you say tomato, I say tomato

At a recent church get together, somehow the conversation turned to—I can’t remember what. But I seized the opportunity to drag myself into it.
Once upon a time, I told my politely listening friends, back when I was single and very involved in children’s ministry at my church, I bought a new Sunday dress.
At the time my hair was dark dark brown. I had a bit of a tan and thought a red dress would look nice.
It was a shirt dress. It fit well. It was comfortable. I paid decent money for it.
But I didn’t particularly like it, or feel pretty in it.
The color was a sort of tomato-red as opposed to any other red in the known universe that would have been more flattering.
Maybe that was it.
I wore it. About every third or fourth week.

One Sunday I and my tomato red dress popped into the Sunday school room.
I greeted my littles.
One of my little ones, in the sort of tone one might use facing tuna noodle casserole for the fourth night in a row, greeted me back with, “Oh. You’re wearing that dress again.”
The tomato dress went to the thrift shop the next morning.

I’d like to say the moral of the story is to trust your instincts. Never wear clothing you don’t feel pretty in. Or that makes small children sad.

But my next story demonstrates what makes this post a cautionary tale. Instincts aren’t always reliable.

Years back a church lady, talking about Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha, observed, “Mary might have chosen the better way, but I’d rather be on committees with Martha.”

That stuck with me, especially since I’ve fought a lifelong battle against being the sluggard in Proverbs. The one who’s supposed to go to the ant for instruction on hard work.

My instincts tell me to work harder, do more, serve better. Because no one likes sluggards, and most hard-working women aren’t even that fond of Mary types.
So when we hosted a retired missionary and his wife for dinner, I worked like crazy to make certain the house was clean and cozy, our meal the right balance of nourishing and attractive and tasty, and the beverages stayed filled.

But, meals for guests being what they are, the potatoes didn’t cook as fast as the veggies and the meat looked underdone and the serving platter had water spots and apparently the slotted spoon ran away with the dish.
Once my sweating self got everyone fed it was time to clear away, get the coffee going, provide tea for non-coffee drinkers, cut the dessert and polish more water spots off the forks.
My instincts kept prodding me. “No sluggards allowed. Make the Marthas of the world proud. Keep moving and provide for every possible need of your guests.”

At one point the missionary’s dear wife caught at my arm as I bustled my busy way back into the kitchen for the umpteenth time. “Anita, we’re fine. Just sit down and talk to me!”
But those blasted instincts keep pushing and I chugged to and fro, Martha personified, giving the guests everything but what they wanted.

They left that afternoon and I never made the time to sit and chat, and I never saw that dear woman again. She’s in heaven now, sitting at Jesus’ feet with Mary. AND Martha.

I am left with regrets.
And justified suspicion of my instincts. They were right about Tomato Dress. Wrong about the Importance of Being Martha.

I’ll probably never sort them out.
In the meantime I avoid clothing that makes small children sad, work hard at working hard and harder at investing in relationships. When I get it wrong, as I often will, I’ll rest assured that, ultimately, it will come out right in the wash.

(Ephesians 5:26)

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

7 thoughts on “you say tomato, I say tomato

  1. Hospitality is a tough balance. I rarely got to do this in my previous life and have to shake my ideas of perfection. I’m getting better at simpler meals (and dessert ahead of time). Yes, even slow-cooker stuff! Last time I had an Irish stew simmering all day, bread I bought and made the apple pie in the morning. I did remove dishes when we were done and then sat down to enjoy the company. The dishes can wait till later. Even if someone offers I say No – time with that person is more important than getting a dish rinsed and in the dishwasher. Sometimes I will put away food quickly in the fridge but beyond that– it can wait. Hospitality is more about the person you are with – it’s about being present. I’ve struggled with this but have found that it is what people remember most – not a perfectly clean kitchen, but a heart ready to sit and engage. Keep at it! Amazing how we can get to be older and still struggle to do it all. BTW – I even did this at thanksgiving a few years ago and it worked. Low stress, great food (yes turkey made the day before and put in crock pot). That meal was the last time I had my dad with me at our home and we enjoyed hours of talking and playing cards. I precious memory I would have never had if I’d been more worried about doing it now instead of later.

  2. I think I’ve gotten better at doing hospitality, but there have been times I don’t invite people over because I’m too worried about not having a “good enough” meal, etc. Or it means I will have to clean the house more thoroughly than usual. No, it doesn’t have to be spotless, but people appreciate swept floors and clean bathrooms, right?

    Your tomato-colored dress brings to mind a shirt I need to pitch. I love it, but I’ve worn it for years. This just hit me when I recently posted a family picture on Facebook. I was wearing the same shirt in another FB post 4 years ago! Oh brother! So which instinct do I go with? a) keep the shirt because I love it and it’s comfortable; or b) toss the shirt because everyone else is probably sick and tired of it and they surely wonder why I don’t wear anything else; or c) don’t worry what others think.

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