On the second Thursday of almost every month we flutter in, a flock of motley mama birds, feathers all akimbo.
Some sling baby carriers, others treats to share. All carry bibles.
We are weary mamas, worn with the endless joys of growing with little people, and we circle our wagons once a month to love each other and sit at Jesus' feet.
More walks in with us than what is in our hands. Burdens that are too heavy to be borne alone. Disappointments that crush. Loss too great to fathom. Fear for the future.
But first we smile and hug and chit chat.
"How ARE you?" "Oh that looks delicious!" "How's your husband feeling?"
We visit and fill plates and pour tea, then we sit.
Why it is I don't know, but it always seems the first five sitting minutes are strained. Like we are finding each other's hearts again after a month away from this safe space. We talk about the book we have been reading while apart, we turn pages of our bibles and read God's Word. We think about true things.
As we settle deeper into our chairs, we settle deeper into ourselves. Questions are asked and hard answers are given. Answers that squeek out thinly, answers laced with self-reproach. Conviction is a commodity at our monthly bible study.
But condemnation? Condemnation doesn't cross the threshold. Grace abounds... it sings with these ladies.
We round out the second hour of sitting, and (if I am minding the clock) we change to prayer posture. Slowly we work around the room, each sharing her deep needs, some sharing many. It often takes an hour, sometimes more.
The sharing is interspersed with helping. One mama needs prayer for a child struggling with math, another has experienced the same problem and gives advice. The circled wagons are so tight now, we each strain toward the speaker as if our leaning in can buoy her up.
Grief incomprehensible is voiced, impossible mountains revealed, answered prayers shared. We mourn together. We rejoice together.
As the circle of sharing closes upon itself we bow heads and kneel hearts. Earnestly we offer each need. Sometimes words fail, but we know that the Spirit Himself intercedes with groanings too deep for words.
After the amens gently whisper into the quiet living room, eyes are wiped and plates gathered. The clanking and rustle bring us back to earth and the music of voices gradually grows again.
Some stand at the sink splashing soapy water, others package food. Awake-past-bedtime babies are passed around while counters are wiped gleaming.
We laugh as we gather up books and bags, and lean into each other to hug goodbyes.
And into the dark we walk to our cars to drive home, girded with renewed hope.