Just the other day . . .
I looked up at the lovely Heart of the Home calendar hanging above my desk. And just in time for my pre-Thanksgiving panic, it displayed the following quote:
As I read the quote it warmed my heart and made me smile. I thought it was the cutest thing I had ever heard. I love what the saying implies. I interpret it to mean: What does it matter if you don’t have what’s considered appropriate to entertain? All that’s needed is good food and fellowship! And while I love the spirit of Alice May Brock’s sentiments, it’s really hard to live by.
My little house on the freeway doesn’t have a dining room. We happily dine in our kitchen. Our table seats six comfortably and eight snugly. As I’ve shared many times in the past, our kids just seem to come with friends (many of them) and our doors are usually open to them so our table can easily go from full to fuller when we dine.
It’s not uncommon for us to try to fit ten or even eleven people at our table. We’ve even been known to pull up a laundry bin for extra seating (they’re pretty sturdy and just the right height!), or one of the smallest girls will sit on Dad’s lap just to make it happen. Whether it’s for a holiday celebration or a formal birthday dinner, somehow we always seem to pull it off.
With a history like that, you might think that I wouldn’t be obsessing over who is going to sit where this Thanksgiving; but I am. I AM! I AM! I AM! (Whew! Having a moment, there.)
Every year, in fact, I’m a virtual nut job about which guest will sit where and I have panic attacks about not having enough formal seating for all of our guests. (We don’t sit on laundry bins for Thanksgiving.) :o)
We are a family of eight, but really nine counting my son-in-law. My parents will make the guest list – that’s two more! And (maybe?) my brother and his family of seven (yes, I’m sweating bullets), and my kids’ *ahem* significant others and closest friends . . . like, maybe? Every year, there are about 20 in attendance, half of which have “iffy” RSVP’s. That may not be a lot of people to have over for a house fellowship, but pulling off a sit down dinner for that many at my little house on the freeway – and not being certain of who will show up – can drive me to drink (espresso!).
I am not a Mary. I am a
psychopath Martha. I wan’t things to be beautiful and perfect. And it’s killing me.
This will be me on Thanksgiving. Boston Market will be my best friend.
I totally understand why Martha asked Jesus to put Mary in her place (presumably with a serious head-roll) because she wasn’t helping to serve guests (Luke 10:38-42).
Matter of fact, if Mary was anything like me, she probably had steam coming out of her ears when she asked Jesus to rebuke Mary for being so SELF-CENTERED AND SELF-ABSORBED BECAUSE SHE WOULDN’T HELP SERVE!! (Mercy, I get worked up even thinking about it.)
But Jesus said that Mary was right and that Martha was wrong. He said that Martha’s service was a distraction from what was better; that Mary had chosen the best thing and that it wouldn’t be taken away from her. Sorry Martha, YOU LOSE!
I feel myself losing, too.
I feel myself losing every time I think our guest count has grown out of control and I suggest having Thankgiving at McDonalds. I lose every time my husband seeks to be a blessing to someone and joyfully invites them and I proceed to give him the LOOK OF DEATH! I feel myself losing every time I corner him like a bug about to be squashed to ask him if he’d like to take out a full-page add in the paper to INVITE MORE GUESTS!
Let’s be clear here: I have kicked and screamed and thrown ugly tantrums about our limited seating capacity and our lack of formal dinnerware to service that many people, and about how much help I will have (and I’m not proud of it); but as Alice May Brock so eloquently said, I may have four chairs, six plates and three cups for 12 guests but that’s okay. . . and not just okay, it’s good!
Practicing hospitality can be tricky for me.
For instance, I like to practice what I consider to be a controlled version of hospitality: like when I know in advance who’s coming and I have the appropriate accommodations for them, and my house is clean and I’ve cleared my agenda to entertain them, and my children are squeaky clean and not ashy. You know? Like when all the entertaining variables have been perfectly controlled. I’m good at that. A+ for Tiff! But that’s rarely the way life is.
Martha was the brainchild behind inviting Jesus to her home; but she missed the mark when she prioritized doing what was (seemingly) good instead of doing what was best: dropping everything to hear the precious words of Jesus.
Sometimes I still struggle with Jesus’ verdict (really, it’s counter-intuitive to everything I understand about hosting), but I’m slowly learning that when I’m seeking for things to be perfect, when I’m seeking to provide the perfect environment over enjoying good food and fellowship with everyone the Lord sends my way, I am distracted by perfectionism and I’ve chosen what is (seemingly) good over what is better.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t plan ahead or give considerable thought to the comfort of our guests and the beauty of our home; but in some instances we will have to let our hair down and go with the flow.
I’m thinking that Alice May Brock’s sentiment about entertaining was placed on the November page of the calendar with great insight; and I’m thankful for that!
How sweet it is to be reminded that what’s really most important is breaking bread while sharing a table (or couch, or a strategically placed laundry hamper) with the people you love. Thank you, Susan Branch! (Illustrator of the Heart of the Home calendar.)
Wishing you a joyous and hospitable heart as you prepare for Thanksgiving.