Setting a Table of Plenty

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. –Virginia Woolf

A good meal is one of life’s greatest pleasures. In a world of fast food, quick service, and complimentary bread baskets, we can quickly lose sight of the joy in planning, preparing, and sharing a meal with others. Having worked in the restaurant industry for a number of years, I’ve seen this first hand. Parents neglecting their children in favor of their iPhones, friends talking to each other without actually having a real conversation, and kids coloring on the windows (even my child has snuck an errant doodle past me). It’s discouraging to see the way people interact with each other in restaurants. Don’t even get me started on their interactions with servers. Many days I left work with no hope for humanity because I’d seen such rude and insincere behavior.

One shared meal banishes thoughts of restaurants and always reestablishes my love for people: church Potluck.

I have vivid memories of potluck meals at my grandparents’ church. A tiny church in a tiny town. Their congregation couldn’t have been more than 100 people of whom the average age was well over 50. But there was always plenty of food, home cooked food. Five kinds of bread, rolls, and biscuits. Three kinds of potatoes. Fried chicken. Casseroles. Green beans. Deviled eggs. And dessert to end all desserts. My mouth starts watering just thinking about them. But the most striking part of the meal wasn’t just how great the food was, but that there was always more than enough. There is nothing more disappointing (even as an adult) than being at the back of the line and finding all the macaroni and cheese pans empty. Never happened there. They made plenty.

Our current church home won us over with their potluck. They share lunch together every Sunday, I don’t know of another congregation that does that. Our first visit, people introduced themselves and made sure we stayed for the meal. Immediate and meaningful hospitality to me; kind words and food. I saw the huge bounty of food prepared and could instinctively gauge the health and vigor of the church. Big potluck = big hearts. They planned on having visitors, on having enough to give to whomever walked through the door. They made plenty.

This past Sunday, the sermon was actually about potluck and how sharing a meal expresses Christ in so many ways. Which initially caused me a little guilt; I’d made cupcakes Saturday from a new recipe and did not take them to church because I thought (a.k.a. my pride and perfectionism told me) they were overcooked. Once I got past that little pang of conviction, I sat through the rest of the message absolutely buzzing.

Remember how I said here the last sermon I heard was one of those indirect answers to my prayers kind of sermons? Well this one was the arrow to my heart, the frying pan to my head, and the chord at which I resonate.

God has not just made me enough, he has given me plenty.

Wait, what crazy thing did I just say? I, single mother living with my parents because I can’t afford an apartment, I have been given plenty?

I have never gone hungry because there wasn’t food available. Thank the Lord, Eva has never gone without a meal because we couldn’t afford it. There are people in this country and many others that go hungry every day. And I just can’t live with knowing that and not do anything about it any longer.

Feeding the hungry is one of the most basic and most loving things I can do. I’m sure it could be as simple as volunteering at the Food Bank but I think God may slowly be revealing something bigger. And it starts with me setting a table of plenty.

It’s been so long since I could visualize my future and now these hopes are bombarding my mind. I have been so hungry for purpose! I thank God for the walk in the desert that has made me long for His plenty. The closer I get to sitting at His table and seeing the bounty there, the more equipped I feel to set my fear and pride aside and say, “Ok, let’s go where you want me to go.” And the more I can affirm that, the more clearly I can see a way.

Help me set the table. I need your support, your thoughts, your prayers and your love. I am terrified of the crazy obedience this journey requires. I’m tired of the bad rap Christians have because not enough of us live in the radically loving way Christ calls us to live. I want to go there even though it’s scary. Once the plans I’m working on come together a bit more, I will share more, but for right now just hang with me and pray that I am going the right way.

When No Means Yes

Before I get to the intended topic, I just have to say I had my first search engine driven view yesterday! They searched for “downton abbey and wilkie collins ‘the moonstone.'” Yes. If you come back, let’s be friends. I can tell we like the same things.

Now, the post…

My daughter, Eva, developed an interesting habit a year or so ago. Sometimes, when she really wants to answer a question with “yes,” she’ll respond with “no.” Do your kids do that? I know she is just being stubborn and testing my resolve to give her what she wants–especially after she has been cranky or in trouble–but it can be bewildering.

Example: Meltdown early in the morning, couldn’t decide what to have for breakfast, wanted bacon and we only had sausage. What grief. Mom thinks, “let’s turn this around.”

“Eva, do you want to go the the park?”

She eyes me warily.

“No…” and subtly conveys, “how dare you offer me something I like after all this commotion?”

“Ok, we don’t have to.”

WAILING AND GNASHING OF TEETH.

It is so frustrating to be offering her a chance to redeem what has been an awful morning/afternoon/experience and have her deny the good things out of sheer willfulness.

Let’s condense that thought…

It is so disappointing when I offer her grace for her behavior and she rejects it because she knows she doesn’t “deserve” it.

…reflective pause…

On Thursday, I received a ridiculously well-timed and meaningful gift from a buyer-turned-friend, “The Renegade Writer.” It’s a guide to freelance writing. I would dearly love to write full-time. Truly, that is my dream job. Sometimes, I dream about running off and saving the world but really… writing. Writing is what keeps me going. And the moment I pulled back the wrapping paper and saw the title, I felt something start settling in my soul. A piece fell into place. Peace began to unfold.

Yesterday morning, I had a job interview. I knew pretty quickly that, while the employer was very enthused about my potential, I am overqualified to the extreme and worth way beyond the offered salary. I knew at least three people had prayed that I would have a clear yes or no feeling after the interview, so it was easy to focus on being thankful for the no rather than disappointed at the closed door. So I applied for a few more jobs afterwards, to buoy my own spirits and stay on the right track.

Then yesterday afternoon, I heard from my buyer-turned-friend; she had a few last minute orders for the store. I played delivery girl and we were chatting afterwards about her plans. She mentioned starting a blog about value wines in the local area. (Many times, wine reviewers focus on the expensive bottles and who really wants to spend $60 on their table wine?) I casually offered to write a restaurant review accompaniment for her…but as we talked through it a little more, light bulbs started flashing, there may have even been a neon sign lit up over my head. We are going to lunch next week to brainstorm. Plus, earlier in the week I’d actually called one of my best friends about blogging our dating adventures (hers for upbeat “that shit’s funny” hilarity, mine for “gosh, I’m glad that happened to her, not me” hilarity/gravity) and gotten an affirmative from her as well.

Looking back on the week now, the “no” of the interview yesterday is at the bottom of the list. I don’t even care that it didn’t work out like I hoped, in fact I’m GLAD it didn’t. Why? What if my eyes and ears had been clouded over with a yes from that interview yesterday? Would I have heard the opportunity when my buyer-friend spoke? Would I have even offered to write with her? Would I still be excited about the other blog my best friend and I might write? Probably not. Most likely, I would have been too excited about the job to notice what was in front of me.

I would have been focusing on the wrong yes.

Like I said, I was gifted discernment and peace over seeing that door close in the interview. But how often do we see doors closing without seeing an open window nearby? How often do closed doors feel like punishment? How often do we perceive an open window to be covered with bars when it is only our own hesitation (or even fear and shame) blocking us?

It’s arresting to reflect on things that have happened in my past and wonder what I missed because I didn’t believe I deserved the chance, that I didn’t deserve to be happy. That, like Eva, I said no because I thought it was just a tease or there were conditions on it I couldn’t possibly meet.

Maybe God has only been leading me with closed doors because I wasn’t leaping with faith through the open ones. Because it was easier for me to function knowing what I couldn’t do, rather than all that had been made possible (remember, the unknown is scary?). Lately, my prayer has been to clearly see His way and follow it. Basically for Him to push me through the right door.

Today, I consider myself shoved. Now, if someone can please make sure I don’t turn around and run the wrong direction? Thanks.

Don’t let the no’s get in your way; sometimes, they’re a yes in disguise.