In my spare time (haha!) I have been working on writing a reflection, or a memoir of sorts, of my experience in Romania. I am still working on writing the first month of our time there, and the story of our first experience with having guests over got me thinking about perfection and hospitality.
I am a perfectionist, and anything less than perfection tends to make me feel like a failure, but I’m learning…
I had just gotten married two months ago, and moved across the world to Romania a week ago. My husband, Sam and I lived with his parents for a week while we looked for our own apartment, and the Friday after we arrived we were signing a contract for our very first home together.
We were blessed to find an apartment with plenty of room to live and entertain, though it was old and needed work. The air-conditioning was broken and the toilet wouldn’t flush, and everything was covered with a substantial layer of grime. Our landlord promised to fix what was broken and I began scrubbing every surface before unpacking anything.
We scrubbed, unpacked, and shopped for household necessities that wouldn’t fit in a 50 pound suitcase on Saturday, and on Sunday we were scheduled to have our first guests over for dinner after worship.
At 5:00 the next morning I was up and working. I began to boil pasta, chop vegetables, and make dressing for a cold pasta salad. I also sliced bread, placed butter on a decorative plate, and cut a huge watermelon into cubes.
Once all the food was crammed into our dorm-sized refrigerator after much rearranging, I began unpacking all the boxes of items we had purchased the night before. I put pots and pans into cabinets, hung up towels in the bathroom, and hid all the boxes under our couch. We had a bucket in the middle of the hall to catch the dripping from the air conditioner and we had to “save flushes” in the toilet, but at least everything was cleared off the floor. I mopped the living room floor one more time before changing into my skirt for worship services.
Our Romanian friends, along with their three-year-old son and one year old twin daughters came home with us following services. I moved the bucket aside as they walked through the hallway and made sure they were comfortable in the living room.
If they noticed the dirt or broken items, they did not say a thing about them. They ate the food with gusto and praised my cooking. It was probably unlike anything they had ever had.
The twin girls crawled all over the floor and ended up with brown hands and knees. I began to apologize profusely, but they simply laughed it off and said it happened all the time at home.
They left when it was time for the kids to have somn de pui, or literally translated “chicken sleep,” or nap time. I began working on the mountain of dishes left in the sink, but I felt a wonderful sense of contentment and relief.
The first time we entertained gusts in our new house back in the States it was a Sunday afternoon potluck for our new church family. I had a 6-week old baby. Many outlets and light switches were missing their cover plates, and two rooms did not have doors (they were leaning up against a wall in the living room). I swept the kitchen that morning with Mae in her sling, but I left the pile to get up later when I could bend down without Mae in the sling.
When everyone began arriving Mae decided that she needed to eat right then. I texted Sam from our bedroom where to put food and what items to get out. When we began setting things up we realized that we forgot to buy paper bowls for the chili, and we also had no napkins. After Mae finishing feeding I went into the kitchen and saw the pile of dirt on the floor that I had not swept up.
But again, our guests were so much more gracious than I am to myself. No one cared that I had to leave to feed my baby, and I don’t know if anyone noticed the dirt on the floor. We used paper towels for napkins and we got to use all the lovely bowls we got for wedding gifts for the chili. When we ran out of bowls someone used a plastic cup and didn’t even seem to care.
God does want us to do our best, as if it is for Him and not for man, but He also wants us to be joyful and encourage the others around us. We need to do our very best for God, and also cherish the fact that both He and others around us will graciously accept our attempts, no matter how far we come from perfection. We need to strive for perfection, but settle for whatever is our best.