This week I had the privilege of photographing this stunning dining table, hand-crafted by my friend Justin. As his wife Keary and I set out the plates, picked the greenery, and got the light just right to photograph it, I couldn’t help but think about the importance of this table. Although beautifully crafted, it’s importance is not in it’s shape or the stunning reclaimed wood he chose. It’s beauty is in what will happen around it… the conversations that will be had, the love that will be shared.
We have 16 to 20 people around our table every Tuesday night for Community Group. We share a meal together, study the Bible, and pray for one another. Oftentimes 2 or 3 other times during the week we have different people sitting at our table. Clients, old friends, new friends, family. They all come to sit at the table, our table. I invite them over, making sure my house looks perfect, the food tastes perfect, and the conversation is just perfect. I am annoyed when they’re early because the house isn’t clean yet. I am equally as annoyed when they’re late because the “perfect” food is now cold. I act weird because I’m trying to prevent the potential of an awkward silence. And then they leave, probably feeling stressed by my busyness in the kitchen, cold because of my sterile home, and not really ever wanting to sit around my table again. What I have realized as I have shared my table with clients and friends and family, is that no one is searching for perfection. They are not coming for perfect food or even perfect conversation. They are simply longing “to feel seen and heard and loved.”
If those last few words sound familiar to you, that’s because I stole them from incredible author, Shauna Niequist. This past Monday I had the privilege to hear Shauna, the author of the ever-so-popular Bread & Wine, speak at a women’s Christmas dinner. The night began with sipping cider under twinkling lights, and ended with the words “Present Over Perfect”. She called each of us to live this season, inviting people to our table and striving to be present instead of perfect.
“You can show up with your perfectly wrapped grab bag gift & your perfectly baked cookies…and your perfectly resentful and frazzled self, ready to snap at the first family member you see. Or you can choose to rest your body & nourish your spirit, knowing that bringing a grounded, present self to each holiday gathering is more important than the gifts you bring. So this is my advice to you this week: add nothing to the to-do list. Abandon well-intentioned but time-consuming projects. And make rest & space priorities, so that what you offer to your loved ones is more than a brittle mask over a wound-up and depleted soul.
“The irony, of course, must not be lost on us: a season that is, at its heart, a love story, a story about faith and fragility, angels, a baby, a star–that sweet, simply beautiful story gets lost so easily in a jarring, toxic tangle of sugar and shopping bags and rushing and parking lots and expectations. In our lowest, most fragmented moments, we feel out of control, controlled, in fact, by expectations and to-do lists and commitments and traditions. This is that season, we shrug, when things get a little crazy. No avoiding it. But that’s not true. And that’s shifting the blame. You’ve been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes. You are spending them according to your values, whether you admit it or not. Let’s be courageous in these days. Let’s choose love and rest and grace.”
So, I pass this challenge on to you. Invite people to your home, to sit around your table, knowing that it means that you’ll be shoving everything in the closet as the doorbell rings, that you may end up making frozen meatballs, and that you will never regret inviting people into your home and your heart. Choose to be present instead of perfect. Choose to see and hear and love people. It will make a difference in the way you experience this season. It will make a difference in their lives. And, it will make a difference in yours.
To celebrate this new commitment to presence over perfection, I’m giving away a copy of her book, Bread & Wine. Like and leave a comment on this post to be entered to win it.
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