Comparison is the thief of joy.
I love a good dare. Many of you will remember it was a dare by Francis Schaeffer that prompted me to put the turquoise table in my front yard. A dare to open up my front door and build community right where I live.
Behind that dare was a deeply rooted issue I was struggling with — comparison. Far too often I found myself saying things like:
I would invite people over to dinner if only I had outdoor patio furniture…
Maybe when the kids are older and the house isn’t such a wreck…
I’ve made some strides, but still backslide into the old comparison games. So, when my friends at Mary & Martha asked if I would be up for taking the #nocomparedare, I knew I was in. And, I’d like you to join me, too.
Time after time, I hear women lament they wish they were better about inviting friends and neighbors over. But, we are pulled in so many different directions. Our packed-to-the-brim schedules are one of the biggest obstacles we face when it comes to opening up our lives and homes to others. The other is a rotten little bugger named Comparison.
But these are the truths I’ve been learning…
It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect
We are bombarded in magazines, movies, and on social media with images of what our lives “should” look like. When we start comparing our everyday lives to those we see on Pinterest and in our Facebook feed, the joy gets sucked out of life pretty quick. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than scrolling through Instagram foodie pics when you’re having wine and Cheez-Its for dinner.
One day at the turquoise table, my friends and I made a Top 10 list of the things that get in our way of welcoming friends and even family into our homes. Maybe you’ll recognize some of our pitfalls:
- If my kitchen were bigger
- If I had nicer outdoor furniture
- If I wasn’t on a diet
- If we made more money
- If my kids were older and not so rambunctious
- If my kids were younger and I had an excuse to host a playgroup
- If my schedule wasn’t so jam packed
- If my house was nicer, or at least clean
- If I wasn’t so tired and stressed out
We decided these were really just lame excuses that were masking underlining issues of pride and fear. Talking about the way we let Comparison rob us of our joy made such a huge difference. You know how it is, once you air your dirty laundry it just doesn’t stink as bad? I’m grateful for my friends and our honest conversation.
Gather Small, Love Deep
When kicking comparison to the curb, I try to remember these words: simple is best. I tend to get caught up in the myth that more is better. I’ll start small, thinking I’ll have just a few friends over for coffee and before you know it, I’ve turned the house upside down and made a chocolate soufflé. Ok, I’ve never made a soufflé in my life, but you get the point. When it comes to gathering, it’s always about loving the people at our table. The point is not what we serve, but who we serve.
Gathering a small group of friends or neighbors over is more than fine. Simple is great! When we’re more focused on the people than the service, our love goes deeper and we better serve those gathered around us.
But just in case you need a no fail, super easy chocolate fudge sheet cake for you next gathering (and c’mon, who doesn’t need a yummy chocolate recipe?!), my grandmother’s recipe is a fantastic go-to for an irresistible treat with friends. Cut the cake into small, bite sized squares and it will go a long way!Print
Chocolate Sheet Cake
My grandmother’s chocolate fudge sheet cake recipe is a classic. Rich and chocolatey it’s sure to cure your sweet tooth. Serve the cake in small bite sized squares for an irresistible treat at the table with friends.
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour
- For the cake:
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 2 sticks butter
- 4 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- For the icing:
- 1 stick butter
- 4 tablespoons cocoa
- 6 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.
- Sift sugar and flour together in a large bowl.
- In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt butter, cocoa, and water. Bring to a rapid boil. Pour over flour and sugar. Stir by hand until blended.
- Next mix in buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir until well combined and pour into greased pan. Bake for 20 -25 minutes.
- While the cake is baking, make the icing.
- In the same sauce pan miix butter, cocoa, and whole milk over low heat. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir by hand until smooth.
- Spread icing over cake. Wait until completely cool before cutting.
- Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake freezes beautifully.
I always want my house to be in tip top shape. I’ve struggled with this on so many ways and it’s time to “kick it to the curb!”
Missy – I’m glad you’ve seen my house in complete shambles and that you’re up for the dare! Always better together. 🙂
Stephanie W says
So often I want my home to be picked and sparkling and the funny part is, the times it has looked really lived in are the times other moms open up more and then thank me for not having a perfect home. No one can relate to Miss Suzy Perfect Homemaker. Everyone can relate to crumbs under the dining room table and Power Ranger action figures scattered on the living room floor. My solution? Just light a yummy candle and embrace the mess.
Stephanie — I agree, those spontaneous, real-life, unprepped gatherings are the best. Authentic always trumps the fake mask of perfection. I have a wise friend who says, “if you can’t see it from a galloping horse, no one else will either,” So let’s light those candles and embrace the real life mess together. So grateful for you!
Stephanie W says
Oh, and I’ve liked The Schell Cafe for awhile now!
Martha Conroy says
Love this post! There always seems to be something that prevents me from hosting friends over. Comparison is one of my problems too! Keep it simple, I like that now I just have to do it!
Mar – We can do it! K.I.S.S. xoxo, K
Sandra Heska King says
I’ve been craving chocolate cake. I usually make my grandmother’s “wacky cake.” I found the recipe in my little Peg Bracken, coverless, rubber banded together, paperback “The I Hate to Cook Book.”
My stumbling blocks in past years have been family chaos–never knowing when there might be a meltdown. Now it’s sheer exhaustion… and yeah, the house. The cluttered one with half ripped-down wallpaper. The one that smells like cat piddle. The one with the duct-taped leather furniture.
I already like The Schell Cafe. And I love you.
Sandra, I need that “wacky cake” recipe. For reals. And, I’d come hang with you anyday in the midst of chaos, duct-tape and cat piddle. Thank you for being my friend. xo
Kristin smith says
I think the hardest thing for me, it’s just not feeling good enough. Not feeling like my house will be clean enough, or my food will be good enough…. And then there’s the whole fear that nobody would actually show up. 🙂 but God is working on my heart in this way too so I think it’s just a process!
Kristin – YOU are enough! I’m enough! We are ALL enough, just because we are His. I need to tattoo that on my arm. Grateful we are in this together, friend. Thanks for hanging out at the table and always being a constant source of encouragement. xo
Kristin smith says
And of course I’ve already liked your Facebook page! And I can’t wait to try this recipe
I’ve liked your page long ago. Of course:)
You know what, I’m very much inlinced to agree.
Hospitality can easily turn into a joy comparison for me. When I see or hear about the “bigger” things others are doing in the name of Christ I can feel like me loving my family, helping at the school, or be present for my kids is so minimal at best. But, I have to remind myself how Jesus places us uniquely in our spheres of influence for a reason. He doesn’t see my care for my family as anything small.
Kamille, I love our continuing conversations on this. You know what I think — loving your family, helping at school, and being present for your kids IS THE BEST kind of hospitality there is. You know the old cliche home is where the heart is? Well, Home is where the Heart . . . Is Formed. That’s what you are doing. And, doing well. I’m so grateful for you, friend. xo
Love this so much! First, the cake looks absolutely delicious! It reminds me of Texas Sheet Cake, which is a favorite I’ve made. I love to entertain and gather people together, many times at my place. When I prepare for a gathering, I want it to look as beautiful and inspiring as possible (with flowers and decor and matching things), but sometimes I forget it’s ok that its not Instagram and Pinterest perfect!
Liked your Facebook page!
This recipe is almost a Texas Sheet Cake — minus the nuts and occasional coconut. This recipe came from my grandmother in Kansas, so I bet she just took out those ingredients to drop the whole Texas thang. 😉 Your comment reminded me of something else my grandmother taught me, “pretty is as pretty does”. When we set the table with kindness and love — flowers and decor don’t take center stage. I know you know this… I’m talking to myself, too. Grateful you stopped by today and hope to see you around the table again soon. xo
elizabeth w. marshall says
Is my house clean enough?
Am I ready on all front?
Fortunately for me, moving toward 56 I worry less and have folks over with a little less internal stress.
I was the whirling dervish. My poir family. Not perfected, still a hot mess. But more grace.
Love it here, btw.
Elizabeth — I’ve often used the phrase whirling dervish to describe myself. I already knew we were kindreds, but that pretty much seals the deal. Grateful you are here, friend. xo
elizabeth w. marshall says
I like you already.
Why on earth would someone want to come to my house and all of its insanity as a break from their own…need to remember…someone else’s crazy is a nice break just b/c it isn’t your own and is always a comforting reminder to witness everyone’s house is crazy…no matter what their Facebook says! 😉
Susan, We need a t-shirt that says, “My crazy is crazier than your crazy”. Oh wait, that would be comparison. Never mind. 😉 xo
This post came at the perfect time! I was planning to make a “Texas sheet cake” for my son’s birthday this weekend, but didn’t have a recipe! So thanks for that. 🙂
I’ve been greatly encouraged by the Turquoise Table initiative and, though I don’t have a table in my front yard yet, we’ve busted out of our shell to deliver May Day baskets to our neighbors and will be donning doorsteps with little baskets of our garden’s strawberry harvest in the next couple days!
As far as comparison goes, my biggest struggle is the “not enough” mentality. I’m not a good enough cook, my home’s not clean enough, I’m not outgoing enough… the list of lies goes on and on. Enough already!
Bethany, You’re right Enough Already! I can hear us all chanting it together. So glad you are here today. And, what a fabulous idea to share your strawberries. There’s a beautiful story of provision and fruit right there. Will you share photos when you deliver them to your neighbors? That’s a fantastic #FrontYardPeople story. xo
And of course, I already “Like” you on Facebook. 😉
Bethany Leffingwell says
Even though I absolutely adore my home, when I have friends over I still catch myself thinking about wished-for upgrades such as kitchen, flooring, window treatments that are on my future upgrade list. I have to be very deliberate in stopping myself from thinking about these things and to change my mindset to one of thankfulness. Generous hospitality = loving my friends and family. Thinking about the unimportant things is just a distraction.
Bethany, Gratitude is the best medicine. Every time I start to get an itchy case of the “wants” I take a big dose of thankfulness. Thankful you reminded me! Hugs to you my dear hospitable friend. xo
The dogs and the autism. Life is a beautiful combination of chaos and clutter iced with the occasion melt down at our house and few have the grace to accept it for what it is.
I loved the turquoise table post! Maybe it’s because we are moving but I’ve been devouring posts like this about connecting with friends and neighbors. I want to do better next time! I think my biggest struggle is wanting to offer a comfortable, inviting environment, but with four kids and even them helping, it can be stressful to have people over. I’m also an introvert do I’m always wondering what people are thinking about me. But I’m ready and willing to be brave and you totally made me just email some friends to have them come over before we move 😉
It’s sometimes hard for me to have company over because my house isn’t as clean as I’d like it to be, and my couch literally has a hole worn through it because it’s so old. Lately I’ve been choosing not to worry about those things and inviting people over anyway! It’s been so freeing to just enjoy having friends over and not spending my time worrying that my house isn’t perfect. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!
I also liked The Schell Cafe on Facebook. 🙂
Melinda Shanklin says
Perfectionism. Sometimes the interesting combination of laziness/busy-ness. #excuses
Melinda Shanklin says
I already like the Schell Cafe–a lot! Your chocolate sheet cake recipe is very similar to my mom’s except hers has cinnamon and Crisco! I prefer good old-fashioned butter myself…
Vikki Huisman says
I fear getting judged for my dinged up, hand me down furniture in my tiny house. Funny how these things never bother me until I worry about what other people think.
I dont do that to others so why do I think it will be done to me? 🙂
Already liked your FB page. Would love to win these plates. I grew up in a home where the table was always open. I used to be like that but after raising teenage boys the house is a wreck and everything is shabby, I can’t remember the last time I had anyone over.
Lorilee Mundfrom says
I compare myself to others and make excuses like “if only I had better carpet”, ” if I could cook better”,” if I had beautiful furniturefurniture”. I am sure there are more “if onlys that I could come up with eventually.
SUsan M. says
I already have you liked on Facebook. My biggest fear is a dirty house.
Nicole Vickey says
That cake recipe looks dangerously like the one we love from Zoe’s kitchen – definitely being made for our next neighbor happy hour. As for comparison obstacles, it’s definitely my house being clean enough. We are a real family, with a dog who seems to sheds her own weight near daily and bathrooms that look like a 5 year old uses them. Our table out front has been such a blessing – we can put on a great party out there without inside having to be perfect.
Nicole Vickey says
Liked The Schell Cafe on FB 🙂
Sonya Loyer says
I’ve been following you on Facebook for quite awhile and love it! We have a bunch of food allergies at our house diagnosed in the last 3 years. It made food complicated! I had to throw out all my go-to recipes. Recently I found some conversions & substitutions & it’s getting much easier. I’m more equipped now and ready to increase our hospitality!
I’ve always struggled with housekeeping. There’s always a book to read, a kid to feed, a class to prep for, or a relationship to foster. I’ve always wished I had a bit of Mary Poppins Magic.
My biggest challenge is the introvert/extrovert balance. I need to be nourished in the quiet. I’ll often go on a hospitality kick and then go for weeks recovering.
Laura Carter says
My biggest comparison obstacles are my house being too small, too messy, kids too small, kitchen not big enough. The list goes on.
Laura Carter says
I liked you on FB
Loved this post – thank you for putting into words what I so often feel. I WANT to be a great hostess – a welcome mat for Jesus – but have such a hard time getting over my insecurities of “what will they think?” To just fling the door wide open. I love the idea of being a front yard person. I am saving my pennies for a table and dreaming of Saturday morning donuts around the table!
You said the cake freezes – should I freeze it already iced? Any idea the best way to thaw/serve after freezing?
Linda L. Seidel says
I loved your podcast with Mister Manners, and I’m looking forward to baking this cake to eat with friends. Kristin, your comparison list could have come from many of the silly conversations I have in my head. The biggest block is that I’m not a fabulous housekeeper and don’t mind so much, except that I love being with people and wish my home was cleaner, neater, and always ready for a visitor. I socialize more away from home, and I tend to have people over more in the summer when I know we can be outdoors most of the visit. I’m eager to keep listening and change my life. I’m 67, walking with two canes, and I’m not going to get lots of do-overs any more. Thanks you so much!