Mopping Messes With a Friend


Yesterday I had lunch with a friend. It was way overdue. (I confess: I’m the queen of good intentions, with a side of shy.) In my defense, the past few years have been a bit (extra) chaotic. But, yes, I digress – that’s not the point, except, maybe it is.

Life being a mess is a commonality that descends upon us all – thank God, not all at the same time.

I’ve been grateful for faces, hugs, understanding eyes and words – people to love me, and to remind me that life can be found in the midst of the crazy –  and it is survivable with friends who are courageous enough to journey alongside us.

But lunch. It was seriously one of the messiest lunches I’ve enjoyed in awhile. The mountain of paper napkins, (sorry earth!), bore witness to the juicy burger and sandwich elements that needed constant wiping away from both our faces.

There was delightful conversation amidst those oh-so-attractive swooshes of garlic aioli on my friend, and my own swath of thousand-island-ish dressing that decorated our faces. In conversations over the past few years, we’ve identified in our common wounds of life.

I met this friend soon after I arrived back in Weed/Mt. Shasta from what has become known as The Seattle Journey, wounded, wondering, grieving, even unaware of what would be heaped on in the coming months.

She was having her own up-ended-ness in life. But, it was my job-and-calling-as-a-human-and-hopeful-Christ-follower at Choices to welcome folks in pregnancy, parenting, and sexuality-related circumstances – to be a presence of compassion. So, that happened even, and especially in the midst of mutual crises. Manageable crises, by which I mean I wasn’t crying all over my new friends who came for conversations – because that would be awkward, right?

Here’s what I know, and what I try to communicate often: life crises happen, now and again, throughout our lives. It’s called a cycle. Expect it. It happens to everyone. Repeatedly.

Another new friend taught me a soundbite recently: “You make your mess your message.” You already get this instinctively, it’s similar to the vulnerability discussion of how when we communicate our hard places, we find we’re not alone. Shame (and hiding) keeps us from living life abundantly (or at all!), and binds us in fear. Exposing our hard places can often help us to break chains of bondage that keep us from living and thriving.

I’ve walked into to this place of refuge and hope for more than twenty years – not because I have it together, but because that’s where my life landed – and where I’ve found life. I choose to believe God called me here, because I’ve needed this place as much as those who happen by for an (often broken) season of life. (I’ve been known to say that I collect nurses and therapists as friends – I suppose there might be a reason.) My hard places have included a broken heart, divorce, abortion, second-trimester miscarriage, losses of many kinds, and so much more. I relate to the folks walking through our doors. My mess has become my message. I am certainly no better than anyone who has ever walked through our doors – and I truly do not always have it together more than those who come seeking help. But, hey, I posture/put on a game-face quite well.

I explained to my lunch friend that while I hadn’t ever made a formal appointment through the years (actually, decades) to meet with an advocate at Choices, I had, in fact, experienced the same level of compassion and care when life was unraveling for me – only it happened in my office, in the kitchen, or in the front office with so many of our ambassadors of compassion.

Insert it takes a village understanding here. We were never intended to meander through life alone.

“A deep sense of love and belonging is…a need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

Thank you Brene Brown for those needful words.

Read Brene’s words again. And again. Print them. Post them behind a magnet on your fridge. Wonder who in your world needs love and belonging – people you already know, and those you don’t. People who don’t present as tidy and together. Commit to noticing and acting on behalf of those God loves. Be love. Be(longing).

Our guests at Choices are often tempted to think that when they are desperate for help, and finally make the decision to seek it out, that we have it together, have privileged lives, and/or are thinking less of, or looking down on them – so completely not true. Seriously. 

We are the same.
We are people who get it.
We are people who’ve been there.
We are people who can walk alongside you.
We are people who need you to contribute nuggets of life to us. (And you do!)

“We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. ” Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

I don’t get out to lunch very often, but I’m grateful that my circle of friends includes people I’ve gotten to know from the place I hang out during the week, and that we’re comfortable sharing our mutual messes.

And yes, it’s pretty ordinary what we do – except it’s pretty extraordinary too. 


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