A couple of years ago we invited my family to join us for the Fourth of July. I was so excited to have loved ones coming and wanted everything to be perfect. Festive decorations and a well-set table would set the tone for our celebration. I fussed over my menu and planned every detail. Joe would grill his famous pork tenderloin, and I would fill out the menu with mouth-watering appetizers, side dishes and a showstopping dessert. I enjoy planning parties and couldn't wait to host everyone for our perfect summer day!
Knowing we would have our house clean and ready for guests, I planned another gathering for the same weekend. Then I decided we could squeeze in just one more event. After all, it would be so much fun!
But as our busy weekend drew near, I began to wonder if I had taken on too much. Our fourth child was only 5 months old, and my time was spread so thin. I wasn't sure I could accomplish my lengthy to-do list. Gradually my enthusiasm began to wane.
I felt like Martha. No, not Martha Stewart, but the one in the Bible. Reading about her encounter with Jesus in Luke 10, verse 38 tells us that "a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home." Isn't it interesting that she issued the invitation? I imagine that she was elated that Jesus would be a guest in her home and couldn't wait to tell her sister. But at some point between extending the invitation and opening the door, anticipation to spend time with the Lord turned to anxiety at having to prepare for company on such short notice. Verses 40-41 describe her as "distracted," "worried" and "bothered."
In Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, author Joanna Weaver points out, "Luke 10:38 shows us a woman with the gift of hospitality. Martha opened her home to Jesus, but that doesn't automatically mean she opened her heart. In her eagerness to serve Jesus, she almost missed the opportunity to know Jesus" (p. 9). Hmmm. Weaver warns us hard-working, well-meaning women to avoid getting caught in the same performance trap, feeling like we always have to do more, give more, be more to prove our love for God.
This same line of thinking can make us go all out for our families and friends. We want to show our loved ones how much we care, and nothing less than the best will do. Especially for us detail-oriented, perfectionistic, creative types, going all out is a way of life. But we have to be careful that in pouring ourselves out for others, we don't empty ourselves of joy in the process. Frustrated and weary, we can find ourselves feeling exhausted and alone -- the only one at the party not having fun. But Jesus gently reminds us, "[Y]ou are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one ..." (vv. 41-42).
Thankfully for me, loved ones helped me enjoy my Fourth of July weekend. Without any prompting from me, my dear Aunt Gail called my mother and suggested that they pool their resources to pay someone to clean my house. So I delegated much of my housework, and I think my home looked even more fresh and beautiful for the party than if I had scrubbed it myself. My sister, Jennifer, called from a favorite boutique and urged me to let her bring paper goods. So I set the table with coordinating paper plates and napkins, and everyone raved about my pretty tablescape. And Joe insisted that I scale back our menu. So I simplified some of my food preparation, in particular making the easy dessert pictured. I filled store-bought waffle bowls with store-bought ice cream; topped each scoop with sweetened strawberries, blueberries and blackberries; and finished off each sundae with a sprig of fresh mint. And they were delicious! As we sat around the pool that day enjoying laughter and conversation, everyone agreed that I had outdone myself. And I was able to smile, knowing that I had outdone myself without overdoing it and coming undone in the process.
So as fireworks light the sky this Fourth of July, I'm hoping that all of my women friends will lighten their load -- casting off anxiety, perfectionism and standards too difficult to meet. And I'm hoping that you will revel in new found freedom -- to slow down, to put your feet up, to enjoy the company you keep. After all, as Galatians 5:1 reminds us, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Happy Independence Day, my friend! Let's celebrate our freedom!