Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; -Psalm 86:11a
“I’m reading Joanna Weaver’s Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, thinking about how people teach truth, and remembering my mother,” I said to my friend. We were enjoying our usual Friday morning coffee at the Rockfish Valley Community Center and catching up since I was out of town the previous Friday, attending HippoCamp writers’ conference. Yesterday, a revision of my review for that conference session went live on the Hippocampus Magazine site here.
In the past two years, my friend and I both lost mothers, dogs, and spouses—her beloved husband, my ex. We know grief, joy, and sorrow can overtake us at any time. Last Friday, I guess it was my turn.
“Hospitality was one of Mother’s gifts,” I said, “which was a little unusual since she was shy. She always made things special for her guests, not in a Martha Stewart way. But she did set out her china for holiday meals—Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas.”
“And a centerpiece,” my friend said, smiling and remembering.
“Yes, a festive centerpiece and other thoughtful things. At school, she’d decorate the teachers’ bathroom with strings of mini-lights, tea towels, humorous posters, anything to make it a special place where her fellow teachers knew they were cared for, especially on the tough days.”
I sighed. “I wish I was more like my mother. Most of the time, I manage one indication of the holiday. A fabric turkey on the coffee table for Thanksgiving, placemats with special napkins for Christmas and Easter…” But I knew it wasn’t about the decorations; it was about people.
Showing was the way she’d teach.
“Mother was a teacher, my teacher,” I said to my friend. “Showing was the way she’d teach.” Balancing Martha’s doing with Mary’s being, or as Joanna Weaver put it, balancing Kitchen Service with Living Room Intimacy.
We were created to say yes to both calls: devotion and duty. “Love for God. Love for others. Worship and service,” Weaver wrote. “These are the two ends of our teetertotter. Though love for God comes first, the two can’t be separated. One flows from the other—and back again. That’s what it means to live a balanced life, a Christlike life.” The teeter principle of Sabbath rest balances the totter principle of hospitality.
“The secret of balancing worship and work, devotion and service, love of God and love of people is maintaining our connection to Jesus Christ. Our relationship with him is the fulcrum, the anchor, the steadying point that makes balance possible in the first place. And the deeper that relationship goes, the more stable the balance will be.”
Another way to teach the holiness of hospitality is through creativity.
In Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity, artist and author Julia Cameron wrote: “The dedication of our work to a higher cause than our own self-promotion frees the work from preciousness. It becomes not about how good we are but about how good we can be in selfless service to something larger than ourselves… Contemplating a piece of work, we do better to think Whom is this work for? Whom will it serve? rather than How will it serve me? Once we find a path for our work to be of service… then our work goes smoothly forward. It is not about ‘us’ anymore….”
My mother’s decorating was an art of service and teaching. As Joanna Weaver reminded me, “Jesus wasn’t as interested in finding capable people as he was in finding available people. He was looking for teachable hearts.” Being teachable involves being willing to listen, acting on what we hear, and responding to discipline.
“Mother knew it was the little things that showed people she cared about them,” I said to my friend. “I’m trainable. I could roll flatware into napkins and tie them with ribbons…”
My holiday table will never look like a Southern Living Magazine cover. But with a trainable heart and creativity, my guests will be better served. Walking in the truth, from kitchen to living room.
Link up with Five Minute Friday: https://fiveminutefriday.com/2021/08/19/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-teach/
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Thank you, my friend. Thinking of you and your mother.
Carole, you are blessed with the intuition of a teacher. An effective teacher demonstrates and shows how to accomplish a task. Well said!
Thank you, Richard!
You capture the depth of hospitality and the breath of serving others. There’s a paradox living like Mary in a Martha world. It’s hard for us to accept the two sides of each coin. Thank you for your post.
The balance of Mary’s being with Martha’s doing is difficult, indeed. Thank you for your comment, Rhonda. -C.D.