When going to Kenya doesn’t make sense

In less than a month, we’ll be on our way to Kenya, and that scares and thrills and excites and terrifies me. wpid-img_20150507_163444.jpg

We’ve been dreaming and planning and thinking about this for about a year and nothing about this trip makes sense. Not really.

15 people taking almost two weeks out of their summer to travel halfway around the world to a continent that is not exactly safe and is certainly foreign in every sense of the word to visit missionaries and serve the students at a school is madness really. It would be so much easier to go to the beach.

If you’ve known Phil and I for any length of time, it won’t surprise you that we do things that don’t make sense.

If we did, then we would have turned around and went home when I wrecked his parents’ car on the way to Pennsylvania the first time, when we were searching for clarity of Phil’s call to ministry, before we were even engaged. We would have gotten married before he deployed to Iraq with the Army. We would have stayed in northern Illinois after we got married so Phil could finish his undergrad and maybe looked at seminaries in the Chicago area. We definitely wouldn’t have moved to Pennsylvania without a guarantee of a place to live. We might have waited to have kids until we were “financially secure.” We might not still be married. We probably would have moved home after seminary when we had no job prospects in Pennsylvania.

The list could probably be longer but I don’t want you to think we’ve totally lost it. Maybe it’s too late for that. Following God’s lead looks foolish sometimes.

But back to Kenya.

I won’t go into all the details, but in a lot of ways, it doesn’t make sense for Phil and I to go to Kenya. We don’t have loads of vacation time to spare. Or tons of extra money lying around. We barely know the missionaries we’re going to visit. And it’s been a long time since either of us has left the country. We have young children we’re leaving behind in the competent care of their grandparents. (But I’m still worried about their health and safety.)

It wasn’t a no-brainer decision for us, but it was something we couldn’t let go.

I was sure that God would close the door anyway when we needed money for the deposit by the end of last year. I gave Him a specific challenge for answering that need, which seemed nearly impossible at the time. And He met it. Exactly as I asked.

That was pretty clear to me.

We couldn’t ignore the nudges we were getting from God. Despite our hesitations and excuses.

There are days I still think this is not a good idea. What were we thinking agreeing to this? (Pictures like this remind me that risks are worth the reward. We’re not just going to see beautiful scenery, but that is one bonus.)

The view from where we'll be | Photo by Alyssa Stoltzfus

The view from where we’ll be | Photo by Alyssa Stoltzfus

And yet, God continues to provide and confirm. He is showing us, at least weekly, that He is in this. He brings donors out of the shadows of our lives–people I would never think of to ask for money are giving generously and sacrificially. Our kids are excited for us and eager to tell others about our upcoming trip. Sometimes I think our daughter wishes she could go. Maybe next time. She’s only 7.

We have a cadre of prayer supporters and while I can’t speak for anyone else on the team, I feel like we’re going to need them. Since we signed up for this trip, we’ve had more troubles in our life than I expected from this year. I try not to blame Satan for every bad thing that happens, but in this case, I’m wondering if there’s an element of spiritual warfare to our fears and discouragements and problems. It could be coincidence, but I’m not sure I believe very firmly in that either.

I wish I could tell you exactly why we’re going to Kenya. Maybe it will be clearer when we’re back. Maybe I’ll never be 100 percent sure. All I know is we couldn’t ignore this press from the Lord and when we stepped out in the uncertain places, He made it more certain.

We will work at the school, assisting with buildings and grounds projects while the students are away. We will support these students whose families give them into the care of the boarding school while they serve the Lord in other parts of Africa. We will visit and encourage and enjoy this missionary family (and we will bring their daughter/sister to them). We will meet Kenyans and worship with them, the same God on a different continent. And we will see things we can only imagine–the beauty of a land half a world away.

If it was up to me, we’d go to the beach for a week. Or rent a cabin in the woods. Or take a week to spend with family back home. We could have made any of those decisions for our summer. But it wasn’t what we were meant to do.

For some reason unknown to us, we’re meant to go to Kenya this year.

If you want to find out more along with us, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter here. No purchase or promise necessary. And if you’d like to be on our support team, for prayer or financially, you can e-mail me at lmbartelt (at) gmail (dot) com for more information.

July 2015 seemed so far away  when we turned in our deposits. And now it’s almost here.

Let the journey begin!

Should we stay or should we go? (And is there a third option?)

It’s been two years since we signed the lease on this partial house that feels like home most days. How we got here is a story all in itself, and if you haven’t heard it, you can read the back story on this blog. (Search for the category “how we got here” in the drop down menu on the sidebar.)

And so we’re here. Still. A year ago, I was in awe of the work God was doing in our lives, the healing He was working just by us being here in this place. It was good, that first year, the kind of rest and recovery we needed after a hard season.

Now, at the end of our second year here, there’s a stirring in my soul and I’m still deciding if it’s holy or selfish or something in between.

See, part of me wants to stay. Here. Forever. Or at least until my kids are done with school. We love our district and the school our daughter attends, which will soon be the school of both of our children. I am making friends with moms at the school and we enjoy living in an area that is diverse and speaks to our love of both city and country. It is becoming home as much as any place can and I am reluctant to even consider leaving it.

Another part of me thinks that’s selfish, though. To be comfortable and happy in a place–is that okay? Doesn’t God want us to suffer a little when we’re following Him? Why would He allow us such joy?

And yet it’s there, in the Old Testament, spoken to a people who spent a hard season, generations really, in slavery in a foreign land. To them, God says, Enjoy the land I’m giving you. Settle down there. Raise your families. Feast on the harvest.

I know these are not direct promises to our family’s situations but these words show me a God who cares about His people, especially those who have suffered. We can rest in His goodness. We can enjoy good things. Not every season has to be a trial. It is okay to flourish in a place that may or may not be home.

Our church had a Skype call with some missionary friends recently. They have served in their country for five years without a lot of results, at least the kind you can see. Our friend expressed his family’s weariness, their wonderings if maybe it was time to move on and find a place that was more receptive to the Good News of Jesus.

Five years seems like a long time, but when Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God, He compared it to things that were small and slow and steady. A mustard seed that doesn’t look like much but grows into a giant tree. Yeast that is almost imperceptible but works through the whole dough. A wheat harvest. There were no timelines, no instant-growth guarantees. Just constancy and faithfulness.

That’s hard.

Sometimes I wish it were easier.

I am mildly obsessed with houses that are for sale. Anytime I see a for sale sign on one of our routes through town, I make a mental note to look it up when I get home, and then I google and scan real estate sites, looking to see how much and what the house is like on the inside.

A house, to me, would mean we were staying. At least for a while. And staying only makes sense if we’re certain. At least that’s what I think. A mortgage, a home that we’re not renting, those are commitments. And there is a bit too much uncertainty yet for me to feel comfortable with pursuing this dream of a house we can call our own.

But the kids are outgrowing their small shared room and though we are making this house ours as much as we can, it will soon be time for us to move on.

Other things have to happen for that to happen, so we’re calling on the God who moves mountains and parts seas to show us the way.  We cannot find it on our own.

Breno Machado | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Breno Machado | Creative Commons | via unsplash

I hate moving, but sometimes going and leaving seem easier than staying.

When I moved back home after college and I was interviewing for jobs, they all asked the same question: how long do you plan to stay? I don’t know if it was because I was 22 or had a restless look in my eyes or what, but my answer was always the same: I’m here until the fall when my best friend gets married. After that, I don’t know.

One job wanted a two-year commitment, which sounded to my 22-year-old self like a life sentence. The job I eventually took I stayed at for 7 years. Life is funny sometimes.

I wanted to go but I was forced to stay and in staying I found friends and a husband and a part of me I didn’t know existed.

Since then, the longest I’ve stayed anywhere was five years, our last home, the place where my husband was in seminary (I still want to write and say “cemetery.”  Freud would have a hey-day with that) and I was constantly looking for a way out.

It’s this way with me: if we’re not going to stay then I’m not going to invest and I know I missed out on relationships and experiences because I was always looking to “next.”

Now, staying has me scared. Because staying means committing. To a place. To a people. It means going deeper in friendships and relationships. It means caring enough to get hurt. It means being faithful even if we don’t see any results.

In some ways, staying feels like giving up. Even though staying is a good thing.

Because once upon a time, we dreamed of leading a church, and that dream could take us in one of many directions: Illinois, Ohio, or parts unknown in Pennsylvania. As long as we were still open to that dream, we could consider getting a call one day that could send us packing.

But the dream has changed. It’s changing still and we can’t really describe it or define it, which makes it difficult to explain. We know more what we don’t want than what we do, and so if we decide to stay here, does that mean we’ve given up on the old dream?

Maybe. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Shannon Richards | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Shannon Richards | Creative Commons | via unsplash

I’m having a hard time hearing from God these days, but that’s my fault, not His. My life is full of distractions and busy-ness and me trying to figure out how to fix everything in my own power and strength, which is almost non-existent.

I am fidgety and restless, desperate for a sign that it’s time to change or move on. I’d even take a clear sign that it’s okay to stay, but so far God doesn’t work like that. If He’s anything, He’s subtle, not because He doesn’t want us to find Him but because He wants us to trust Him. He’s like a guide who has been this way before but carries no map, only the memories of past travels. He is confident in His leading, but to trust Him is an act of faith and takes time.

The more I walk with Him the more I trust Him, but I still get distracted on the path. Worried about bears and snakes and all kinds of trials. Concerned about our provisions for the journey. And like a whining child I ask too often if we’re there yet, even though I have no idea where “there” is.

I imagine His smile as He turns His face toward the sun, basking in another day of life, His steps sure and certain though I see no visible path. When I doubt, He takes my hand and leads. He never gets too far ahead but sets the pace that is best.

Should we stay? Should we go?

I think I’m asking the wrong questions. Because, really, it’s not about the where or the when but the who.

Who will I trust? Who is in charge? Who is leading the way?

If it is Jesus, as I say I believe, then the rest of it doesn’t matter. (Remind me of that when I’m ready to take back control.)

He is the way.

He says, “Follow me.”

He has proven himself trustworthy.

It is time for me to trust Him again.

Who’s got you?

As a child of the ’80s, I have fond memories of Christopher Reeve as Superman. Though the first movie was released the year I was born, I can still remember the thrill of watching this dreamy superhero swoop in and save the day.

One of my favorite exchanges from that movie is when Lois Lane is falling out of a building, I think, and Superman flies up and catches her.

“Easy, miss,” he says. “I’ve got you.”

A panicked Lois looks down and asks, “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?”

Superman flashes her that swoony smile and a love story was born. (For Lois and women everywhere.)

I love that Lois was not exactly comforted by Superman’s statement. She’d probably never met someone with superpowers before and couldn’t understand how she was being carried through the air by another person who was not being carried by something–or someone–else.

It didn’t make sense, humanly speaking.

Of course, Superman wasn’t exactly human.

Which makes me wonder why I try to be superhuman sometimes.

Read the rest of this post over at Putting on the New, where I blog on the 12th of each month.

Fear, the presence of evil and why I sometimes don’t want to leave my house

Earlier this month, on my birthday no less, our son “discovered” the presence of a snake living nearby. I say  “discovered” because he was minding his own business, our son, when he noticed the long black creature next to the driveway. We all stood on the porch transfixed as this 5 1/2 foot reptile slithered back into the neighbor’s yard and disappeared into the brush beneath a large tree.

My husband alerted the neighbors and for the next several days, every time we left the house, I looked around the yard and ahead on our path to the van to see if anything creepy or crawly would prevent us from getting where we needed to go.

I was alert, aware of an unwanted presence, cautious.

How We Respond to Fear

The snake didn’t stop us from spending time outside, but it did change our behavior a bit. No longer did our yard feel like a safe and carefree place to play. I personally didn’t relax as much when we were outside and my eyes roved the base of the tree, looking for movement. (I should  mention, also, that thanks to a Google search, we didn’t fear we’d be hurt by the snake. Not venomous.)

A week passed and I let my guard down. I still looked around, but the fear waned. Maybe it found a new home, I thought.

And then, about 10 days after the first sighting, the snake showed up again. On our way back from the bus stop, we noticed it on the side of our tree near the house. The kids and I made a wide path to get to the porch and into the house. My husband declared he would catch it and we would then call someone. I took a picture from the safety of the house and then we watched as it slithered/crawled/climbed the base of the tree and found a path across the branches of our tree above our driveway and back into the neighbor’s tree where it apparently lives. wpid-20150515_155056.jpg

I posted the picture to Facebook because I’ve never seen a snake this big outside of a zoo or that wasn’t in the hands of a trained professional. I was understandably freaked out by its proximity to our house and the fact that it used the tree branches like a bridge. (Visions of the snake dropping out of the tree onto my head or the roof of the van plagued me for a couple of days.)

We’ve not seen the snake again yet, though as I write this, 10 days haven’t passed since the last sighting. I’m no snake expert, so I don’t know if that’s the usual amount of time between feedings.

After posting the picture on Facebook, we saw a couple types of response: multiple offers to come get the snake (these people are my 911 right now); and bold assertions that we should move, kill it or never go outside again. None of those is terribly realistic, but I understand where it comes from. My eyes are constantly searching the branches and tree trunks for this creature. It’s only a matter of time before it emerges again.

(And if that picture gives you the willies, then here’s a happier picture to focus on.)

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What Fear Does To Us

My son and I took a walk a few days ago. It was a rare morning when he didn’t have preschool and it was cool and we didn’t have anything pressing on the agenda. So, we walked a short stretch of sidewalk near our house.

We hadn’t gotten very far when I saw it on the side of the road: a much smaller snake with different coloring than the one in our yard. It wasn’t moving. Probably dead, I thought. Just breathe and don’t panic. We were safely on the sidewalk and it was lifeless on the shoulder and cars passed by as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

By the time we’d finished our walk, I had myself convinced it was a copperhead, one of the poisonous variety of snake, and I was internally freaking out about so many snakes being in the neighborhood. I felt like Indiana Jones. Why did it have to be snakes?!?

Wanna hear something embarrassing?

It didn’t occur to me until HOURS LATER that the snake we saw on our walk was probably a child’s toy. We live near a large apartment complex, so it was far more likely a realistic-looking toy than it was a dead snake.

I was influenced by the fear I’d been harboring for a week. I was thinking about the snake in our yard, so what I perceived about the side-of-the-road snake was a threat, not something harmless.

Isn’t that just like fear? It clouds my perception and twists reality and alters my mind. I could have let a toy limit my life because fear was in charge.

The Alternative to Fear

In our house, we’ve chosen to fight fear with facts and truth, which in some strange way aren’t always the same thing. (You can find a lot of facts on WebMd but it’s not necessarily true that your symptoms are a sign of a deathly illness.)

The first time we saw the snake, the kids and I decided we’d get some books from the library about snakes and learn about them. The next day, my daughter brought home a book about black mambas. (They live in Africa.) And my son picked out a book about green tree pythons. (They’re found in New Guinea.) We did eventually find some information relevant to our snake, and we talked to a few people who have more hands-on knowledge than we do, so we’re feeling less fear about our snake.

One Facebook comment from a friend warned me to not let the snake sell me any fruit. (Referencing Eve in the Garden of Eden, in case you don’t know.) I laughed.

And then I realized something I’d never thought about. Yes, Eve was tempted by the snake and she fell for his trap. But she wasn’t afraid of the snake when he first started talking to her.

I don’t know many people who approach snakes calmly, so it’s hard to imagine living in a garden and not being afraid of any of the creatures that live there, not even a snake.

What must it have been like to live completely without fear?

I literally can’t imagine it because there are so many things I fear. (And yes, we are going to Kenya and that fills with me fear as much as it does excitement.)

Sometimes I don’t want to leave the house because there is evil and potential for harm OUT THERE. Not to mention the problems in my own heart, in my own home, but still, it’s easier to believe sometimes that the world is scary and my house is safe so I will not leave it unless absolutely necessary.

But then something happens to bring the fear inside, like your husband finding a tick on his leg a full 24 hours after he’d been outside working and you begin to imagine that everyone in the family is covered with ticks and we’ll all have Lyme disease any minute and there must be ticks in our bed.

That’s where fear leads. And it’s no place good.

And I’m no expert on overcoming fear, but I can tell you one thing I’ve learned about fighting fear:

You take it one step at a time. Sometimes literally.

Every  time I leave the house or sit outside on the porch or take a hike in the woods, I’m fighting fear. I’m declaring that fear is not the winner today because snakes and ticks are a part of creation and I will trust the God Who created, whether He keeps me free of snake bites or Lyme disease or any other “bad” thing that might come my way.

Living a fearful life is exhausting. I know this from experience and I still fall into its trap.

But even if the fear doesn’t go away completely, it fades every time I bring that fear out of the darkness and into the light. We talk about. We read about it. We face it. And sometimes we do all of that with a side of fear, still.

How about you?

What do you fear? And how do you fight it?

What we really need when we’re suffering

On one of the busy highways near our house, it’s nothing out of the ordinary to see hundreds of semi-trucks passing through.

What is out of the ordinary is that on one Sunday a year, more than 300 trucks travel a 28-mile loop at 30-40 miles per hour, and people pull over and line the roads and bridges to watch.

It’s an intentional convoy in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, one part of a day full of activities raising money and celebrating the work of an organization that is in the trenches with families whose lives revolve around illnesses, hospital visits, doctors and medicines.

We first learned about this convoy last year when, from our house near the highway, we heard honking and sirens. Neither is unusual for the area in which we live, but it sounded like something major was going on. We couldn’t find any reports on the live incident website that is our standard source of information, and then we must have googled it or something and we found out that this is an on-purpose cacophony.

This year, we decided to set up a blanket at the park and watch the convoy, instead of just listening to the sounds of it from afar.

What an amazing experience.

The speed limit on the highway is 65-plus, yet people lined the roadway, sitting in lawn chairs, or in their cars with the hatches open. Dozens of people gathered at the park, and the overpasses, also, drew a crowd of onlookers.wpid-20150510_142657.jpg

We waited till we heard the first sounds and then it got exciting as we waved to the trucks that passed by.

I can only imagine what was going through the minds of those traveling on the highway that day. Some of them waved at us. Others took the first opportunity to pass the slow-moving trucks. Some seemed oblivious that anything was out of the norm.

How can they not notice? I thought.

Imagine you are in a battle. A fight for your life. Or the life of someone you love. Or for your marriage. Or for sanity.

Whatever the battle, it is day in, day out. No vacation. No rest. There is never time off.

You are weary. Exhausted. Tired in soul and spirit and body and mind. What little rest you get is plagued by worries and nightmares and fears. Maybe there’s an occasional respite. Maybe not. But no matter what, you press on. You show up to do the next hard thing. And the next. And you don’t know when or how or where or if it will end or end well.

Most of the people you know are either oblivious to the battle or fighting their own similar battle and so you either find yourself at a loss for words trying to describe what it’s like or you’re commiserating with people whose situations are as bad or worse than yours.

Hope. Joy. They’re in short supply.

But then something crazy happens. A bunch of people get together and they acknowledge your pain. More than that, they see it. And they say, “We’re here for you. Even if we don’t really know how to help, we’re with you. You’re not forgotten. Keep fighting. Keep going.”

They call everyone they know and they pick a day and they donate their time and fuel for their vehicles and they say, “We don’t care what it costs us, we’re going to make some noise for your cause.”

And then they do that. They make a whole lot of noise. Horns and sirens and engine brakes. For 28 miles, anyone within ear shot knows that something big is happening. And they attract attention. People who otherwise might not remember that there are people suffering and fighting and battling hard stuff show up and they cheer and they say, “We’re with you, too.”

For one day, instead of a weary warrior, you’re practically a celebrity. You are riding in semi-trucks and fire trucks and dump trucks, waving to people who are with you and for you, even if they have no idea who you are.

For one day, you are celebrated. And seen. For one day, you believe you can make it another day.

I have not personally watched anyone battle cancer. My kids have not spent more than a couple of nights in the hospital in their entire lives. I don’t know what it’s like to center your entire life on hospital visits and medicines. I have watched from the outside as family members live this life, and I have felt helpless. And inspired. I’ve said the wrong thing and done the wrong thing or done or said nothing, which is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

I do not know physical suffering, but I have known emotional suffering. The battle was not for my  body but my mind, not for a sick kid but a marriage in need of healing.

So I can’t speak for families with cancer or terminal illnesses, but I know that when we were suffering, what we needed was what I saw at the convoy.   We needed cheerleaders. People to stand with us and encourage us, to see our suffering and acknowledge it existed. To convince us that another day of fighting through was worth it. That we weren’t alone.

Some of our best memories of our season of suffering are of people who stood by us and didn’t give up. Who loved us and prayed for us and stood with us in the most difficult days. When our heads were filled with sadness and despair, they made some noise in the form of encouragement and truth. They believed what we couldn’t, that we would get through this and good would come of it.

I know that those are sometimes the wrong words to say, or sometimes they are said at the wrong time, but whether spoken out loud or not, they are an important message to  those who are suffering. Sometimes, they are “spoken” just by showing up.wpid-20150510_134834.jpg

In reality, there are lots of things we need when we’re suffering, but there’s no one-size-fits-all list of what that is. Every situation, every person, every family will require something different.

But I don’t know anyone in any kind of suffering who couldn’t use a friend. Even an imperfect one, willing to show up, ask questions, and do the wrong thing with the right heart is a blessing.

Nobody wants to fight alone or be forgotten.

Suffering is a lonely place sometimes.

Take a page from the book of a truck convoy. Show up. Make some noise. Cheer them on.

What have you most appreciated from people in a time of suffering? What have you least appreciated?

What ways do you show people you care when they are facing tough times?

The question I can’t stop thinking about

A few nights ago, at the invitation of friends, Phil and I attended a dinner, Celebrating HOPE, highlighting the work of HOPE International. If you aren’t familiar with what they do, check out their website and be amazed. It’s not charity. Not at all. And it’s inspiring.

We said “yes” because a) it was a chance for a night out downtown and b) we like the work HOPE is doing and c) even though I’m an introvert, the friend who asked is one with whom I could always spend more time.

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After a rooftop selfie at the parking garage, we entered the hotel/convention center unaware of what the evening would bring. A good meal, sure. Fun times with friends, definitely.

But it was the stories, and a question, that stuck with me.

HOPE works with people around the world to break the cycle of poverty through savings groups, small business loans and training. President and CEO Peter Greer spoke about how working with HOPE has changed him. Now when he reads the news about conflicts and disasters, he sees more than just a global story; he sees people he’s met or who work with HOPE groups in places like Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine and Haiti.

And he talked about how people often respond in two ways to overwhelming global needs: they either become defeatist and feel nothing because they don’t think they can help or they behave like saviors, thinking they are the answer to the world’s problems.

“We were never meant to be the Savior,” he said.

And then he told us what people living in poverty actually need.

People in poverty don’t need our pity or our charity. They need our partnership.

One of the ways HOPE begins that partnership is by asking people about their dreams. Because rich or poor; young or old; American, European, African, or Asian, we all have dreams.

The most challenging part of the night came, though, when the HOPE country director from Rwanda shared about a biblical message that is helping people overcome the feeling of helplessness. When we lack, he said, we often think “If only this or that was different.” Instead of wondering what life  would be like if we had more or different, he challenged people–including us–to answer this question:

What’s in your hands?

You can watch the inspiring video here. It’s almost 8 minutes long, but it’s worth your time.

“What’s in your hands?”

That’s the question I can’t stop thinking about. Because each of us has something. Time. A talent. A skill. Maybe money. HOPE encourages people to consider this question and use it as an investment.

I was humbled by the stories we heard about what people are doing with a little bit of loaned money and the talents they have. They have gardens and sweet shops and salons. They run laundry businesses and restaurants. They are elderly and young, fathers and mothers. The winner of the organization’s annual award is man who is raising 5 biological children and taking care of 11 orphans while also running a farm and restaurant. His goal? To help one person every day so that 365 lives a year are impacted.

My reaction after that night is to feel guilty. That I was born in the West. That I have so much and still find ways to complain. That my goals for life are not nearly so noble.

But that’s defeatist, and I don’t want to be that. And I don’t have any answers that would lead me to think I could save the world.

So, I’m left with partnership. And the question: What’s in my hands?

Today, I write about HOPE International because this blog is in my hands. It isn’t much, but I want you to know about these amazing people who are not content to live in poverty but who are given the chance to follow their dreams and change their communities. And I want you to know about this organization that literally invests in people’s dreams. And if you’re opposed to the idea of charity, then check out the work of HOPE.

And maybe ask yourself the question, too?

What’s in your hands?

The one who makes room

One of my best memories of high school (and there are few) is the lunch table where my friends and I gathered daily to share a meal. We always chose a circular table, rather than the long, rectangular ones. Maybe it felt more intimate or inclusive. I don’t know why, really, but I remember the tradition of finding a circle table and pulling up chairs and squeezing in around it.

The table was meant to seat six, maybe eight, but as the year went on, we found ourselves making room for one more person, and one more. There were days that 10 or more teenagers squeezed around this table, elbows bumping, food overlapping, personal space non-existent.

And it wasn’t that any of us was popular or well-known or even particularly well-liked. No, we were more like a band of misfits. We worked on the school newspaper, played in the band, got good grades. You know who we were. We were not flamboyant or funny. In a crowd, we’d usually blend in.

But at lunch, we came together as a group.

And we made room.

Paweł Wojciechowski | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Paweł Wojciechowski | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Read the rest over at Putting on the New, where I blog on the 12th of each month.