Seven years ago, I started a family tradition for the kids. A back to school bash where we invited all the kids from both Jessie & Scotty’s classes. Every child and their families from both grades – those that were new students, all the kids that we’re already in the class and all the kids that had left from any year since we’ve been part of Christ Fellowship. As the parties grew bigger and become more of a tradition parents asked me about saving the date for the summer to make sure their kids could go. Both my kids and their friends grew more and more excited and would stop me at the end of school parties to ask me what we were planning for back to school and make sure their parents let them come. My kids would have fun planning what they wantd to do for the party with me from early in the summer.
This year was no different. Until it was.
The back to school party made me as happy as the kids for a lot of reasons. It gave us the opportunity to make getting back into the school year something fun for everyone. I had the opportunity to see the friends I’d made with the class parents and spend some time with friends a little differently than we do as we’re rushing back into the hectic days and nights that become the school year.
Scotty started talking about the back to school party in May. He has been looking forward to what we will do for weeks.
Yesterday, I came to the difficult decision to tell him we’re going to change the party this year. We’re going to cancel. I eased the blow for both kids by promising them we will do something different and have some sort of Halloween party in October where we will get everyone together from school, gymnastics, dance. Their little faces were disappointed. I found a plausible explanation for why. My kids are so kind to me. They went along with it after a few minutes and started talking about what they could do for Halloween.
I didn’t want to tell them the truth. We are not having a back to school party this year because I remember Scotty’s face in the front yard and the tears when no one showed up for his birthday party. It’s too soon since the 90 minutes passed so slow where he was waiting in the front yard with his little “party here” sign that he made waiting for his friends to come.
The friends that never showed up.
Miami is an interesting culture. RSVP is a thing of the past. Some sort of optional, unreliable measurement for hostesses to use to guestimate attendance. People that do RSVP for 4 or 6 people still feel no obligation to show up with no notice or excuse the day of the event. People that don’t RSVP have no problem with sauntering up to your house with 4 or 6 people as if you should have expected them because you sent the invitation. Everyone always comments about how I go to so much trouble and have way too much food. Maybe if people RSVP’d reliably in South Florida a hostess can trust their headcount. Until then, I’d rather be over prepared than have my party guests left wanting, especially children.
Eventually, two families of new friends arrived at the same time as my parents. One mom spoke no English. I’d never seen her or her son in my life, but Scotty knew them from gymnastics competition and I said he could invite him. That Mom sat on our porch by the pool for about an hour until someone arrived that could speak Spanish. What a gift that Mom gave me. The gift of Scotty’s happy face when that friend was the only friend here. I will be forever grateful to that mom.
Then, three of his gymnastics teammates came in. Of course, my friend, Elsie, brought her daughter. There is no way she’d leave Scotty sad on his birthday party.
God is taking me on a journey over the past 20 months about friendship. it started a little more than a year ago when no one remembered my birthday. Not even my Mom. That’s humbling.
I believe I am a very good friend. I also know I can fail. I am very thoughtful and non-judgmental with my friends because I know I am not worthy of such a high caliber of human bestowing on me the grace of their friendship. I do not judge why I care about friends who care about me differently than I may care about them. But, me being this way, doesn’t mean that it is ok for me to set up my children for disappointment or sorrow.
I am canceling our party because I can’t rely on my friends to come. It’s that simple. It’s also that sort of shameful to me, but it is what it is. For whatever reason, our lives have changed and my friendship isn’t as valuable to many as I consider their friendships to be to me. And, I am not an effective leader of this group if I am not transparent with each of you along our lives’ collective journey.
As I looked at their disappointed little faces I thought about the verse we’ve already discussed and how it relates to me and my children.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.
Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.
Plans to give you hope and a future.”
I have such wonderful plans for them. I had plans to have this blow out party again this year, but those plans had to be changed. Not for something bad for them, but to avoid something bad for them. The lesser of the two evils is to change the party instead of watching their faces when the turn out isn’t as they expect or their in the front yard watching down the street for the cars to come that are never going to arrive.
This led me to the verse for us this week and why I’m telling you ladies this story:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6).
How many times I have been disappointed when things didn’t work out the way I wanted. This conversation with my kids this week led me to realize I know there must be many times God has done the same thing for me, but we are looking now through partial clouded glass. We don’t know everything and we don’t understand life’s circumstances many times. He steps in and alters our plans. We believe we’re disappointed when if we could see the future, we’d know a gratefulness that knows no bounds.
My children trust me to do the right thing. They love the back to school party. They don’t want to break tradition. They want to have the back to school party. In this case, the right thing for us as a family is to change the dates of the party and pause this family tradition at least for this year.
They trust me with all of their heart and know that I understand things differently than them sometimes. They know my desires for them that are all good.
How much greater is He that is in me.
How much more should we rely on God.
With all my limitations, I can protect my children when it’s within my power. I want to protect my children when it’s within my power. I want to fill their life with happiness, security and safety. And, I’m just a Mom; I’m not God. Our understanding is limited. How fortunate for us that we have a God that is omniscient. Several of us are going through challenges right now, big challenges, life challenges. Huge valleys in our lives. Sometimes God is answering our prayers with wait or no or not yet and we don’t understand why.
Maybe it’s a simple as Scotty and the back to school party. Maybe what we see is not the same as what God sees. He sees down the road and knows the future is better the way He’s answering today than if He gave us everything we wanted. Sometimes trusting is a hard thing. Maybe if we realize someday we will know and be grateful for God’s answer we can look at our today differently.
Grateful is a state of being we should try out more. I try to remember that every day.
My wish for you this week is a grateful heart. Grace is very close friends with peace. A combination I know we’re all looking for this summer.