1 a: the act or process of making preparation to meet a need
Over the last few days, I've made double batches of three soups (Tomato Florentine, Chicken Tortilla and Chorizo Black Bean Chili). I've baked cowboy cookies, peanut brittle, lemon whippersnappers, chocolate sweet potato cupcakes and chocolate covered pretzels. I've de-cluttered kitchen counters, dusted, swept, mopped and vacuumed.
My birthday is next Saturday, but tonight we hosted a party. A lot of people came. I've always loved having parties. Even back in high school, I can remember hosting friends for a game night or a football game. What I didn't realize (or think much about) until recently was my motivation for hosting parties. As an Enneagram 9, I love filling my home with people from all of the different parts of my life. I love school friends mixing with homeschool friends mixing with church friends. It makes my heart happy and content to cook for them, host them and see them all together.
But this year felt a bit different to me. For the past six years, we've done a roughly bi-annual birthday party for me. There was no birthday bash last year, but we did host an open house the day after Christmas. I was on the fence about whether to have a party this year because A is in the Nutcracker, which makes for a very busy December. As I was still pondering what I wanted to do, K took matters into her own hands. Before a date was even set, she started inviting people. I took that (strong) hint and decided to go for it. Deciding not to be bound by tradition, I picked a date exactly one week before my birthday - the Saturday before Nutcracker starts.
We set the date for the party and invited people several weeks ago. And then the week of the party arrived and I struggled. My extended family is going through some very difficult times and my body's response to processing all of these emotions is exhaustion. This is not a great stress reaction to have when you're about to host several dozen people for a party. I have a friend who can be found scrubbing her floors while processing emotions. That's a stress reaction I could have used. Alas, it wasn't to be.
On Saturday morning, I lay in bed with J and told him that all I really wanted to do was curl up into a ball and be alone. He said he could tell that's how I felt, but that I'd love it once the party arrived. I just had to finish the cooking and the preparations. It would all be worth it.
Even on the day of a party, regular life doesn't stop. A and K had ballet in the morning. B had basketball. Then A and B had a youth group party to attend in the afternoon. (Mercifully, a friend was driving them to and from this party. They would otherwise not have been able to go.) About 30 minutes before K was due to get home from ballet, a friend called. "Do you have a minute?" she asked. "Sure," I replied, "I'm just heading out to buy brown sugar because of course I've run out of it six hours before a party." My friend was calling to see if K could come over and play after ballet. What a gift this was - a few more hours alone in the kitchen to finish the last batch of cookies.
Earlier that day another friend had called. "I'm in Goodwill. They have tons of Christmas mugs on sale. Did you say you needed a few more for tonight's party?" She bought me ten, washed them and brought them to the party, thereby ensuring every adult had a Christmas mug to hold their soup.
At about 4 yesterday afternoon, I headed upstairs for a quick bath before the party. I took a few minutes to read the daily office in Celtic Daily Prayer and realized as I prayed that the timing of this party was God's provision. Had I not seen K's desire for a party and responded, I likely would have spent the day curled into a metaphorical ball. I would have read a book, taken a nap and tried to numb the pain. Instead, I cooked, cleaned and prepared my house for guests.
A friend at the party surveyed all of the food and said to me, "So for your birthday you cooked all of this and invited us all over?" When I replied affirmatively he said, "That's funny. I much prefer letting someone else do all of that on my birthday." But even as I've had a difficult week and had a hard time getting motivated to be ready for this party, I've know and realized that hosting parties is one way I love others. Let me not give the impression that my house was spotless for this event, nor that the food was entirely homemade. Publix and Trader Joe's provided most of the appetizers so that I could concentrate on soups and desserts. But everything I cooked was made with gratitude for friends who were willing to spend a Saturday night with us.
As I chatted with a friend at the party, I told her how I thought God knew even better than I did what I needed on this day. And he provided it in a big way: through friends who helped with children and party supplies and through a party that I wasn't sure I could muster the energy to host. The energy arrived when I needed it - and not a moment before. And the party provided a reminder that sadness has its place, but that I should not forget all of the people in my life who love me.
Looking back on this party, I'm amazed at how well it went. I'm amazed at how many people came. When I host a party, I am terrible at limiting the guest list. Since part of my motivation for having a party is to bring together all of the parts of my life, I want to invite everyone. I can't stand the idea of someone feeling left out. So I tend to over invite and trust that it will work out. Perhaps I over invited this time. By my best count, there were sixty-one people here last night. But it definitely all worked out. There was enough food, a lovely and mild December evening for the children to run around in the backyard and God's spectacular early birthday gift of giving me eyes to see his provision for me.