Friday, December 9, 2016
Advent Week 2 Friday
If I were to pick the "ideal" Advent week, in which I had my priorities straight and really lived the way I hoped, this would NOT be the week that represents that. I broke my phone, I have had a student with special needs who has totally fallen off the rails this week and I've been going home with a headache and trying not to cry, Lb has been a right stinker and I have been staying up too late reading and then dragging myself through the day. All that being said, the week wasn't entirely a write-off.
On Wednesday evenings, I get together with a small group of women for some faith and friendship time. It's so funny, for years, I read about people having these amazing small group experiences and that these connections became so sustaining and brought such richness to people's faith. I dreamed of that and tried several different small group settings and while I got things from each one, none of them was "home" the way I had hoped. As usual, what I was looking for finally found me and in a place that I was totally not expecting.
In our town, there are four churches and three of the four are small. Ours is the only show in town for more formal kids programmes and basically everyone in town who is Christian sends their kids to Awana at our church. A few of the moms I know from different places, none of whom are members of our church, asked me if I wanted to join a book study group that they did while their kids were at Awana. At first, I wasn't sure but finally, Dh told me to go and check it out. After a few weeks, I was hooked.
We are a very strange group. We all grew up in different denominations - two Evangelicals, one former atheist and several who grew up in mainline churches. The wife of the pastor at one of the churches in town is truly a kindred spirit for me and we always joke that we are both members of "the tribe" - that weird group of Evangelical women who are a funny mix of faith and radicalness and passion for social justice. We don't fit anywhere because we are too radical for our Evangelical friends, who probably all think that we are 'commies' and yet the more liberal churches are too liberal theologically for us. She and I are constantly swapping books (I had a good laugh when she lent me some Rachel Held Evans and said that as a pastor's wife, she felt like she should wrap the books in brown paper, just in case...) and we give each other looks whenever James Dobson's name comes up. It's funny, though, while we don't all agree and we come at things from different perspectives, it's the first group in which I really felt like "it's all o.k." People can ask hard questions and people struggle but nobody gets upset and nobody calls the doctrine police. One of the women has a son who has announced his sexual orientation and to put it mildly, for his mother, a conservative farm wife, this has been a terrible blow. The night she told us, I truly felt like I was a part of something magical - she had been hiding this for a while and it was eating her from the inside. She was obviously waiting to be rejected and/or told she needed to reject her son and you could see that for her, just to know that there was a safe place of mothers whose first priority and understanding was loving one's children, regardless of one's opinions of things that child is feeling or doing, was life changing for her. It's funny, as I sit on the slightly faded floral couch in the incredibly comfortable living room drinking tea and chatting with these women, I feel a connection that I have rarely felt in my life and in the year or so we have been doing this, my life has changed and I feel like less of an outside in "church".
Wednesday evening, we had our last meeting before Christmas. There was tea (always!!!), sweet treats (like K's fruit cake that featured almonds and chocolate brandy soaked cherries - I can't describe how amazingly good it was), goat cheese and pepper jelly, talk about our children, a few tears, many laughs and prayer. I can't think of a better way to spend an evening in Advent.