Stepping out onto the patio, I breathe in the scent of freshly cut grass, as I admire the symmetry of its neatly mowed rows. The bright green lawn provides a backdrop for the black wrought iron furniture and crisp white table clothes and candles, punctuated with pops of color from centerpieces of vibrant zinnias, pink peonies, and oversized lilac hydrangeas. These flowers are hand-cut, knowing this will be their final farewell as their autumn cousins, burnt orange mums and yellow sunflowers arrive. Walking to the tables, I savor the touch of the linen napkins, smiling even though they will need to be scrubbed of bright pink and coral lipstick smears tomorrow.

In years past, younger children would be running around playing kickball, laser tag, hide and go seek until it was dark enough to catch fireflies, followed by ghost in the graveyard. The melody of their giggling would infiltrate our adult souls, prompting us to jump up to join the fun. Big kids would help with “the littles”, one big gaggle of suntanned bodies dashing around the perimeter of the yard. And if you could catch a glimpse as they pass by, their smiles are as bright as the setting sun.

I return inside to hear the creak of the Dutch door announcing as each new friend and appetizer arrives. They enter with empty stomachs, yet fully aware they will be filled with more than grilled delights. The guest list will change, including a new acquaintance, or friends from out of town, yet the night will follow the same comforting pattern: the men will drop off bags and head out toward the pungent smells of the firepit, grilled meat, and mosquito repellant. They will jostle and joke and dive into deeper conversation. The women will linger in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on salads, while giving words of encouragement and praises for the small “coincidences” and real changes that only God can provide.

We gather everyone at the tables, to give blessings for the provision of good food, but more so for the friendships that have developed from experiencing the tough spots, … and some ridiculous adventures. I sit back and smile, still in prayer posture, as I silently understand how on these nights together, we are feeding more than our hungry bellies, but our Spirits. For this, I am very grateful.

As the evening continues, additional hurricane candles will be brought out and pashmina scarves offered as the heat dips and the moon rises directly over the woods in the East. Though waistbands are already feeling tight, homemade desserts won’t be turned down. The men will pull up more chairs around the fire pit, my husband will bend over for a sweet kiss as he sits next to me.

I share these memories strung together from too many get-togethers to count. Part of the joy I receive from hosting is in the preparation, but much more so, is in gathering people. It is less about the food and more about the conversation. I bet the same is for you. What’s remembered isn’t which dishes were brought, or the wine we drank, not even what everyone wore (unless it was a vintage Lilly Pulitzer dress, I would remember that), when I think back, smiling at the memories of these old and new friends at my home, what I remember most are the circles: sitting around the tables, around the fire, or in a prayer circle, fully knowing these friends are the exact ones who are meant to be here. Our spirits are connected through faith and friendship.

As you wrap up your summer, do any of these memories sound magical and manageable to you? Invite people over – a few or many. However, detailed or potluck you desire. Enjoy the last nights and gorgeous summer sunsets with “your people.” Ask deep questions. And as you are blowing out the last candles, and picking up the final plates, thank God for every person who showed up. They are a true treasure to you.