In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves … will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. ~ 2 Timothy 2:20-21
Simple serving pieces ~ slotted and solid, shaped and flattened, pliable and firm, pointed and rounded. Some meant for a white-clothed table. Others meant for a come as you are potluck. Others meant for the dirt and grime of the out of doors. However you have made me, Lord, let me be a serving spoon at the table of grace.
So many choices. So little time. Should we really be grateful?
I wheel my cart down the aisle slowly, perusing my options. I know what I want, at least I think I do. Until I see that the flavor I am looking for comes in no fat, low fat, and high test. There are also creamy and oil-based varieties, and at least half a dozen manufacturers. How do I choose?
Do I sort? by color, brand, fat content, flavor? The store has usually done a bit of this for me, thank goodness. That’s not because they love me, actually, but because they want me to buy. If I am overwhelmed I may just throw up my hands and leave the store empty-handed. That will not do – for them.
They know us. We’re shoppers. We come with a list in hand and an idea in mind. We want to check everything off, but deciding is tough. If there were just one of everything, it wouldn’t be. But that is not the world in which we live. We must choose. And choose rightly.
Why? Because there is cost. And it’s not just the number on the price tag. It’s the cost of “You got the wrong one!” “Ew, I don’t like that!” These weigh very heavily, especially when we are trying to keep everyone happy. And we have limited resources.
If I didn’t, I guess I could just bring home one of each and let them choose. Pass the tyranny on to them and call it freedom of choice. But I don’t. I stand and struggle under the weight of “making everyone happy.” Wanting to insure my success, I work backward. Calculating. Comparing. Sorting and selecting. Maybe in desperation I just pick one. Maybe in fear I take home an armful.
Either way, I do not win. The store wins. The product wins. And inevitably, someone at my table will be less than satisfied.
- This isn’t what I wanted
- This isn’t what I expected
- This doesn’t taste right
Still, we love them. It’s amazing what happens when we sit around the table to partake of the same meal with the understanding that no one leaves the kitchen until the dishes are done. Conversation turns to more important things and the salad dressing takes a back seat.
It is amazing how important it seemed just hours before, when I was hosting the dinner. And how much it changes when Love takes over.
We were supposed to have a humdinger of a storm. They were calling for 8-12 inches in our first and only real snow storm of the year. This a daunting forecast in the DC area where plows can be days in coming and power and internet service can be spotty thanks to tall trees and above ground power lines.
So, in my current Lenten expression of “out of the GOODness of my heart” I sent an email to nearby neighbors the day before the storm: After the storm clears and if we still have power, let’s gather for our “Just Desserts.” I heard back from a few. You’re so clever, they enthused. What a great idea, they said, but let’s see what the storm does. One even said, if it’s happy hour time can we bring the wine?
I admit, I did love the play on words 🙂 And I wasn’t just playing. I had a wonderful fruit tart recipe from a dear friend who was ailing, and I wanted to try it out, as she would have, with a bunch of friends.
Well, storm day got here. And wouldn’t you know, the plows came fast and frequently. The storm did rage, briefly, but the flakes were large and wet. We got a few inches mostly of slush. Snow turned to rain, but, not to be denied, I shoveled our walk and driveway, put out the de-icer for the steps and, of course, made the tarts and brewed the coffee. When the snow stopped I wanted to be ready.
Of course, “when the snow stops” is not really a time. So, mid-afternoon when I sent the second email “Shall we say 5:00? Come on, when ever you’re done shoveling” I got several apologetic responses. Well, because we could get out, I did. I went to work. I went to tennis. I went to Brooklyn to be with my daughter who had a baby this morning (okay – that one was a pretty good excuse).
Yes, the call to community doesn’t have the attraction it used to. If we have power and internet and when we have transport, we connect to places far and wide. Only when we’re trapped and left without other options are we “forced” to be with our neighbors. I wonder at this. And at my inept method of invitation with its “flexible timing” and open-ended RSVP.
Five o’clock ticked to 5:30 and no one came. My tarts sat, a dozen strong on my counter. Accessorized by their pastry caps. I took a photo to share with my friend. They were lovely. She would be pleased, I hoped, that I had made them. She needn’t know that I didn’t have anyone to share them with. Even my husband said, “I’m not eating one. It’s almost dinner time.”
I transferred them to the Tupperware container and set them in the frig.
I’m not much of an organizer, but my invitation did come from a good place. That place of no expectations. Even when no one came I chuckled to myself, “What if I threw a party and no one came?” That’ll make a great blog post. I was okay with that. God made it okay. And just as He did, the doorbell rang.
“Uh-oh” my husband said. Translation, “Better get those back out.”
I open the front door to two smiling neighbors holding a bottle of wine. “Come on in!” I say, ushering them into the kitchen, where every good party begins. And we gather, we four, around the isle of tarts back on their pewter serving platters, and pour libations to toast the not-so-much snow.
Wouldn’t you know, the bell rings again. There stands another neighbor, “Where is everyone?” she asks. Her husband has opted to stay home on his computer where he has been working all day, but here she is anyway.
And into the kitchen we go. To join in neighborly conversation about friends and kids and jobs and movies. Some have tarts. Some don’t. Some have wine. Some don’t.
I’m not really cut out to be a hostess, but a different Host is at the center of this gathering. I know Him in the faces and the sentiment, the truth and the hardship, the humor and the realities. How would we have known of a birth and a death, a new job and one that won’t let go, a child in need and a mission to save them, all of these in the last 24 hours.
We say that news travels fast over the web. News among neighbors travels deep. Perhaps that was our just desserts. Isn’t that always the way with good? We just never could have known it ahead of time, but it’s always amazing looking back. What a view grace must have.