“To set your table is to do hospitality with God.” Joanne Thompson, Table Life.
I have a neighbor who I am beyond blessed to call my very dear sister friend. I’ve known her for almost 20 years. For all of those 20 years, every time I step into her home, she has made me feel more welcome and comfortable at her table than anyone else I’ve ever had the privilege of walking alongside of in this life.
The crazy part is, I’m not sure I’ve ever stopped to explain to her what that means to me. As in, truly-down-deep-in-my-heart means. Sure, I’ve said thank you. Written cute, clever notes of gratitude. Asked for recipes (the ultimate compliment to a hostess, right?!). Tried to reciprocate with dinner parties of my own (which were nice, mind you, but didn’t hold a candle to the authentic hospitality of hers). I’ll call her the next morning to pour over the silly details and events of each night she hosts us. But I don’t think I’ve ever once expressed my soul gratitude for what each moment at her table says to my heart. So let me try it now…
It says to me: “I trust you. I value everything about you. I love you. I care to hear what you think and feel. And I want to share myself with you, too. I want to giggle with you; share tears with you; walk along side you; help you; let you help me, too. My door is always open – come on in.”
THAT is how I want to DO LIFE with my sister friends, family, and even strangers, don’t you?! THAT is why thinking about life around the table and has come to mean so very much to me lately. To be the authentic hands, feet, mouth, and spirit of Jesus. Right here. Right now. In my house or in yours.
And it doesn’t need to be – and probably doesn’t make sense to be – a Martha Stewart-worthy event! Sure, it’s fun to get all Pinterest-y, Food Network-y, even a little Martha-y every now and again. But that isn’t the point of hospitality. There was no social media, no cooking shows no entertaining blogs or magazines in Jesus’ time! Yet everyone who ever broke bread with Him would NO DOUBT have felt it was the most magnificent experience just to be in his presence – whether in a field, on a mountain, in a boat, or over a table. They were in His life. They felt His LOVE.
“…entertaining isn’t a sport or a competition. It’s an act of love, if you let it be. You can twist it and turn it into anything you want – a way to show off your house, a way to compete with your friends, a way to earn love and approval. Or you can decided that every time you open your door it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide.” Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine (emphasis mine.)
Oh my gosh, I LOVE that!!! Nourishment. On every single level. Physical, social, emotional, spiritual. Sharing a meal equates to sharing life.
But it’s gotta be authentic in nature, right? Because authenticity leads to soul sharing. Soul sharing leads straight to Jesus (that “where two or more are gathered in MY name” thing!). Jesus leads to life lived abundantly, including an abundance of JOY. Oh Lord, I yearn for an abundantly joyous life! Amen?!
This Tuesday evening, many of my sister friends and I will gather together to launch this summer’s Pure Joy dinner series. It’s the first of three dinners we are hosting this summer to celebrate JOY and one another! And yes – we’ve been thinking on it, planning it, preparing for it, and talking about it for awhile now. And our wonderful sister friend, Carol, has graciously opened her amazing and LOVE filled home to ALL of us (she is so cool – you can’t help but love her if you know her!!!). It’s honestly one of the most comfortably beautiful homes I’ve been in my life! And Carol is one of those amazing people who seems to just welcome you into her home and her family with ease and love. Girl – you bless me more than you know!!!!
But I know in my heart that it doesn’t matter where we meet, what we eat, who is able to attend, or how cute the party favors are (and, um, they are pretty cute, BTW… but I digress.). What matters is that we just do it. We show up. We share. And we celebrate the FACT that God, in His infinite wisdom, put us on the same path – at least for this season – FOR A REASON. We come together to nourish one another with support, faith, friendship, and – let’s face it – some really good food. And if you are truthful right now, you have at least ONE really good dish you can make in a moment’s notice, am I right?
And so, I’m taking a page from Shauna Niequist, from my sweet sister friend neighbor, AND from Carol! I’m going to try very hard to not worry about having the perfect meal prepared with perfection on every level (because I’m prone to fall into the “if it isn’t perfect, I’m not doing it” kind of thing). That may mean that I have to learn to not stress about the “state of my house” anymore. I pledge to not care so much if clutter abounds in the dining room and chaos rules my hallways.
Instead, I will choose to look for opportunities to NOURISH others – on every stinkin’ level! I pledge that my door will always be open. My table will be set. If you knock, I will let you in!
“And so, regardless of circumstances, God will let you laugh again; you’ll raise the roof with shouts of joy!” Job 8:20-21, The Message.
Now, let’s get a couple things straight. There may be dog hair on the floor, dishes in the sink, newspaper on the counter, and we just might need a new roll of toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom. But you are welcome. Anytime. I promise. (Just please don’t look in the closets. Oh – and I may be in my pajamas when you stop by. And if you remember, bring wine.) And it’s all okay. Because THIS is the very thing we are called to do.
So. I want to go back to the beginning of this post – to my neighbor. I want to say this: Girl, you know who you are, and I treasure every little thing about you. So, thank you for fully using and embracing the many gifts God has graced you with, and most specifically, your GIFT of hospitality. Thank you for JOYOUSLY being His hands and feet to me and to countless others over the years and for what I am QUITE sure will be many years to come. I’ve learned so much from you. And in case you forgot, Miss Mols, my birthday is coming up and I kinda really sorta NEED my tummy to be nourished with an ice cold piece your Texas Sheet Cake for my birthday breakfast…;)
What’s on the docket for Pure Joy this week?! Take a peek:
1. Rewrite and meditate on the scripture of the week! It’s right up there just two paragraphs up (Job 8:20-21)! No matter where you are, what you are walking through, and who you are with – good or bad – He promises that you will laugh joyously again! That, sister friends equals HOPE! I just love it, don’t you?!
2. Listen to our song for this week – The Generous Mr. Lovewell by Mercy Me. So fun, so true and soooooooo summery sweet!!!!
3. Pray for us and our super FUN Pure Joy Dinner #1 tomorrow night! Over 40 women will be gathering here in Glen Ellyn to share table life and faith! We are beyond excited to eat, drink, be merry, and lift one another up in love and prayer! I’ll post pictures of our night on Friday of this week right here on the blog!
4. Keep reading whatever book(s) you’ve chosen to read this summer to bolster your JOY in God! It’s never too late to begin so check out the book list above under the Pure Joy tab and get reading!
5. Keep up with the Joy Dare in whatever fashion you are doing it! I look forward to waking up each day to not only complete MY three gifts, but to hear what YOURS are, too!
That’s all for today, my friends! Up Friday: Our favorite pics from the Pure Joy Dinner!
Peace, Love, and so very much JOY!!! Thank you, God, for JOY!!!!!