Monday, August 17, 2009

Lessons from the Purse Party

It’s funny how you can learn lessons from things that you never expected would have a lesson in it. Such is the case with me as I reflected on some of the things God stirred in my heart yesterday (regarding the purse party I had).

Those that know me realize that hosting a party is not easy for me (even though I LOVE to do it!). Space is my only obstacle. How I would love to be blessed with more space so I could open up my home more often to entertain and welcome others in for fellowship! Though, despite my lack of room, I decided to host one anyways. I was at my friend Jama’s purse party a few months ago, so booking one of my own added to the benefits she got as a hostess. Even though I couldn’t believe I was agreeing to do it (knowing that I would have to clean up my clutter at home lol) I booked one. Yeah, that’s a real motivator isn’t it?!

I had been getting ready all week! I had to plan what kind of foods to prepare as well as endure cold-like symptoms while dusting/cleaning/organizing my house. Despite my allergies, I thought it would be worth it just to be able to have people over (as well as see the hard surface of my computer desk for the first time in I don’t know how long!). Not only does the house look better, but I had a great day with lots of great people too (below is a picture of Jeni, Maggie, and well as the purse I picked out at the party)!

Throughout the week, several verses came to mind. One being this verse from Philippians 2:3: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” I know this verse, in its context, doesn’t fully apply in the sense that I was thinking it, but in some ways it does. When you have people over, you want your place to look nice for them so that they can feel welcomed and comfortable. Even though your own “mess” is tolerable and comfortable to you, you want better for your guests. So, you make every effort to “esteem others better than yourselves” by honoring them with a clean home. Caring means offering your best to others. We even managed to finally replace the cracked/chipped toilet seat that we have been “tolerating” for I don’t know how long lol. Can any of you relate to this? Maybe some of it is “vainglory” (because we all want our homes to look nice anyways) but for the most part, I think it’s because in examples like this, we really do want to honor our friends and guests.

Another thing that came to my mind was the story of Mary and Martha and how Martha complained to Jesus that Mary wasn’t helping her with all the tasks she had of serving everyone in her home. Instead, Mary had chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His words. Jesus told Martha that she worried about many things, but that only ONE THING WAS NEEDED and Mary had chosen what was better (Luke 10:38-42). What was that one thing? It was fellowship with Jesus! Jesus said in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 that He didn’t come to BE SERVED but TO SERVE and to give His life as a ransom for many. He was more concerned about serving and giving Himself to the people than He was being served Himself. No doubt He appreciated Martha’s efforts in being a servant, but He showed her that fellowship came first. After all, don’t we have more of ourselves to offer in servanthood after spending time in the presence of Jesus?

Now that the busy week/weekend is over, I have had a lot to reflect on. Have I been more of a Mary or a Martha? I have had lots of fellowship, but I also spent a lot of time being Martha; preparing. Not that preparation isn’t good and necessary, but I don’t ever want that to outweigh the very reason for which the preparations are made to begin with. My aim was to be able to have a fun get-together where I could welcome others into my home and have a good time. I didn’t want to spend too much time concerned with the house or food preparations that I missed the true treasure.

I wonder how balanced I have actually been. Have there been any missed opportunities in the midst of my “Martha” moments? It kind of makes me think of my Grandma (though I mean no disrespect to her at all). She always prepares so much that she misses out on actually BEING with people. In her effort to serve everyone, she misses out on serving people in the biggest way: with her presence. I can’t tell you how many times we have missed out on actual time with her because she was busy preparing food, wrapping Christmas gifts, etc. for the people she loved rather than BEING with the people she loved. If she truly understood that we valued her more than we did her perfect wrapping jobs, amazingly savory foods, fruit tray arrangements, etc. maybe she would care a lot less about making everything “perfect” (though, it’s not like we don’t appreciate all she does for us). It’s the perfect illustration of the Mary/Martha concept. What Martha did was great; she was serving and ministering to others. But what Mary chose was even better. Food will be consumed today and gone tomorrow, but the benefits of fellowship last MUCH longer!!

One last thing that I thought of was how those invited compared to those who came was also a factor. I have run into this before (like with the kids’ birthday parties). You have a big reason to celebrate and you want others to share in your joy. So, you invite people to be with you and some accept the invitation and some don’t. You don’t want to celebrate alone, so you just keep inviting others so you have a full house (as in this parable in Luke 14:15-23). You wonder to yourself why more people don’t choose to come (aside from legitimate reasons like illness, emergencies, other time commitments, etc.). Don’t they know what all is store for them if they do come? Don’t they know that you want to delight in fellowship with them? I invited LOTS of people, but only a few came. I thought to myself, “Not to be arrogant, Lord, but why didn’t they choose me?” Instantly, it was like God was saying, “Now you know how it feels. Why won’t people choose ME?” I understood so deeply what He’s saying. Like Him, we long to be chosen and to feel like we matter. We vie for attention and for other peoples’ time and we don’t always get it. That’s why God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14). Why should He have to compete with other “gods” of ours? What can they give us? They are inferior! They cannot satisfy! So why do we give our time and worship to these things? Why do we often forget and find it difficult to give to God that which is due Him? Isn’t He worthy of our time, praise, and worship? It is HE who created and made us and HE who chose US, not the other way around (John 15:16). He purposed us and destined us for good things (Ephesians 2:10). Why do we look for worth and fulfillment in anything else other than Him who KNOWS us and formed us (Psalm 139:13)? If only we would realize the true treasure that He is and stop going to our pathetic and broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13).

Overall, I think having the party was a blessing. It provided some much needed motivation for me to be productive in cleaning my home; not only for others but for my husband and kids (clutter is one of Mitch’s pet peeves!). And, the fellowship and teamwork that Mitch and I got to experience together in accomplishing all our tasks was good medicine for us. However, I also think I missed the mark in a lot of areas. So often, these words from Hosea 6:6 come to my mind: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Sometimes in wearing ourselves out in servanthood and sacrifice, we miss out on the “Mary” opportunities - the things that are “better” and will do the most good. Twice this week, I missed out on visiting with a neighbor that I had gotten to know on my runs. He’s an elderly man that sits out in his garage and watches people and traffic go by. One day, I finally decided to introduce myself and get to know him. He’s a nice guy (when he’s not making racist remarks that is). Maybe it meant something for me to actually stop and sit with him a while rather than just smile, wave, and acknowledge him (not that that isn’t good too, but quality time is better). I had been so “busy” just trying to fit in my running time and get home so I could keep “preparing” for the week that I missed two occasions in which I could have (and likely should have) visited with him. That, my friends, is a classic example of the desired mercy over sacrifice. Compassion and quality time outweighs everything else I needed to be doing (that is, finishing my run in a timely manner, and getting home to do everything else I had to do). I regret that I didn’t take even a few minutes to stop and visit with him, even if I couldn’t have stayed long. Instead, I opted not to be interrupted in my workout time so I could keep my heart rate up, burn the calories, and then get home and work some more in order to “serve others” later.

That wasn’t my only blunder either. In spite of knowing that I needed to be vigilant and take it easy when it came to the food at the party, I know that I focused too much on it and I ate more than I should have as well (and I KNOW better - especially on the day before my weekly weigh-in!). Most of the food was “good” food; that is, veggies, fruit, and the veggie pizza I made (thanks, Nancy, for that recipe!) but there was also cake and punch. Even though I had more of the first few foods than I did the cake, I still had more than I should have. It caused me a 1.4 pound gain on my weigh-in today. Not good, but not as bad as it could have been. I still do great about exercising consistently, but all that sweat is nearly wasted when I throw in the towel on my eating and disappoint myself (and God) with my lack of self-control. I need to be a better example than this! (Here are some pictures; including the cool purse cake that my step-Mom made. I didn't attempt to make it because when I made one for Jama's party, it looked like a taco! LOL And yes, some of the food is on my washer and dryer because that's all the counter space I have - yep, the washer and dryer is IN the kitchen!)

Well, there have been many lessons learned….and all because I booked a purse party lol!! I never would have thought it!! It just goes to show that anything can be a teachable moment!! I’m thankful for these things God has showed me, even the stuff that was unpleasant and broke my heart (though, my heart needs to be broken if I’m going to have any kind of change and do better next time).

Grace and peace to all of you!! May you all live as “Marys” and be filled with mercy and compassion for others as you fellowship with one another!! Remember, choose Christ! Choose fellowship with Him, and with others! Fellowship builds relationships, and through those relationships, you can learn to be a better servant! Put fellowship first!! God bless you all!!

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