Use the Nice Dishes

This week my mother celebrated a birthday. These days our relationship is my favorite heart space. The older I get, the deeper our conversations become. Nothing is off limits. I recently asked her what’s the most difficult thing she’s ever overcome. “Death on both ends – my mother, and my son.”

Just last week we spoke about my dishes. A friend gifted me some beautiful, new dinnerware I buried in a closet because it was “too nice to mess up.” My mother asked if I recalled the burgundy and yellow dishes we used growing up. Of course I did because we used them often. She told me that for years they, too, were buried somewhere, off limits because they belonged to her mother. After my grandmother passed (before I was born) she refused to use them. One day, she realized there was no pending occasion to save them for. There was no guest whose arrival was the perfect reason to serve meals on them. There was no thing, person or reason to reserve them for. “You have a beautiful home. Use the nice dishes.”

I think we put off many things waiting for the perfect occasion. My mother’s life is proof that the more we use, the more God replenishes. She does not hold back. She dances when music plays. She sings loudly in concert with the choir from the church pew. She accepts invitations when invited. She has fun for no reason except that it’s Tuesday and two or three are gathered. She lives. She lives full and big and hard. She lives well. She loves wholly. She hopes so high that it’ll cure one’s disbelief.

I originally intended this as an open letter honoring my mother on her birthday. Instead, I decided to pose a challenge to you. I urge you(us) to trust God the way mom does. She trusts Him the same way she lives her life: full, big, hard and well. I think we come to a place, not by age but by experience, where we surrender our preconceived notions, assumptions and expectations of how things should go. We, in turn, enter the Lord’s contentment and understanding that the present is the only thing we can be sure of. Said differently, age doesn’t mature us. Life experiences and every day decisions draw us deeper into a knowing of who God is. This understanding compels us to use our nice dishes just because. To get dressed up for dinner with someone we see regularly. To say the thing we’ve been meaning to say, spend the money on something special – not beyond our means, of course. To take the trip. To spend the time. To expel the emotion.  To start the business – in your 60s in my mother’s case. Mess up. Try again. Start over. Do something differently. Commit. Make a different, better decision. To not fear death, or failure or regret. Because over-cherishing people, things and life is fleeting. Mom understands that.

My grandmother’s dishes will always be special to my mom. I know she loves the fact that even though I’ve never met her, we’ve connected over many meals throughout the years. Two generations of women in my family fed me: my mom prepared the sustenance and my grandmother made a way for me to receive them.

What I’m saying is this. Even the most special things need to be used for the purpose which God created them. Otherwise we rob them, and we rob ourselves. We will never regret adorning our most delicious meals on our nicest dishes. We may, however, regret not using them more often because we feared diminishing their value.

That said, use the dishes. Often. Do not reserve them solely for “special” purposes. This way, when you look back over your life, you’ll flood with memories that each holds special weight. They’ll decorate your heart with a lifetime of beautiful images. You will see how God was there in every moment.

I hope you had the happiest of birthdays, mom! You’re worth the grandest feast prepared on the finest china. I pray this year is filled with dirtying nice dinnerware and all the beautiful memories to come with it. Thank you for sharing your best with me – your best love, your best advice and your best dishes.

I love you,
Baby girl

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