Belonging

I’ve been here just over two months. People often ask what I think so far. This question feels so broad.

My typical answer has been something like this:
“I really enjoy my job and my students. I love what I’m learning, but wish I could learn it outside of the context of school. I’m having a hard time keeping up with the school work, but it’s happening. I’m just not sure how well I fit here or who I’m connecting with.”

I long for a sense of belonging. Who are my people? How do I fit in this place?

What does it mean to belong?
-to be the member of, the property of, or a part of
-to be in, be affiliated to/with, be allied to, be associated with, be linked to, be an adherent of
-to be in a close or intimate relationship
-to be connected

Today, I opened an Amazon package and was confused, did I order in the middle of the night, half by accident…again? Is this another Mouse Rat shirt? It was a MAIGG water bottle. A whole family from church has these water bottles. There’s a note. She writes that she wanted to fill it with enjoy life candy bars and tie an orange ribbon, but she’ll let me imagine. I will imagine. It’s a good image. 

This generous and thoughtful gift spoke to me of belonging. I belong with their family. Their people will be my people. We drink out of the same bottles. We are bound together. 

I think of the movie, The Blind Side, when Michael Oher answers the question about why he wanted to go to Ole Miss. He simply says, “because it’s where my family goes to school.” His belonged with his family. He belonged at Ole Miss, a school that bound his family together. 

I’m a part of, affiliated with, in, associated with, linked to, close with, and connected to lots of groups…lots of people. 

Within the bonds of Christ the common ground of the gospel binds us to one another. Sometimes the bonds are less visual than all sitting in front of the same television show together or all drinking Starbucks arm in arm, but I no less belong to these people, to the truth of Christ, and to countless communities to some degree or another. 

I worked a puzzle last night and sometimes want to work my life in the same way where I fit on all sides just perfectly jammed in with the perfect others. Upon deeper thought, I don’t believe this is how we belong. I think we belong to one another in the same way that Mama’s homemade pizza was bound together…hodgepodge and delicious. I loved these pizzas, often made with toast or leftover hamburger buns and topped with whatever needed to be eaten. Leftover sloppy joe meet instead of pizza sauce? Sure! Cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella? Why not? We don’t fit in a neat and tidy way; we fit in a thrown together way. We choose to bloom where we’re planted and connect within those places. The connections may not be the most natural, but they compensate with intentionality.

As I carry this bottle around, I will carry a tangible reminder of the choice to belong and the way others have chosen to belong to me. My family drinks out of these bottles, my family reminds me of where I belong – with them and with our Jesus.

*Sidenote: I feared this would be my first birthday in which there was no gift to open, and God knew that hurt my heart and he sent me this gift through these people. He is so personal to me and loves me in the most tangible puzzle-piece like ways that speak powerfully to my heart. He is faithful, always faithful.

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Home?

Home.

Am I homeless?
Where is my home?
What makes a home?

I’m reminded of the P.D. Eastman (Dr. Seuss) classic, Are You My Mother? With each turn of the page, baby bird asks “Are you my mother?” Page after page, no affirmative response is found.

I ask myself, almost as often as others ask me, “where is home?”

Could Las Vegas be home? I was born there. Could the Oklahoma house be home? Our ranch style home with a big backyard, trees for climbing, a basketball hoop in the front, and a swing set out back was the house where I spent the longest continuous stretch of time. Could Okinawa be home? I spent six of my most formative years in this island paradise, albeit divided by a six year stent in America. Is Colorado home? I have spent over a decade in this beautiful state and currently reside here. Can I call a whole state home or would I need to pick one of the seven spaces I’ve inhabited during the last ten years? Is Virginia home? As a seventh grade student being told she was moving across the globe in a matter of weeks, nowhere on the planet felt more like home. Could Alabama be home? I almost laugh recounting the mere ten months I spent in a town where it can’t be determined whether the good-ol-boy-racism or the combined heat and humidity were more stifling. The one factor that lets Alabama keep its’ place on the list is that it is the one place where we lived that I can picture my dad in the home.

Perhaps all of these places are home. Or maybe none at all.

What is a home?

Online dictionaries defined the word with several similar descriptions varying only by small nuances.

Below are definitions that struck within me a twinge of longing.

-the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered
-the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household
-an institution for people needing professional care or supervision

Home – the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered. My domestic affections do not center on any house, nor do they land on any town, base, or city.

Home – the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. The only place I’ve ever planted myself permanently is earth. I’m just not akin to permanence. My family was a hodgepodge of my immediate family, the awacs community, and the body of Christ, all of which were in a constant state of flux.

Home – an institution for people needing professional care or supervision. I cannot imagine a place feeling less like home than a facility. Circumstances may necessitates such a living situation, but the term home should never have to be shared with such a place devoid of all comforts and familiarity.

I may not have a place to call home, but my heart did; it felt at home with him. In his arms. By his side. My domestic affections were centered on him. With him, I planned to live permanently, especially as members in our little family. Amidst the protective bounds of the institution of marriage we could live cared for and supervised. Housed within an unswerving loyalty, I felt free to rest in the comfort and familiarity of life together – home.

This home burned to the ground, like every other ‘home’ of my childhood.

I begin to gather the things – the mementos, symbols, and reminders of a life that was, that is no longer. I save things as a way to preserve the memories of the lives I’ve left behind. I keep shells, journals, photos, rocks. I hold each tangible piece of my life in the palms of my hands and I do my absolute best to freeze time. I grasp at each grain of sand as it falls through through my fingers and through the hourglass, begging for just two more minutes (mittens). No one hears my pleas. Time moves on and I must find a new home. I slowly press on. I look back. I always look back. With me I drag bags and boxes filled to the brim with the representations of home.

I carry home with me, exhausting as it may be.

For Better or For Worse

I’m a big fan of great television shows. I was just thinking about all of the shows that I have religiously followed. Looking back, I am someplace in between proud and embarrassed to admit the shows that I have faithfully followed. I have seen every episode of every show listed below (the number of seasons is noted to the right of each show) at least once. 

Grey’s Anatomy – 13
19 Kids and Counting – 10
The Office – 9
How I met Your Mother – 9
Parks and Rec – 7
Gilmore Girls – 7
Pretty Little Liars – 7
Good Luck Charlie – 4
Arrested Development – 4
Lie to Me – 3

I have ‘endured’ some of these shows for better or for worse. I watched as producers killed off my favorite characters, corrupted the stories with values I disagreed with, and  dragged plot lines out far longer than necessary. I patiently waited months through the off-season wondering how the cliff-hanger ending would be resolved. I re-watched episodes to savor the emotion and to analyze the details. I watched these shows when I laid in bed sick, when I wanted to celebrate finished school projects, or when I wanted a distraction from the hard of reality. Sometimes I stuck with these shows because they gripped me until the very last time the credits rolled and sometimes I held a firm grasp on the shows because I’m a compulsive finisher. As long as episodes were running, I was committed. It’s jarring to see how the number of years my marriage lasted utterly pales in comparison. How could our dedication to television shows so far outlast our devotion to our vows. What happened to the promise to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to submit as to the Lord, to love as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it, to love and to cherish as we adventure together?

My marriage – 2.5

The story is not over. 9 years elapsed between the end of Gilmore Girls and the revival of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the life, 14 years passed between the end of Boy Meets World and the start of Girl Meets world, and 21 years separate the end of Full House and the beginning of Fuller House.

The story is not over yet.

When Hurting Helps

Wounds cut deep pathways through me. Blood ran, not mine, but His. His blood ran over and through each painful piece. He grieved with me. He suffered for me. Each cut begged for more blood to spill. And freely it flowed.

His mercies have been healing waters that gently flowed over deep wounds, stinging at first, then soothing. Restoration came. On the surface, the cuts healed. The gaps were sealed. The voids were filled. Scabs replaced open, oozing wounds. Restoration was perceived. I wanted to believe that the healing was complete, however, each time I moved into those places of pain, each time I bent the site of a laceration, the crevice would open again. Blood would drizzle, puss would leak, but each time the lesion was opened, the discharge and accompanying distress was lessened. Stopping all movement tempted me, but moving through the pain was the only way to prevent muscle atrophy. The process of cleansing cuts and sores became routine in a way that steadied me. Some days the process yielded relief, while other days it produced tears.

He was the blood, the byproduct of the wounding. He was the cleansing water, the soothing ointment, and the poignant antiseptic, the treatment of the injury. He was the hand to hold through the aching, the shoulder to cry on amidst the pain, and the great rescuer to scoop me up and hold me close until the affliction subsided. He tenderly attended to my tenderness at the site of each gash.

Total restoration may never happen in this broken world, but the process has begun. Pain will not be a roadblock on this journey. Though pain can bring attention to an injury, it must never be given the power to inhibit healing. This recovery road is rocky, but there are caring communities and restful streams scattered along the way. There is also a great companion, a healing buddy, to journey alongside me. He runs ahead to clear the way, he offers protection by watching my back, and he holds me hand when I feel like I can’t take another step. I am never alone.

Each hard has been graced with love, more love than I would ever have known if I never experienced such scathing. I have always believed a special bond emerges through shared suffering. What joy to have forged such a bond with my sweet Jesus.

“Suffering isn’t a mistake, and it isn’t the absence of God’s goodness, because He is present in pain.” – Kara Tippetts

Courage, dear heart

Last night I shared. I opened my heart and exposed my wrestling; I disclosed an ache that keeps me up at night.

I woke up exemplifying what Brene Brown terms a ‘vulnerability hangover’ – the feelings of ‘why did I share so much?’ and just generally feeling yuck – physically sick – caused by the emotional energy exerted to share. I even took a half day off work.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ordinary courage.”-brene brown

To my people – I want to say thank you. Thank you for your courage in asking the hard questions. Thank you for your courage in sharing, vulnerably, the wrestling you face. Thank you for staying up into the depths of the night to be light amid much darkness. Thank you for lending your strength in communication to my inadequate words. Thank you for your empathy and absolute lack of condemning judgement. Thank you for pushing me to pray expectantly, hope persistently, and press on fiercely. You are my family, my community, my people. You are my safe place. You encourage me to be courageous. Thank you.