Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found the bread. ~D.T. Niles
“I think that’s my friend’s husband over there.” My own husband takes a drink of his sweet tea and follows the line of my vision ending on a black-haired gentleman having lunch a few tables over from ours. We both watch this young man for a moment waiting for me to be certain.
“You sure do have a lot of young friends,” he noted. We laughed at this the way old-married people do recalling the punchline of a shared joke only the two of them know about. I knew we were both thinking of a sweet college student I kept regular time with. I had it figured I was one of the few hip older women just hanging out and having coffee with twenty year old friends chatting about boys and school and God. Until one afternoon she described what I meant to her as ‘like a mother.’ I had never considered that the advice she asked for or prayers we shared or random texts of encouragement are exactly what a mama would do. I mean, I was just sharing what I learned like I would with a friend and I bought my jeans pre-shredded just the same way she did.
I grinned again at my husband now, “I do have a lot of young friends, don’t I?”
When I was fresh married and had no idea how to be, I accidentally fell into a small group at a church my husband dragged me to. About five wide-eyed new brides in all would meet in Avara’s living room every Monday evening for a couple of hours to read and talk and eat brownies. She would pray over us and our marriages in ways we didn’t know how to yet and she would tell us how she couldn’t go a single day without sitting with Jesus. I remember being awed at the gentle, confident spirit of our leader. Her eyes were a light and crinkled in the corners where they smiled often and her once-dark hair was mostly covered in the soft white of wisdom lived out over long years.
But mostly I was struck by her generosity.
The advice and prayers and encouragement she gave us taught me that we needed to tithe even when we were broke, how lighting a candle can make a room smell clean when it wasn’t, and that God’s word is more necessary than the amount of oxygen needed in a day. She broke the wisdom like bread and gave it out freely to a gaggle of hungry brides who didn’t know how to feed themselves yet.
Over the years I have been passed the plate of wisdom more than should be fair. The words served up to me by ones gone before kept me going in the newborn years I wore more baby spit-up than shirt and continue to pull me up on the days I re-discover marriage isn’t always fun.
Counsel I’ve been given has even saved countless dinner guests from my painful experiments: my husband’s Mimi wisely advised me when I cooked roast for the first time that had to be cut with a powered hand saw, ’Don’t try new recipes out on company, honey.’
It turned out to be a good practice.
I am a different wife, mama, human because of the abundance of good words served me in sitting at the table of women whose faces now float through my mind and I hear:
Talk less and listen more.
Never stop dating your spouse.
Read, know, and fall in love with your Bible.
Put down your phone.
Love your kids enough to say no to them.
If you don’t or can’t breastfeed/grow your own baby food/get your kid to wear shoes, we’re all going to be okay.
Learn how to be inside each moment.
Healthy boundaries will save your sanity.
Don’t wear shoes that hurt your feet.
Keep fresh flowers in your house.
Consider you might be the only Jesus someone meets.
Keep a sense of wonder.
Laugh often, loudly, and deeply.
Enjoy your dessert.
Let your kids see you mess things up.
Be a good forgiver.
Say hello first.
Don’t poop with the door open in front of your spouse.
Every word on the tongue is life or death and you get to choose which.
Be perfectly willing to be perfectly human.
All is grace.
Because I was also taught and have witnessed the lived-out beauty in sharing, I continue the line of this big kind of hospitality: reaching one hand in front to take the plate from the ones ahead, and passing one back to my young friends following behind me.