We were pressed into the back wall of a borrowed church, huddled together and laughing before the service began. My husband turned around to scold me with his eyes.
A friend had something she wanted to tell me but was hesitant to say it across the laps of my children. So we moved to the back of the room.
“We went to a new restaurant last night,” she whispered. “They had seating outside with hookah pipes.” Her aqua eyes widened in a pause for my reaction. We both cupped our hands over our mouths in tandem, muffling the volume of our laughter. Then this came out of my mouth.
“That’s awesome; I can’t wait to check it out.”
I wasn’t dying to smoke a hookah pipe, just aching for connection.
When H and I travel in Europe, we walk by countless restaurants with chairs full of people lining crowded city streets, the fruity smell of pipe tobacco wafting ghost trails through conversations in foreign accents. The diversity makes my heart sing.
My friend didn’t know it but she was giving me a glimpse of global connection in my provincial southern town.
I hunger to see the broad open fingers of God’s Kingdom, beyond the small, familiar patch of his palm. Our short exchange was His gift with a simple message, “I know.”
Leaning into the back of a kitchen chair in the cottage a few months ago Murielle mused, “We have an international family, don’t we?” Something I’d taken for granted was new revelation for my teenager.
Moments before, we sat squeezed together on two benches, huddled around a picnic table smudged with sap under a canopy of tall pines. We were enjoying the fate of reunion with a large chunk of our family haling from Germany, Africa, and the United States. We’d gathered on the shores of the same lake for vacation in Canada. Several arrived on the heels of missions and trips to interesting places around the world. My kids savored the sweet taste of new culture and language by listening to stories of adventure and risk.
And their perspective grew six inches that day.
As I scooted in between my son and daughter on the wooden pew, I thought about where I sat two years ago.
Balancing one hip on the side of a meager couch, I was surrounded by the joyful laughter and native conversation of girlfriends in Rwanda. Strangely, I felt more at home there, than I do in my hometown.
I used to think that I felt more like myself when I was travelling, inspired by culture and place. But what happens when the places where you experience an overwhelming sense of love and belonging aren’t where you live?
The desire for connection is God given, innate. Without purpose and meaning, we suffer.
But the pathway to wholeheartedly living isn’t a change in circumstance, it’s in loving. Yourself.
Believe you are worthy of being loved and find the courage to let go of being so hard on yourself. Then wherever you are, you’re home.
Perhaps God’s mercy looks like mindless scrolling on the internet hunting for value and connection. Because that kind of emptiness leaves you desperately lonely, with nothing but Him.
You might find a hookah pipe in your small town isn’t just humorously out of place, its God’s way of loving you through obscure connection. So you can be set free to embrace the gift of self-compassion.
This post was inspired by Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, an unplanned introduction to the unveiling of an October series based on The Gifts of Imperfection where I plan to unpack what loving yourself looks like practically. We’ll be diving into the deep end of wholehearted living. I hope you’ll join me.