An Exhilarating Feeling
by John C. Westervelt
On a Friday evening, I had eleven guests for bridge at my house. Now in my late seventies, I have often felt fatigued after preparing for and entertaining this many people. This Friday was different. An hour after my friends had departed, I stepped into the shower. With warm water coursing over tired muscles across my back, I felt a sense of exhilaration.
Come back with me to 1968, when Asbury was young. Bill and Jayne Mason were a part of a group of Asbury couples that decided to get together once a month to play bridge. From the beginning, it was more about conversation than about cards.
The membership of the bridge group evolved as a job transfer first took Harry and Sandra McLeod to Houston and later Ed and Marilyn Gastineau to Dallas. Since our arrival at Asbury, Nelda and I had worked with youth. I have always felt that Jayne Mason sensed our need for adult fellowship and suggested us as a replacement couple for the bridge group.
I remember well when bridge was at our house. I would come home from work on a Friday, and Nelda would still be cleaning house. The good china and silver would be sitting on the kitchen counter top. Nelda would have prepared a fancy dessert that morning. I knew to expect a frozen chicken pot pie for supper. When Nelda went to the bedroom to freshen up and dress up, I put regular coffee in the thirty-cup pot. (No decaf for these folks!)
When Nelda died nineteen years ago, I didn’t want to miss the conversation around the bridge table, particularly with the women. My good friend, Jim Grice, had lost his wife Wanda several years earlier, so I asked Jim to be my bridge partner.
I would clean house on the weekend, put up tables and chairs on Thursday night, and pick up Tippin’s pies after work on Friday. I continued to use the good china and silver, because Nelda always had.
In recent years, I have had a cleaning lady come once a month. Still, my energy for entertaining was a little less each year. While losing energy, I was gaining wisdom. I came to understand that part of the fatigue was stress from trying to impress my friends.
Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” So I asked for more faith. This time I applied faith to my preparations for bridge club. On Thursday afternoon I set up card tables and brought the folding chairs in from the garage.
On Friday afternoon, I cut mozzarella and provolone cheese into bite size pieces and arranged it on a china plate. Toasteds wheat crackers were placed on a napkin in a round, wicker basket. Strawberries were washed, cut, and pierced with a round toothpick and set beside a tiny bowl filled with powdered sugar. A large round bowl held purple grapes. The Planter’s cashew nuts were chosen for my two diabetic guests. The coffee maker was filled with water and decaf coffee. (Only decaf for these folks!)
On my new faith-based schedule, I had time to sit in a den chair and listen to Joni Eareckson Tada sing for twenty-five minutes before my first guest arrived. In a quiet moment, the Holy Spirit said, “Don’t try to impress these friends; just love them.” And so I did. As each guest arrived, I had a verbal greeting, but flowing through my mind was, “I love you, I love you.”
During the course of the evening, I discovered that my friends were not touched by good china and silver, but rather by my love for them. Now you can understand how I could stand in the shower late on a Friday night and feel a sense of exhilaration.
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