Belly laughs echoed through that historic Infantry Barracks home that Wednesday night, as they had so many times before. The cracks in the walls had been painted over for decades; generations of women married to military men had made meals, washed clothes, laughed, cried, and loved well in those homes. In that soul-healing moment we declared that in our own way, we were having church. I laughed, “Can Communion be done with cake?”
Just the Sunday before, we had taken Communion bread and cup– which is never separate from our calling to motherhood. Wrestling with our children, our sins, our righteousness- spilling over the pews, spilling out of our souls. We whisper teaching through the Holy Moments, reverence and regular intertwined. “This is my Body”-“Don’t poke him” “Broken for you” ” Mommy, I have to go potty!”, “Do this in remembrance of me”… We took communion and lived in community.
We ladies of Fort Leavenworth saw one another nearly daily, but on Wednesday nights we rushed to put the young ones to sleep and gathered at the oldest home with cake. Someone was always celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or something cake-worthy. We made a cake with strawberry and pink insides to reveal that the baby I carried would be a girl. Over cake and exhaustion, in our own way, gathered for church. We recounted more than just the happenings of the week– we shared our deep wounds and great joys. A journal recounted what made us laugh the hardest and stirred our souls. It wasn’t a Bible study, yet verses and God’s Word poured out.
We recorded our victories, our prayers, our pain… because we showed up.
A few months later, I called them from a hospital room to tell them Jonathan was bleeding from the brain and we feared in was a tumor. They could not get to me, but how they prayed. Christina made a cake. They made certain that dear friends were with me. From across the country, sisters showed up. Jessica came from California with a burrito and chips. Sofia brought cake and tacos. Jen started prayer chains that went worldwide. Donna began the meal train and the church fed us well. Boxes from Sisters poured in. Too many names to write here etched onto our hearts and into our story. The Ranks of the Women stood ready– these mighty, wondrous women. My body and soul were restored.
Nearly a year since our last goodbye, Jeanette, Christina, and my little family gathered in the kitchen for cake. It was time for them to meet the daughter they knew would come before I could confidently hope for it. Prayers and hope were now evidenced in joy- Elizabeth Joy.
Jeanette’s in-laws flew to keep the children so that she could come for the week. Christina loaded the children and drove from Kansas to Virginia, left the kids with her parents for several hours and drove the hour to my home. As we opened the door, the boys yelled for joy. Elizabeth looked at each face with a smile and a furrowed brow– I can’t help but think she knew the voices that laughed and prayed over my belly each week. After all, they knew I was pregnant before I did. She was loved, prayed for, and promised. Elizabeth even got a taste of cake, as it should be.
We gathered. We ate. We remembered what God has done in our lives. We dwelt in each other’s homes, lives, and hearts. We asked the hard questions and worshiped the Living God. We put in the effort, the time, and the calories. That is the secret to these deep friendships– you forge them. They are worth the work, the time, the calories and the risk.
We told of our marriages and the men we love who serve in harm’s way. Harm’s way can mean the pathway littered with laundry that only made it NEXT to the hamper. We spoke of disabilities, cancers, ministries, shoes, and how tall our babies have gotten. We opened the laughter journal and howled. We read through last year’s victories and marveled at what God has done.
The Bread of Life sustains us. We are lucky to be alive. Indeed, we live a life more abundant.
We hold one another, knowing God holds us in his palm. We feed one another, encouraging one another to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We bring joy to one another, for the joy of the Lord is our strength. We fight together, for we are wives of warriors. As we do the hard things Christ calls us to, we serve Him while serving one another. The arms of Christ wrap around the children when they struggle.
The hands of Christ fold loads of laundry, wash dirty dishes and move furniture.
We are states away now, waiting for our next chance to be together.
Until then, we remain the Body of Christ- and the Body eats cake.