A couple of months ago, I signed up for (in)courage’s In Real Life online conference – and then promptly forgot about it until a reminder email came through my inbox last Monday. Between the signing up and the reminder, I had committed to participating in our local Walk MS event, hosting a girl’s dessert night out and picked up an extra shift at the shelter. Darn, I thought. I guess I won’t be able to take part in the conference. Oh, well.
At work last Thursday, I pushed a very heavy cart full of books away from my work station and into what you might call a “staging zone” until my coworker could get to it and do his part. I push heavy carts all the time. I lift heavy boxes and tubs all the time. Heavy moving and lifting is part of the requirements to work for my library. So I didn’t think anything about it.
Until I bent over about an hour later.
Something definitely didn’t feel right. Belly buttons aren’t supposed to hurt.
One heat-pad and restless night later, I was at the doctor with a workman’s compensation claim. The pain just kept getting worse. At least, that’s what I thought. I’d been walking through a park full of puppies and daisies until the doctor did his exam. Someone, please explain to me how you’re supposed to stay relaxed when the doctor is basically trying to feel your spine by way of your stomach?
I’d tell you what I thought, but it’s not printable.
Chris told me I turned beet red.
No Walk MS. No girl’s night. No shifts at the shelter. The couch, some anti-inflammatories and the heat-pad. All weekend.
I was so bummed.
Chris went to bed early on Friday (like, 7:45 – no joke) and took the dogs with him. Some nurses, right? I flipped on my computer to check email and saw the conference reminder. Well, I guess I can tune in now. Nothing else to do.
I’m not sure what I was expecting. My initial interest had been piqued by reading the list of speakers; some of the ladies featured author blogs that I follow regularly. Other than that, I didn’t have a clue as to what In Real Life was about. Shows you how much attention I gave to the whole thing.
As I began watching the first keynote address, I was drawn in, albeit reluctantly. The theme of the conference was community, and how we need each other. Specifically, how we need each other’s stories. (This is the blogging world, after all). I don’t like thinking about community. I don’t like thinking about friendship. In my experience, it’s incredibly messy and sometimes painful. Messes aren’t my jam and I don’t like pain, either.
But I stuck it out. These gals were funny. They were raw.
And they were encouraging. They kept talking about how important it was to stick it out through the mess – and sometimes that mess isn’t created by anyone else. Despite my discomfort, I agreed. It is important to push beyond, even if it takes awhile. Getting stuck isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. Or healthy.
Still, this emphasis on friendship, on community? Not my cup of tea.
I watched all of the videos I could on Friday before going to sleep. Or, trying to go to sleep. I lay on the couch for a couple of hours, twisting this way and that, searching for a position that eased the pain in my belly. One of my dogs, Benny, was with me and got super-irritated every time I moved. I couldn’t see him in the dark, but I know that he gave me dirty looks. We finally both gave up and went to bed. (Which irritated my husband. He tried to roll over me).
You know those times when God’s plan is so clear that you’d have to be an idiot to miss it? I don’t believe that He struck me with an injury to get me to tune in to In Real Life, but I definitely believe that He tucked the reminder email safely away. I clean out my inbox every day. EVERY DAY. And yet, there it was.
Sometimes the Lord gives us a Heavenly smack across the forehead, and that’s what Saturday was all about.
Oh, my. Crystal Stine.
I’ve never met this woman, but it’s like she read my journal. Hers was the first story of the second keynote address. She talked about being significantly burned and scarred by friendship, and how that caused her to shy away from really diving into community, the community that God wants us all to be part of. As soon as her talk was over, I paused the video, backed it up and watched again.
The circumstances were different, but the outcome was the same.
And then another gal, whose name I unfortunately can’t remember, talked about being hurt by the church.
And Mary Carver talked about how she had to go to counseling.
I saw pieces of my own story in theirs. And that got me to thinking. First, God prodded that sore space in my heart, that space where I’m in a constant dance with friendship. The pushing in, the longing to be close, and the pulling away before anything bad can happen. There are layers as-yet-untouched, despite my progress. I have been willing to go so far, but not beyond that. But He also showed me that some frustration and weariness on my part is valid; it’s difficult to get close to people when you’re not always able to be there. And sometimes people don’t know what to do or say so they pull away. Illness sucks.
That fit nicely with my next pondering. Over and over, the speakers said, “We need your story.” I can’t always participate in all the things I want to participate in. I can’t always be part of whatever is happening. But I’ve got this blog. I’ve got email. I’ve got stamps and cards. There are ways that I can develop friendships, ways that might be outside the norm, but ways nonetheless. I can share my own journey. I can encourage others.
I’m never going to “fit in” with the “typical” woman of my peer group. I’m almost 30, have no children, hate to cook and can’t craft to save my life. (That, of course, is a very broad generalization). I live with ME and some mood disorders. I really like my job. I’m just different. But as one of the speakers said, and I paraphrase, “Even if all we have in common is Jesus, that’s enough.”
She’s right. We don’t always see that. In fact, I’d venture to say that we almost never see that. It’s time we did. It’s time I did.