Surprise Hoedown and a Side of Grace

I’ve always told everyone who loves me to never, ever, EVER throw me a surprise party.

Ever.

Because is there anything more terrible than a surprise party? Is there?

I mean, I understand why some people like them. They’re the Extroverted people. The Enjoy Being the Center of Attention people. The YES, PLEASE CELEBRATE ME people. And I like those people. They’re fun.

But I am not those people.

I am one of the Thank You, But I’d Rather Be in Total Control of My Own Party people. And one of the Sure I’d Love to Talk to You But Back Here in the Corner of the Room people. And one of the Yep, I’m Loud and Crazy, But Still No, I Don’t Want to Be on Stage people.

So surprise parties?

Yeah. No.

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But no one ever listens to me.

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Especially not my sister-in-law, Kim. ^^^

Which is probably fair since I once published a blog post entirely about Kim’s  boobs. So, you know, lesson learned. Well played, Kim. Well played.

But the thing is, my surprise birthday hoedown?

The one with friends,

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and family,

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and my cousin wrestling my brother to the ground because cousins don’t let cousins wear hideous rat-tail braids underneath their cowboy hats?

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It was seriously awesome.

Unfortunately, for it to be awesome, I had to accept grace. Which is hard.

Turns out, I find it’s easier to give grace to others than allow others to give it to me.

Anyone else? Anyone at all?

Because when people do extraordinary and kind things for me – like a surprise birthday hoedown at a beautiful farm out in the country in the middle of a massive rainstorm where people show up anyway and there’s a band and my favorite kind of beer and completely ridiculous and perfect games like lasso-the-birthday-girl and a Prancercise dance-off, and people spent hours and days and money making this happen, I think But I don’t deserve this, and I can’t ever pay you all back.

Which is, of course, exactly what grace is.

And exactly the point.

Because grace is free.

Unmerited.

And a gift.

I want to live in a world that extends grace.

Unwarranted.

Undeserved.

Or even deserved but no one cares because no one’s keeping track, you know?

No record keeping.

No score chart.

Just grace because we’re all worthy of gross, unreasonable displays of generosity and love.

The problem is, there have to be recipients for this to work. We all have to be recipients. And that’s HARD. And I’m beginning to guess, just a few days into 40 Days of Grace, that we’ve taken this whole It’s Better to Give Than to Receive thing a little too much to heartI mean, we’re prepared to be the Givers, right? To be the ones with the emotional wealth and the bounty of heart to spill it out onto others. The Givers are the ones we want to be. We strive to be. Not the Takers. Never the receivers.

At least that’s true for me. But it doesn’t work that way. It can’t. Because if we’re all the Givers, then grace breaks down and doesn’t work at all. And it’s becoming painfully, wonderfully clear that’s something I get to work on this month.

Last week, my friends Heidi and Grace started giving me gifts for my birthday. Every day for 40 days. Which caught me off guard and unprepared and keeps making me want to say STOP because I feel jittery and overwhelmed when don’t know how to express the depth of gratitude I feel for friends who insist on being unreasonably generous.

And then, on the heels of we’re-giving-you-WAY-too-many-gifts-SUCK-IT-UP, there was a surprise party this weekend.

It was rad.

Sheesh.

With people who are even radder.

Blerg.

And so I’m going to work on this:

Aging Gracefully

Yes, of course.

Aging in a way that’s full of grace.

Aging in a way that allows me to be a Giver of Grace.

Freely and without merit to all comers.

But I’m also going to work on this:

Aging Gratefully

Aging in a way that’s full of gratitude.

Gratitude for Grace Unwarranted.

Because it seems a world of grace requires both. Both grace given and grace received. And I’m grateful for ridiculous friends who give me a chance to practice.

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In conclusion, thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate, and special thanks to

my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Kim

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my parents, Ian and Sandy,

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Jim and Katie Moss of Madrona Ridge Ranch (GORGEOUS location, even in the middle of a torrential downpour!) in Gaston, Oregon,

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Angie of A. Russell Photography (photo credits hers),

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and all of the friends and family (Adina, Mike, Michael, Abby, Nathan, Leslie, more) who helped pulled this off.

You’re my favorites.

And I’m grateful I get to practice receiving grace at your hands.

B

P.S. About that Prancercise dance-off? Mm hm. I want you to know, they look like they’re laughing AT my Pracercizability, but I assure you, they’re actually cheering in amazement (and, let’s be honest, jealousy) at how good I am.

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……….

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You can see all of the 40 Days of Grace posts
here on the Five Kids blog and here on Facebook.

……….

 Photo credits to the fabulous Angie of A. Russell Photography

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
10 comments
  1. Just so everyone knows, I´m really good at receiving. In fact, last year I requested a surprise party. Don´t worry, I´m doing my part to keep the Grace Circle going ´round.

  2. Oh I’m soooo happy you got to be loved on and surprised for your birthday!! (It was totally my idea – Greg obviously saw my comment a few posts ago.)

    I’m glad you were surrounded my friends and silliness and good beer and even rain.

    Happy Birthday!!!

    Heather
    P.S. It couldn’t have been as terrifying as when I almost walked into my surprise 16th NAKED – as in, I spent the day at the beach, got a sunburn and was taking off my suit as I walked in the door to my house. Yup, that happened.

  3. a prancercise dance – off…

    A PRANCERCISE DANCE OFF!!!

    Well, crap – I already wanted you to be my best friend – but now?

    I want ALL your friends to be my best friend!!!

  4. Happy Birthday to my favorite blogger! What a nice surprise. And you said (ever more eloquently than I could) what I always tell people: that in order for someone to feel good about being a giver, someone needs to be the getter. So bravo to you for facilitating all those people feeling good. It’s a big ole grace cycle.

  5. Happy Birthday to you!!! What a wonderful party – and friends and family you have! You must be special for them to do this for you so it’s well deserved. You will be doing stuff for them at some point so it will all even out – just enjoy! Sam xx

  6. You so deserve it! Happy Birthday, I was sorry I was unable to be there to wish it to you personally!

  7. After reading that, I sat back in my computer chair and slow clapped you. Right ON sister!

    I hear you. I am that odd bird that blogs and exposes the my tender underbelly to the world (metaphorically of course because I’m not as brave as you), but I also prefer to the conversation in the corner. I feel weird and sheepish and I kinda want to hide when people stand around ostensibly celebrating me for any reason or even present me with a thoughtful gift. In my head I’m saying, “look away, look away, nothing to see here!” Grace in receiving is a lesson I have not learned.

    And let me just say that the fact that a whole group of people would plot and plan a surprise party behind your back, and spend time and money giving you 40 days of gifts tells me in more words than you could EVER type just what a special person you are Beth. Bravo.

    Happy Birthday, Lady.

  8. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving birthday girl! I’m glad it was such a terrific time–so sorry we had to miss out.

    That’s so great that Heidi and Grace are doing the gift per day idea. But I immediately remembered the gifts/cards/books that arrived every day for Kate when she spent all those weeks in the hospital. And you not only sent something for every day, they were carefully chosen to match her interests. How nice that you are being repaid!

  9. Love, love, love! Happy Birthday, you amazing-silly youngster!
    I saw your dad today and he told me about your party (40? I can hardly believe it!)
    So happy your family & friends didn’t listen and surprised you with this fabulous hoe down. Yeeha:-)

  10. THANKS Beth for the photo credits 🙂 Hope you enjoyed them and glad you had an awesome birthday!

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