Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Superb Weekend

Even though this past weekend was hectic and tiring, it was one that will give us plenty of warm memories to help endure the barren cold of a Nebraska winter. Therefore, we give thanks to our Lord for the many blessings He sent our way and thanks also to the many friends who were a part.

The weekend started with our drive down to Nebraska City for our annual autumn retreat with fellow Notting Hill Napoleons. That's our literary society which has been going strong since 1992. For the last 13-14 years, we've been enjoying a weekend vacation in which we take over a bed and breakfast from Friday evening through breakfast on Sunday morning. The first 3 or 4 years of this experience were in Denison, Iowa. But the last 1o have been spent at the Whispering Pines in Nebraska City, now expertly and hospitably managed by Jeanna Stavas. The lovely old house has 4 beautiful bedrooms plus a barn/garage which has been converted into a nifty bedroom as well. It's a very neat B&B and Jeanna's warm friendship, hospitality and terrific breakfasts are all quite exceptional.

We got a later start on the weekend than usual -- too much to do here on the home front -- but we did manage to get down to Whispering Pines about 5:30 or so. We made ourselves at home (Claire and I had the barn this time around, very nice) and caught up on what's been happening with Jeanna. Then we started preparations for dinner (two kinds of soup, cheese, bread and crackers, veggies, etc.) It's great to work together with good friends and, of course, it's great to eat good food together too.

Following dinner, the primary task of the evening is deciding on the books for the coming year. This is no easy feat, as you might guess, because not only do we have to deal with the preferences of different members but also with the declining number of classic books available to read. After all, when you've been reading quality literature for all these years (links to the full Notting Hill Napoleon reading lists can be found in this post), there's not a whole lot left to choose from.

But, once again, using our elaborate and effective scheme, we managed to come up with next year's twelve books. (That list, if you care to peruse it, is over here.)

We'd all been working hard that week and several were still feeling the effects of illness, so with our main Friday task accomplished, it was then an early night for most. Not for me, I'm afraid. I had read the book for the next day's discussion a few times (the latest just last spring) but my memory is so lousy that I was reading it again and had a long way to go. But sometimes 3 and 1/2 hours of sleep is enough and I was able to finish and still get up before dawn in order to spend some inspiring prayer and conversation time with Quint back up at the house.

After that and after Jeanna's fine breakfast, we took off to the town center to shop at the thrift stores. I've found some amazing book bargains over the years in the basement of one particular store and managed to scrounge up a few more. (Some of those discoveries are spoken of in this post at The Book Den.)

We re-gathered for a lunch of soup and accompaniments before engaging in our afternoon discussion of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. We always "do Dickens" for our November read. But because we've been together for so long, we've already gone round once with Dickens novels and are now three books in to our second round. It doesn't matter. The literature is superb and reading it again and again (even discussing it again and again) bears much fruit. We had a swell time.

We do all the meals for the weekend except breakfasts so that evening involved preparations for what turned out to be a fantastic dinner of green salad, ham, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, grape salad, rolls and bread, cranberry Jello relish, pumpkin cake, apple crisp, tea and coffee. Then there was the Nebraska game to watch, conversations to enjoy, cleanup duties to share in and, in my case, a sermon to finish for the next morning.

Again on Saturday night, most were in bed a bit earlier than normal but Claire and I stayed up a while -- she reading, drinking tea and just enjoying the ambiance of Whispering Pines, me writing out the sermon from the research notes I'd compiled earlier in the week. A good night of sleep in the barn, another sweet time with Quint in the early morning, a tasty breakfast of sweet potato hash and eggs prepared by Jeanna...and alas, back to our responsibilities in the city.

Church went well. The sermon was a Thanksgiving one which incorporated the history of the holiday (the Pilgrims at Plymouth as well as later observances) with a review of the New Testament verses which use forms of the word "eucharistia," the word most translated "thanks/thankful/thanksgiving." The scholar W.E. Vine described the word (based upon the context of its usage) to mean "the expression of joy Godwards." And the sermon stressed the Christian's duty to demonstrate a lifestyle of thanksgiving.

Our church (Faith Bible on 27th Street on the near south side of town) was hosting its annual Thanksgiving dinner that afternoon at 4 o'clock so we had to book for home, unpack the car and make our dishes to bring to the feast. We made it. The gym of our church was packed but no one left hungry. At least a third of the crowd were folks from the neighborhood who don't regularly attend church so Allen and I and others were "working the room," making conversation with the guests, thanking them for coming, getting to know them a bit, inviting them to come along to church sometime soon, and encouraging them to come back next Sunday evening for a program I'm doing called "Making the Most of Christmas." We stayed afterward to help put away chairs and tables and then took off to see Mom at the nursing home.

Mom wasn't down to dinner yet (she should have been) so we only stayed long enough to give her back her quilts that Claire had washed, catch up on the weekend's activities, and then help motivate her down to the dining room. We reminded her of a doctor's appointment we would be taking her to the next day. We visited a bit with her table mates before leaving for home. Once there it was unpacking from the weekend, catching up on correspondence, watching bits of the second half of the NFL game, getting ticked off about what I saw flipping over to other stations (see this post) and finally getting off to bed in order to be ready for our early shift of sidewalk counseling the next morning.

Like I said at the beginning, the weekend was surely hectic and tiring, but it was a grand one, full of significance, service and sweet fellowship. Lord, we are thankful and we are pleased to "express our joy Godwards" for your bounteous blessings...and for everything Who You are.