The best gift you can give to someone is yourself.

I have always enjoyed gatherings of every kind; weddings, reunions, picnics, or even a cup of coffee between two friends. I love the opportunity to sit and connect with that person to share our lives, some laughter, and if I am lucky, some great food too.

Growing up, we routinely shared meals at the homes of friends and family. I always felt special and loved in the various homes we visited, and our hosts were very gifted in the art of hospitality. An art that I feel is being lost.

I confess that while I love to go to someone else's home, I rarely have people over myself and have felt convicted to change this.

Recently I took a seminar on hospitality. I was relieved to find that I wasn't the only one feeling deficient in this area and learned that my reasons for not being more hospitable were shared by many others.

I also learned that those "reasons" were hogwash and wanted to share some tips that should encourage you to bless others by opening up your home to them.

People are often reluctant to have friends into their homes because they feel their house is: too small, not nicely decorated, has ugly carpets, walls or furnishings, dishes that do not match, etc.

Some feel there isn't enough time to clean every time they want to invite company. One woman in the seminar even stressed over getting the walls painted to cover the "art" her children left behind.

What we learned is that most people could care less what your house looks like. No one is likely to come in wearing a white glove and scold you for the dust bunnies lurking in the corner. The truth is, they are just happy to be with you.

Try to always be company-ready by keeping your kitchen, bathroom and living room reasonably tidy. Instead of going crazy making your home immaculate, do a few 15-minute cleaning blitzes in the days leading up to your guests' arrival.

You would be amazed how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes, especially if you can get your entire household to pitch in.

Another issue was food, with people feeling that they lacked both the skill and finances to put out a large spread.

Being hospitable doesn't mean that you have to prepare a full-course meal or even have a meal at all. Work within your budget and your time constraints. Use familiar recipes rather than trying something new. A planned potluck, where one guest provides a meat, another a vegetable, and so on, is another way to go.

Inviting folks over for dessert and coffee or even a glass of freshly-brewed iced tea on a hot summer afternoon will surely brighten their day.

If you still feel you can't have people to your home, plan a small picnic lunch at a park or a lake. Or, invite them out for an ice cream or a leisurely walk on a beautiful day.

One of my concerns was feeling that I couldn't entertain company and that they would be bored. I don't have all of the latest gaming systems, or any other neat amenities.

What I CAN do is listen and take an interest in a person's life and make them feel welcome, important and at peace in my home. I also give great hugs.

People often carry many troubles and if coming to my home can be a sanctuary for just a little while, then I'm in.

Dictionary.com defines hospitality as "the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way." I can do that, and so can you.

We needn't worry about being perfect or extravagant. All we really need to do is shower love on people.

Proverbs 11:25 says "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Now the question for me is whom shall I invite over first?