WHAT I’M LEARNING ABOUT THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS IN COMMUNITIES & FAMILIES

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This Mother’s Day fell in a season of firsts – a season of firsts that follows a season of endings.

Most notably, this year I celebrated my first Mother’s Day without all three of my boys living at home.  Our oldest son, who is a college freshman living in a dorm room two states away, still has another month of classes until summer vacation.

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Never one to readily embrace even minor changes, I woke up on Sunday feeling a weird mixture of melancholy and comfort in spending the day with Ryan, and our two sons who (for now!) still live at home .

As I snuggled with two of my sons on our couch – wrapped in fuzzy blankets and enjoying my morning coffee – I contemplated creating some new traditions.  In response, Jordan and Riley enthusiastically suggested staying home from church so that they could lead a home service for me to honor Mother’s Day.

I was a little skeptical at first if this was a good idea – their initial motivations are certainly questionable.  But I also recognized that doing something original might help me to experience the wonder of new things starting, even as I long for some beloved traditions that have ended.

And oh my goodness.  What they put together was beautiful!  A forty minute service that included arms raised in worship, a solo trumpet performance, a dramatic performance of the David & Goliath battle scene recorded in 1 Samuel 32-52, and a small group discussion that lead to an insightful conversation about the “Goliaths” each of us feels like we are facing.

As part of our family worship, we sang “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.  A lump welled in my throat as I reflected on the new things growing in my home from the dust that is settling over the places where things have ended.

I realized that as much as my mama’s heart missed my oldest son and wished for him to be home with us, this truly beautiful moment probably wouldn’t have happened if Corey had been here.  He is much more reserved and far less emotionally expressive than our other two boys – who are always wanting the approval of their big brother.   If Corey was home, I really don’t think Jordan and Riley could have acted with such uninhibited abandon of their own “coolness”, fueled simply by a desire to whole-heartedly bless their mom.

This Mother’s Day was an opportunity to glimpse God at work in my home and my family right in the midst of all the change and transition.  Sadness and longing, woven together with joy and wonder of all things being made new.

Communities are like that too.  They go through seasons of growth, seasons of change, seasons of loss, and seasons of rebirth.

In the midst of that evolution, God is constantly at work, weaving the broken and beautiful pieces together to create something vibrant and amazing.

Jean Venier, in his classic work “Community & Growth“, writes, “A community cannot remain static.  It is not an end in itself.  It is like a fire which must spread even at the risk of burning out.  A moment comes when a community can only grow through separation, sacrifice, and gift.  The more it finds unity, the more it must be prepared in some sense to lose it, through the free gift of some of its members who will create other networks of love and communities of peace.”

We nourish our community at our tables to share life and nurture relationships.  Life gives birth to life.  Healthy communities encourage one another to be who we are becoming, intentionally seeing who we are rather than who we were.

As a community grows in numbers, as well as in depth, some beloved members must be released to go out and replicate communities of love and authentic friendship in other places.

People being nourished, loved, and equipped to have the confidence to go out and start a new community of friendship and support is one of the most important reasons that we gather people at our tables.

And as a few beloved members move on to their “what’s next”, the members who remain are gifted with the opportunity to explore and express themselves is new and refreshed ways.

Resisting or denying change in our families as well as our communities eventually leads to smothering and withering the very things that are so good and lovely.  We have to be willing to let some things end in order to make space for beauty to grow.

In communities, and in families.

With our friends, and with our sons.

Trusting that hope is always springing up from old ground.

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