It came and went as almost all birthdays do. As adults, the world doesn’t slow down quite like it did when I was a child where cupcakes were brought to school, classmates came over for a party that included a piñata, ridiculous games, and a cake illuminated with candles. These days, it’s embarrassing to get that much attention or have too much made of your day.
My husband allowed me to sleep in and while he had the best of intentions, I needed those early morning hours in the kitchen to prepare for a brunch that we were hosting for 15 people. So I was awakened just two hours prior to this brunch in our home by a smiling son, happy daughter, and a husband who loves me in the daily, everyday moments where his romantic gestures are tucked into the way he makes the bed, runs upstairs for something I forgot, or works alongside me to prepare a meal.
This morning was no different. He ran errands. He picked up our guests. He arrived after the first of our guests had arrived and already been greeted by somewhat cranky and slightly neglected children needing their Mama’s attention. But I kept working: slicing fruit, preparing pancake batter, scrambling eggs, directing our special guests in easy tasks that could ease some of my anxiety as the time went way too quickly to the time of brunch. Everyone trickled into my less-than-perfect home that I happily offered less than 24 hours before when the weather decided that the best place to gather was in someone’s home. So gather we did. I had to swallow my pride as there weren’t enough slippers for the guests on a cold, rainy Saturday morning. I had to see past my own insecurities as I relied on technology to keep my now-anxious-from-the-crowd 3 year old entertained by another episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I had to accept the care of others when each special guest, seeing the chaos and lack of ‘readiness’ came into the kitchen to offer their help in scrambling eggs, flipping pancakes, carrying dishes to the salon.
32. I thought I’d have life a little bit more together by now. At 13 years old, I looked at people in their 30’s with such respect and admiration that their lives seemed so seamless and purposeful.
But instead, I’m accepting help in the kitchen, apologizing for the mess, managing my anxious son’s tantrums for “more chocolate pancakes” while my guests patiently wait for their own chocolate pancakes. I was somewhere between tears and laughter as my living room became filled with conversation, laughter, and patient, gracious friends.
I often find myself wondering how our own cultural expectations of cleanliness and organization prevents us from the very thing that God calls us to: community, even in the chaos and mess of our lives. Moving to this country, I was told by many women that there is a high standard of cleanliness here. Women wash their curtains daily, they mop their floors several times each day, and they measure a woman’s worth in her home by the lack of smudges on her windows. Now, I’m not sure just how true this is… but what I do know is that women here keep very clean homes. I also know this: I am not naturally a very clean and domesticated woman. I’m just going to put that right out there. So, I have choices each day: I can invite my neighbors into my home to experience the chaos along with the joy and love here or I can keep the door shut in hopes that the neighbors will keep believing that I have it ‘more together’ than I really do? And for what purpose would it be that they keep believing that I’m more clean than I really am? .
Somehow, I have to give up my pride to receive the joy of community that can occur – not because my life or home is perfect but simply because it is available and open for guests.
32. I spent my birthday afternoon washing dishes and cleaning after all the guests went their various ways. I was listening to Rend Collective while my children napped and dancing around the kitchen with such a deep sense of gratitude that I could have a living room full of beautiful people who were sharing stories and encouraging one another with truth.
32. I’m beginning to find joy in the little things each day that honor my Creator. In small and unexpected ways, my heart is filled more by ways that I see the world celebrating beauty than by the world stopping to celebrate “me,” if that makes sense. No one could have wrapped up a gift that came close to the value of having honored guests spend four hours of their Saturday in my home: burnt pancakes, anxious toddler, slipper-less entry way and all.