show my raw, bleeding heart to. 

  When I was going through a very difficult situation in my life, it become evident to me that I really didn't have someone I could be reeeeeally honest with. There was no one in my circle that I felt safe enough to expose what was going on in my life without feeling like the information I shared could be used against me. Besides, I had been hurt before.

    The problem was that the less vulnerable I was more... the more disconnected I felt from others. I knew things had to change. I needed to speak up and let someone see the real me and the mess that was going on inside.

4 Signs Your Friend is.a Safe Person to be Vulnerable With.png

   So, how DO we know if our friend is a safe person to be vulnerable with?


   In other words, a "safe" friend isn't always chronically expressing to you their negative opinions on how other people live their lives. 


"Personally, I feel like it's a little too soon for her to get married. I doubt the marriage will last."


  Sometimes "judgy-ness" is sugar coated with a shared concern or worse... formatted as a prayer request:


"Please pray for So-and-So. I am concerned she's getting remarried too soon and the marriage won't last." 



   The number one reason why we are hesitant to be vulnerable with others is because we fear we will be judged. Judgement makes us feel instantly unsafe. This is why we need non-judgemental friends in our lives. 

   If your friend is constantly judging all over the place... they probably aren't a safe person to be vulnerable with. 




   A friend who is safe is not someone who will chronically spill to you other people's personal business. They don't feel the need to "fill you in" on someone's past so that you "can better understand"


"Don't tell anyone I told you this... but they had problems in their marriage before. She cheated on him with a co-worker."


   When a friend tells you something about another person it can make you feel like you are "on the inside" and deceptively closer to the person spilling the information. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is that you are probably just one in many folks they have said "Don't tell anyone I told you this but...". A big mouth plays no favorites.

    "Safe" friends are not over-sharers about other people's lives. 




     A friend who is safe is someone who, when in conflict with another friend, is not trying to recruit you to be on their side.


       "Can I just vent to you for a moment? You Know Who and I had a big fight and I just need to know that I am not the crazy one."


      Sometimes we DO need a third party to help us process a conflict with another person. "Venting" can be healthy and appropriate. There is a difference between venting and recruiting. Venting confides in and looks for guidance from one or two trusted friends. Recruiting is telling many friends about the conflict in hopes to gather a small army by their side.

    You'll know if your friend is "recruiting" by how many people they are "venting" to as well as what their "venting" consists of. A good question to ask is: Are they venting only about the specific conflict or are they trying to discredit the character of the other person?

    Recruiters are not a safe person to be vulnerable with because they use personal information about another to persuade others to be against them.



       A friend who is safe to be vulnerable with is someone who can be fully present with you and not always looking to turn the conversation to be about them.

      "Let me tell you story about me...


     Conversation hijackers  are unable to share the conversational space. They interrupt, talk over and never ask you follow up questions about what you have just shared. They are not always a safe person to be vulnerable with because they have poor listening skills and may only use your story as a platform to launch from into their next story...

    A friend who is safe will make sure you feel heard.


The real question we should ask ourselves is...


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Am I a safe person for my friends to be vulnerable with?

  • Am I judgmental? Do I always have a negative comment to make about other people's lives?
  • Am I a big mouth? Do I tell my friends personal information about other people they do not need to know?
  • Am I someone who recruits others to be on my side of a conflict? When I am not getting along with someone, do I want to make sure others don't want to get a long with them either?
  • Am I conversation hijacker? Am I always trying one up my friends with a better story or do I always bring the conversation back to my life?


    When I ask myself these questions, I know that I have not always been a safe person for my friends to be vulnerable with. As much as I need a "safe friends"... my friends need to able to find a "safe friend" in me too. 

      In order to thrive, we must feel like we can be vulnerable with someone. We have to feel like there is a safe person to tell. This is why we must both be on the look out for friends we can be vulnerable with but also intentionally become a friend that others can be vulnerable. In friendship, it's always about the give and take.

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.
— Madeline L'Engle


     Let's become "safe friends" for each other because, "to be alive is to be vulnerable".

Always a friend,




   Noelle Rhodes is the podcast host for the podcast show, Friending. She is writer and speaker about cultivating deep, meaningful female friendship in this modern day. You can find out more on how to book Noelle to speak at your next event or be on your podcast show here.


       "I am sure others feel the same as you."  I watched her as she  pushed the half-half towards me because she knows its the only way I drink my coffee these days, "Nobody really  knows what they want to be when they grow up anymore." 

        All I could think about as she spoke, was how I should be grown up enough to drink my coffee black and I can't even do that.

   The problem is that ten years ago,  I had this adult thing all figured out. I knew everything. 

        I knew what I wanted to be and how I wanted to live. Ten years ago, I would have imagined myself living very differently than I do. In fact, "mid-twenties Noelle" would be quite surprised that "mid-thirties Noelle" doesn't have her own talk show by now - because clearly, I'd have my crap so together, everyone would want to know how to be me.



   After having a lived a little bit of life, I feel hardly the expert or accomplished.  If anything, I feel like an adulthood drop-out who is way behind in achieving my mid-twenties plan.

     The American Dream is a quiet and judgmental presence that sits at your table with her arms crossed and a disapproving look upon her face. Like a great-aunt who questions your life choices at every family gathering, the American Dream leans in to you just at your most vulnerable moment and says, "So, what are you actually  planning to do with your life? Cause' clearly this isn't cutting it." One by one, she highlights the failures:

 Don't own your own house?     Slacker.

Drive a car older than five years?    Deadbeat.

No graduate degrees?    Dropout. 

Less than a thousand Insta followers?   Nobody.

Don't have a career that you love and are making six figures from?    Disappointment.

Do any of these things really matter? No. Well, at least that's what we say... but I suspect that we have secretly made these the markers of how we self-grade our lives. And some of us feel like we are failing. Our mid-twenties selves would be disappointed with our mid-thirties selves and there can be a lot of shame wrapped up in that. We are wandering towards our forties mumbling to those around us, "Wait! I don't know what to do with my life! I'm behind!" 



   "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?" my friend asked as she offered me a spoon to stir my coffee.

  "I don't know. Betty White?" I answered, "Or maybe the Queen of England."

 "Don't we all?" she laughed and then took a tiny sip of her pour over. "But what if we just grow up to be decent and lovely human beings? Will that be enough?"

  I thought about it for a moment. If my life never achieves my  "mid-twenties life-plan", will I be okay with becoming a decent and lovely human being... and nothing more? 

   "Maybe, " I said. "but pass me the half and half again. I can't drink this coffee so strong."


   Noelle is a    speaker  , podcaster, and an everyday encourager .   She is the podcast producer/host for   Friending Podcast   and is a regular co-host for the podcast,   Slices of Life  . She lives in North Jersey with her    husband and two children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.         For more random facts on Noelle you can    click here    or stalk her on   Instagram  .

  Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and an everyday encourager She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her  husband and two children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

       For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.






       I'm sitting in Panera's right now... crying like a baby. In between sipping my free-refill dark roast coffee and trying to wipe the snot from my face ... I am writing to you. Weeping like a fool.

Here's the thing:

The last 60 days were the worst.

Like the worst.

         Those of you who know me or know of me, may be curious as to "what is going in Noelle's life?" but the details are not all mine to own and I'll need you to understand that. 

But a lot went down.

       And I had to temporarily step back from a few things I love (like the Friending Podcast) to tend to the people I love the family. It was hard to do but it was the right thing to do so I did it. I'm still doing it. 

  In the midst of going through a season that was already terrible, our hearing impaired son's hearing aid broke. It was having problems for a while since it wasn't really suited to support all the special equipment he uses in school (such as an FM system and Roger Mic). Intially, I didn't panic because we had nearly met our son's deductible due to all the appointments he has throughout the year regarding his hearing. I thought, "Surely, our insurance will cover some of the cost of getting him hearing aids that will be strong enough for what he needs them for." 

     To make a very long story short - I was wrong.

    This news broke me. Hearing aids are incredibly expensive and I knew we did not have the money to pay for them. I felt like we had failed our son as his parents. I felt like I had failed in life in general and I was already having a terrible 60 days. I cried and cried and called my closest friends and cried to them.

     I was such in a bad way, my sister-in-law, Jenna, showed up at my house with three cupcakes and said, "I want to start a Go Fund Me to help raise money for Silas' hearing aids."

        I told her "thank you for the cupcakes but no thank you to the Go Fund Me. I can't ask people to help us."   After having been a missionary for 6 years, where we relied on the monthly financial support of others, I couldn't muster up any strength to ask for help. I just cried and ate cupcakes. But my sister-in-law persisted and said, "I want to do this for you."


    And she did.

     Within an hour of her posting the Go Fund Me, $2000.00 were raised!  I didn't believe her until I checked the link she sent me. Over the next week, more and more people from all over the world began to donate money and share the post. This morning while sitting in Panera's , I received a phone call to tell me that nearly $5000 have been raised to help pay for the hearing aids Silas needs. 

Hence, why I am crying.

   Because there is a healing power that comes when we let others help us. It takes a lot of vulnerability and courage to say, "I can't do this on my own. Can someone help me?" Sometimes we don't even have the strength to say that - the shame is too heavy. We need to let our friends help carry the burden when they see us struggling and say,

"Hey! This is too heavy for you to hold on your own! Move over! I am helping!"

   Yes, these last 60 days were pretty terrible but as I have seen the generosity and genuine care of others (even strangers) come to help us, I have begun to remember what hope feels like again... healing is taking place... and I am learning that:

   Letting others help in times of need is not admitting failure as a human... it's admitting that you are simply human. Period.

We are not created to do life on our own. We need each other. 

   Many thanks to all of you who have donated to help us Silas' getting new hearing aids.  I am humbled by your heart to care for Silas this way. I don't have the words to express my gratitude at this moment. Even as I type these final words, I can sense the ugly crying coming on. So, I'll need to save my words of appreciation for when I am writing in the privacy of my home. But until then,  please know... Troy, Olive, myself and of course, Silas:

Thank you.



    And to you, dear friend, who is also having a season of pain, shame, and terribleness:

Let those offering, help you.

You and I can't do this alone. We need our people to help us. We do.

Your friend,













Let's face it. We've all been the bad friend.

We've forgotten to call.

We didn't show up.

We told a secret.

We didn't invite.

We made it about ourselves.

We didn't really listen.

We spoke too strongly.

We didn't speak up at all.

We blame shifted.

We gave the silent treatment.

We were too busy.

We stole the limelight.

We took for granted.

This list could on.


So, here's the thing:

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     We've all been the bad friend at some point in someone's life. In fact, there is a strong possibility that someone is out there right now  telling their "Bad Friend" story and YOU are the antagonist.  The hard cold truth is that we have NOT been Mr. Rogers to every person we've ever known. Does this make us terrible people?


Well,  actually yes...

Alright, maybe.

   Maybe we have been a terrible friend at some point in our life journey but here's what we can do about it:

1. 'FESS UP.

    If we want to be a good friend from here on out, it's important to acknowledge that there has been times where we have been a bad friend. Look at the list above. Which of those things have  you been guilty of? Telling secrets? Forgetting to call? Giving the silent treatment? Take honest look and face your friendship crimes. But don't wallow in your mistakes. Work on them! If you need to make more time for friends, listen to podcasts or read books on the work/life balance. If you need to get better at addressing conflict, talk to a coach or counselor about sharpening communication skills. Fessing' up to your specific friendship crimes will help you know exactly where you can improve.


  Focus in on the healthy, consistent friendships you have going on in your life currently. Become intentional at improving your friendship skills. Commit to becoming a great listener! Make room in your schedule so you can show up to your friend's important events! Learn to communicate when there is conflict! Choose to be the cheerleader instead of always trying to steal the show! Be awesome at staying in touch!  It's never too late to become a great friend to the people you are friends with today!


     There may come a time when a friend lets YOU down. Don't forget how easy it is to be the bad friend. When a friend commits a friendship crime against you, gently confront them. Give them opportunity to change. Extend grace as one has been a bad friend before. If this friend continues to hurt you, clearly communicate your choice to put a healthy distance in the friendship. It's important that we don't allow others to continually treat us badly just because we ourselves have let others down in our past. Sometimes being a good friend is saying good-bye to an unhealthy friendship.

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    Yes, we've all been the bad friend at one point or other - but hey,

We can be better.

Your friend, 




       Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

THE MAGICAL POWER OF UGLY CRYING: Why Good Friends Let You Lose Your Crap

Ever felt like life has gone absolutely mental and everything (and everyone ) is so overwhelming, you are going to lose your crap at any moment?

Yup, me too. This is why I am a BIG fan of the "ugly cry".

It is the ultimate melt down where you can expect  tears flowing, snot dripping, hair frizzing, nose snorting and even some  drooling (yes, sometimes I drool when I ugly cry).  Somehow I always feel better afterwards... no matter how "ugly" I looked doing it.

Here are some of the reasons that I have ugly cried ...

  • A family member died.
  • The bridesmaid's dress I was suppose to wear for my brother's wedding wouldn't zip.
  • I had to send my first born to their first day of school. I wept so loud, the other mothers began to stare.
  • I fell down a flight of stairs and hit my elbow. It hurt really bad. (This was last week, by the way)
  • I left a country and church that I really loved to come back to the States.
  • I lost one of my children's passport before going through Border Control at the airport.
  • Whenever I watch "Biggest Loser". It gets me every time.

Ugly crying is good for the soul. All that pinned up raw emotion is let loose and suddenly I surrender to the fact that I  cannot "keep it together" ALL THE TIME.  I am undone. 

Friends who let friends ugly cry unashamedly,  are the best friends to have.

They are  the ones who hunt down the tissue box when the tears begin to pour. They let you snot all over their shoulder and borrow their compact mirror so you can count how many black lines of mascara streaks are on your face. They are the ones who put their hand out when  people get nosey and say, "She needs a minute." These friends hold you up as you fall into pieces. They listen closely and are able to interpret your words through snobs and snorts. They don't wince when you drop in a swear word or two. They don't questions your emotion or accuse you of overacting. They just let you do what you need to do and that is...

Ugly cry.

Our "ugly cry" friends are special because they get to see us at our most vulnerable moments. They get this privilege because we feel safe with them. We trust them. We know that they think the best of us even when they see us at our worst.  

Today I want to give a big shout to my "ugly cry" friends! You know who you are. Thanks for letting me lose it. Because of you, I am able to admit, "I don't have it together."  My soul is lighter and my heart is freer knowing I can fall apart in front you.

Who are your "ugly cry" friends? And when was the last time you had a good "ugly cry" session?

Your friend,



WHAT? YOU TOO? How Admitting Struggle Cements Our Friendship

It took the "know-it-all" in me a long time to figure out that very few people want to be close friends with a "know-it-all". Who wants "Ms. Perfect" around to make sure your inadequacies are continuously highlighted? Um. No one.

I remember the days when I was avid in giving "expert" parenting advice to my friends. Of course, these were days well before I was ever a parent myself. I distinctly remember the time when I told a sleep deprived friend to simply let her restless baby "cry it out at night". The daggers that popped out of her eyeballs were unmistakably pointed towards me. I wish I could go back to that very moment and tell my "pre-parent" self to simply, "Shut up."

Here's what I've learned:

It's not our  good ideas or helpful advice that cements our friendships. It's not even our talents or above average abilities that deepen our friendship . No, in fact, it's ours struggles that tighten the ties of our hearts together. It's our problems that give us reason to talk and walk through life together. It's those moments when we realize that we are not the only ones who feel utterly inadequate  that we find a friend....

C.S. Lewis couldn't be more right when he said, 

“Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

The temptation is to appear as though "I have everything under control" so that I am likable to others. People who have it "all together" are not looking for  friends...they are looking for fans. So, if I am looking for friendship, it will serve me well to remember that  authenticity is attractive in friendship. 

I should mention that that there is a risk in "being real". Someone could be careless with our struggle and bruise us with their words or worse... their silence. This is the kind of hurt that really stings. Even so, I have found the alternative to being authentic (distant, aloof, and well-guarded) has caused me a deeper pain ... the painfulness of being alone

I remember a time when I had confessed to a group of women how I had a serious habit of worrying about everything. I thought sharing this bit of information about myself would automatically put me in the "crazy lady category" but just the opposite happened. Women who had never gone beyond the "surface" of conversation with me, now had started to open to me up their own struggles! One woman said to me, "What? You too? I thought I was the only one who deals with panic on a daily basis. Do you want to get coffee sometime?"

And we did get that coffee. Years later, we are still good friends.

Perhaps you feel that your current friendships are shallow or you feel as though you are walking this path alone. Take the risk today, to call a friend and speak your struggles to them. Ask them to take your hand and help you through. You may be surprised to find that she will say back to you,

"I need help too. Let's do this together."

I promise, the risk is worth it.

Your friend