Sunday, November 21, 2010

soul food

"I awoke this morning with a devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.  Shall I not call God the Beautiful, who daily showeth himself to me in his gifts?" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Over the past eight and three-quarter months, hubby and I have enjoyed many a dinner date with new friends.  We aren't shy about inviting ourselves over to your house, accepting invitations, or inviting people to our house.

I experience so much joy when a home is filled with love and laughter and music and friends, don't you?  Especially when you don't plan the time beyond the food.

It just happens.

Well, except that one night we surprised our senior pastor and his wife with a Hawaiian cruise-themed dinner.  Several weeks prior, Pastor Jeff had undergone his second shoulder replacement surgery (because the first one wasn't done right).  The date for the surgery was scheduled without a lot of notice and the anticipated recovery time interfered with plans they had made to vacation on an Alaskan cruise.  Upon hearing that, I roped in four other friends and my husband to help throw them a surprise evening of cruise-themed fun. "Welcome to Happy Island Cruises aboard the S.S. Fun Time!" was our greeting.  The 'tour' included a few hours of food and entertainment. We had a gourmet taco bar, bingo, trivia, a two song sing-a-long, Hawaiian shirts and leis, fruit juice, desserts, and a tambourine.

Another memorable dinner date was at the Sandor ranch.  After hours spent talking, eating, watching the kids play football, eating some more, and meeting their new baby goats, the adults all gathered inside and the guitars came out.  We sang a collection of lively campfire songs.  Some we knew, some we kind of knew, and all included feet tapping and hands clapping.

On the day before Easter, we enjoyed a traditional Hungarian feast with the Bansagis, Namenyis and Allens.  It was a real treat to be invited to this annual family gathering and a day that could have easily lasted in to the next.  Everything we ate was made from scratch and overflowing in abundance.  I can only imagine all of the hours that went in to preparing that meal for us.

The Arenas also showed us a good time when we had dinner at their house in July.  Not only did we enjoy spirited dinner table conversation, but we were introduced to the fourteen year-old family frog (Chubs) and a hamster with its own wardrobe (Jellybean). Chuck, the dad, showed us his fringed jacket from 1969 and his favorite Halloween costumes from years passed (all sewn by his wife, Beckie).  The latter part of our time together was spent gathered in the living room, sprawled out on the floor, listening to records.  I felt like we were transported back in time with their collection of 45s.

Not long ago, we had the privilege of spending an evening with Connie and Jackie Wheeler - one that included Connie's homemade lasagna and a time of prayer and singing.  Jackie has struggled with chronic pain and illness for some time now and is often too weak to attend church.  So, Chris and I brought church to her.  We talked about the blessings of the Lord that night, and filled their home with hymns and hallelujahs.

Two of our single guy friends, Skylar and Tyler, invited us over for dinner at the house they share in Valley City.  Skylar made us his famous alfredo chicken pizza, which we devoured outside on a backyard picnic table.  After dinner, we went to the local ice cream parlor and ordered cones that we ate as we walked to the park.

Then last night, we had dinner with the Goulandrises in their beautiful home by a lake.  Julie is Irish and John is Greek.  She sings on the worship team at church, and he owns a burger joint in town. They are both generous and kind-hearted with personalities the size of planets.  It was a delight to gorge on the savory food Julie prepared for us, and to sit together drinking coffee and sharing stories.  At one point, John played his bouzouki and showed us how to dance.  OPA!

There are a dozen other families we've had the honor of sharing a meal with in Ohio.  Some of those gatherings involved water sports, movies, hot tubs, homemade wine, board games, ping pong, World Cup soccer, karaoke and bonfires.

Each date was perfect and good for the soul.

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