Surprised by Friendships Crafted in 32 Weeks
A knock at the door. Faces rippled and blurred in their movement behind the door’s cut glass window.
Arriving in groups of two or four, they walked up our driveway, past the newly-cleaned flower beds where iris plants stood tall in narrow green wedges and daisy plants grouped in loping round-edged leaf clumps.
“You found it!”
My husband and I said, stretching wide our door, Mark stepping out to hold it open.
C.* entered, holding a plug in pot of home-made fudge sauce, the pot nestled in a wicker basket and napkin. Her husband removed his hat.
P. and K. arrived, smiling, handing me a card, and my heart swelled in excitement at seeing these eight to ten people tonight, classmates from our year of Cover to Cover Bible Survey. D. and D. knocked and entered the home, holding out a sparkly red bag and a plastic container stacked with white and yellow egg halves.
“You brought the deviled eggs!” I said, “Good, I’m excited to eat them.”
“We each made something for you,” they said, grinning and pointing to the bag. “See if you can guess which is from whom.”
“Should I open it now or later?” I wondered, standing there in bare feet and folded up jean legs on this first hot spring day in May.
“Open it now,” D. said, his smile surrounded by grey and silver whiskers.
Beneath spirally crinkled red cardboard confetti that cascaded to my red Turkish rug below was a black and crimson cloth bag, hand-made by seamstress D., and a shiny green, blue and yellow acrylic pen, crafted by her husband D.
“You made these?! They’re beautiful. Thank you!”
Our conversations continued as we walked up the wooden stairs. My 23 year old daughter Morgan, my thirteen year old son Daniel, and my husband Marco/Mark were all meeting my adult Cover to Cover students for the first time and I was so excited for these two parts of my world to collide.
B. and his wife A. found us, her shy sweet smile and his wide open friendliness — both jumping into conversation with Mark. They handed me a gift bag and I exclaimed in surprise, “Thank you! Welcome! We have decaf coffee here, sugar–” I pointed to the short white ramekin, “and milk in the fridge right here.” I opened and pointed to the milk on the fridge door.
“Wow, fridge privileges. That’s the sign of friendship,” nearby D. commented, standing by the sink where drying dishes still stacked neatly behind him.
“Really?” I hadn’t heard that before but I loved having people in my home and was thrilled to have this group of people here tonight. A verse flashed through my head from one of Paul’s letters in the first century AD Roman Empire: “We loved you so much that we opened up our very lives.” The verse from 1 Thessalonians 2:8 went something like that, and I could relate. Meeting people and having deep talks only led to closer relationships, and I loved the community that had grown up in our weekly Bible study times each Tuesday night at the New Hope YMCA.
“Mugs are right here,” I flung open a cupboard. “You can choose a favorite to use for tonight.”
Two towers of white bowls stood to the right of my sink. Paper napkins lay beside a short brown ceramic mug holding spoons. Three cartons of ice cream warmed up on the counter, cold air swirling off the unlidded buckets of chocolate, vanilla, and cherry. The fudge sauce bubbled in its little pot, and a giant pan of cut brownies which K. had brought, sat beside a bowl of mini M&M’s and a canister of whipped topping. Sliced strawberries glistened wet and sweet in a metal bowl. Pink lemonade and a bottle of Sprite offered a bubbly concoction, beside a pitcher of cold tap water.
A happy hum of voices and the smell of decaf coffee surrounded me. Seen through an arched doorway, my green walled living room seemed small as we all moved from group to group, conversation to conversation.
People stood talking in my small kitchen too.
“Is this where you work –where the magic happens?” B. grinned, pointing to my computer desk , tucked into one corner of our kitchen.
I waved away his teasing joke, and pointed to my desk. “Yes, that’s where I work on my lessons each week, and my dad’s commentaries are downstairs.”
“The deviled eggs are delicious. Is there pickle or relish in them?” I wondered, asking sandy-haired, wide-smiled D.
“Dill relish,” she said.
My husband and I exclaimed and grabbed seconds.
People filled our kitchen and sat around our scuffed cherry wood table in the adjacent dining room. As more of us joined the group at the table, Mark fetched more chairs from downstairs, and we pulled over his black office chair for he or I to sit on since “it’s not in great shape.”
Speaking through the curved archway window between the kitchen and dining room, my daughter spoke of art careers and ministry with three or four of my adult classmates. Thirteen year old Daniel stood and spoke with people for a little while before heading downstairs to play, carrying two brownies.
Conversations continued for a few more minutes and I was loath to halt them. Finding a break in the words, I jumped in. Mostly a social gathering tonight to celebrate our year together, there were nonetheless a couple items we specifically wanted to discuss together too. Conversations followed, our faces relaxed and happy at being together again after a two week’s absence. I was happy to have Mark beside me to get a taste of the community that had formed in our Bible study group after two semesters of reading the whole Bible together.
“So, reflecting back now on this semester of the New Testament, what have you learned about God?” I asked, a version of this familiar weekly question at the end of Cover to Cover class each Tuesday night, and time slowed down.
A breeze blew in through the open deck door. Red-chested robins and cardinals trilled evening songs, and my eyes returned to the group. P. was talking, sharing fascinating scientific data about the way God made leaf-hopper legs and other created marvels by our Engineering Creator God.
Words flowed, people taking turns to share. We listened and nodded, the mismatched light bulbs above the table casting golden light and shadows, depending on which bulbs still worked. Drat. I had meant to change the dead bulbs out, but nothing was dimming the camaraderie and joy of people who had dug deep in studying God’s word together every Tuesday night for 32 weeks.
We each shared, learning and being encouraged by each other, hearing what God’s Spirit was teaching them too. Alive and vibrant, the conversations flowed until the spring evening air turned cooler and I hoped B.’s back which was towards the open deck door wasn’t getting cold. Chairs soon scuffed as people stood, and our night wound down. Our goodbyes were warm, thankful, nostalgic.
And just like that, my fifth year of teaching the Cover to Cover Bible Survey classes was done, and I missed it and the people I had met already.
If you’re looking for a life-transforming Bible study that brings in history, culture, and archaeology, tying in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, come join me next year. I am one of several teachers with Village Schools of the Bible’s Cover to Cover Bible Survey classes where we spend 16 weeks reading through the first half of the Bible, and then 16 weeks reading through the second half of the Bible, seeing where Jesus and his loving rescue mission are pointed to all throughout the Bible. Join me next year as I offer the Bible study at two locations: Living Faith Church in Blaine, MN on Monday nights, starting Aug. 29th at 6:45 pm, as well as New Hope YMCA in New Hope, MN, on Tuesday nights, starting Sept. 6th at 6:00 pm. Registration opens shortly.
How are you, my friend? What have you loved about the past few months? What has been hard?
(*Names withheld for their privacy.)
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Jennifer speaks often at MOPS/MomsNext groups, at conferences, churches, retreats, camps, home school co-ops and more. She loves getting to know people and making new friends.
Lovely written detail about our sweet evening! Fun to read, and thanks again for your warmth and spirit as well as your teaching skill. I hope many new people sign up for this fall’s classes–they will be glad they did so. D
What a lovely evening together! Thank you Mark and Jennifer for hosting us in your home. As always a joy to be with people you have studied God’s Word with and have grown through the experience of reading and discussing the things we have discovered. What a rich experience this has been reading the Bible cover to cover. I feel very blessed and want to encourage more people to sign up for this course. Jennifer is an excellent instructor with many resources. Cindy