I stepped into line, as the hostess led our group to a back room. The room filled, as did the long wood benches, pulled up to long wood tables. Women from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Washington, California, Illinois, Georgia ….single women, divorced women, married women, old, young, blonde, brunette, short, tall…women.
Originally, there would be thirty-five of us at this meet-up in the middle of Texas wine country. So very Texan, so very humid.
As the evening progressed, thirty-five additional women from every corner of this nation, would gather around the tables…seventy of us, in all. Women coming together with a common goal; laying eyes on each other for the first time, yet feeling as if we were gathering with our dearest of friends.
The chatter around the tables was nearly deafening in that stone-walled room at The Salt Lick- Texas BBQ. Six months previously these women had met online, now they were face to face, and emotions were high. It was exciting to finally put faces with names, and it was a bit terrifying to put faces with names.
We are just grown-up girls, hoping that they will like us, now that we’ve met. Hoping we fit, and they don’t regret having made this trip. Worried that we will talk too much, or maybe not enough. A hot-mess of self-evaluation and sizing up our place in these surroundings.
I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten well between flights, and it was now after 8:00 pm. I could feel myself fading with a mix of exhaustion, low blood sugar levels, and over-excitement. I sat there guzzling one cold glass of iced tea after another, pleading with God to put a rush on the Brisket!
That was about the moment when Shae from Kentucky, walked up and said, “Sheila, would you be willing to stand and pray for our meal?”
I began a quiet dialog with God, offering my willingness to pray on behalf of the seventy, if He would give me the physical strength to actually stand up, on my own two feet.
I recall my opening line: “Jesus, here we are, finally together in real life and I’m grateful…”
I have no idea what came out of my mouth after those words. I’m hopeful it made sense.
The evening drew on. The food met our needs. The chatter continued. With tables between us, we told stories— stories of who we love, where we live, and what our lives are about. I saw tears running down cheeks, and women embracing each other in solidarity. It was such a girl-thing!
This was communion. The breaking of bread and expressions of gratitude. The telling of stories; grasping hands, embracing, and offering to walk together. Communion and community. “Yes, I live in Iowa, and you live in Idaho, but I hear you, I see you, and I’m willing to walk with you.” “I’m from Texas- I’ll text you, and pray over your life.”
I’m very aware that this was an unusual experience, yet I came away from it all, knowing again that I am called to gather people around tables and offer hope, to extend grace. Feeding the soul while feeding the body.
“When evening came, Jesus was sitting at the table with the Twelve.”
– Matthew 26:20
My time in Texas included many tables. I sat across from Angie from Ohio at breakfast– we talked about our children and honey ricotta with waffles. I sat across from Kelly from Virginia, and Kelly from Alabama for lunch, and we talked about what we write about. I sat across a table from Erin from Tennessee, and Aubrey from Georgia, and we talked about God’s faithfulness. I sat across from Brenna from Idaho, and we talked about Idaho. I sat across from Kimberly from Tennessee, and we drank coffee and talked about grace. I sat across from Terri from Texas while she ate Gingerbread pancakes and I ate biscuits with eggs, and we talked about our having courage to tell our stories.
I imagine that anyone reading this can admit that right now, our lives are so full of chaos and uncertainty. Every glance at a TV right now involves war, refugees, financial ruin, family crisis, and accusations of every sort. It’s not pretty.
There are many ways to meet needs both locally and overseas, and we should be doing that.
I just get so overwhelmed by being one small person on a big round globe with catastrophic issues. That awareness often feels paralyzing. I feel like I can’t fix the disaster this world is in, and I’m overwhelmed by the complexity of it all,
But I can do this—I can prepare a meal, and I can feed hungry souls a plateful of the hope that lies within me. I will open my eyes and ears to what is going on, and then play my one note well. If enough of us do this, the impact could be far-reaching.
Grab some plates and forks.
Send a group text to some people.
Toss a salad…slice the bread…pour cold water and lemon wedges into tall glasses.
Open your front door.
Gather around a kitchen table, a picnic table or a coffee table, and let words flow from grateful lips.
*Random thoughts taken from “Savor” by Shauna Neiquist (Copyright 2015)
*Stock Images from Pixabay.com