It seems like a lifetime ago. We were gathered at the home of one our fellow home group members for a picnic to celebrate the beginning of summer and the temporary end of meeting weekly. We were on a big property in the country, surrounded by trees and fields. The kids were all there laughing and playing and exploring. My little guy was being shared and passed around by the adoring girls who loved to love on him. I sat on a blanket and listened to this dad talk about his daughter's softball season and could hear the pride in his voice as he talked about her and the rest of the team he coached. I remember him stretched out on the grass, under the sunshine, with his hat perched a little over his eyes. He and the other guys were chatting about life and sports and things that mattered. He and his wife led our home group and invited us into their home every week.
I remember that man's wife taking her camera and sneaking around the trees to capture the kids playing on film. And when the owner of the property got out her vintage green truck to take the kids to the creek across a field, the man's wife - my friend - went along to capture some more memories. She got a lot of good pictures that day though I haven't seen them all. The smiles on the faces show a carefree innocence devoid of deep pain or loss.
We sat around in chairs and on the grass, talking and laughing, eating and enjoying being together. I remember thinking how grateful I was that this was my group, that these people had become my friends. And I remember thinking that this group was the answer to my prayers and wishes for a group where we could all grow together and do life together here on out. Contentment and gratitude filled me up and I felt a sense of belonging that was precious. Life seemed like it had come together at last, like I had a home. It felt complete. And not for one second did I even imagine anything could change that.
Not six months later though, life changed as we all knew it when the dad who was so proud of his daughter and her softball team died in a horrible car crash that also injured his family and broke all of our hearts. Everything has changed, and the memories that day that I accepted as a matter of course have become more precious than gold or diamonds. The fellowship that I planned on has become pretty much just a memory for now. Maybe one day things will be different and we'll find our place together again. I hope so. But it isn't happening right now. I never knew I could love and appreciate so much and lose the chance to share that.
The next time I make a memory like this, I hope I'll remember to take a moment and say thank you. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your fellowship and for letting me do life with you. Thank you for caring about my life and for letting me care about yours. Thank you for teaching me so much. Thank you for being an example. Just thank you. I'm grateful for you, for your life, for this community we're in together.