Tuesday, April 23, 2013

passion for a tribe

Jerusalem Jackson Greer is a crafter, writer, former pastor, blogger, nest-fluffer, liturgical convert, speaker and farm-gal wannabe. She lives with her husband and two sons in a 1940s cottage in Central Arkansas with an ever-changing rotation of pets, including a hen house full of heritage chick-ens and an English Sheep Dog mutt. As a family, they are attempting to live a slower version of modern life. She blogs about all of this and more at jerusalemgreer.com.

Relyn asked me to write about my passions. Or at least one.Which was hard to think of at first.
I am pretty passionate about lots of things: my faith, my family, coffee, good food, great books, paint colors, Pinterest, Rachel Zoe's boho look, pink beverages, thrift stores, vintage sheets, the plethora of uses for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.
But I don't think most of those are the sort of passions that she meant.
I think she meant the kind of passions that make my heartbeat. The kind of passions that make me want to climb on top of a mountain and shout about them for everyone to hear.

Like my passion for found community, chosen family.

In my book, A Homemade Year, each chapter begins with a quote,to set the stage. Chapter 20, the Michaelmas chapter, begins with these words:

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. You need one because you are human. - Jane Howard, Families

As I was writing A Homemade Year I begin to realize that the majority of the chapters shared a common theme- the theme of friendship and chosen family. Of finding community in unlikely places, during surprising circumstances, sometimes despite my best attempts to run the other the way.

As a child growing up I did not have a lot of friends. I think this was partially because we moved a lot, and partially because my parents were not "friend" people, partially because I was home schooled off and on (which I loved btw) and but mostly I think it was because I was waiting to finish becoming myself.

This is not to say that I didn't have friends. I did. I always had two to four close friends in each place we lived. But I was never part of a "crowd" or a "gang." I was always a little bit off to the side, slightly disconnected from the group. Always one step behind or ahead of my peers, but never in lockstep.

Sidenote: I think this is one of the hard parts of being part of a society that places children together for years and years, based solely on their age. I see this with my youngest son Miles. He feels so much more comfortable in his own skin when he is with children who are older than him, who are the same age as his big brother Wylie. I remember that feeling. 
But I am digressing.

In our house, ones biological family was the main thing.
Holidays were spent with family. Vacations were family-only affairs, usually to go see more, you guessed it- family.
There was no spending 4th of July with my friends on the beach, or Halloween in someon else's neighborhood, or even News Year at a party.
Holidays, celebrations and most of daily life were all about our family.

But this was mostly okay with me because I came from a large family. Lots of kids splayed everywhere, lots of ruckus for me to observe, lots of adult conversations for me to eavesdrop.  Always someone to sit next to, to hug me, to smile when I walked into a room.

That is until I grew up and moved away.
To college. Where I was very much alone, very lonely.
Until I met them-the Zendejas.
They were my first chosen tribe.

After college it took me a while to find my next tribe, as I entered another season of life, taking a few more steps away from childhood and into adulthood.
Eventually I stumbled across them-the Zita's. A group of gals from church who bound together our hearts and lives during our early years of marriage, mothering and faith questions.
After that came The Playgroup. Mother's of older children like me, who let their kids play in the creek, who wore hippie skirts, and who did things like cook huge meals together. This was the group that felt the most like my childhood-lots of ruckus, lots of conversation, lots of laughter.
And finally our Dinner for 8 group, which in the end was not just a chosen family for me- but for Sweet Man and the boys as well. 
These four groups are the foundation of my chosen tribe, my found community.
As my life changes and grows, I have added others- the Twitter girls, the AWB gals, my "mom friends" from the kids school, the friendships I have built online after 8 years of blogging and becoming a published author, the kindred spirits I have found in our new church family.

But I am not just passionate about found community and the need to have a tribe.
What I am most passionate about is the the intersection of grace and found community
This is what I will fight fiercely for.
What I long for for everyone to have.
Why I try-at every opportunity- to strip off the mask of posturing and perfection. To stand up and tell my story so that maybe someone else will say:
"You too? I thought I was alone."

Choosing a tribe isn't just about adding a lot of friends on Facebook, or numbers in your phone, or having all your tweets favorited. Choosing a tribe, is about find those people in your life who will walk, hand in hand with you, no matter what comes up. They are the people who will laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry, and who will always smile when you enter the room.

I am passionate about creating safe communities where grace and mercy are high values. Not just for the broken, but also for the healed. Where rejoicing and mourning can both reside without threat of swallowing the other whole. A chosen tribe- where grace is the filter for all the good and the bad- is the sort of tribe, where everyone will scoot over to make room for you on the bench whether you deserve it or not, whether you even want to be there or not. Whether they want to be there or not.

Being in community is risky. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it goes sour. Sometimes it is frustrating (people can be oh so frustrating!) Sometimes I can feel alone in the midst of my tribe. I can feel misunderstood, overlooked, the odd-man-out.
But that doesn't mean I get to turn my back on it. To pretend that I do not need it. That it isn't worth fighting for. 

Because I need a tribe.
Because I am human.
Because I cannot should not do this life alone. 
All of humanity cries out for relationship, for help, for care, for smiles when they enter the room, for someone to remember with them where they have been and where they set out to go.
And  I do not believe that God meant us to be lonely, solitary creatures. 

After all:

Psalms 68:6 says (albeit in various translations) 
God places the lonely in families;
God makes a home for those who are alone. 
God makes homes for the homeless,
God settles those who have been deserted in their own homes;

Sometimes those families we are placed in are not biological. Probably more often than not, as we grow and change, they are found, and they are chosen. They are often made up of college friends, cousins, co-workers, fellow church members, neighbors and people we met online (much to our grandmother's chagrin.) And these tribes-like all families-are at their best when love and grace color everything.
When we can have mercy, and patience and kindness for ourselves, and for each other.

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. You need one because you are human. - Jane Howard, Families

All images where taken by Whitney Loibner (http://www.whitneyloibner.com/) who belongs to my Playgroup Tribe and the Arkansas Women Bloggers tribe.
Keepin on the sunny side @ Jolly Goode Gal (most days)


Anonymous said...

What a beautifully written & thought-filled post. Perhaps someday I shall stumble into one of these tribes. Sounds lovely.

Marilyn Miller said...

I would love a tribe such as this, just to play, laugh, love, and share tears. They are a rare treasure. This is just lovely and I do believe you have definitely found yourself and your voice.

GraceGal said...

I love this. I have a tribe and I am incredibly grateful for those women who have stood with me through the storms and sunshine.

Teapots & Robots said...

lovely- just lovely! I completely agree and am also very blessed to have a tribe of my own!
I also spent so many years waiting to be me...waiting to be something better..and therefore, waiting to truly be joyful.
The joy of the Lord is my strength. And the people He has placed in my life are a wonderful bonus and His way of helping me get through this life sometimes. We were definitely not meant to do this alone.

keishua said...

i was just thinking about this. about the need for community. thank you for sharing this journey with us.

alexa said...

Lovely post - and I will continue to keep my eye out for a tribe :).

Jaime said...

I'm comforted by reading these comments.. I'm not the only one looking for my tribe. Such an inspiring post... fills me with longing.

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