House Shame (Bread and Wine Review, Part 1)

apple crumb muffins

How many times have I said that I want people to stop over unannounced sometimes (I stress the word sometimes)? Not every time, but sometimes. I used to keep baked goods on hand and fresh tea bags in case someone wanted to stop by to talk, eat, and connect. My husband and I designed our kitchen to be like a coffee house, to encourage people to visit. What happened is reflected by author, Shauna Niequist in her book, Bread and Wine. There is so much here that I can relate to, including the writer part.

Shauna speaks about her friend who owns a beautiful home. Her friend collects hotel silver, presses her napkins, and Shauna has never seen her home, “less than sparkling. Ever.”

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She came in and hugged me and sat on the couch in our kitchen, and we chatted about various things–her work, my work, our kids. And I tried not to absolutely freak out. I hope she didn’t notice that I practically developed a facial tic while we chatted.

This is the thing: it was an unannounced stopover. While I was writing. When I am writing at home, it’s as though I am a homebound invalid. No makeup, hair in a ratty bun just above my forehead. Crooked glasses, Aaron’s gym socks. I’m not suggesting I was just a little ragged around the edges; I was terrifying. My brother had given me a sailing shirt, one of those half-zips made of some sort of wicking fabric. I thought it would make me look a little sporty; it makes me look like a forty-eight-year-old athletic director at a small women’s college.

Let’s talk for a moment about my home during that fateful visit. First, the smell: my whole house smelled because I hadn’t done the dishes for days. Many, many days. There are reasons for this, of course, but when someone’s standing in your kitchen, it’s hard to explain the breakfast dishes on the coffee table, the popcorn bits all over the rug, and the smell–heavens, the smell!–of dirty dishes in the sink.

This is the shame double whammy–my body and my house. It was almost physically painful. But this is the thing: she’s my friend. And even though having her sit right in the middle of my house mess set off every shame alarm I have, I stayed there, perched on my couch, listening and talking.

Just the week before, she and I had been talking about the writing I was doing, and I was telling her that while I’m writing about food, what I’m finding is that a lot of it is about shame, about the ways we feel inferior, and because of those feelings, we hide. And of course, it’s all fun and games to talk about these those ideas, and then the next thing you know, you’re in your husband’s gym socks and your kitchen stinks. You’ve got a chance to practice what you’re preaching, and you’re breaking out in hives.

I felt within myself the desire to shoo her out, to hide, to keep her from the disorder that is my real, actual life some days. But I took a deep breath, and she sat there listening to me across my dirty coffee table, and we talked about community and family and authenticity. It’s easy to talk about it, and really, really hard sometimes to practice it.

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Shauna really takes us to the heart of hospitality here. All of the above is what I have felt, done, and struggled with. My family might remember the times when I wanted a half an hour warning before they came over to hurry and hide the undone dishes, spray some air freshener into the air, and make sure I could treat my family with all the love of hospitality. I agree with Shauna for these next reasons why most of us do not entertain and come together in fellowship:

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This is why the door stays closed for so many of us, literally and figuratively. One friend promises she’ll start having people over when they finally have money to remodel. Another says she’d be too nervous that people wouldn’t eat the food she made, so she never makes the invitation.

But it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t about performance. You’ll miss the richest moments in life–the sacred moments when we feel God’s grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love–if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door. I know it’s scary, but throw open the door anyway, even though someone might see you in your terribly ugly half-zip.

I don’t want to hear from the people whose house is always Home and Garden perfect (bless you for your beauty!), but from those of us, like me and my husband who struggle to keep the house clean and balance work and family in this crazy ride we call life. Be brave. Is your house always picture perfect? What do you think of Shauna’s words?

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This is part one of my review of Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes, published by Zondervan. This excerpt was done with permission from page 108-109.

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