Most Fun Birthday Week Ever!

 For my birthday this summer, my mom & dad graciously hosted some of our friends for a really fun night of cooking class & a dinner party.
We excitedly booked babysitters & dressed up & headed to their home.
Mom set the table with my current favorite color (green!) & my favorite flowers (hydrangeas).  It looked beautiful and simple and refreshing.
Her island did not look so simple at first...
but that's because it was covered in fun ingredients ready to go for the cooking class!

  The menu was a total surprise to me & full of many of my favorite foods!  
My mom does these really fun cooking classes & Bible studies (often focused on hospitality, serving others, building relationships, etc).  It's such a fun format and I loved sharing her cooking and entertaining ideas and recipes with my friends.
(for the party, it was just a cooking class & dinner party... we did pray but didn't do the Bible study this time...)

As the friends arrived, the girls grabbed a chair, pen, & recipe booklet while the guys headed outside to hang out (& enjoy the appetizers as they were prepared.)

Yummy salmon!

Yes, please!

I'm thinking she was answering a question at this point...

Clearly she was intently listening

Meanwhile, the guys outside....

Friends helping assist in the kitchen once the instructions were done

 We noticed that almost everyone stayed until 11 pm!  It was so fun to celebrate with friends and hang out and laugh really hard and enjoy delicious food!  Thanks, Mom & Dad for hosting such a fun evening!!

Sweet friends

A few days before my real birthday, I was outside playing with my kids and totally sweaty and gross.  R came home from work much earlier than normal but I didn't notice at the time how unusual that was. Shortly after he arrived home, Will began having some difficulties with something he has struggled with for months.  It was rough and I'm emotionally worn thin - so I went inside for R's help.  As I came back outside a few moments later, I was completely shocked to find some dear girlfriends from my prayer group on my front yard and dressed up.  I was just baffled!
Apparently, one friend had texted my husband and knowing the struggle we have faced in recent months, together they decided to pull off what shall forever be known as 
They came inside (air conditioning!) and gave me 10 minutes to shower & put on makeup and feel human.
Then we loaded up and they took me to my fav restaurant where they had reservations!  R slipped someone his credit card and we enjoyed a really fun night out.
And that's not all...
the next morning, I woke up to a little surprise on my front porch.  Actually, it was a very generous elaborate surprise.  And then, all weekend, I kept finding little "anonymous" surprises.  
They had a theme - relaxing... and they were filled with things like books and bath salts (my favorite escape is to read in the tub) and other goodies.
My precious prayer group just kept surprising me all weekend long.
Twice in my life, I have been the recipient of fun little anonymously left surprises on my front porch.  When I was pregnant with Ellie and we did not think she would live, my sweet mom's group did the same thing as my current prayer group did for my birthday.
Both times, it was not the gift that really mattered (although that part was fun and made me feel so very loved and special & who doesn't like getting fun little surprsies?!)
What touched my soul, was that these dear friends saw me.  They noticed that I was experiencing something impossibly hard and painful and difficult in my mothering.  They knew they could not fix it. They knew they could not change it.  But they also knew they could come alongside me and do something to make it feel a little less lonely.  
I've struggled with hearing God as we have struggled through this hard season.  (Sorry - it's too private to blog in detail about... and it's not just my story.  I've always known that each of my kiddos would have to figure out their own path to acceptance of their bodies and their diagnosises.  I've known and expected that that journey would not be simple or painless.  But I did not expect it to begin so early or to entail such depth of heartache and struggle.  I do believe this is all normal for our situation... it's just that our normal is not the typical normal for most parents and therefore it can be lonely.)
I've struggled with God as I've watched my child hurt and struggle.  I've often felt lonely and abandoned and forgotten.  I've felt overwhelmed and underprepared and flat out exhausted.
But then He gently reminded me with a whisper to my heart,
these friends - these girls who have encircled me in prayer and lifted our family up faithfully and sought to bring joy and relaxation by leaving me front door surprises- 
they were being the hands & feet of Christ.  That's what the Body of believers does.  God had not abandoned or forgotten me.  He had given me these girls to love on me in a very tangible way.
I am so thankful.
 And it was a really, really, super fun 30 something birthday.
Husband, parents, & friends have set a high standard for my 40th!  Just sayin.

Also I totally forgot to post these but that same birthday week, Big Mama (Melanie Shankle) came to speak.  I got to have lunch with her & Caroline Cobb (musician) and my mom (women's ministry chair) and others on their committee and it was so fun.  
That night, we had a fun girls' night out listening to Caroline sing & Melanie speak!

Whew.  One last summer road trip post and then I am done with summer.

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