The Party That Will Never Be Pinned

The time had come when I was finally going to do it up right.  A party deemed worthy of scrapbook status or, might I dare, Pinterest?

No more last-minute decorations. No more Krispy Kreme Donut cakes. No more email only invitations.

My daughter deserved the birthday party of her dreams and her patience showed me grace.

With an unavoidable, previously packed calendar, we agreed to celebrate her birthday as a family, but postpone the friend party for a future weekend.

Soon that future date became a thing of the past, and as days morphed into weeks and those gorgeous invitations never got sent, bought, I knew that our dream birthday party, complete with a photo station, Olympics-worthy gaming stations, handmade goodie bags, and a Pinterest perfect cake, was not a reality for this season of life.

But who deemed that reality necessary? Surely not my daughter, whose preference leans toward the simplistic.  Her desire stems from a heart for deepened community, not an epic birthday bash.

Even at ten, she shared her love of gatherings and simple fellowship with the reminder, “Let’s just plan something, Mom. Friends just want to come over to our house. They love it here. They don’t really care what the house looks like.”

And with that encouragement, we set her birthday party date immediately, just 36 hours later.

I am a huge believer in spontaneous hospitality.

Without any stress of expectation, my to-do list was nearly nonexistent.

Initiations sent via text. Check.
Décor grabbed from our hall “party” box. Check
Pizzas pulled from the freezer and snacks gathered from the pantry. Check.
Dessert? Let the guests make it.
Love on precious girls and let them know we’re thrilled they are with us. Check.

How could something so easy bring such fulfillment? Surely, I’d forgotten something.

Just Say No To Pinterest Perfect Parties

(For those of you who gasped at guests making the dessert, yes, it’s outside the norm, but it rivaled the Next Food Network Star competition and they had a blast! They each took turns making up part of the requested Dirt Cake right alongside the birthday girl, and as you can tell from the picture, it was memorable and the reaction to their creation? Priceless. Rock Stars!)

This party goes down as one of our most memorable. 

Not because of the beautiful ambiance or the coordinated theme, but because this kind of hospitality symbolized the simple joys of embracing the ordinary and elevating it to extraordinary.

Life shared, giggles freely given and sweet innocence enhanced.

On the outskirts, I watched their evening together.

It was so simple, so pure. No lavish expectations placed on them, just unadulterated time spent allowing their souls to be refreshed and renewed amidst best friends.

This is a party that will never be pinned, but the moments will forever be etched in their memories.

Scoffed at by any true party planner and heckled for the tablescape photos that will not make it past my iPhone camera roll, I found myself craving what they had.

What was it that drew me into their time of community?

Authenticity, Safety, Grace

As I pondered this party, I couldn’t help but notice how often hospitality reminds me of the Gospel.

It’s so easy to complicate them both, when in their purest form, they are both quite simple and straightforward.

Neither requires us to get our “homes” spotless or perfectly in order, and yet we wrestle over those very expectations.

We spend hours attempting to dress up our houses, church services, music preferences and even sanctuaries when there is no need. People are drawn to the authenticity of both open hearts and open homes without all the frills.

Why do we make it so difficult and over think it?

We don’t invite people over because our living room isn’t quite finished. We don’t invite co-workers to church because this series is a bit too straightforward.

We close the door on hospitality because we’ve been hurt before. We close the door on church because it’s wounded us and we can’t find the right “fit.”

Hospitality and the Gospel are simple. They both invite the weary, the messy, the brokenhearted, the questioning to come and find rest.  They both welcome the stranger and offer a refuge for our souls.

As I reflect on this party that will never be pinned, I’ve been renewed with a vision.

Embrace the simple, the ordinary, and be the conduit by which hospitality and the Gospel intersect.

Don’t make it something it’s not.  Just start!

Simple invitation.
Extend the invite.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).

Simple Guest List
All of us!

“Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2 NIV)

Simple Response
Yes!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

Just like my daughter modeled for me, “People just want to come.”

I know the Apostle Paul would have celebrated my party that will never be pinned.  He reminded the Church in Thessalonian of the intersection of simple hospitality with the Gospel, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

Share life. Share ourselves. Share the Gospel.

Jesus wants us to come just as we are. For once, let’s leave the unnecessary party stuff behind and enjoy all that He has to offer.

Won’t you join me for my next party?

Q4U: Share a memorable story of one of your most imperfect party moments? What did it teach you about hospitality? Do you find extending a Gospel invitation as scary as opening your home to strangers?

 

Shared by: Jen Schmidt, author of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, 10 Minute Dinners and simple party-giver extraordinaire.

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  1. 1

    Thank you for the encouragement! I invited a couple girlfriends over for coffee next week…..but there several other neighbor ladies that could benefit from fellowship…….. I’m game!

  2. 3

    Jennifer,
    One of my most memorable (disastrous) parties planned was for my daughter’s third birthday. ps. themed parties are lost on preschoolers. Anyway, I remember video taping the house, complete with matching decorations, table setting, cake, etc. before the party. Then I taped the house after the party…it looked like a tornado had blown through. I vowed, never again.

    I so agree that hospitality and the gospel are both simple and humble in nature. They may not be Pinterest worthy, but they are definitely heart worthy. Souls ache for an invitation into our homes, our heart and to know our God. I try to extend that Gospel invitation through my writing. I pray that my invitation is humble and filled with hospitality. Thank you for the wonderful encouragement this morning!
    Blessings,
    Bev

  3. 5
    Lu Wings says:

    Wow, what an AMAZINGLY STUPENDOUS Party you threw! Awesome.

    My Greatest Spontaneous event took place several decades ago. I was at a 12 step meeting with about 30-40 people. At least 1/2 I didn’t know. It was New Years Eve. At the end of the meeting I spontaneously said: Everyone’s invited to my house for pancakes. (Keep in mind, I had a ground-floor studio apartment, a 2 burner stove……a VERY SMALL space).

    EVERYBODY showed up. Good thing I lived on the ground floor. We opened the window and folks sat on the window sill. We opened the door and folks sat in the parking lot. We mixed pancake batter and made bacon………..and passed them one-paper-plate at a time…….eventually EVERYBODY got fed, we all laughed, and cried and told stories and incredibly quietly (didn’t disturb the neighbors with our sound……our actual bodies, well, we were in the way a tad. But mostly the neighbors were curious as I’d NEVER had company over before, much less a party….so a few came for pancakes too. They’d never been to a party that had no music, only fellowship, honor, respect.

    It was an incredible experience, forever imprinted on my mind and heart (and I swear He multiplied that flour, eggs, milk, syrup and bacon)! Oh, and coffee, grin.

    Thank you, for the opportunity to remember.

    • 6

      Oh, I am walking down memory lane with you. You must SHARE that story with others as such a great reminder of how simple hospitality makes such a mark on others.

      • 7
        Lu Wings says:

        Thanks, Jen. It really was a sweet evening….and so UNLIKE me. Yet I cherish it to this day. Had I “thought it thru” there’s NO WAY I’d have done it……yet I’m soooo glad I did…and everybody DID have fun and laughed and waiting their turn, passing plates…..after the first 30 minutes, I wasn’t doing any of the mixing of batter, making pancakes, or bacon….everyone else took turns with that. That too happened “by accident”, grin. While I was carrying a plate to someone out-of-reach, someone else flipped the pancakes…and they’d taken over that mini kitchen. Sweet memories, I’m grinning from ear to ear.

        Thanks again, for it is YOUR sharing AND your invitation to share, that brought all this back for me, as vibrantly real as the evening it took place.

        Take Good Care, and be blessed!

    • 8

      this is über-beautiful; I just laughed loud out with you – what a ‘tellable’ and wonderful story! Thank You (I’m a ‘master’ in spontaneous parties…. or else I’d never get anything done at all!!!)

      • 9
        Lu Wings says:

        Thanks, Kiki.
        With health issues these days, spontaneity rarely happens…..and yet, this is a reminder that sometimes THAT is the most perfect thing……………so ya never know, grin. I might start collecting pies as I grocery shop….and one day when I’m up to it, just invite my neighbors over for pie and coffee……think I’ll add paper Holiday plates and cups to my grocery list now, grin. It just might happen, grin.

  4. 10
    Lu Wings says:

    PS EVERYONE left my tiny lil home in pristine condition…no mess, nothing broken….and many hearts mended along the way. God is good.

  5. 11
    Pam Workman says:

    What precious memories for your daughter and her friends Jennifer. Here’s to you mama…

  6. 12
    Pam Workman says:

    What precious memories for your daughter and her friends Jennifer. Here’s to you mama…

  7. 13

    My favorite part, and the message I take away today is, “embracing the ordinary and elevating it to extraordinary.” Awesome!

  8. 15

    Jennifer,
    How sweet of you to do this for your daughter!
    It appears from the looks on the girls faces they were enjoying the true reason they were there, to celebrate your daughter and the companionship of each others company I think the idea of them making the cake together was a great idea.

    Thank-you for the encouragement !
    Penny

  9. 16

    I don’t do birthdays or holidays except Christmas and Easter.
    Parties. Every single day is a party. I used to have people in everyday when my kids were young. Every afternoon was not only a kids gathering of all the kids in the neighbourhood, also my friends and we would have afternoon tea in the mess of all things.
    Messy. My home is messy, lived in but always full of kids. :)
    Party, but is not every single day a party, God’s party in our lives.
    Live life to the fullest. It’s messy. It’s not perfect.
    It’s just happyyyyyyy.
    hahahahahahahaha
    :)

  10. 18

    I adore this. My husband and I teach a young married Sunday School class and the young mamas spend weeks and weeks planning their babies first birthday parties. They get frazzled and frustrated. I am often burdened at the need they have to make every “Pinterest perfect”. This is something I will share with them. The simplicity of hospitality and the simplicity of the gospel. It is amazing how they go hand in hand. Thank you.

  11. 19

    Dear sister in Christ,
    I read you post and I wondered what must you think of mother’s like me who could not plan Pinterest worthy birthday parties because I never had the money to spend on my children? I’m glad that your daughter decided that relationship was more important. I am saddened when I see the young mothers today so stressed out because they are so busy with temporal things. My children are grown, but not one of them resent me because we were poor. They tell me they never knew it even though they didn’t have “Pinterest parties”.
    Blessings,
    Clara

  12. 21

    Jennifer,

    My kids have always PREFERRED to keep their Birthdays simple just like that. :-) It take the stress away for all, and low-key is just as wonderful. It’s easier to focus on what matters: your child’s well-being and making him/her feel special with your undivided attention. Thanks for sharing. :-)

    Diane

  13. 22
    Christine says:

    This is one of my favorite posts! I needed to hear it today – thanks for writing this! :)

  14. 23

    I am a big fan of not over thinking these kind of gatherings…We keep our house relatively tidy have plenty of food in the pantry and we are always ready to receive guests. We live on a ranch so there is always plenty to do in ways of activities. I think in this day and age kids are so busy and so activity loaded it is fun just to get them together and let them decided and kind of let it unfold. With some adult supervision and guidance this can turn anything from baking a cake to a treasure hunt outside a lot of fun with minimal planning. Well done on your party looks like a super fun time :)

  15. 24

    Themes are forgotten. Loving memories are not. She will remember this birthday always! What a great mom!
    Love,
    Patty

  16. 25

    I love this. Kids are so happy with simple if we will let them be. Our 6 year old’s last party consisted of a table full of little girls having a blast with frosting, cookie pieces, candies, and sprinkles. Their masterpieces were their party favors. Easiest (and sweetest!) party we ever thrown!

  17. 26

    We live and work in Central Asia, and we hosted a local party last week for our daughter’s first birthday… only about half of the forty invited neighbors and friends turned up, and at the last minute our Russian landlady (who never fitted in very well on our street when they lived in this house) made a surprise visit, and killed any rapport that would have blossomed at the ladies’ table! Worst of all, I forgot to add ground beef to my 5 pans of lasagna (a risk anyway, since none of them would ever have eaten lasagna before)! Yes, it was scary to open my home, and yes it was disappointing that not a lot of people showed up, but we’re still praying those that came sensed Christ in our home and that the fact we were vulnerable and invited them in makes a difference in their lives.

  18. 27

    Dear Jennifer;
    I admire your daughter first of all – keeping the family and friends together is a party in itself!
    Secondly, Pinterest (as lovely and adicting it is) is highly overrated (as are clean windows and clean houses – let’s do a spontaneous party instead!!!!!!)
    Thanks for sharing, much love
    Kiki

  19. 28
    Beth Williams says:

    Young children–especially 1-4 yr. olds don’t care a thing about themed birthday parties. I don’t understand parents who spend lots of time and money on “picture perfect” parties for their children. All the children need are friends to come over and celebrate with them.

    The same goes for holidays as well. Some people run themselves ragged trying to have and do everything instead of enjoying the time together and miss the true meaning of the holiday. Most people just want a simple get together with friends.

    Each New Year’s eve my church has one family host/open their house and everyone is invited to come. We all bring some kind of food. Some sit and talk, some sing songs, others watch football, but a good time is had by all.

  20. 29

    This is Pinterest Worthy!! Thank you so much for giving us all permission to stop striving for perfection. you’ve inspired me and I am Pinning THIS!!

  21. 30

    Wow wow wow. Thank you so much for writing this. You know, this truth has been in my heart, I am simplistic in nature, but each time holidays approach or birthdays draw near, I find myself stalking the pages of pinterest for the perfect party, and spending so much time preparing the most beautiful decor that I have no energy for the people when they come. Thanks for the reminder and help to keep my priorities in order, to focus on the things that really matter!

  22. 31

    My favourite parities were always the least fancy ones, with a few best friends, a movie, sleepover and most especially the cooking of our our dinner! Mum would buy pizza toppings and we would whip up our own mains! So much fun!

  23. 32
    Amy Dorr says:

    What a nice reminder! Letting go of the pressure of other people’s expectations will set you free! Thanks for sharing.

  24. 33
    Lu Wings says:

    Welllll as a result of this bit of sharing and caring, when I did my first of the month errands yesterday, I bought 4 frozen pies AND the makings for 2 others……..so who knows, that impromptu bit of fellowship just might take place, grin. The thing is, now it CAN, grin.

    Pie and coffee anyone?

  25. 34

    I love this! I need to print it and place it on my bedroom door every month that I have a birthday party or gathering to plan. I ALWAYS over do it! My creative juices start flowing and the days of catering parties with my mom when I was younger kick in and viola, the makings of a perfect (insert theme here) party that only a team could pull off is created in my head. Reality steps in, my fibromyalgia and RA kick in likely from the self made stress and my world comes crumbling down. My dreams of grander never realized, I end the day of the event over rushed, I’ll tempered a and exhausted. My girls (usually the guests of honor) clueless for what didn’t get done or happen and the party guests leave wearing a smile on their faces having enjoyed spending time with their friends. After all that’s really all they wanted. All the time and money spent in decor, food, and entertainment just another obstacle in them being together. That is likely where the idea of sleepovers originated :) an over zealous, well intending mom who out did herself planning a party that left little time left for the children to enjoy each other’s company.

    So, thank you for sharing this nice little reminder and putting things back into perspective.

    Blessings on your ministry.

    Warmest Regards,
    Wendy

  26. 35

    Oh I love this so much I am probably going to pin it. Ha!. My daughter and I are huge party planners. Oh we love it. But I was an art major and my Mother and I have a cake business so I guess we have the advantage of experience. This year will be my busiest May yet to plan a big shin dig for my Tessa. I am working a full time job ( relatively new to me), my volunteer plans at church are packing in that month and I am currently getting my bachelor’s in Nursing. PHEW!! I am ready for a nap thinking about it. So I have been secretly dreading my 11 year old’s wish for a slumber party begging her to narrow down her invite list. I just don’t think I can keep up my usual party energy over night for 11 tweenies!!! This blog reminded it’s ok to keep it simple silly. Our last party was going to be a caroling Christmas party. Well the only thing that could have spoiled all our plans did! Thunderstorms, tornado threats and local flash flooding, IN DECEMBER. That’s not supposed to happen in IN. Well, kids still showed up! And we had a blast dancing in the breakfast nook that has never been supplied with a table. Trying to make shaped sugar cookies with store bought dough because I didn’t have anything else. (Talk about a pintrest fail), and watching Netflix Christmas programs with hot chocolate and sprinkle covered kettle corn (since the cookies went totally flat). No it was the talk of the neighborhood but like your photos, my photos were full of smiles. And that is the real measure of success for a kid I guess. Thanks for the reminder.

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