Monday, April 28, 2014

On Community and Stories

It wasn't what we had planned, but that seems to be how life works. The coffee shop was busy, as it was the start of Apple Blossom Festival, but for three hours on Saturday it was home for us. Within minutes of arrival, the first sips of lattes started and we found a table in the back of the shop. I looked across to her, so many questions in my eyes. It had been months since I'd last seen her, and those months had been hard on both of us. Some things the other knew about, but so so much we hadn't shared - or couldn't bring ourselves to. However, we were together for the afternoon.

She didn't get the chance to see Fridays keynote, so I pulled up some of the women whose stories would impact her the most. Sipping on the oh so good lattes, we watched and started to talk over the phrases which meant the most.

In learning others story, we learn perspective...
Let your pain have a purpose...
We present what others want us to see and not the burns. The "new pretty" is showing the scars too...
Friendship begins when we can say "me too"...
In telling my story, it gave a change to look at other people and realize everyone is longing to belong...
Sometimes we buy into the lie that our story is not important, not interesting..
God uses all of our experiences, nothing is wasted...
Your words can bring healing. Your words can bring life. Let your pain have a purpose. Don't hide your story...

We talked about the new church in old town Winchester. She helped with worship team and her husband ran the sound. The church met in a bar and every Sunday had been filled with those who need God so desperately... homeless, those in recovery, those who are on their knees. Her story is there right now, ministering. Before that point, it was working with children at church and as a foster mom. But right now, it is in the church which meets in a bar (I do love that!) She seems to be surrounded by people and has a flesh and blood community

Silence reigned for a bit as we listened to the keynote for Saturday. I had put out the materials for our jars and between listening, working on that, and taking notes, we were quite occupied. At one point, I shared about the online community I was part of with (in)courage, the Wives Without Children group I had grown so attached to. We talked on my job at Bridgeway Homeschool Academy and the family of employees who connect via Skype every day with each other and through phone, email and Facebook with our precious families. It deviated into the close knit group of online gamers I hang out with in a virtual world every evening. I've met so many of them face to face. I am the diplomat there, the one who smooths rough edges, engages them in conversation, gets stories going. And yet... I have no community of those around me. Flesh and blood close by to visit with. They are not there. After years of rejection, I've given up. Even with so many online, just a couple of clicks away, I feel alone. So different, she and I.

And the doubts started up.
We need a heart broken for community and not by community (does it have to be in the flesh? Because I have such an amazing group online. I make sure to talk to strangers, to smile at them when I am out in our town... but does it matter?)
You are not alone, we need to hear your story (I blog, I talk to others. Some hear the story of living with EDS while homesteading and seem amazed - yet they seem so far away and so few)
There is beauty living in your now (and fear, and failure and all those things which hold us back)
The value of loving is the value of being the body of Christ. (see previous post on how that conversation has gone in the past. At least it was a positive one).

We talked through those. She had her side of the coin as well, the needing to share and yet holding back. Then it happened, two phrases which grabbed me and held me the rest of the time. I don't remember much, other than fighting tears. Her husband had arrived at that point and it was a bit chaotic. They were talking privately and my jaw was clamped tight.

If we are struggling and not saying anything, that is when sin can fester... Oh, yes it can and it has. I'm posting about the physical disability at times, but holding back the mental aspects. I live where my spouse suffers from a mental illness and metabolic disorder. There is so much struggle which isn't said. I'm not the strong one so many think I am. There is sin festering and I have to face it daily.

Freedom comes when we care more about pleasing God versus pleasing others... Yes, it does. I need to go back to this point. There is a line between being the "diplomat" in the group and doing or saying what is pleasing to God and not them.

So, as we parted for the day with lots of hugs, I kept thinking over and over.
Do I risk fracturing my lifeline, my online community, by showing that struggle and doing more of what is pleasing to God? Am I strong enough to step into the local flesh and blood world and risk being stomped on again? Is this story one which can influence others? We shall see...

#InRL #(in)courage #EDS #community #onlinecommunity

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

To Stop and Think (cross post from Good Friday)

 Sitting here, thinking about the price which was paid on this day. Thinking about the conversation I had with my "brother" down in Norfolk at 2am just this Monday. He was asking about why I have this heart that lets me get stomped on and how I keep going. He was asking why I let others lie to me and I still love them anyway. He kept pointing out all of the reasons why we were sitting there on the headsets and voice chat, settling me down from a moment of weakness when I did lash out. 
I told him it was who I was. From my earliest memories I wanted to help people and it is the core of my being. Alex then asked "Sis, does it have anything to do with your faith?" I told him that faith has made it possible for me to keep wanting to be the diplomat amongst our friends, to keep wanting to help others when I can barely help myself, that my belief in Christ makes it so I can look at others and my heart breaks with desire to help them however I can. It makes it so I don't care about specific "sins" or point out verses constantly used out of context... because it isn't needed. They know I am different because of that Love which is in me and how it enhances what was already in my core... that desire to help. No need to "preach" because love says it all.
Alex was quiet for a long time. He had just started to have the desire to be inside of a church a couple weeks before. He admitted then that he didn't understand how I could keep taking such a beating, and if it was my faith which kept that desire going, then he was here for me when those weaker moments happened. 
So, now I sit here and think about Him hanging and bleeding. I think about Alex and my other dearest online friends. And I stop my activities for the day, and say thank you.