Two weeks ago, the first service at our new church was drawing to a close. We were singing to close off–everyone but me, that is. I was crying.
We hadn’t connected to anyone in our new city yet, and I felt alone. Yet everyone around me was rejoicing as they sang. It was a community, but I was not part of it. It was close, but I couldn’t touch it.
Please, God, I prayed. Just send someone to us. I don’t think I can do it own my own.
After the service, Husband and I stood near an information board with postings for service opportunities. We were sort of looking around for one of the small group coordinators. Then a tall, dark-haired fellow who looked delighted to see us came up and introduced himself.
We’ll call him Silas. He’d grown up in this church. He was on the pastoral staff doing small groups. He and his wife had a six-week-old. He wanted to invite us over for dinner.
Husband got his number, and a short time later we walked out to the parking lot. It registered in my brain that God had answered my prayer inside of ten minutes.
We ended up going over to their house the next day. I made sourdough bread. Silas’s wife–let’s call her Callie–loves bread. We played Love Letter after supper. We talked theology. We talked small groups.
The next week we ate at their house again, and this time there was another couple there. Silas commissioned me to bring dessert, which was tricky, because Araleigh, half of couple number two, has a pretty severe gluten sensitivity.
How do I love people without baking them things? I wondered.
I had planned on baking a KAF blueberry crisp, so I decided I would grind up some oats to use instead of flour in the topping. I got halfway through that, then actually read a little online and learned that depending on the individual and how the oats are processed, oats may also be a no-go. So I also made some gluten-free chocolate banana cookies I once baked as a thank-you gift for a friend who was clean eating at the time.
I met Araleigh and her fiance James. Araleigh can have oats. The crisp was a hit, and it was lovely with the oat flour. (Some of the cookies even got eaten).
We talked about travel. We talked about cooking. We talked about what this burgeoning small group will be like, how we’ll have these family dinners probably every other week with as many people as can fit in Silas and Callie’s house. How we’ll have smaller groups to meet with regularly, too.
I am nervous. I don’t know these people yet, but I will see them again, and soon. I may just become part of the group to them. I may become a friend. But I have broken bread with them, and they want to form a community. A family.
My heart is full but trepid. I am almost afraid to believe it, after all this time of being close, but unable to touch it.
My family is terrible at planning things. I am bad at planning things, too, but being married to a Husband who has plans in place to make the plans he plans to make, I’m starting to notice that not having any sort of idea for what you’re going to do with a large group of people has its drawbacks.
So when my parents came from two states away for my nephew’s fourth birthday, there was some awkwardness in the back-and-forth of the weekend, and work schedules interfering, sleep schedules interfering, travel schedules interfering. And due to poor planning on Saturday, I ended up baking the cake before church on Sunday, going out to eat for my parents’ anniversary after, then coming home to make frosting and decorate the cake before transporting it half an hour to Roy and Riza’s house for the party.
It also resulted in some anxiety on my part, because I haven’t carved a layer cake before, and the results were… precarious. Nephew likes monster trucks. Riza sent a photo of a chocolate “dirt” cake with a ramp wrapping around to the top tier for inspiration. I decided a picture was good enough to go off of.
Front of the cake: pretty darn good. Back of the cake: near disaster.
I have made this chocolate cake before, but I chose a new frosting, and I’m glad I did, because the chocolate glaze was quite sticky and possibly held the cake together during the half-hour ride in a car without air conditioning on a warm, humid, late-summer’s day.
I mentioned that I wasn’t good at planning, right?
But sometimes love can make up for that. Sometimes being together is worth the mess of traveling and relaxing together, even without an itinerary, without a plan, and it’ll hold everything together in the end. And sometimes a moment–a 4-year-old’s smile–shows that the mess is worth it.