Thursday, October 13, 2011

Homecoming & House Guests... and the true meaning of fellowship

Homecoming weekend is often a whirlwind but more so this year than any other.  This weekend was (what would have been) my tenth college reunion.

This year, my college roommate- one of my dearest friends- came to visit!  It was the first time I'd seen her in nine years.

The last time we were together, she and I were both married, and each pregnant.  Jess with her second child, me with my first.  This weekend we not only saw each other, our husbands and Jess's son Austin who was just a baby at our last meeting, but she got to meet our three sons and we met her three daughters.

In preparation for their visit, the boys and I talked a lot about Jess's kids.  We went over their names and ages, looking at pictures, and tried to imagine what they may be like.  We talked about how they too are home schooled, how they too have just moved to a new home.  The boys began referring to them as
"our friends we-haven't-met-yet".

The day finally came.  They arrived, after a several day long car trip.   Their little girls were car sick and I'm sure they all were just happy to be out of the car!  The boys ran out to meet them and much to both my and Jessica's surprise, they were all off playing in the backyard within minutes.  We watched in the window as the older children chatted... and chatted... and chatted.  The little ones, both two years old, mostly stared at each other.

We quickly began to see commonalities between our children.  The third time five year old Ella said, "I'm hungry!"  I knew she was a grazer... much like Elijah.  The older boys... and eight year old Abby... are all fans of The Chronicles of Narnia and came in announcing that they were Peter and Edmund... and Abby was Susan.  Play continued right up until bedtime.

I was so excited, and somewhat surprised, that Jessica's children were being raised so similarly to ours.  There was no bickering between the children.  They all treated each other with respect and kindness.  They all were well mannered and helpful.  The older children each looked well after their younger siblings.  They were not selfish, they were able to entertain themselves with very few toys and great amounts of imagination.

One morning we had a family game of back yard wiffle ball.  Jess needed to practice for the alumni softball game that took place on the weekend.  Having once been the star pitcher, she needed a bit of warming up and wiffle ball seemed to do the trick.  Haha!

Dan had to work while our friends were in town, and while he was out Steve, Jessica's husband, went out in the woods with the boys to make fly fishing rods, then took the kids down to the pond to try them out.  The memories they made in one weekend will surely last a lifetime.

There is something about great friends.  Especially those you've lived with, shared every part of your life with.  Those friendships centered on Christ.  No matter how far they live, no matter how long between visits, we always pick up right where we left off.

After spending Saturday at Homecoming, we all had to say goodbye.  The goodbyes were much harder this time around, with our children having grown so close in such a short time.  Our boys were crying, one exaggerating a minor injury as an excuse for the tears streaming steadily down his face.

Jess said, "you know... if we wait another nine years, I'll be staying with you when we bring our son to college!"  Can it really be?!  What a short piece of time it is when our children are young!

Just after the most miserable of goodbyes, we met up with other really wonderful friends.  Friends who live just one state away.  Too far for our liking, but close enough that we get to see one another occasionally.  We joined with them and their four children for a fun dinner out.  There wasn't enough space in the restaurant for a large table so we settled on two small tables pushed together.  Normally this space would seat 6.  We fit 11.  Noone cared.

These friends, Beth and Brian, were our first married friends.  They paved the way for us in many ways, and we are still in awe as they challenge us to live in a way remarkably different from the norm.  They stayed with Beth's brother that night and we headed home.

The next day, more friends Rodney and Brooke came in from a ten hour drive away.  Friends with three young daughters.
The men had planned a football party and Brooke and I took all the kids for a walk to the park before bringing them all home for dinner and baths.  These friends too, as great as the rest.

Monday was a holiday and Beth and Brian and their crew, the ones we enjoyed dinner with on Saturday, stopped early Monday morning to visit with us all
(Dan, Rodney and Brian were all college roommates).
They stayed much longer than planned and Monday became another great day with a house full of friends.

They all push us, challenge us, hold us accountable to living a life marked by godliness.
These friends, not just friends any more, but family.

How thankful we are to be blessed with the most wonderful friends.  Friends with whom we can be ourselves.  Friends who love us and accept us for who we are, and who push us to become who God wants us to be.

The house feels empty now.  Much quieter... and we continue to give thanks for the most wonderful, faithful friends, and for the sweet fellowship that's been had.
All this.  This weekend, encompasses the 
true meaning of fellowship.  

A family brought together and unified in Christ.  Love and acceptance.  Confession and forgiveness.  The bearing of another's burdens.  Encouragement and availability.  Flexibility and informality.  The sharing of life...
and coffee and donuts too, of course.

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