My husband turned fifty in October and I threw him a party. A “party” is actually an understatement because I stressed more about this event than I did my own wedding. With 140 people, it was more like a grand … reception.
I bought decorations, and thankfully had people willing to come and tie lights and garland and blow up helium balloons.
(Within minutes of the party starting, the kids had sucked all the helium out of the balloons on the tables upstairs so they could have Micky Mouse voices).
I bought candles and ordered coat-check tickets for our vestiare.
I had students willing to come help out – to take coats, serve food and drinks, and pass the appetiser trays. (Not paid – just generously giving their time).
I bought chaffing dishes and made 50 lbs of chicken. And though I made all the sauce and part of the chicken on my own (and most of the green beans and 48 cupcakes), I did get help on the chicken cutlets and the appetisers. Three of our guests (who also happen to work as chefs) put on aprons and went into the kitchen to prepare and serve the food. I didn’t ask them. They just did it.
And one family oversaw the rice cookers.
Oh, and the cake. My friend Gilda made the cake(s).
Christelle made the “cagnotte” – the box for people to put cards and little gifts inside.
I sure do have talented friends. And my brother-in-law and brother-in-Christ were deejays for the event.
The 40+ kids played like crazy (when they weren’t sucking helium).
And my sister-in-law made a slideshow.
Juliet and Eléonore danced their own choreographed piece.
Then everyone went and danced.
We hesitated over the decision, but decided to have an alcohol-free event, which is not at all a French thing to do. We also decided to have a prayer before the meal.
The combination of the two was not to everyone’s taste and a couple people left right after the meal. But we wanted to have a party that represented who we were – and also show that it’s possible to have a fun party when no alcohol is served. There were many who discovered that the party was to their taste indeed.
We had our cheese and salad course, which is very French.
Brad made the toast, and the kids said a few words about their dad.
Then we all spent time talking. (Except me. I was too stressed making sure everyone was taken care of and having fun).
We blew out the candles,
and went to bed at three in the morning. It was a truly magical evening.
The next morning I woke up at nine, though it had only been six hours of sleep. I was too buzzed to sleep any longer. I was aching from head to toe, and though I had tried to stay off my sprained foot, I could barely limp from one piece of furniture to the next to make my way around. Even my arms hung limp at my sides, and – you may laugh – but it was partly from sending so many organisational texts.
I think the part of me that ached the most was my heart. It was a happy event – a truly joyous occasion. But I couldn’t stop crying the next day. My exhaustion had a great deal to do with it, but I also thought about the students who gave up their entire afternoon and evening. I thought of my guests who slapped on aprons and worked in the steamy kitchen. I thought of my friends who came and did last-minute grocery runs and spent all afternoon decorating. I thought of my family – my parents-in-law who spent a fortune on cheese (seriously), and my siblings-in-law who deejayed and took photos, and did slideshows, and stayed till the bitter end to help clean. I thought of my friend Patrick who also deejayed (which is what he does for a living, but he did it for free), and all the guests who brought salad, cheese, cupcakes, appetisers, drinks… I thought of Gilda who slaved over the beautiful cakes and Christelle who made the cagnotte, and Henri who made the rice.
I cried because I could never pay them all back.
My husband made a reflection about a week before the party, in response to something I said, that when we don’t want to ask for help it’s because we don’t want to owe anyone. We don’t want someone to have something on us that we may be called to pay back. I was really struck by what he said and by how true it was in my own heart. I hate to owe people because I’m afraid of outwearing my welcome. I’m afraid if I ask too much I’ll just be an encumbrance and then maybe they’ll stop loving me.
God might have possibly been working on that aspect to my character by allowing me to have a sprained foot right in the midst of the biggest event I’ve ever organised. (Even for my wedding reception, someone else cooked and decorated and worried about the timeline). With my aching foot, all I could do was sit and tell other people what to do (at their request). I couldn’t do it myself. Though I prepared 10 lbs of chicken on my own, I couldn’t do the other 40 and I had to ask for help.
(When I confessed to the friends who came over to prepare the chicken that I had wanted to try and do it all myself, my friend said – “yeah, Jennie. That would have been a sin.”). He made me laugh, but I’m telling you, the struggle is real. I just want to do everything myself. It’s partly pride that I think I’ll do it better and partly fear of being indebted to someone and no longer being valuable to them.
Jesus, though, allowed himself to be served, and he was perfectly capable of doing it all himself. Someone else poured perfume over him to prepare his body for burial. Someone else prepared his passover feast. He asked his friends to stay and pray with him so he wouldn’t be alone. Someone else carried his cross. There’s something godly in asking for help and letting people serve you. You bless them by allowing them to show their love, by being vulnerable. And you’re blessed in return.
Still. I bawled my eyes out. I was also super tired. We left for Vienna the day after for our wedding anniversary, and my mother-in-law broke her foot while watching our kids. So I came back and cooked a bunch of meals to freeze for Matthieu’s parents, cleaned up after Matthieu’s party (there was stuff absolutely everywhere) and prepared to welcome a bunch of nine-year olds for William’s party on Saturday. So I’m still pretty exhausted. Now – only now – I might be able to rest, though I think it’s too late for my poor foot to heal on its own without some intervention. Turns out I’m not as good at sitting still as I need to be.
It was just such a beautiful party. It was so beautiful to see everyone come out to celebrate my husband, who deserves some attention for once. (He’s a discreet guy). It was so beautiful to see everyone happy to serve and happy to celebrate together. It was even tearfully beautiful for me to be in such reduced circumstances – to be forced to allow people to serve in ways I can’t. Matthieu and I were witness to so much grace that evening.
We were all a party to God’s grace.