My aunt and uncle, who live in Tennessee, came up to New Jersey for a visit. My grandmother had a family dinner to celebrate the occasion. Those of us who were able to make the dinner crowded around the dining room table, the table reserved for large gatherings. My grandmother’s house is cozy and full of love, but it is not extremely large. I’m not sure if my grandparents ever dreamed of having a family that is too large to sit at one table for a meal when they moved into their house many years ago. Even though no one has much wiggle room at the table, it is a table of love. Besides, we’re family, so a little elbow nudging here and there won’t upset anyone.
The love of family is not only shown during a large dinner. The love of family is also shown through small moments filled with deep joy. One day when my sister and I were at Walmart, I saw a package of pink pancake mix with chocolate chips. Leeann loves anything and everything pink.. As soon as I saw the packaging, I picked up the mix and put it in the cart. I told her, “I just found something for you to buy because you are going to enjoy it.” At first, she was not happy about me spending her money for her. Once she saw what I had picked out, all of her frustrations dissipated. The two of us made the pancakes on a night we were both home. I enjoyed the pancakes, not because they were pink, but because they gave my sister and I an opportunity to hang out and do something together. Another special memory I have with my sister during this month is the night we decided to go to Yogo Factory for frozen yogurt. The temperature outside was frigid, yet we still ventured out and enjoyed the opportunity to indulge in a tasty dessert.
I had the opportunity in the middle of the month to meet up with one of my roommates from college and her husband for dinner. They had recently bought a house, and this was my first chance to see it. By the end of the night, my roommate and I had shared our hearts with each other for about 6 hours, and it still felt as if we had just barely scratched the surface. We celebrated God’s faithfulness in our lives and were open about the struggles in our hearts. Once her husband came home from work, he also joined in our time of sharing with each other. In a sense, it was a very small church service. No hymns were sung, but we broke bread together. We shared our hearts together. We lifted up Jesus together. We prayed together. It was a beautiful night, and a beautiful time of church. A few days later, it was during a “regular” church service that God brought my heart into a freedom it had never known before, yet had wished and hoped for and dreamed of.
Towards the end of the month, I met up with three of my friends from college for dinner. We had been talking and dreaming about a small reunion since we had seen each other last. Our plan originally was to meet up for church and then have lunch, but our schedules only allowed us to meet up for dinner on a Saturday night. Three of us carpooled to our pre-determined meet-up place. Once our fourth friend showed up and got into the car, we all squealed with delight. As we drove to Applebees, conversation flowed easily as we began to catch up on each other’s lives and the lives of our other friends who were not with us that night. During our dinner, none of us saw the need to be quiet in our joy. We were that loud, obnoxious table of people who laugh at everything. We saw a family, seated near us, who had also been at Megan and Derek’s wedding. The four of us walked over to surprise them, our joy, smiles, and giddiness giving us away before we got over there. We lingered as long as we could at the restaurant. After dinner, we drove to Yogo Factory for dessert. We continued with our joy-filled laughter and conversations. We were some of the only people there, which made our conversations seem even louder. We stayed until the workers started to close up the building. It is this type of friendship–the type of conversations you can barely finish because you are too busy exploding with joy and laughter, the crazy dreams you dream together, and the moments of life that you share together with one heart–that I will never take for granted.