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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Fellowship (among believers) (10/11/07)

TITLE: Chilling Out
By Angeline oppenheimer


I’m having one of the Hamlet moments again. To go or not to go? So everyone will be there--after all, it’s the Labor Day Church picnic. The pavilion has been booked and the pastor promised a fulfilling day just chilling while the guys are grilling our dinners.
The kids will be gainfully entertained with games and as for the ladies…no cooking allowed.

So why am I having this dilemma? The cozy couch beckoned after a heavy lunch.
I love nothing that assuming my slouch position with a good book and a warm cup of pomegranate tea. After all the day was drenchingly humid and an indoor stance would be the best defense for a Labor Day retreat. I don’t have to bother with making small talk, especially if the whole congregation was going to be there. I need a little quiet--I’m sure God will understand.

But the cognitive part of my brain tells me otherwise. After all, fellowship is highly commendable and my Christian upbringing can list a bunch of reasons for this act.
Fellowship fosters unity, encouragement, camaraderie and it glorifies the Lord. So, why the reluctance? It boils down to the same old reason--I would rather spent the day alone.

However, a more pressing need settled the question. Alienation has crept its way into my family ever since the advent of adolescence. My teenaged son prefers hanging out with his friends than spending time with us. While I recognize the need for him to gain independence, I also realize the need to preserve family unity. If I can manufacture a reason for him to go as a family unit, this would be a fine excuse. His friends from the youth group would be there too, so that should be an added incentive.

Some persuasion and cajoling later, Aaron and Shaina (my pre-teen) packed into the car together with some lawn chairs and blankets.

The site popped into view once we drove into the long driveway. Balloons bobbed in the hot summer day, and the smoke of marinated meat waffed its way into our nostrils. A guitar accompanied by a mellow male voice distilled through the smoke and resonated soothingly. As we got our lawn chairs out, laughter greeted us. Children ran and chase, giggling. Grown-ups huddled in groups, some on benches, some of chairs, chatting and laughing.

As I released my two charges to the mingling crowd, I’m beginning to feel hopeful.

I found my usual group of friends and tried to work myself out of the lethargy mode.
The usual small talk ensued--how the kids were doing in the new school year, juggling the new schedule, general update about our summers. Food was served and that added another dimension to the relating equation. Somehow, food makes people less guarded and more willing to spill the beans and we’re not talking about the baked beans on our plates. Laughter flowed and conversation took on a lighter note. So I learned I’m not the only one struggling with teen issues. Some older moms offered useful insights.

From the corner of my eyes, I saw both my kids in the “Deck the Cookies Out” competition. Normally, they protest that such activities are juvenile and not cool for teens or ‘tweens but there they were, happily decorating their sugar cookies. It seemed like they have left their peer clout and have reverted back to themselves again. Something about this environment, the coming together of people of like faith enable them to drop their guards. I wanted to jump up and down and high-five them but that would not qualify for “cool” behavior.

They would go on to join the “Eat as many pieces of water melon as you can with no hands,” and “Toss the water balloons.” By now, many parents had joined the foray too. I made my way to join mine. Water-filled balloons fired from throwing arms while parents tried to catch. Water splashed amidst fabricated sounds of disappointment. Laughter rose to the tip of the pavilion and echoed in the insides of our hearts. For moments like this--Lord, to reclaim family ties and unity in the larger circle of faith.

The day lost its warmth as the sun slipped behind the mountains. As we gathered for a aerial picture of the whole church, the photographer perched on top of a ladder, I was glad I got off my couch.

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Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw10/18/07
What a terrific story! How many times have I wanted to be alone and forced myself into a situation I didn't want to be in...then ended up filled and refreshed. THIS is wonderful!
Debbie Wistrom10/19/07
Laury Hubrich 10/20/07
Wow! This sounds like a fun day. I've had times like that, too, where I just want to stay home but so glad I didn't. Good job.
Dee Yoder 10/21/07
What a wonderful day you described so well! I like the group of characters and the MC. I can understand the Mom's desire to get her kids back to "normal" for a while, too. Very good!
Deborah Engle 10/21/07
Oh, how I could identify with your MC, not just at the beginning, but all the way through. Nice job!