SOMETHING ABOUT NOTHING published in the Albert Lea Tribune and Courier Sentinel week of January 11, 2016 ©Julie Seedorf
As much as I dislike routines, I have one routine in the morning that centers me for the day. I sit down in the quiet of the morning, journal, write in my gratitude journal and take time for inspiration from a book and author who might inspire me to live my life better.
This morning one sentence from Joyce Meyer’s book “Seven Things That Steal Your
Joy,” popped out and hit me straight between the eyes. The sentence was this: “Keep it simple.” Joyce Meyer’s section this day was devoted to having guests over. She described the way we try and make everything so perfect we don’t enjoy the time with our guests. We worry about the state of our house, our food, our appearance and whether we might measure up to our guests standards.
The reason these words stood out to me was because I had those very worries the day before. It is our turn to host our monthly Bible study or book group. We are trying to find a time when it works for all of us to get together. It happens to fall on a day later in the month when I will be out of town for a few days, coming home the very afternoon we are going to entertain the group. I said we would make it work. In the back of my mind I already began to be stressed. I knew I needed to clean before I left, but I also have my shysters who occasionally get into mischief while I am gone, and there is no guarantee I would not have a few remnants from their mischief to clean up when I came home.
Food was another issue. The hosting home provides the main meal and everyone else brings something to add to the meal. All my friends are great cooks and we usually have something delicious, homemade and wonderful. Would I be able to do that in the time I had after I got home? One of my friends offered to bring the main meal, but I felt that wasn’t fair.
Do any of you stress about company? I never used to. The reading in my morning devotion reminded me of our first married years. We started out in a rented house, with secondhand rented furniture, and I decorated using what we had. It was homey and comfy and I loved my home. It felt like home. I didn’t hesitate to invite people over and friends dropped in unannounced. It was a simple time in our lives. We were starting to build a life, and we didn’t have a lot of stuff. Since our friends were in the same position, their houses matched mine.
The years have passed and our lifestyles have changed. Some of our friends are the same friends, and we have met new ones along the way. Our lifestyle change has also included houses. Many of my friends have beautiful new modern houses with manicured yards, and the homes are tastefully decorated. They are beautiful. We always feel welcome in their homes.
I too, have a nice older home. I too try and stay up-to-date with my decorating and make sure it looks great when people are over. Thus, my anxiety when I have company because I want to measure up. I want to make it clear, my friends do not make me feel I have to do this. It has come with the territory of society, growing older, a change of lifestyle and possibly media. And perhaps my own insecurity about the rough edges showing up in my older home.
I have seen the criticism in our newspapers and media judging those whose homes are old and need some repair. But perhaps the people that live in these houses have simply found the secret to contentment because they live life without the trappings we all fall into. I used to feel contentment at living in an old home the first years of my marriage until I believed I needed to keep up with what society bellowed to me. My most comfortable and peaceful place in my life was my grandma’s old house, with the floor furnace, plastic drapes and an old cook stove in the kitchen. It was simplicity.
Joyce Meyer talks about the simplicity of fellowship. How often on the spur of the moment do we invite people over for a BBQ even if all we have is hot dogs and potato chips? How often do we ask people to drop in without calling? Our door used to always be open to drop-ins in our earlier married years. Now, the doorbell is silent unless we invite someone in, and we don’t do that anymore spontaneously because we might not be ready for company.
We have made the simple act of friendship and fellowship complicated. I miss the days when my walls were covered with old signs, and we sat on the floor around an old trunk and sipped coffee or had a drink of wine, and I didn’t care if the bed wasn’t made or there were dishes in the sink. Neither did my company and we enjoyed our conversation and our time together.
I miss the times when we would say, “Stay for supper. I don’t know what we’re having. t might be peanut butter sandwiches.” It didn’t matter, and we had fun anyway. I enjoyed my company without worrying about all the trappings. I have forgotten to keep it simple and because of that my home has become more quiet and silent.
I miss the days when I didn’t care what was on my walls or the condition my furniture was in or the fact that my food was simple. And it is no one’s fault but mine that I bought into the hype. My friends don’t make me feel this way, I take ownership for those feelings.
In my old age I have finally come to realize I feel more comfortable in old homes. I feel more comfortable visiting where a home feels lived in and used. And that statement takes me to having company. I am grateful for my devotion this morning that reminded me of what is important when visiting with friends. From now on out, I am going to keep it simple. Let the dust accumulate while I’m gone, the shysters make their mischief and the food be simple. What is most important is the conversation and sharing that will happen at my table.
Things that I grew up with stay with me. You start a certain way, and then you spend your whole life trying to find a certain simplicity that you had. It’s less about staying in childhood than keeping a certain spirit of seeing things in a different way.