Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Heatwave, Party Prep, and What I Learned From Them Both

It's been in the high 90s every day for over a week.
I know that is the norm in August for a lot of people.
But for us, its a bit much.
Especially since my house becomes unbearable when it's that hot outside.
90 outside means 100 inside.
We don't have central air, because most of the time we don't need it.
There are usually about 5 days a year that I want an air conditioner.
The rest of the time we make do and keep cool enough.
We have our cool and shady avocado tree in the backyard, we have the sprinkler, we have the beach.
But then there are those really hot days.
Those days when making breakfast at 7 am leaves me dripping in sweat.
Those days when I don't want to turn on the stove for 5 minutes to make a pot of espresso.
Those days when the kids are still awake at 10 pm because it is just too hot to sleep.
Those are the days when I am exceptionally grateful for my very ugly, quite old, rather inefficient air conditioning unit.
Aaron has wanted to take it out since we moved in.
But I have resisted, knowing that on those really hot days a years worth of ugly will be worth 5 days of cool.
We've been using that air conditioner all week.
It's in the dining room wall and it makes the dining room deliciously cool.
The kitchen cools down some too.
But the rest of the house stays miserably hot.
So I close those doors and we hole up in the dining room.
I've never lived in a house with any kind of air conditioner, so you can believe me when I say this is a real treat.
I'm grateful for that ugly, old, wall unit.
And yet.
I murmur.
I sound like the children of Israel as they wandered in the desert.
God had rescued them from slavery and certain death and yet, they murmured.
He provided life giving shade, water, and food from heaven, and yet they murmured, "if only we were still back in Egypt.  There we had cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic." (Numbers 11:5) 
My murmuring sounds a lot like the children of Israel.
I am tired of this heat.
I can't get anything done.
It's too hot to be outside.
It's too hot to be inside.
I'm sick of being stuck in the dining room.
I feel like I am wasting time.
I feel paralyzed by the heat.
I'm tired of going the beach.
There are other things I want to do, but all we can do is sit in front of the air conditioner, or go to the beach to escape the blazing sun.
I know.
It's ridiculous.
This isn't the first time I've murmured. 
However, most days I try to live in an attitude of gratefulness.
I tend to look at things in a positive way.
But once I let that murmuring start, it is so easy for me to tailspin into an attitude that is anything but grateful.
I find fault with everything.
I see everything that is wrong with the house, my children, my husband, my self, and my entire life. 
I hate being in that state.

But sometimes it takes me going there in order to get out.

Because it is when I am at my very worst that I acknowledge some hard truths about myself.
I acknowledge my pride.
I acknowledge my selfishness.
I acknowledge how easily I allow myself to become dissatisfied.
Hot temperatures have a way of bringing out the worst in me.
And sometimes, getting ready for a party does too.

Before any party, I always have a big list of things I want to get done.

A party is a great motivator for crossing things off my list.
There were big things, like leveling off the corner of the backyard and putting down pavers and stones.
And little things, like washing the windows.
There are the normal things I like to do, and don't always (read: hardly ever) get to, so I especially like to do them before a party: mop all the floors, wipe down baseboards, check the corners of each room for cobwebs, clean finger prints off the walls, and wipe down the front and back doors.  (only drawback to turquoise doors--turquoise really shows the dirt)
I didn't get to any of them.
I tried.
But other things came up--trying to set up an above ground pool bought for a song from a neighbor, which ended up needed expensive parts and having a leak, blerg!--and we went places--to the fair!--and Davy wouldn't nap well in the blazing heat, and we spent quite a bit of time at the beach.
Plus, I had other party prep to do: favors and decorations to make, and food to make also.
I tried not to stress out about it.
And I thought I had it all totally under control.
But I didn't.
By Saturday I was in freak out mode, but still pretending that I was fine.
The thing is, I want to be fine.
I try to be fine.
I tell Aaron and the kids that I am fine, but inside, I am a mess.
I am rushing around like a maniac, ( Aaron calls it angry cleaning) and they all know I am anything but fine.
It's embarrassing to admit, but it's the truth.
I am sure my kids will have lots of laughs at my expense when they are older: "remember how mom would get all frantic before a party and act all crazy and say she'd throw our toys away if we didn't clean up our room?"

You see, in my mind there are 2 ways to deal with having a party.

#1: the house is not perfect, projects aren't done, and therefore I will not have parties.
I just can't handle having people over if things are not just right, so I won't have people over.
That kind of reasoning doesn't work for me.
I love to have people over and to have parties.
So that brings me to the other way to deal with having a party.
#2: the house isn't perfect, projects aren't done, and therefore I will stay up all hours, take on gigantic projects, be impatient with my children, ignore my husband, and get almost everything done while having a few temper tantrums along the way.
Sometimes I wonder how Aaron puts up with me.
(don't answer that, honey)

What I've never considered is that there is actually a third way to deal with having a party.

#3: the house is not perfect, projects aren't done, and therefore I will do my best with what I have, and let the rest go.
That is who I want to be.
That is who I try to be.
But it is hard.
My flesh would rather not let it go.
My flesh would rather act outwardly calm, while inside I complain about the kids' constant messes, and how I can't get a thing done, and will this heat ever end!, and how could Aaron pick this day to drive to Palm Springs, and, and, and.
I ignore the truth: the kids aren't messy--they are just kids, I get a ton done--maybe I need to chill out--and Aaron drove to Palm Springs because I told him to!

And then, Aaron gets back from delivering his paintings to Palm Springs, he helps me move the dining room table outside, he hangs the lanterns from the tree, he gets the kids ready for the beach.

Even though I'd vowed not to, I say something about how he should have gone on a different day.
He gently reminds me that I told him to go on Saturday.
I know he's right--and I hate myself for being so bratty.
He drives off the beach with all 4 kids, leaving me alone to get the last minute details done.

It's quiet and I have time to think.

I realize, again, that none of the things I think matter so much matter at all.
None of my friends will care if there are fingerprints on the walls.
I should make sure there are no pee drips on the toilet seat, but I shouldn't worry about water spots on the windows.
Probably not one person noticed that the front door was not wiped free from its layer of dust.
I am realizing, again, there is freedom in letting things go.
I realize that in my attempt to be fine, I was relying on my own strength rather than God's. 
My pride keeps me from falling on my knees and asking for help.
Just like the children of Israel, my focus was on myself.
That never works.

My friends, Kristin and Brianne, came over and we set up for the party.

The backyard was transformed and it was absolutely beautiful.
The backyard corner that was left "unfinished" didn't matter.
People are paying attention to the Italian soda bar, and the lights in the tree.
Aaron comes home and sees the backyard, and he tells me it, and I, look beautiful.
He smiles at me, and I know he knows I am crazy, and he forgives me and loves me still.
I am grateful we can both laugh at me.
My kids all peer out from their window at the party and call, "hi Mommy!" and I know they love me, too.

In the end, the party was wonderful.

It was just what I hoped it would be.
Kristin and Brianne were amazing, and they pulled together our romantic, Italian dinner together with fabulous touches that just made it all incredible.
(Kristin posted beautiful pictures here.  And I give some party details here)
It was a perfect example of why I love to have parties--because they are a lot of fun.

And as much as I wish I could take back that day for a re-do, I am glad for the opportunity to reflect, and hopefully, learn from my mistakes.
If we let Him, God can take the very worst parts of us and use them to do a mighty work in our hearts.
Because it is in our brokenness that we learn best how much we need Him.
It's always when I am trying to do things on my own that I fall.
I am so thankful that I walk with a God who will never tire of picking me up, and loving me, even when I am at my worst.
I wrote a while back about my journey in letting go of being perfect.
Obviously I still have a ways to go.
And this heat isn't helping!
Love from,
PS. In case you were wondering, Aaron was delivering his art to this store in Palm Springs.  He currently has 3 paintings in there.  They've got a lot of great stuff.  Go check them out!


Anonymous said...

Oh Greta....Thanks for your honesty and this wonderful reminder. I'm giving a little birthday party for my son this weekend and these things totally stress me out :) Your family is precious and your faith is such an encouragement to me. Thanks again for your always-beautiful writing!
P.S. I'm super jealous of your amazing California weather! In Alabama, we need the air conditioner many, many months of the year!

Betsi* said...

Right there with you sister! I find myself never hosting parties because of my need for not only the house to be perfect but the children too. Ouch. That hurts to admit. Worrying about party-induced meltdowns causes me to isolate and be, frankly inhospitable. Thank you for helping the Holy Spirit call this to my attention! Let's work on this together.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful reminder! I really needed to read it today!

hennymats said...

ok I am sending this to my husband because I am absolutely, totally the same! Good to know I'm not crazy. Or at least not the only crazy one... great post, Greta!

ShanWalker said...

Oh Greta, I can so relate. I have felt the same way about the 'seemingly endless' (I'm so impatient) heat, and my grumbly heart. Our house too has been a sauna... (I've finally started to laugh about how I'm getting spa treatment I don't have to pay for). We have huddled in the master bedroom where our only and old wall unit air conditioner is. Yesterday, after a long few days of irritability and complaining from constantly sweating, I broke in grateful sobs for the abundance of what God's given me, and grief of how easily I lose sight in just a 'tiny' bit of discomfort. Thank you for always sharing yourself so honestly, and your heart's journey.

Anonymous said...

I've asked before but I'm asking one more time, please, please, can you share what beach this is? It looks great for my two toddlers. Thanks

Greta said...

@Anonymous, I think I have tried to write back to you before, but your email isn't listed so I can't reply back. I never answer comments here, but always try to respond directly if I can.
Since this isn't an option for you, I'll try here and hope you read it.
The beach we go to is in Long Beach.
It's on the Peninsula, at the south end of Ocean Blvd.
We go to the bay side of the Peninsula.
The other side is the ocean side and is not very little-kid friendly.
You sometimes have to drive a bit to find parking, but it's not much of a walk.
There are lifeguards and lots of families playing.
Tell me who you are and maybe I can look for you one day!
Love from,

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Looking forward to checking out this beach sometime. I guess I should settle on a permanent email for my blog. Here we are: