Pots were sizzling, onions were being cut, and the table was being set – all in a hurry. Our friends were about to arrive any minute and I had wet hair, uncooked potatoes, and a certain amount of tension building in my shoulders.
I love entertaining. Really.
But for some reason, I was so caught up in the details that I forgot the larger meaning.
I looked at our set table, complete with china plates (because we have a total of three dinner plates that aren’t plastic – hello, newly-married life!) and paper napkins.
China plates and paper towel napkins. I just couldn’t quit looking. I couldn’t quit judging myself for my inability to plan and prepare, to actually buy napkins that might look better with those beautiful china plates.
I was cutting onions and cooking meat and, well, I was choosing to be tense. There was my own expectation for what our get-together would end up being, my own timeline for what time the food should be ready, and my own thoughts about that table with china and those darn paper napkins.
I was running around our small kitchen with about five minutes until our friends would walk through the door. My all-too-calm husband set a patient hand on my not-so-patient shoulders and said “Breathe.”
Wow, that pierced my heart and jolted me to truly breathe again.
I was so caught up in being perfect – or rather, seeming perfect – that the meaning of the whole night was suffocating. The larger meaning of friendship and community and fun and laughter and imperfections.
And when I stopped to breathe, when I really thought about these expectations and the weight that they force me to put on myself, I was able to choose imperfection and grace for myself.
Grace for my wet hair. For the uncooked potatoes and the banana bread that fell in the middle. For those plates that represent a legacy of love between my momma and me, of shared meals with my dear family and the laughs that we can now share with new friends over those same legacy plates. For those paper napkins, yes even those, because the informalness means so much more when you think about it intentionally.
I prayerfully switched my attitude from one of self-expectations and drowning tension to that of enjoyment and sharing love.
My sweet, beloved friend walked through that door with the words “Hey, I just want you to know that I need you.”
Immediate tears on the inside of this imperfect friend.
Here I was so focused on those napkins and potatoes that I didn’t stop to think about the personhood of me. Or the personhood of those around me.
“I need you too.”
Expectations hold so much weight, friend. When was the last time you threw expectations to the wind and simply loved people in big, bold, authentic, real ways? When was the last time you let imperfection rule?
Challenge yourself today. Take a deep breath & embrace the journey.
Sometimes expectations drain us all of joy and laughter, love and purpose. And sometimes we aren’t sure how to overcome them. I have a thought. What if we were all covering our imperfections with grace?
I intentionally worked on this, and let me tell you, grace is so freeing. Check out this post – How to Fight for Grace with Intention – and accept the challenge!