I enjoyed preparing for three celebrations at my house recently, a bridal shower, a baby shower, and a team work retreat for my husband’s company. The cooking and decorating stirred my heart in different ways. I thought I’d share with you what I wrote for the bride to be:
“Preparing for this shower was a good time to reflect, marvel, mourn, and give thanks. It began with the tablecloths. Looking through my tablecloths was like peeking into my past. Some I bought, some were gifts, some I made. One cloth is from my friend. It is a patchwork, diverse and beautiful. Like our friendship. There is the one I paid too much for and have never really liked. But I keep it because it is neutral and necessary. A lot of life lessons are like this: expensive but useful. Then there is the outside cloth, the lace cloth, the zebra cloth, the red cloth that used to be a curtain but I loved the color so much that I converted it.
All of them have their place and lesson. They are a passage of time, tastes, and stories — lean times and plenty, discoveries of what I liked and who I was, stories that captured a mixture of emotions.
The pink gingham cloth came from my grandmother. It is precious to me. I don’t use it often but it is a constant in my drawer to choose from. And though it is stained and so out of date, I cannot bear to part with it.
Do that with some of your traditions. Treasure them. Keep them. But don’t feel bound to use them every day.
People whom I loved, studied, mentored, and learned from, all ate at my table with these cloths. We laughed together and cried together. Some of these people are now dead or they’ve moved on to other friendships. It was good for me to serve them. They are forever part of my life, marriage and legacy.
The napkins also caused a lot insight. For a long time in my life and marriage, I wanted everything to be perfect, to match, to be just right. In fact I wouldn’t let people in my house, and honestly my life, unless it was. The napkins reminded me of that. I’m glad I don’t do that anymore. I’ve relaxed. I’ve got different priorities and values than when I started. I don’t mind the tatters and stains so much. Peace lives in me now, instead of that hounding jackal called perfectionism.
I realized cloth napkins are a lot like marriage. Some of them are durable, they wash and wear easily. Like our daily lives. We need attitudes and beliefs that can stand up to daily use. Some of the napkins faded pretty quickly after use much like expectations and demands we have for each other. Some of the napkins are silky, for romantic dinners at home. I have to remember to keep pulling those out. I have to keep my heart centered on my marriage so that kids and life and work don’t overshadow the love story that began the whole journey in the first place.
There are seasonal napkins, formal napkins and paper napkins. They all have their place in time, in marriage, in life.
Finally, there was the dirty napkin. I have no idea how long it has hidden in the cabinet. But this is October and it is a Christmas napkin.
It reminded me that I am learning to be nice to me. There is dirt. I may or may not know about. But it will surface sooner or later. And there is grace for that too. For all of it.
By their very nature, napkins clean up messes, beautifully. Expect to have messes on this journey.
But above all enjoy the meal. Enjoy the conversations, the laughter and tears. Listen and learn from those who sit at your table. Young and old. Savor the seasons. Each person, friendship, meal is a gift of time. Learn to serve. Learn to be served. Be nice to yourself. The pressure is off.
Give yourself time and permission to Learn how to love. Marriage, and life, doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make sure you have lots of napkins along the way.”