Saturday, January 27, 2024

Thursdays with Jenni (or Introducing Jenni)

In 2020 Jenni and her sister Joelle (along with her family) came into our lives. They had moved to Alaska and settled in at the church where we attended and served as Associate Pastors.  Joelle and Jenni began attending our online ladies Bible studies - covid close down y'all.  Both girls are pure gold; but I'm going to focus on Jenni for a minute here.  Over time Jenni began serving with youth and was also the church's Children's Director. She joined our life group, and our lives began intersecting in numerous ways. The girls knew her as a youth leader. Stacia interned with her in Children's Ministry. We all interacted at life group. I found connections with her from us both being missionary kids...and hearing her experience 30 years after my experience began to bring healing to parts of my life.  We enjoyed tea, dinners, Sunday meals out, retreats, Costco short, we offered community to Jenni.   In those early days when she was new to life group and we knew we were inviting her out a lot, we made clear to her we would NEVER try to fix her up with one of our sons. Several of the Gherkins have been single in their 30's and we know how hard that can be at church. She became family rather quickly.  Those who know our ministry know we spent decades ministering to 20's and 30's and it is rather common for us to have a few singles join our family.  It was familiar. 

We became aware rather early Jenni and Jamin, our son, had met online and didn't hit it off. That's fine. Our love and commitment to both continued. 

Then came October 2023.  

Josiah was murdered and we stepped back from all ministry responsibilities, focused our ministry on family, and began to attend church in Eagle River with Carrie and many of our kids.  As we talked this over as a family an expressed fear was losing our local community of support.  The girls both voiced not wanting to lose Jenni. Michael and I predicted we would not lose Jenni. During this time one young friend mentioned we'd still have friendships, we'd just have to work harder to maintain them as routine meet ups were no longer built into our weeks. This has proven true. Those who have wished to maintain relationship have done so. 

ANYWAY, back to JENNI.  She knows the art of sitting with those in the ashes. She came over and brought favorite ice cream flavors from Big Dippers and hot drinks. She came just to sit.  She went to court with us and stayed close. She brought ingredients over and cooked dinner and stayed when invited to eat with us.  One night the house was full and loud, and it was wonderful...but I was suddenly overwhelmed. I retreated to my recliner in the nook and sat with my grief. Jenni came, sat at my feet, gave me a foot massage and simply cried with me.  Visitors here for the funeral began to ask me who Jenni was, and several commented she and Jamin would make a great couple. I told them Jenni was OUR person and that was quite enough. We were totally staying away from any matchmaking. There was one afternoon when the girls were out in the yard with Jenni and Jamin went out. They began throwing a squash (a decoration long past it's time) across the yard. And I thought and commented to Michael, "Hmm, there may be something there that wasn't there before." 

Over time Thursdays became our night with Jenni. This is the night we previously had life group. It fit our current schedules. It wasn't just kept happening...dinner, games, conversation.... sometimes she didn't work on Friday and could stay late or sleep over, other times it was an earlier night.  We invited her (and Jamin too) to a Christmas play and a few things like that. She became more and more a part of family...and we joked about her "other family" and needing to be sure we shared well.  Jenni is now on our calendar. Most Thursdays find us enjoying dinner together and then watching an episode of All Creatures... while the girls knit and such. 

I think it was late into December when we became aware Jamin and Jenni were spending time hiking, skiing, being friends. We offered no unsolicited advice. We did not discuss this with Jenni, didn't tell the girls, we were determined not to get into the middle of their friendship.

Mid-January Jenni flew back into state and went to a gala with Jamin that night.  THAT'S a real friend...or maybe...yeah...friends. 

January also found Jenni attending meet ups Jamin hosts for those whom he sells houses too.  They were climbing glaciers, hiking buttes and sledding to find the perfect spots for winter meet ups. 

One afternoon they stopped over and it seemed obvious to all four of us they were probably more than friends...but we were determined not to make assumptions.  They finally told us... Yep....they are officially dating. 

There seems to have been a bit of confusion so to be clear - they are not engaged, they are dating.  We asked only that Jamin remember she was OUR girl first and honor Thursdays with Jenni.  (Alright, y'all we'll flex as needed.) 

I had been thinking I should explain who Jenni is as she is often in our stories, and now that they are dating, I certainly needed to say something or y'all would begin asking. 

Note the ice on the beard and eye lashes. LOL 

Hiking a glacier in negative temps - yep they're both crazy that way. 

I could say much more - but this is enough to introduce Jenni to you. I've said it before - friends from different generations have the potential to enrich life. I'm so glad Jenni and I (and Jenni and the girls) are friends.  We're also pretty happy she's dating Jamin. 

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