“…..walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love…..” Ephesians 4:1-2

Our empty dinner dishes were pushed to the middle of the long table. You could hear contented sighs all round. We were settling in. We were grateful to Marie for having planned ahead and booked the back room of the restaurant. They were kind enough to not pipe the lovely classical music through the speakers.

Theresa, our fearless leader, looked around the room at each one of the nine of us that evening. “This being January, what did we learn from last year? What can you tell us about how the Lord took care of you?” Some groaned and shifted in their seats.

As I sat across from friends, some for many years, and others still getting to know, I reminded myself of what I had been thinking on the way to the restaurant that very evening. Listen. Don’t monopolize all the conversations! Take something home from the gathering! Not just what you said! Or how you felt! You just may learn something! Oh, I was preaching to myself! I had been to plenty of our once a month gatherings in the recent years, when new people were coming in to our motley group, as several had moved or just moved on. So, we were struggling with morale. Or, maybe I was struggling with morale. I was wrestling with whether I wanted to stay involved in the lives of these women. After all, I was already connected to several groups. Why one more? Several of the ladies I had drawn close to had moved on to other activities or moved out of the area. I was weary of having to make new friends at my age.

But something different happened when, in October four of us flew up to one of our longtime friends’ home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she and her husband had moved three years ago. We were forced to be together for five days, part of that time snuggled up in her home while a hurricane blew all around us. As the storm, now downgraded to a tropical storm was swirling the trees around us and poring buckets of rain over us, we were inside, working a puzzle, grazing at the kitchen bar, watching the local news/weather channel, chatting or napping. Following the storm, four of us left for the river cottage we had rented down on the Nuece River. Our friend, whom we had come to visit, had serious concerns about leaving her husband who had just had a serious medical emergency.

The long drive to the cottage and back; the time spent there and the early return to the house in Raleigh caused us to draw close, whether we liked it or not. We laughed, shared stories of our lives, and yes, even got a little short with one another at times, allowing for apologies. We enjoyed sunrises, sunsets, shopping, cooking and dining out. Truthfully, I was enveloped in the Lord’s deep peace throughout the entire trip. I was still so overcome with gratitude that I had been included that anything the other ladies did was just fine with me. I wasn’t bothered by any of their distinct personalities! I just was drawn even closer to them, because I realized that I needed them. I needed their honesty. Their frankness. Their vulnerability. Their love. And so I decided that even though there were new friends coming in to the group, I needed these women, even the new ones and an opportunity to love on them.

By the time we had gathered at the restaurant the other evening I had a new and deeper appreciation for this particular group of ladies, all of whom were in the same generation, most with husbands, grown children, some with grandchildren, some caring for elderly parents, all of us grappling with not just the empty nest but new purpose for the dailyness of our lives. What in the world had we learned from the past year?

Letting go. Choices. Expectations. Deserved. Obedience. Changes. Grappling. Loving inspite of.

As each one shared a portion of their year’s experiences, these words and phrases kept popping up and our heads kept nodding in agreement. We were having to let go of unspoken dreams for our children as they, now in their young adult-moved-out-of-the-house years were making choices we had no intention of them making when they were nursing at our breast. A live-in relationship over marriage was not in our game plan for any of our children. They were going to grow up to be solid faith-walking adults, members in good standing in some local Bible believing church, serve on boards and committees and be responsible adults and marry the right “we approve” man or woman and live happily ever after……down the street from us so we could play with their children, our grandchildren and then return them to their mom and dad when we got too tired.

Some of us were having to care for elderly parents when they didn’t “deserve” it. After all, they weren’t caring for me when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease several years ago, one new friend confessed.

As I sat listening and empathizing, it all hit me. Each of us well seasoned moms, doers, and studiers of the Word women were having to flesh out the Gospel! And it was not pleasant! It was walking in the muck of the messiness of our lives and having to consciously choose to live out all that teaching we had drilled into us from all those years of sitting in some church or ladies’ home underlining in our Bibles, memorizing a few verses here and there and lining our shelves with numerous Bible Study notebooks.

We were making choices to walk out the truths in the messiness of our family’s decisions. We were choosing to love our adult children as they were, keeping the communication open and our hearts listening. Praying all the more. We were choosing to care for our elderly parents with kindness and love in spite of the hour drive one way to their home to attend to all day doctor’s appointments, totally dismantling our preferred schedule and activities. We were not accepting our family’s unBiblical behavior; instead we were choosing to love, as Jesus commanded. And reserve judgement for Him, as He commanded.

After a closing prayer I  gave out tight genuine hugs and smiled at all my friends as we headed to our cars and back into the dailyness of our lives. I was glad I had chosen to come. Chosen to listen. Chosen to hear the hearts of sisters whose lives weren’t too different from mine. Not at all June Cleaver. But blessed. So aware of God’s provision. His faithfulness in each of our lives. Of His guardian protection over us and those we hold dear. So many blessings. Because we were choosing to live Christ. Not just hear the Word all these many years, but to be doers of it even when it wasn’t easy or what we desired at the moment. And we all acknowledged His profound peace when we obeyed.

Now……go out with Joy and be led forth in His peace.

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