Risk

The Road Trip

General wisdom would tell you that it isn’t a good idea to get into a car with women you met online. There is, of course, the matter of safety. After all, you might end up dead on the side of the road. But, aside from that, there is the near guarantee of sheer awkwardness.

Hours in the car with women you know from the internet? Sharing a small house, that has one bathroom, with 9 other women? And a party with 200 plus whom you have only interacted with on Facebook? It just sounds like a recipe for disaster.

And yet…

Last weekend, I went on an adventure. I took a road trip with my internet community. 5 of us caravanned to Austin and we were later joined by 5 others in our tiny house. Together, the ten of us went to a backyard party with 200 other women. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Community has been difficult for me the past two years. I don’t share that so you will throw me a pity party. (I’ve thrown enough of my own over it and they aren’t the best sort of parties.) It has caused me to review my years on this planet and examine the communities of which I have had the joy of being a part. There are many flashes of healthy friendships, strong community, but that’s the thing. Those moments feel like flashes in the pan. Just little sparks of hope in the midst of something that seems more often than not to be difficult and painful.

It isn’t anyone’s fault. It is everyone’s fault. Mine too. It’s our brokenness. It’s our looking to others to make us feel whole. And it’s no one’s fault. We live in a transient culture. People don’t stay put. Interests change, seasons change, locations change. This has always been one of the most difficult realities for me to grasp. It began in college. I had friends one semester who I never saw the next. I hated it. I thought it would end after graduation. I was wrong. Now, seasons seem to change a bit slower, no longer semester by semester. However, it also takes longer to bond with adult peers than it did with college peers. Everyone has routines, responsibilities, and reputations to uphold. We don’t let people in very quickly.

So I have been in a season of isolation, and it has been wrecking me. But then I joined this launch team. Large groups of women generally make me want to run and hide. So much estrogen. Lord bless us. And internet community? …well that isn’t a real thing, right? I figured I would read a book, get a glimpse into the mind of an author I highly respect, and that would be it. A great experience, but contained within my own walls, within a few months.

Instead, I have found this community. Women who have loved me in the biggest ways. Women who have lived the gospel. Sacrifice for the others, crying tears over someone else’s pain, and then throwing the best girls’ weekend of all time.

On Friday morning, the first crew of 5 went to South Congress after a fantastic lunch at The Salt Lick. We knew some other of the launch team ladies would be there but how to find them…we had no idea. We parked and headed to the crosswalk, and just across the street, we saw them…another crew. Y’all, you would have thought we were childhood friends reuniting. We were screaming and hugging. Oh yeah, and introducing ourselves. When does that happen? When was the last time you saw someone you didn’t really know and had a little street corner party?

And these women! That day, the clerks at the TOMS store were invited to North Dakota, to game night, to church. A group of women exiting a store found themselves in the middle of a launch team street corner party and asked if they could hang out with us because we were so fun. And they did! It was Annie’s birthday so we celebrated with her! And there were other stories too. I had feared it would crumble when we moved beyond the screen into real life. Instead, I watched this weird grace spill out into the streets of Austin. And it was beautiful.

Then there was a real party. We gathered in the yard of the woman who had given us this gift. She introduced us to her family, she hugged our necks, she spoke to each of us as though she knew exactly who we were. And this generous, kind person asked us to be her friends not fans. She was precious. And while I am certain we would be magnificent friends, I am also certain that she and I will never be the dubsmashing*, text for no reason, sit on the porch and spill your guts and laugh till you cry, kind of friends. Even still, it was the words God gave her, the dream that began in her heart, that gave me those kinds of friends.

Why has it been so different? Why is it that as women (and men?), we can walk into a small group at a church with every intention of building deep friendships and end up feeling more lonely and more disconnected than ever? Why is it that that we can extend ourselves to the outer edges of our souls in the name of connecting as we know we were created to and yet, feel as though we have been speaking into a void? But then, this. No hope for relationship, no plans to connect with anything more than written words and BAM! community.

I think perhaps it is about expectation. Most of us tend to go to small groups expecting to find friends. We expect to find The Church as it should be. But she isn’t. We aren’t as we should be. We are all grasping for worth from our community. And it never works. Maybe, just maybe, this launch team led to community because none of us expected it. We just came in, ready to have a little personal adventure and it became more. It surprised us. In the very best way.

We have already begun planning our next trip. Perhaps we will visit our friend in North Dakota.


Wondering what dubsmash is? Well, here you go:

A Daunting Journey

I let two Wednesdays go by without posting. There is plenty of current news to write about but I am honestly just weary from the mess of our world right now. The posts I write about current events get the most views but they break my heart. I just have not had it in me to write a thoughtful world issues post. But I don’t know what to write instead.

I want to tell you about all the wonderful news in my life. I want to celebrate with you. And yet, this week, I still cannot get beyond the tension in our nation. There is all kinds of insanity that had been filling my social media feeds this month. Churches burning, Planned Parenthood perversion, more Black Americans dying in police custody, and way more of the KKK than anyone should ever have to see. And to be quite honest, all of this tension has caused me to want to crawl into a hole and do my best to live and let live. Accept, there’s one problem with that. I have never been a live and let live kind of girl. It is contrary to the very fiber of my being.

I’ve addressed the racial tension twice before. It all started becoming apparent in Ferguson. And it continued in Baltimore. And the most recent evidence is the story of Sandra Bland. It is her story that has left me with so many questions. But it is the cumulative state of our nation that needs addressing.

Even earlier this week, I posted some of the questions I have about Sandra’s story on Facebook and was contacted by someone I respect and love who told me my questions do more harm than good and that the system is not broken. This friend is not alone in this mentality. It is the “American” way. Don’t ask questions. Just trust the system. We are the best nation.

Now, please hear me. I am not necessarily saying that the last statement is not true. But I would like us to consider something. What do you think the British government would say about their own system? Or consider Spain. What about North Korea? It seems to me that every governing body would make the same claims that their system is the best and can be trusted. We seem to be able to look at other nations and rightly identify the danger of not asking questions and requiring more accountability from the system and the officials that work the system. And yet, we want to turn a blind eye to our own issues? We want to go on claiming that we are one nation, indivisible? How can we? We are divided in every way. Race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status.

Disagreeing and being divided are not the same, by the way. We can disagree but be united in our desire to be a better nation and work together to that end. But I don’t see that happening. I see people crawling in their hiding places and trying not to ask too many questions. And perhaps, it is more than just blind nationalism. Perhaps it is a fear of being awkward. For me, that is certainly part of it. I see the evidence that there is something seriously wrong. Every one of those issues I mentioned can be boiled down to a racial divide. But, I do not know what the right steps are to change. I shared this earlier in the week:

Rioting doesn’t seem to be the answer. Signing petitions and writing letters…I’m not sure what that does. Just talking about it doesn’t seem to be leading us anywhere. Man, I’m just at a loss. I will be the first to admit that my life is too segregated. I don’t rub shoulders with those who are directly affected by these sort of events that we keep seeing. And even my friends who are, I often don’t know what questions to ask. I want to know how they feel, what life is like in their shoes, but I don’t know how to start that conversation without being awkward. Help me. How do we navigate this in a way that effectively brings change? In a way that closes the gap?”

My brother gave a wise response that boiled down to the fact that it is going to be awkward but worth it. He said, “Be awkward. Be patient with your own ignorance and with other people’s anger, even when it gets directed to you. Be kind, and understanding. Be honest and sincere. Ask for forgiveness, and ask what you can do to help. In sixty years when your white grandkids are playing with your best friends’ non-white grandkids, you won’t give a damn about awkward conversations. You’ll be so thankful that you had the courage to have them. Bring it all out into the light, you know? The hatred, the awkwardness, the invisible privalege, the injustice. No sense in hanging onto any of it.”

He is wise and right. It is a daunting journey we have ahead of us. Asking questions will cause more of a mess. But isn’t that always how life is made better? When I realize I’ve held onto to so much junk and it has piled up in my closets, when I begin to clean, my closet always looks worse before it looks better. And if we ask questions, if we risk being awkward, it will be a full-on mess. But one day, we will be so glad that we were willing to do the hard thing.

So, here I am, being awkward. If you are a Black American, or an immigrant, or a refugee, will you please help me understand what life is like for you? What do you fear? What makes you feel safe?

Are you from another country? What is great about your government? Where is there room for change in your government?

It’s time. Let’s do the hard work of discovering the humanity in us all.

The Distance To My Neighbor’s Door

I remember my childhood friend coming out to me through Facebook when we were in college. I remember the weight I felt in wanting to communicate to her that I love her deeply even though we don’t see eye-to-eye. I remember fearing she wouldn’t understand, particularly with the distance between us and no opportunity to look her in the eyes or hug her. She in Colorado, me in Texas, and 8 years since our last hug. And you know what, my fear was well-founded. She didn’t understand. She was hurt and put up walls. And had it been me, I probably would have done the same.

I recall, a few years later, sitting in a room with Jewish high school students, having been invited to be a part of a world religions panel. I remember them asking me, point blank, what I think about homosexuality. And, then, as if to add coal to the fire, they all looked to one student who boldly proclaimed that he is gay. They waited for my answer. The fear was smaller then than it had been in college, but the ache carved into me deeper. And for a moment, the distance between these students and myself seemed just as far as the physical distance between my childhood friend and me. How do you communicate to someone that you love them, you value them, even though you don’t agree with them?

I was hoping to post something upbeat today, but I’m just not there. Instead, I’m wiping tears from my eyes and longing for a taste of understanding. I find myself again, searching for some word, some gesture, some moment to close this gap. I’m not angry that the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. I’m not afraid or hurt by a law. This ache isn’t because there are people that live in contradiction to what I believe. No. These tears are falling for the seemingly insurmountable distance between all of us.

We are called to love our neighbors, but my neighbors feel far away. Some have boarded up their windows, turned out the lights and stay hidden in the back room hoping no one will knock on their door. Others have turned their fences into barricades, crawling out of their bunkers to launch grenades and then diving back to the safety of their side. How can we love each other when we live this way? And it isn’t just “them”, regardless of who “them” happens to be for you. It’s “us” too. We are all living as though our neighbor is the enemy.  It simply isn’t true. My childhood friend is living in a way I believe is contrary to God’s plan. But she isn’t my enemy. She is my friend. We haven’t spoken in years, but I will always consider her my friend. I will always love her, though we live from different world-views. If she ever needed me, I would be there. That high school boy is not my enemy. He is a human, made in God’s image and navigating this broken world just like me.

I am not better than they are. They are not more open-minded than I am. We believe different things. We live from different places. And we both want the other to understand what we hold as the best truth. But screaming at one another, dropping missiles of hate into each other’s yards will do nothing but blow all of us to pieces.

My neighbors feel far. It’s a distance created, not by disagreement, but by an inability to separate our moral compasses from human value.

I will share with you how I answered the students that day…if you want to know. You can message me and we can untangle the aches and hopes and joys of our souls together. But for now, I will weep and pray, not for laws or justice or protection, but for the vastness between us all to get a little smaller. For bridges to be shortened, gaps filled, and walls torn down. For boarded up windows to be opened and bunkers to be abandoned. I will weep for a friendship that seems so lost. I will pray for God-crafted souls to find their way in this broken world. And I will try to quiet my fears and find the courage to knock on my neighbor’s door and invite him to walk beside me.