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.