Three years ago we started getting a special knock on our door every time someone in our family celebrated a birthday. That special knock always comes from the same person, and she’s always holding in her hand a handwritten birthday note. She doesn’t miss anyone; all of my children as well as my husband and I have had visits from her. The amazing thing about this is that she does it for everyone in our ward. A little math tells me that she’s written close to 1,000 birthday notes in the past three years!
Meet my friend Kathy:
Sunday night we held a surprise birthday party for her in my backyard, and it was everything I hoped it would be. She wore a birthday crown, blew out a special candle on the cupcake of her choice, and a very large group of voices joined in singing “Happy Birthday” to this wonderful woman who has shown such love to all of us. Kathy is a perfect example of someone who finds a way they can contribute, commits herself, and then sticks to it. Each birthday note in itself may be simple, but the cumulative effect of her efforts is grand indeed.
I’m estimating we had at least 150 people come. (I wish I’d had the presence of mind to count, but at least I had the thought to take pictures.) It was a success precisely because so many people came. I cannot express how heartening it was for me to watch them smile and jump in to help and to attend. In our busy world, and especially on that first weekend after school begins, there is SO much going on that it would have been so easy for everyone to view this idea as just one more thing and skip it. I understand that feeling.
But they didn’t.
The response was 100% positive and my heart was filled with love not just for Kathy, but for all the people I saw there who chose to come, who were willing to complicate their day to say thank you to someone who has done the same for all of us. I felt so happy, so grateful to live among these good people, so honored that I got to watch it all unfold.
People volunteered to bake a batch of cupcakes for the party. The tables were covered with them. I also asked that families or individuals write a birthday note to Kathy. A week ago while we were at church the children 11 and under in our ward all wrote/drew a birthday card for her. Thumbing through that stack brought tears to my eyes. We set a basket out and I got teary again as I watched it fill, then overflow with birthday wishes for Kathy to take home and read.
I am so grateful to everyone who contributed to this effort. I’m particularly grateful to her good friend who got her to the party for me. What a great lady she is as well!
It was a bit windy, but it was also nice and cool. Gratefully the rain held off and when it came it only sprinkled a bit. People visited and mingled, children ran and played, everyone ate cupcakes and talked to Kathy. A smashing success. I don’t think she’ll forget this birthday EVER, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted her to know that we love her, and I think we sent the message loud and clear.
Best of all, I kept having the feeling that the Lord was pleased with all of us. Gathering to celebrate Kathy was more than just acknowledging a birthday. We were celebrating the worth of a soul, celebrating on the same terms that God sees us on without regard to status, wealth, fame or fashion.
In 1 Samuel chapter 16 it says, “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; . . . for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (verse 7)
I feel like I got to see a lot of hearts on Sunday night, and it was a beautiful sight.
Last week I shared
photos of my girls
prepping for a last-minute birthday party for a friend. The joy we all found in scurrying around to prepare was increased when our friends arrived. It was a perfect evening.
And yet, very little about it was technically perfect. I didn’t have any paper cups or plastic forks. I went through several recipes before I found one I had all the ingredients for. The house was barely tidy. What was perfect about the evening was our willingness to do our best before the party and when the party started, we all wholeheartedly gave ourselves to enjoying it.
and realized that I’ve learned a lot in the past 18 months. Many lessons have been imposed upon me by the realities of caring for eight children, but I’m so thankful I’ve learned to relax and enjoy my guests, refrain from apologizing, smile and visit and focus on making people feel good about themselves.
lavender shortbread cookies
this citrus lemon cake
with lavender frosting carried the day in addition to the chocolate cupcakes and cake our guests brought with them. Everything looked and tasted delicious.
The very best part of it was our family’s common goal of making my friend’s birthday special. It wouldn’t have been a common goal if I’d been more worried about how things looked than I was about involving my family in preparation. Because I let them do the decorating, they were able to serve and to anticipate joy as much as I was. Sharing the creative process without specific expectations or judgment allowed my children to claim my goal as theirs. This goal was a blessing to her children as well, who felt good about being part of something special for their mom’s birthday. We had two families who were content to relax, laugh, talk, give praise, and enjoy being together. Ten minutes before our friends arrived I had a list of 15 things in my mind that I wished I could still pull off, but when we said good-bye I couldn’t remember any of them. I felt so full and happy I wouldn’t have changed a thing. We had done enough to let them know they’re important to us, and then we spent time enjoying their friendship.
I don’t mean to go on and on about it. It really was a very simple gathering. I guess I think that too often we get big grand pictures in our heads about what a party looks like. The parties we see in magazines and on pinterest aren’t the kind of party that usually happen at my house. Those pictures are inspiring in their beauty and it’s fun to glean ideas from them, but they can distract us from the real purpose of a party. I always try to do at least one special thing to make it look nice (like the mini cake on a piece of china sitting atop a cake stand in the first picture), but I never manage to get everything perfect. I don’t think we have to. I think we need to be open, real, relaxed and more concerned about enjoying our guests than we are about what they think of our event.
If you’ve got someone you’ve been meaning to invite over but haven’t yet because you can’t seem to get everything to work out for a Perfect Party, try a Good Enough Party. Be yourself, make your signature dessert, work as hard as you can for a little while and then take a deep breath and smile. Your Good Enough Party just might become a Perfect Party. Ours did.
Our evening ended with the girls getting wagon rides from my husband while the older children spread streamers all over each other and my yard. While they played my friend and I talked about real life as we took down streamers together.
And then the birthday girl got a little surprise from her son.
Like I said, a Good Enough, Perfect Party.
Honestly, it was a miracle that this baby shower happened at all. With the stomach flu making its way through our family all week I was amazed that no one was sick on the day of the shower. Somehow I got a few Christmas decorations up and the main floor was clean and sanitized.
Most of the things on my list for the shower were crossed off, undone. The bare essentials were all I could offer. While I’d envisioned much better, it all worked out fine. Everyone had a nice time, a lot of people came, the mother-to-be was happy, and because the Christmas decorations were out it still felt festive. I suppose this should be a good reminder to me that even without all the extras I have swirling around in my head, a party can still be a party.
Kristen and I decided to serve a light lunch. We each made a pot of soup. Along with that we had rolls, a veggie tray and mini-cupcakes. Simple but nourishing. Kristen made a delicious chicken noodle soup. I made a vegetable chowder. It’s a recipe I’d forgotten about but now that I’ve re-discovered it I’m sure it will make it’s way to my my table a lot this winter. I’ll share soon.
I had planned on making homemade rolls. It seemed like the least I could do with such a simple menu. But when the big day arrived I realized it wasn’t the best idea so instead I purchased a few dozen different kinds of rolls and offered a variety. This, too, was a good reminder to me that it’s ok to just buy something and call it good. They tasted great and people seemed to like choosing their own.
We served oyster crackers with the soup. They were pretty in my urn vase.
The veggie tray helped to round things out and Kristen saved the day by baking some miniature
Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes
. They looked so cute with a little kiss of frosting on the top (thanks to my daughter. She’s getting pretty handy with a bag of frosting!).
It was a light but nourishing meal, which many women seem to like. I’m so glad we did it, and I particularly enjoyed hosting it with my sister. She’s really amazing.
Now, on to the rest of December!