Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ramps, Fireflies, and Letting Perfection Go!

Last weekend, we were invited to the outdoor kitchen of Wade's predecessor at work. It was pretty much a perfect evening. Freeman made pizzas in his outdoor oven while we feasted on his homemade guacamole as well as an appetizer pizza made of scrapple and apple butter (scrapple is a new food for us....). By the time we began to enjoy the mouth-watering pizzas, the lightning bugs were out in abundance. Under the glow of string lights,  the conversation flowed and not only did it cover a myriad of topics, it also included everyone at the table -- no matter how old or how young. It was truly a delightful evening.

This weekend, my dear lifetime friend and her family passed through our new town. We met for lunch, took a driving tour, stopped for coffee but still wanted more time together. But in our temporary dwelling we barely have room to seat our family much less guests. And you can continue a full in-depth conversation from any room in the condo -- and I mean ANY room! I had a moment's hesitation before saying, come on, let's just go hang out at our "house." But it was only a moment. We loved having our friends in the condo -- somehow the crowd made it feel more like home.

And so I re-learned a lesson that I really always knew. I desperately want to gather people under the glow of string lights, serving homemade yumminess, and hopefully enjoying the beauty of the fireflies. But the reunion with our beloved Alegrias would have been no sweeter in that environment. The conversation would have been no richer. The love between adults and children alike, no more enveloping.

See, I needed the reminder that the hospitality is in the gathering -- not in the perfection.

Should I repeat myself? 

The hospitality is in the gathering -- NOT in the perfection.

I have wasted countless energy plotting how to be invited into the homes of our dear ones. I legitimately fell in love with Arizona when we were recruited there for an interview because most homes were ranch-style. I just knew friends could invite us over because the wheelchair would be able to enter. I had already wasted valuable energy fretting that the wheelchair was a hold up. I have wasted years thinking that if only we were back in the land of magnolias, we would be invited inside our friends' homes -- it is the hospitality state after all.

I have wasted countless emotion when neither Arizona's ranch homes, nor the hospitality state equaled an abundance of dinner invitations.

And yet, I far prefer counting the amazing invitations we HAVE received:

Our sweet friends in Minnesota who lived up THREE flights of stairs. Geiza, the dad, would carry Benjamin up, get him in a chair and then come back for his wheelchair. This sweet family of six never failed to open the doors of their three-bedroom condo to me and my three. The triplets would play and play and play with their children. The wheelchair didn't matter. No one flinched at the space it took up. No one flinched at the EFFORT it required. The gathering occurred regardless of a language-barrier. And the welcome was always resoundingly warm.

Our precious NICU nurse and her beautiful family. Laura and Jay not only invited us for dinner on a one-night visit in their city, Chicago, but they built a ramp to get us in their home so they could gather us at their table. I will never forget.

The boys' best friends in Arizona.  Both Sean and Josh found a myriad of items to serve as ramps to get Benjamin in their homes. Both mothers rearranged furniture so that there was room to drive. And neither minded when the gatherings lasted into the wee hours of the morning EVERY SINGLE TIME!

But here is the real lesson I am learning and trying to process: Just because I adore being gathered into my loved ones' homes, and just because I adore gathering my loved ones into my home, DOES NOT  mean that everyone loves to gather. The act of gathering is stressful for some, it is hard. I much much (much much) prefer to just open my home and gather my dear ones than to stress anyone out! And so I am hoping my new home will be one where friends will gather -- new friends, visiting old friends, friends of my children....all! And I am proclaiming that I will celebrate any time we are invited into someone else's home but will not in any way waste energy wondering why if we are not. I am laying that down RIGHT HERE. (Hold me accountable, will you?)

So call your friends, gather them for dinner, watermelon, or just some yummy dessert -- even if the space isn't completely decorated, even if the kitchen sink is overflowing with dishes, even if. And if opening your home stresses you out, invite them to meet you in the back yard, at a restaurant, or just offer to grab dinner and bring it to THEIR house.

The important thing is to gather. To gather with your people.

Carol - The Blessings Counter