Which brings me to last week. Technically, this story starts four weeks ago, so let's go back that far. I'm sitting in my recliner, with the windows open. It's the beginning of April. It's been 90 degrees every day for the past three days, and the weather forecast says it will stay in the 90s for the foreseeable future. We have a friend who has a daughter who shares friends with EJ, and in the past we have accidentally scheduled birthday parties on the same day, which turned out quite disappointing for the kid whose mom was a little slow on the invitations. (Me. That would be me.) So this year, I thought I would get ahead of the curve and invite said mutual friends early. Like, a month early. The only problem being...I can't see the weather that far ahead. But I thought, better make plans now than not. Brilliant reasoning, I know.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
God knows just where to hit us to get our attention, doesn't He? On the Monday of the party, the weather said Friday would be rainy and in the 50s. Yes, five-zero. Which would still be fine, since we were going to have everyone over to play in our street instead of at the park. ("In our street" meaning our front lawn, our driveway, and the cul-de-sac. We don't live on a main road. Stop dialing Child Protective Services.) So if it rained, plan B would be to move the party indoors.
Except...I didn't want everyone indoors. I wanted everyone in the street. (I know, every time I say it I cringe. But it really wouldn't have been like that!) We take our shoes off inside, and I don't know how comfortable other people are about that. We have two main gathering rooms, and I don't know how to place people so they're comfortable.
Fine. My real reason is this: Hospitality is NOT my spiritual gift.
*I* am the one uncomfortable around a lot of people. Especially when said people are in my house, because I can't just go home to escape. Part of this is because I'm naturally an introvert. Lots of people sap my energy. Part of this is because of my brain damage. It's slight, but it's there. Lots of people make me nervous, anxious, stressed-out. Overstimulated is a good word.
But if it rained, and was 50 degrees out, I would have no choice but to welcome the masses into my home. So I prayed. Boy, did I pray. We're talking, on my knees, with great drops of sweat, "without ceasing" kind of praying. "Lord, please work a miracle and let it be 70 and sunny." It was my 5-day mantra. He'd changed the weather before, for other parties we'd had at the park. I honestly figured He could just do it again.
Looking back, I realize that I might have been taking God for granted. I make my plans, then pray for a miracle for everything to work out in the end. Especially since it had happened before. Hmm...
Maybe before He was just extending His everlasting arm of mercy toward me. I did it my way, then needed His help, and so He helped me, all the while hoping I would learn from my mistake and do it differently next time around. Only, apparently, I did NOT learn.
Friday morning, when I woke up and it was raining and 50 degrees (record low for any day in May--ever, in recorded history, in Alabama), I was hit with the sudden realization--there would be no last-minute miracle this year. My first thought was, "Why?" (in that really whiny, 4-year-old tone of voice). Immediately I felt the disappointment radiating from Heaven. "Seriously? You're asking me why? When you never asked me if you should do this in the first place?" Okay, okay. Can I ask why in a respectful, 25-year-old tone of voice?
And in changing my tone of voice, I realized the "why" wasn't "why did You let this happen to me" or "why does it have to be so hard," but rather an ironic "why didn't I learn from the past" and "what lesson are You giving me?"
All day Friday, I let God's peace invade my heart, even when it was 3:30 and I was stuck in line at Walmart knowing people would start showing up in half an hour. Even at 4:00 when people started showing up and I hadn't yet fluffed the pillows just so on the couch (because Walmart people are SO SLOW). I wavered at 6:00 when all the festivities were over and nobody had left yet and I flashed back to the invitation and realized with dread that I had forgotten to set an end time! But then people started leaving and I relaxed a fraction...And then everyone left and it dawned on me that I survived.
I survived, and flourished. I didn't have a break-down. No tears. Not even a headache! I mean, I wasn't running down the street, flagging everyone down to come back. But God used the bad weather (or my selfish plans...nah, let's go with the weather) to show me that even when I'm uncomfortable, He can still use me. Maybe that's supposed to read, He showed me that when I am uncomfortable, He can finally use me.
And isn't that what every Christian, twenty (plus) years saved, should be striving for every day? To be used by God? I've been through the fire, and I came out unscathed. Okay, it wasn't that bad. I've been through the...rinse cycle? And I came out clean? (Does that work?) Each person who came into my home brought something of God with them. Everyone together made up the prism of growth that God used in my life. If I had balked and canceled the party (like I had REALLY wanted to do), I wouldn't have learned anything. (Except maybe that I'm a horrible mom for canceling my almost-eleven-year-old's party just because I thought I'd be uncomfortable.) Instead, people came over. We had fun. (Sigh...yes, WE.) I let go of my plans, and God had something so much better in store. I just needed to trust Him.
So...party at my house, anyone? Bring socks, and you can stay as long as you want (but I'll only serve you one meal...just sayin'. A girl's gotta draw the line somewhere.)