For any party, any celebration, for any pre-meditated giving of hospitality there is a normal preparation process: grocery shop, clean the bathroom, vacuum the floors, chop, cook, bake, snap at David, tidy the kitchen, say sorry to David, light the candles and set up the patio or the table and then wait for the first knock.
Last time we were getting ready for guests I got frazzled (as usual) and David asked if it will always have to be that way.
And I realized, hey! No! It doesn't have to be this way! And, good grief, why is it that way? Why do I get snappy? Stress is normal and fine. But two questions--what exactly am I feeling pressure about? And why?
I have this vision of what "right" or "put together" looks like. And then anything less than that is a failure and makes me look bad. Uh...what kind of pretty is that? It's empty and certainly not welcoming.
Desire for a guest to be welcome, blessed, loved--those are good reasons for a pretty home. Those are good reasons to give a pretty present. Those are good reasons for a little pressure, but not good reasons to be rude or snide. A good intention is so easy to accidentally squeeze lifeless. I have to hold the intentions gently, with an openness and joy that generosity requires.
I think of the celebration. This is one of our happiest times of year. We celebrate Emmanuel--God with us! We celebrate a bright spot in all of eternity, but it's so easy to accidentally get tangled in the lights and ornaments. So easy to accidentally squeeze the life out of it.
Instead, I'm pondering reality.
Pondering the great generosity of our Good Father.
Pondering a heavy Maria riding on a donkey, stumbling into a damp stable toward a scratchy manger.
Pondering a star in the darkest night.
Pondering angels singing over shepherds.
Thinking about how I can give Jesus a good gift. How we can really celebrate him--have a real party for his birthday!
It's a little bit of pressure. A little stressful. And so real, so normal. We will celebrate with family. Celebrate with an unmarried mother. Celebrate with lights in the darkness. Celebrate with rich food and tired people. So profoundly real and true and right. I long for beauty on the inside and the outside. I long for people to be welcome and blessed and loved. I long to give and I long to receive.