Shauna Niequist’s book, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, is a favorite of mine. Her stories about her cooking club and the things they have experienced together leave me laughing and crying with them. And her recipes are pretty amazing, too. I highly recommend you pick up this book if you are looking for beautiful, true stories about community and food.
In this stage of my life, I’ve called myself “just a mom” more times than I’d like to admit. I always try to catch myself and backtrack so I’m not diminishing the role I play in my kids’ lives, but it’s still something I say.
I clean up messes. I read books. I teach. I discipline. I referee. I kiss boo boos and hold tiny hands to walk across parking lots.
And there have been plenty of times when I wonder if I can do more. How can I make a difference?
With disease and terrorism and hatred and crime and poverty and so much that breaks our hearts every day, what can I do? Who can I impact?
It’s when we can slow down and become noticers of the people around us, right in front of us, that we can have the biggest impact.
The new mom down the street who never imagined she could be lonely at home with a newborn. Stopping by with a meal and her favorite Starbucks drink means the world to her. Or an offer for you to watch her baby while she showers and actually dries her hair for the first time in two weeks.
The family that just moved to town and the mom who is feeling lost and alone in her new city. All she wants is an invitation to a play date at the park so her kids can be in the company of other kids.
The elderly woman who slowly shuffles through the grocery store every Monday morning and would love someone to stop and talk to her and maybe even walk with her to her car.
I know that I am way too often too busy and wrapped up in my to-do list and dealing with our own family matters to even notice what is happening right in front of me. But I know that these people are there, just going through the motions of every day life. And being noticed could open up the door to beautiful community and trust. A real opportunity to make a difference.
Smallness can give us the opportunity to make huge impacts for His kingdom, if we’re open and available and willing to be noticers.
So we’ve talked about how we should be giving ourselves the freedom to put away the fine china and the linen napkins and to embrace the real and the authentic in each other and our homes. We’ve talked about the importance of inviting for the sake of community and not feeling the pressure for everything to be perfect.
But what if you love the pretty? What if place settings and table runners and fresh runners make you come alive and fire you up? What if you truly the details of entertaining? Then I say that this is wonderful, too.
I love pretty things. When my house is shiny and sparkling and my table is set perfectly, I feel alive! I want to take a picture of it. I want to enjoy it for as long as possible.
And if that is you, and you love the pretty, then you should absolutely enjoy every part of that.
But if perfection causes you to snap at your family or spend your entire day stressing and cleaning, then give yourself the freedom to give it up.
In my opinion, you can love the pretty and not let it consume you and be ready to serve your guests and open up your heart and your home. Or you can love the pretty and be overly concerned with perfection and the gourmet meal that you completely miss it.
Where ever you stand, give yourself the freedom to be there. Give yourself the freedom to throw the fancy party without guilt. Or maybe you’re just tired and worn out from years of trying so hard and you need to give yourself the freedom to give up perfection.
No matter where you fall, though, don’t compare yourself, your home, your style of hospitality to anyone else’s. There is no right or wrong way to show hospitality. Opening the door and inviting is all they need from us.
This post is part of 31 Days of Breaking Bread
It took us a while to find our people after we got married. I moved here after college for graduate school, and most of my classmates and new friends moved when we graduated. Todd moved back here after finishing law school in Virginia and found himself working all the time and mostly socializing with coworkers.
So, as a couple, we found ourselves searching for our own friends and our couple friends. And when we officially joined our church, we were so lucky to also find a sweet community of other newlyweds. Over the last six years, we’ve continued to form relationships with new couples. Hudson and Hayes have also contributed to our community as we’ve opened our doors to their friends and their friends’ parents have become some of our dearest friends.
A few months ago, a friend confided in me that she was having a hard time finding her people here. They had friends, but they had never been invited to anyone’s home for dinner. In ten years. And this was something that was really hurting her.
It was in that moment, that I truly understood the feelings that come when you’re invited. The feeling of wanting to be known. Of being trusted enough for someone to invite you to see their junk and their mess and where they sleep.
So, of course, we extended an invitation for dinner. A simple invitation meant the world to my friend.
We all want to be known. We all want to be loved. And we’ve all felt unknown and invisible and alone. And we know people who are feeling that way.
So that’s why we’re inviters. We’re not the heroes of the story. We just crave community. And if we’re not creating a place for that community, we have to go out and find it somewhere else.
This post is part of 31 Days of Breaking Bread