This word – belong – it feels appropriate, meaningful, after weeks of being in and out of the homes of family and extended family and strangers-who-are-actually-family and friends. We’ve driven miles upon miles of late, through a handful of massive western states, and hashed and rehashed conversations, trying again and again to be the ministers of reconciliation that we’re called to be. Well, that doesn’t quite sound right. But that line from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has come to mind at least a time or two for me – isn’t that what it’s all about, the ministry of reconciliation? Ultimately reconciliation to God, but these past few weeks have been filled with many opportunities, some grabbed onto and others lost, for reconciliation between people.
What does it really mean to be part of a family? I’ve wondered this as well. I’ve married into this family I’ve been visiting and I’m still an outsider in many ways. Going through the photo albums means weeding out handfuls of pictures that don’t belong anymore because that person isn’t part of the family any more. (Divorce seems like such a terrible thing.) I’m a recent addition – just 3 years – and in some ways, I feel the shortness of that period of belonging. I hear the reminiscing, the stories, the nostalgia, the anger, the hurt, the bitterness, the resentment, the longing, and I know I have barely scratched the surface of this family’s collective story. But I want to belong and so I listen closely, I balance in the awkward tipping point between my comfort zone and their modus operandi. Going forward, I am part of the writing of this family story. I belong in it, even if I don’t quite all the time feel that I belong yet.
(After about a bajillion years of blog silence, okay, just a month, I’m breaking the ice with a post in response to the writing prompt courtesy of Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday writing challenge – 5-minute free write, free of editing and self-critique. Check out her blog at lisajobaker.com).
I’m lucky enough to know a few of them, those women who grip a little candle with white knuckles against the frightening darkness, who stand up to the experts, the white coats, the teachers, coaches and tell them the Truth. She is one of them.
I completely dismissed this friend, back when we were friends, but I didn’t even know if wanted to be her friend. I snubbed her, felt that I knew how to live life better. But when she graduated college, it was more of a victory. School was easy for me, but hard for her. An extra year later and she triumphantly crossed the stage with her nursing degree. Not too many years later, she’s using it unexpectedly and she herself says that this must be why she has that hard-earned degree, that life-sustaining skill – so that she can handle endless nights and days of feeding tubes and IV lines and sterilization and complicated medication regimen and countless doctors’ visits and days and hours and months living alone in a huge city, far away from her husband, at the bedside of her precious firstborn who has fought so hard for life in just his first year of it.
I’ve asked her forgiveness and she’s been gracious enough to extend it to me. And I can see a little now that I was oh-so-wrong about her when we were roommates a handful of years ago.
a post that feels unfinished in response to Lisa-Jo Baker’s prompt for Five Minute Friday – five minutes of free writing, unedited, silencing the inner critic. Check out the other posts here.
How many people have we had over for dinner in the past few weeks, couple months? It’s a lot and I’m really beginning to love this. It’s my sister who is teaching me how. I’m not sure where she learned it, but as it turns out we both have the desire within us I guess, to feed people, to invite them into the small space we have to offer, to talk and laugh and pray. I guess it seems like a good way to be human together. To know each other better.
I’m learning that hospitality is about offering and loving with what we have, with no worries about mismatched dishes, or using small forks because we run out of large ones, or our small house and tinier kitchen. No one seems to mind. Everyone always says what a nice time they’ve had and thank you so much for inviting us over. It doesn’t even seem to matter what food is served. I guess as people we just want to be together and when we’re offered an opportunity to be loved, to love, the external trappings of the event don’t matter as much.
I’m thankful for this. It is good for my heart, to be humbled like a child into giving from what I have and experiencing the delight when somehow that small gift spreads and returns joy to others.
What jumps out at me is the word “courage” hiding in the middle of the word “encouragement.” Because that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? I need courage. We all need it. Somehow encouraging is a way of giving courage.
You wouldn’t know that courage was something that could be shared or given or received. But I guess I’ve experienced that even today, in the texting interchange with a sister who sent me goofy pictures of cheerleaders and fireworks and ridiculous quantities of emoticons to accompany me on my journey through the last work day of my week. Mostly I hadn’t thought I could make it to my goal for the week. But she thought I could do it, even though I figured she should know better (“if she only knew what I know, she wouldn’t be so positive…”).
I guess that’s the main thing about courage. Maybe it’s related to faith in that it’s counting on stuff you can’t see. And with encouragement, it seems like you’re counting on the unseen stuff on someone else’s behalf, laughing and crying out over the noise of all the “I can’ts” and “it won’t work’s” and “that would nevers” to be courageous when they aren’t quite there yet.
Written in conjunction with Lisa-Jo Baker’s “Five Minute Friday” prompt, a 5-minute unedited, unfiltered response to a one-word prompt (although I must confess I wrote the last 9 words after my 5 minutes were already up!).