I just wanted to hide. I wanted to be alone. I needed to be alone. I escaped into the bathroom, leaned my back against the door, unbuttoned the top button of my jeans and exhaled. In here, I could be myself. I didn’t have to carry the conversation, suck in my gut, worry about how loud the kids were being, or keep the party going. I didn’t have to balance the topics of conversation like I was walking a tight rope. Anxiety rippled through me when a guest would bring up religion, politics, or women’s rights. I was always on the other end pulling people back to the center, casually swaying the tide of hot topics back to the weather, sports, or how well the kids could color.
I love hosting, but this year I would do it differently. No more escaping to the bathroom like years before. No more controlling conversations or people. No more trying to meet everyone’s expectations. This year would be different.
I rolled out the butcher paper across my dining room floor. With makers and artistry, I had one agenda — change the way I approached hospitality this Thanksgiving. One phrase kept coming to my mind as I prepared for the thirty people who would be coming over for our traditional barbecue turkey, homemade cranberry juice, and sweet apple pie. This phrase was for our family and friends, but it was mostly for me. It would be my mantra. I would repeat it when worry would creep in and fear would tempt to cripple me.
Across the paper, I wrote these words: You don’t have to be okay to be here. It wasn’t the prettiest sign, but it conveyed the message perfectly. With scotch tape and a stool, I tapped this sign to my front door. I stepped back and smiled inside. This year really would be different.
I am so tempted to make other people feel okay, to carry the weight of managing potential tensions. I want everyone to feel at peace, happy, and known. I want to protect people from stepping on toes or topics that are triggers. When I give into this temptation, I always feel anxiety. Anxiety is trying to control the uncontrollable. In reality, I can’t control what people say, feel, or think. I can’t protect people from their pain.
But I can do this: I can release people back to Jesus. I can let God hold them, care for their needs, and comfort their souls. I am not God. I can never love others as well as He does. I can, however, invite people into my home. I can give people a place to come out of hiding. I can love them without trying to fix them. I can let their mess spill out into the conversation without cleaning up behind them or doing damage control. I can let people be themselves.
I don’t have the spiritual gift of cooking or hosting or decorating the table. But I can let go of my need to control the environment, people, and their experiences. I can trust that if I open my doors in love, that love will, in fact, meet them — that Thanksgiving will be different. Maybe not for the company, but for me. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be okay. I can just show up in love, release control, and trust that God is on a mission to love everyone who walks through my doors.
What anxiety do you need to let go of this Thanksgiving?
Maybe you need to hear this today: You don’t have to be okay to be here. -Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet