Exercising the Hospitality Muscle Memory

As a little girl it took me forever to say, "I'm sorry."  Always have and always will have a strong spirit.  It is not easily budged for the "just because," answer. 

I've learned by working my memory "forgiving" muscles over the years the easier it is for me to vocalize an "I'm sorry."  It's like anything in life.  When I first learned how to roast a chicken I read the instructions thoroughly, had my ingredients mise en place, seasoned the bird, set the timer, used the thermometer testing the thigh temperature, allowing it to rest to keep the juices in the chicken and carving it.  It has led to fantastic results to slightly dry birds; but, one thing is constant, the consistency of training the muscle memory.

Professional athletes, head surgeons, virtuoso musicians, well versed parents of 35 years all have this consistency of muscle memory in common.  They have put in the hours, the grueling times, seen mistakes, doubted their ability, and thrown their hands up in retreat like all of us; but, what sets them apart is continuing in the drudgery to build up the basics (ie muscle memory).  

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I was reflecting upon this lovely picture our new friend Hosanna posted on Facebook.  It captures new friends we just met days prior, ones who we were fortunate to share life with, have our girls learn what it means to love the other, and what it means for me to stop making excuses for my cooking or my children's behavior.  This picture signifies pulling out fish and loaves, blessing it and hoping God makes it stretch.  It represents all of me pouring myself out is never enough, for I am weak and weary, easily discouraged.  

Still, it gives me such hope to keep at this thing called hospitality, even when my children act more like wild animals than little girls with their behavior and manners.  It gives me hope, because working my muscle memory to keep at it reminds me how much I rely upon my Jesus to love through me.  It reminds me how we are all broken people desperately looking for other broken people to share a meal so we can rest in our humanness.  More so, we can rest in a Saviour who was God with skin on.  He came to rub shoulders, to understand the desperation in our voices, our eyes to give us hope.  

I can't think of a better reflection of why I want to keep exercising the hospitality muscle memory in me.  If it means I get to bring the hope of Jesus to my own brokenness and all who gather with me, I consider the work worth it.  

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On Birthdays at the Table

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As a little girl I remember how much I loved when it was my birthday.  My invite list always exceeded the maximum occupancy in our little 900 sq ft home.  I didn't mind the sardines in a can affect, because it was my birthday, and birthdays were worth celebrating.  

Years passed and I found my birthday wasn't as special as I thought it should be.  Maybe it was circumstantial, or being in a family where money was often tight.  I felt like the importance of celebrating got lost, and a birthday was merely another day in my family's mind.  

When I married Ben, I realized how big of a deal he made my birthday.  His mom came from a family where the joke was the birthday person never caught a glimpse of the birthday cake.  So at dinner one night when my in laws were still dating, my father in law, unbeknownst to him asked, "Where's the cake?"  Everyone aghast at this tomfoolery responded quietly and sternly, "We do not talk about the cake."  Minutes later Grandma would bring out the cake to the chorus of "Happy Birthday."  This tradition continued by my mother-in-law for her kids as well.

I remember my father in law remarking how it was silly; but, I think over the many years of my mother in law doing this it has worn a love mark in his heart.  When we know someone has set aside resources and energy to secretly make a cake special for you to "surprise" you on the day you entered the world, it speaks to the longing we have inside of us.  It's the longing where someone says, "You're uniqueness is worth being celebrated.  You are worth my time to make this token of love."

On Wednesday we celebrated our youngest birthday.  She turned three and had special ideas about what she would like for her birthday dinner.  "S'ghetti and Meatballs! A circle cake, vanilla with pink frosting, and rocky roady ice cream," she gladly announced as her menu.  We didn't do anything elaborate.  There was no themed birthday, favors to be bought, or even the house #KonMari clean.  

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In January I wrote about bringing back 80s birthday parties for kids.  I primarily received positive feedback; but, there were some not so cheery responses.  Responses saying how they go all out for birthdays, because it's what their mom did for them, or they set the day aside as something special and worth celebrating for their kid.  They felt what I wrote served against these feelings. 

However, I strongly believed then as I do now how important it is to celebrate the people we love on their birthday.   Maybe I could clarify a couple things during the time of my oldest's birthday/party in January to present about my youngest birthday.   The 80s birthday party post came from: 

  1. a mama who had just had a couple panic attacks less than a month prior,
  2. a husband who was gone the whole week leading up to the birthday,
  3. a mama who was taking care of three sick girls and one sick mama from the flu solo,
  4. a birthday girl who had dislocated her thumb with a visit to the ER at night,
  5. a mama still grieving the loss of her brother who shares the birthday of her oldest daughter.  

In writing those words in January, they were grace words, words to say, "it's okay mama, I see you and know you want to do more; but, this is your best, so be kind to yourself."  I gather that so many other mamas feel the same way.  We want to create beauty for our children. We want to buy them everything their heart desires, not to create spoiled monsters; but, to see the sparkle in their eye when they see what we wished we would have seen as a child.  We feel the need to create magazine beauty, because it means accomplished.  

 In a world where our ideals don't or cannot meet our best effort when it comes to giving our children the best birthday, we as mothers need kindness for ourselves. 

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Fast forward to present.  The day of lining the cake pans with parchment, measuring the ingredients on the scale, and beating the buttercream came sheer delight in giving my girl the gift of a homemade cake. I had the energy and mental acuity to bake and decorate the lovely circle cake you see before you.  I did it not out of obligation, or constructed idols of motherhood.  I beat the egg whites into stiff peaks for one simple reason.  I love my sweet girl. 

So, it doesn't matter if what you do is a full-blown party complete with professionally decorated cupcakes to an intimate family dinner with cake from a 9x13 pan.  What does matter is our heart.  Our heart is the basis for every outpouring of hospitality.  Whatever your birthday parties look like for the ones you love, don't believe in the lie that it needs to be the same as the ones your mother threw, or by the amount of presents your child opens, or even if the cake is made from scratch.  

There will be seasons in your life when you simply cannot do what you normally do, or what you wish you could do.  That's okay, because gentle love should also be given to us as mothers.  When we do give ourselves this gift, our children will get so much more in return. 

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Fellowship Around the Table

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At the close of the sermon today we were invited to quickly rewrite our version of Acts 2:42-47.  Here was mine.

You mama teach your babes how to use words,

how to say sorry when you shouted.  

The Spirit of God comes while messy floors, tear stained cheeks turn to you and forgiveness is known. 

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You invite people to gather, to share meals.

nothing worthy of food blogs; rather, a King's feast of a casserole.

Because knowing it's in the giving, the sharing, the showing up, the inviting into your mess so the other feels normal.

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You give not out of obligation or duty, but...

because Jesus the great Host first set His Table Inviting you as a guest. 

So what's yours is mine & mine is yours.

You see Jesus in the cranky co-worker to the bully child, it's why we meet together.

Because we know the hope of the final feast,

the garden turned city--

the place where no more tears spill; but...

Jesus our Lord, our Savior, our great papa God redeems the story, our story. 

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