Now in my forties I’d hoped that my insecurities would have dissipated. Yeah, right. A few weeks ago I thought that id like to host an afternoon tea party, I planned the menu, but froze at the thought of a guest list. I tried a few times to make one but the more I thought about it the more I came out in a stress rash. In the end I gave up and shelved my plans. It niggled me. And niggled me. And niggled me. Eventually it niggled me so much that I called with my pal and spilled the niggles. The emotions revealed in unravelling my inability to make a small guest list for an innocent tea party surprised me. I choked on the words as I tried to explain why I gave up when it came to making my list. At the bottom of it all I didn’t want to hurt someone by not inviting them. So I concluded that id forgo the treat rather than risk that. My pal is gracious and patient. She listened, understood and then told me to “wise up! Go to India. Then do it when you get back. Ejgit!!” (or words very close to that)
Yesterday was one of those lovely days off. Jason and I had breakfast in the coolest tea room ever, One-Eigthy 2 on the Hill, in Armagh . Perfect french toast, with bacon and syrup and a great wee spot in their conservatory to read our books. I’m reading an advanced copy of Shauna Niequist‘s latest book Bread and Wine and I love it. We came home, worked around each other like we do, cleaning out the fire, resetting it, hoovering, moping the floors, doing dishes, tidying; each of us doing our bit, wordlessly sorting our wee nest so we could settle down and read some more on our day off. I love how after almost 17 years of marriage that we work together so effortlessly; honestly most of the time. Which is pretty fortunate considering that we do actually work together officially, as well as in our family life. Anyway I digress.
We lit our good friday candle (a family ritual), had hot cross buns (another family ritual) and I decided on a 2 hour silence (a new thing for good friday, which might become a ritual as it was so good for my soul) and settled down to read some more. I cannot tell you just how much of my life and the life of my friends is reflected in Shauna’s writing. It resonates so deeply with me, so, so much of it. I chuckle, I smile and I cry big salty, choking tears as I read Bread & Wine. And as I read it yesterday I decided that I’d face my insecurities and invite a few girls over for coffee today. No big deal, just a few people who I thought might be free at short notice for coffee and food at my table.
You see Shauna and I are long-lost sisters although she doesn’t know that. Funnily enough I remember doing the Willow Creek Network course 13 years ago and having the epiphany that hospitality was a gift from God. Right from when we were newly married my favourite thing to do was have people over for dinner. We had a tiny kitchen, a small house, 6 people was a crowd but none of those things were a deterrent. I love cooking for people anywhere and everywhere. I love watching people enjoy the food I prepare for them. I especially love cooking people their favourite foods if I know what they are. But I had no idea that this wasn’t a coincidence but that God had actually placed this desire and gift in me. It honestly was a life-changing revelation. Because not only did I realise that this love of cooking and hospitality was from God but that I could use it to serve HIm, in fact I had been and hadn’t realised it. Up until that night I hadn’t realised that God had gifted me with very much and now I knew He had and it literally changed my life. More of ‘how’ another time. So when Shauna talks about the joy she has in seeing people around her table it resonates deeply with me. Very deeply.
So I picked up my phone and started to text an invite. First draft; deleted. And that bugged me. Why could I not just send the message? I sat for a moment, in my self-imposed silence and examined my soul. What was my problem? Just send the text Michelle. What I discovered in my soul was still the same fear of leaving someone out who would be hurt. We all know that feeling. Well that’s a broad sweeping assumption, but lets just say that probably at a good guess 99% of us know that feeling. We overhear a story of what people did, and who said what, and how hilarious something was, and we feel the ache that we weren’t there, closely followed by the stab of rejection, or pain of not being included again. I hate that I do that to people sometimes. I like to think never intentionally, but I’m pretty sure I do it all the same. That fear remained but it was now joined by another. What if no-one wanted to come and sit with me at my table on a saturday afternoon? My fear of rejecting others was now joined with the fear of being rejected myself. As soon as I identified these 2 ninjas in my soul, I picked up my phone and sent the text, I decided that I would not be made lonely by these 2 fears. I chose to remember that my life is richer and more God-filled when I overcome my fears and invite others into it.
And today they came. My friends. Not all my friends, I have quite a few (that sounds like boasting and now I’m doing that Northern Ireland thing of over explaining so I don’t sound proud, which is really just false humility.AHHHH). I love people easily and God has gathered good people around me all my life that I can never let go of, so 41 years of friends wouldn’t all fit around my table in one-sitting. The 2 fear-ninjas that were attacking my soul were banished today. I happily boiled and reboiled the kettle. Made coffee, tea and peppermint tea. Heated milk. Filled plates as more goodies arrived. And was deeply happy to have my table filled not just with amazingly gorgeous food, but circled with amazingly wonderful girls, chittering and chattering and getting to know each other better.
It was easy after all. A handful of text messages. A trip to the shops. A quick tidy of the house. Baking Shauna’s Breakfast Cookies. Creating a place to connect around my table. And a very full heart. So thank you Shauna. Thank you for articulating your heart that is so often a reflection of mine. For reminding me of the desires and gifts that God has given me that He never intended that I should hide due to fear. Gifts He gave me to give away.