What I go back to is my need for community. Intentional space shared with others. That’s what I love and thrive on. I was reminded this weekend all the ways that I’ve created community over the years–through sorority, through ASP, through The Journey, through Inclusives, through international travel, through Women’s Retreat, and so on. I thrive on being around others, I thrive on traditions and deliberate concentrated shared time. And when I feel that void in my life, I create what I need to feel like I’m thriving again. Oftentimes it has the added bonus of being a positive affect on others as well.
This weekend was exactly the community and the people I needed to be around. The endless laughter, the tears, the sweat, the raw honesty, the vulnerability and willingness to go deep, the quiet (and the noise), the nature, the opportunity to reflect and recenter. This group of women fuels my soul. They make me remember that where I am in life is fine, and I am supported and loved come what may.
I’m thankful for the space my friend Anne made by facilitating this weekend. Oftentimes I am the one leading and I so appreciate the opportunity to slow down and not always know what’s next. There are no words for the things shared this weekend–but it was truly exactly what my heart needed.
The idea of community makes me so excited about starting classes and being with a cohort the next three years. This will be a community, people I’m bound to get close to and probably remain colleagues with over the years. It makes me excited about a book club on the horizon–of connecting in a new way with people I know and some I don’t know. It makes me excited about the possibility of another Inclusives Retreat.
Community inspires me, lights me up, drives me forward, and gives me a safe haven. Each community is different: unique and specific in its reach. Generally I create community because of a need I see. But the added benefits are endless. Community helps us dig deep, growth, and flourish.
If you’ve been around me at all the last two years you haven’t been able to escape a discussion on transitions happening at work and our congregation’s decision to relocate. There have been many God moments throughout this process and though pieces feel daunting there is a lot of excitement. This move, once merely on the horizon, is now close within reach and I have been thinking a lot about our temporary/transitional years and what that means as we define or redefine our community. Church will look different. Worship will look different. Fellowship and service work and meetings and, and, and; will look different.
But through all of that we will still be Church, we will still be Community. So what does community mean? What makes a church a church? I did an activity with my kids during Sunday school last week that helped them think about the similarities of our existence when we are in a temp space. I hope it was reassuring for them. And part of that exercise asked them to think about community in creative ways. Here is my list of what church is:
That’s church to me. At the heart it is all about the people and living our lives following in the footsteps of Jesus. We aren’t perfect, we are human. We fail, and we make mistakes, and sometimes we get it wrong. But we keep trying, we keep working, we keep going. Because we know what church means to us.
- Church is a movement. It’s taking a stand for the things we believe in and trying to live our lives the way Jesus lived his.
- Church is family. Not everyone always gets along but there are certain things that unify us. And we love and support each other even when we disagree.
- Church is helping others. It’s about giving back in whatever way we can because we aren’t alone in this crazy world, and we all need help in some form or fashion.
- Church is all generations growing and learning from one another. Everyone is important and every has something to teach and something to learn.
I’ve been writing this blog in my head since my last post. Writing and rewriting and editing and scrapping everything because it didn’t feel right. Not the right time, not the right place, not what I needed right now.
Grief does two things to me I have found: it pushes me inward and closes me off from the world around me–it causes me to focus on me and my tight knit circle who I love and trust. But it also does somewhat of the opposite because it also makes me super needy–I covet communication with my closest friends–I covet their support and words and love and embrace. I reach out often, probably way too much. I become that girl. And sometimes I fear it makes me too clingy and overbearing.
I’ve cancelled a lot of plans recently. It’s nothing against those people or events. I just am discovering more and more what I need. And I am allowing myself to hold fast to that. I have no apologies for it. Explanation when it involves members of my tribe, but never apologies. That wouldn’t be true to me or what I need. And just a word of warning–I don’t plan to apologize for doing what I need to in order to grieve. My grief is mine, no one else’s, and I won’t be held to someone else’s expectations of what my process should look like. I have to proceed in ways that will heal me and help me grow. So, if I am not reaching out to you: first, don’t be offended but second, please don’t try to insert yourself. I can only handle so much–and I decide when and what that is. I am sure in your mind its a nice sentiment, but it’s not helpful at this point. I want to be as authentic and real as possible, but I do try to avoid hurting feelings along the way. However, I’m at a place where I can’t forfeit my well-being for someone else’s. I’ve been reminded a lot this week to “do me”. And in an effort to do just that I put out the disclaimer because otherwise it will lead to 1) me coming across as rude in my blatant dismissal of whatever you put forth or 2) my strained, half-hearted, insincere appreciation that is unfounded and untrue. And those aren’t fair to anyone. Grief hasn’t hardened me, not in this way. It has helped me get back to the core of me. And so, this may seem unseen or unusual–but I have to have authenticity. Anything less creates chaos for everyone involved.
Thank you to those who have let me cling. To those who have reminded me being “self-centered” is okay. To those who have seen me at my worst and keep coming back. Thank you for listening to what I need. This next week is going to be unbearable. It’s going to shake me to my core. I know I’ll be stuck in a fog of sorts. In some ways I already have been. It won’t ever be solved. It won’t ever disappear. But I do believe it will change and evolve and teach me things along the way. It’s already taught me loads about who I need to be and what I need to go from day to day. It’s taught me about self-care and being unapologetically me. It’s taught me about who I surround myself with and how to rely on my faith when all else fails. This entire experience has seen me grow, and if for nothing else I am humbled by that.
I’m not always sure,
Where the journey will lead.
I just know,
I don’t walk it alone.
Community drives me forward,
It holds me close,
It pushes me to be me.
That is the deepest part of who I am,
At my core,
I am community.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to get together with a community of women, most whom I’d never met prior, and celebrate “Women’s Christmas”. If you are interested you can learn more here. It was a wonderful two hours of getting to know one another, openly sharing or experiences and our lives, being vulnerable, laughing, almost crying, and being present.
I am extremely thankful that my friend Anne asked me to be a part of this mini retreat. I am thankful for the five other women who came as well. Their stories are not the same of mine, but we all had glimpses of similarities. It was a comforting reminder that we don’t walk alone and we are not the only ones who walk our path of sorts.
But here’s what I learned:
- There are women out there, like me, who dream. And sometimes we have to be reminded to do this. And sometimes we have to intentionally make space for this. It is a wonderful feeling to have others who encourage us, ask us the deep questions, and remind us that rest is important.
- I have a deep need for community. This is a root of my being, surrounding myself with others (not always like-minded but definitely open-minded) who appreciate questioning and conversation and study time.
- I’m a life-long learner, especially in the areas of faith and spirituality. It excites me, and intrigued me, and helps me better frame and understand the world around me.
- As my chosen word for the year is “create,” I need to make new pockets of community for myself. Book studies, crafting circles, discussion groups, friends of friends, acquaintances and yes–even strangers. My soul craves community in small and large ways. And it is high time I feed that part of me.
I am thankful for being pulled out of my shell last night, for being on the verge of tears at points as stories were told and blessings were shared but still feeling comfortable and supported in that space.
And so I leave you with this blessing by Jan Richardson: