Thursday, July 3, 2008

Freedom to Celebrate

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!


Momto5 RachelJoy Photography said...

that is a beautiful post. very encouraging. I find myself in the same boat many times. I think I can take on teh world but once the world gets close I "freak" out :)

good encouraging verses. thanks!


Anonymous said...

Very nice post. I't wonderful to have someone remind you of that from time to time. Happy Fourth.

Empty Nest Full Life said...

Wonderful post. I have the book and have not read it. Think I'll move it to the top of the list. I get so caught up in wanting things to be perfect instead of enjoying the fellowship of family and friends. Hope you had a wonderful

Dana said...

Something I've been trying to work on myself... I'm sure it's even more difficult for you with the beautiful table settings that I see here that people probably have come to expect from you. Beautiful ministry you have here. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'll be stopping in on you from time to time.


Dawn said...

Since my child was born, I scaled back on always being the one to host parties. I asked myself, "Why is it always me? Why am I the one always hosting and stressing out?"

I've let other people host parties and life is much more enjoyable now.

I'll host once or twice a year, but that's all I want to do now.

Thanks for the post.

Joanne Kennedy said...

What a beautiful reminder that what really makes a party fun is the friends and family we get to spend time with.

It is fun to plan the details and make everything pretty but when you are to tired to even enjoy it it's just not worth it.

Your dessert looked wonderful! Great idea and so 4th of July looking!

Glad you had a wonderful day.


Nancy Hood said...

I, too, have read that book and enjoyed it immensely (spelling?!). Women get caught up in trying to do too much and end up feeling less than satisfied. No one puts it upon us other than ourselves. I've spent the last nine years, since we became empty nesters sharing with all three daughters how to NOT do what I did, what I've learned, and how to make things easier for them and their families. Life continues to be a learning process for all of us. And isn't it great to have a Father that smiles upon us when we get our priorities straight?!

joyh82 said...

There is so much truth to your post. I love your pretty dessert on the blue plate too!

Debbie said...

"Especially for us detail-oriented, perfectionistic, creative types, going all out is a way of life. "...

That quote is ME. This post is ME. I do the exact same thing you do and end up exhausted and in tears because my perfectionism gets in the way. Oh my word...this post was directed AT ME. I keep telling myself that I will invite so and so over for dinner after I paint the downstairs powderoom because I want it to be in it's new beautiful state before having visitors...or I want to change this or that before anyone comes over...the thing is, I know that I already have a beautiful home...why I do I constantly feel the need to let those stupid little things hold me hostage. Ugh...this was totally convicting. I really need to take a good look at myself and work on this thing called perfectionism. Thanks for being the instrument the Lord used to confront me on this issue this morning.

Melanie said...


You always seem to say what I am thinking. You and I are so similar in so many ways.
I love the pictures of your in-laws in Music Man. I love musicals and that looks like one performance I would have truly enjoyed! :)

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