Recently, I tried a new approach to hosting a gathering that I must admit was excruciating to implement. To execute this experiment took self-control and discipline. The result was freedom. Freedom and life.
Precious family memories have been created in our home when we have spent time sharing our life and our home with our friends and family. The experiences and memories we have shared have developed bonds that distance can’t break. Hospitality is being sewn into the hearts of our children. Or so I thought. Until I realized something else was tainting that hospitality.
Lurking behind hospitality and love was something else. Something so perfect it was ugly. Something so unrealistic that it blurs the line between truth and fiction, true life versus perceived life. Something that screams the message, “We have it all together. Our house is perfectly clean and orderly. Our children behave well all the time. It’s easy for us to do all that we do.”
It’s a lie. It’s a lie that I want to destroy before it becomes entangled in their hearts.
I’ve learned many lessons from my husband, but one of the most powerful examples I’ve witnessed in his life is his ability to attract true friendships through his transparent and authentic life. I’ve witnessed him bring about true relief in the lives of others because he was brave enough to be real with them. Walls of defense crumbled, they were free to be themselves, full of struggles. Our culture doesn’t do this. Images and messages surround us moment by moment telling us that we aren’t good enough the way we are. We need to be more this or less that, have more of this and less of that.
That’s not the message of our Father. And that’s not the message we want to buy when we desire true friendships, deep family relationships. When our hearts yearn to create memories and experience life with the ones we love, we must release ourselves first to live fully, imperfectly.
Prior to my experiment, I would spend hours preparing to host a simple gathering. In order for the house to shine and sparkle, something had to suffer. Time with my children was exchanged for a shiny countertop. Listening to my 6-year-old tell a long-winded story didn’t happen. Furniture needed a quick dusting. Holding my 3-year-old in my lap after his afternoon nap didn’t happen. Floors needed to be swept. Sweet words spoken to my husband didn’t happen. I barked orders of what was left to do.
Finally, all was done. I could breathe. Everything looked just right. House was shiny, but hearts were dulled. Home was prepared to create memories, but moments were lost in the preparation.
What message penetrated the hearts of my children? You are less important to me than the way I look to other people. I care more about my house and the way things look than I care to spend the extra 10 minutes you need me to spend with you. Stuff is more important. Perception is more important.
But these aren’t the values we claim in our home. And this is NOT how we feel. We say we value them above everything other than God. As I tell my boys over and over, actions speak louder than words. My actions are screaming one message while my mouth is whispering another. The whisper will never win against the scream. Because the scream is traumatizing. It sticks. The whisper soothes the hurt of the scream. But it doesn’t remove the scar.
So I took one small step. That one small step was to enjoy the day with my family rather than lose the moments begging to be held. Rather than lose the moments in the process of preparing the house to host our guests, I left my house the way it is EVERY SINGLE DAY. Full of life. Life happens in these walls.
I can thank my friend, who hosted our family a couple of weeks prior, for opening my eyes. She gave me the freedom to be real with her. The moment we walked in the door of their home, we felt welcomed, loved, and cherished. Her house wasn’t spotless. Life happened there. As she toured me around the house, she said, “Sorry about the mess, see I didn’t even pick up my bra off the bathroom floor for you.” She made a choice that day to enjoy the moments with her children. And I loved it. The gift she gave me was freedom.
I shared this story recently with two other friends. Interestingly, they each remarked the same sentiment. Wasn’t that freeing?
Freeing indeed. To experience moments (really experience them), to create memories, to build and strengthen relationships takes a healthy dose of letting go of the things that make no difference in the grand scheme of life. One day we will host gatherings, and they will look perfect. Because there will be no little ones to clean up after before the guests arrive. I will miss this messy, imperfect life. Knowing I will miss it motivates me to live so there are no regrets.
I will exchange a clean and shiny house for moments with my family. While they are here for the taking.
So how did it go for me? Perfectly. Simply perfect.
I exchanged shiny counters for a nap on the screen porch. I exchanged dust-free furniture for stories with my sons. I exchanged crumb-free floors for a peaceful day with my husband. To top it off, I didn’t even wash my hair. I threw a hat on and called it a day.
How do you free yourself to create more moments with your family? We’d love to hear your comments!!