Friday night we hosted kind of a Fancy Dinner.
This is the kind of dinner where you can’t just make a casserole and you have appetizers and you should serve the salad as a separate course but I never do because I’m afraid someone won’t like it and won’t eat it and we’ll both be embarrassed, so to save face I serve it with the rest of the dinner. I plate the dinner and then guests can just move food around and spread it out like a squirrel hiding nuts all over the yard if they don’t care for it.
They could also quietly feed it to the cat or dog under the table like Maggie and I did at the home of some crazy british ladies in Kenya once, but we don’t have a cat or dog so that’s out.
Anyway, I want this dinner to be nice because the friends we are hosting are wonderful and we want to thank them for going so far above wonderful in all the ways that they serve our church.
When we host Fancier Dinners basically I do All The Work and husband John makes a last minute run to the store with cell phone in hand so I can talk him through what I need, like a handler coaching a CIA agent with a com in his ear. He also depends heavily on the kindness of strangers (i.e. any woman who doesn’t look hostile and can tell him where the minced garlic might be). And he cleans up after dinner so there’s that.
Friday I knew he would be so appreciative of the work that I was doing that he’d want to buy me a present. Specifically he’d want to buy me the appetizer platter I had seen. So I saved him the trouble and bought it for myself (See?? Doing ALL The Work).
When we host Fancier Dinners I get super excited inviting people and planning a menu, but inevitably, about 4:30 in the afternoon three things happen.
a. I’m sure I’m not going to be able to pull it off. I’ll forget something or something won’t be hot at the right time (“How the heck do people make stuff come out all at the same moment?!” I want to scream)
b. I’m tired and I just want the evening to be over so I can go to bed.
c. I wonder if it is worth all the effort to gather folks around our table.
But then The People show up. There are hugs and hellos and so-happy-to-see-you’s and I feel like I won the lottery and had mocha chip ice cream pumped into my veins and saw a double rainbow all at the same time.
Life is good again.
We join hands to pray around the table and candles reflect smiles and platters are passed for seconds.
Yes, the asparagus is cold, and the new potato recipe I tried is a little too salty. The whipped cream on the dessert is soupy and I get engrossed in conversation and forget to refill water glasses, but The People are here and they are talking about living life.
I get teary as one of our friends shares a funny story about about parenting because he reminds me so much of my brother David. We rejoice with another friend over her new job and the affirmation of her gifts. We share “Yay God!” stories of changed lives in the church. We talk about ALS and money and cynicism and difficult people we’re trying to love, and we laugh about Christian romance novels.
We tell our stories which are also the story of God in the world, and it is good.
This is something sacred and deeply satisfying.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a Fancy Dinner or potluck or pizza. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting on the ground in Palestine or in a hut in Zambia, or tailgating in Green Bay. Life is filled to overflowing with quiet beauty and laughter, dancing and despair and aching love and tiny glimpses of hope that are meant to be shared, whether your asparagus is cold or not.