My son is actually out wiping down the chairs with a paper towel. It is October 31, 2011 and we are setting up a movie in our front yard with a projector and serving cocoa and donuts (and candy of course).
This year I bought a little projector that you can connect up to a DVD player, and itouch, etc. I had hoped to have a “movie night” in our yard and get to know the neighbors. It never happened.
So I decide I will try again for Halloween. In my search for an abundant life that Jesus promises we each have available, I would like to get to know neighbors better, to be involved in events like my son’s holiday memories, even when I cannot do it all, like walk around the neighborhood and collect candy. Despite all that sugar of Halloween, we are called to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).
Sunday night arrives and nothing is really done. I am feeling the stress. Frustration. My husband is carving the pumpkin long after my son is in bed. It is cool, but I am needing to surrender my timetable. I am in my pajamas but I put my shoes on so we can go outside to test the lighting. There is a huge city street light in our driveway. It should work if we take down our lights above the driveway.
Monday morning, my son has a costume parade at school.
“Are you coming, Mom?”
“No, I just can’t. I really want to do tonight and I can’t do both, okay?”
“You came all the other years. . . ”
I don’t remind him I didn’t come last year. 8 AM in October, standing for an hour, is so hard.
“When I pick you up we will come home and do spider web, okay?”
“Okay!” he bounds off.
An hour later, my husband has pulled out chairs, the table for me and put them in the driveway. Still in PJs, I go outside and help him hold up the sheet as he clips it to the palm trees. Eventually I get dressed, I go buy mini-donuts, I start collecting the decorations around the house for the table outside. I pick up my son. He is excited to finally do cobwebs. We hang them between the palm trees. We set up chairs, decorations, carry out the tower speaker for the film.
“To make all of this work, we are going to need a series of miracles,” I tell him. Everything has a cord that must go in the exact right plug. After 20 minutes. . . it works! “We got our miracle, Mom!” he yells. “Thank You, Jesus,” I say as I plug something in and the sounds and picture both come on. I am excited as he is!
“Kids are going to have so much FUN at our house, Mom!” I smile. This is my precious moment. Some may judge because we “celebrate” carving pumpkins and giving away candy. But God knows my heart. God knows.
My husband arrives home and removes a few more light bulbs. Off they go trick-or-treating. I sit at the table and give out straws with pumpkins and Cars candy to the preschoolers, chocolate to the kids. I tell them to ask their mom or dad if they can have a little doughnut. The cocoa is just warm–no scalding. I have coffee for grown ups. I sit and drink the coffee and watch the neighborhood come alive.
It’s getting dark. We are playing How to Train Your Dragon. The fake candles are lit. The candy bowl grabs your hand when you reach for chocolate. The cat wanders around, confused. She sneaks up on the speakers just as a dragon growls and she backs up and looks around.
“Can you girls just go trick or treating and us moms stay here and have coffee?”
“Do you do this every year?”
“Trick or treat!”
“This a quite a set up!”
“Now, this is my kind of house! Coffee!”
“Mom! A movie! They have a movie! Outside!”
“You are so my favorite house!”
And of course two dads walking together come over to ask, “Is this a bar? Have you got anything stronger than coffee?” Uh, no. Just chocolate. There is one (or 2) in every crowd.
Moms and dads introduce themselves. They point to their homes. They let their kids sit down for a few minutes and watch the movie. We talk teachers, costumes, that it is getting late and we all need to be in bed. That we should get to know our neighbors. That we should do a movie night.
By 8:15 we clean up. The pumpkin decorations go directly into the bin that goes back to the attic. We go in and Josh sorts his candy. He eats a piece. Last year was the first year he ate candy. By 9:10 I can barely move, but am back in PJs and in bed, heating pad, pain patches, I don’t want to move. My husband is reading my son a story. I hear him tell Josh, “Mommy couldn’t have done it without you. You made it possible, because you were such a good helper.” Oh, good. I had emphasized how much he’d helped and wanted my husband to tell him directly too.
It was fun. It was a “success.” And next year will be easier. . . I think.
Most of all, it is a memory. My son brought his friends over to see his “cool house.” I got to see all the costumes and meet the neighbors rather than just peeking out my door and throwing candy in a box. God blessed us with amazing weather–I didn’t even wear short sleeves.
Did I stop and pray with anyone? No. Did I tell anyone about Jesus. No. But I hope I was a little speck of salt out there among our neighborhood. I hope God will use it.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She is gradually learning how to balance motherhood, family, illness, and ministry, but she still knows it will be a lifetime lesson. You can see the books she has written, including, Why Can’t I Make People Understand? at the Rest Ministries shop.