The Friends (Not Just) in my Head

For years I've chuckled quietly at the computer screen or told my family over dinner, “You won't believe the hysterical thing someone said in that homeschool group.”

For years I've spent every November/December nearly paralyzed by the volume of FB notifications that would flood my in-box: Wake up to 35 unread messages, 80 by dinner time, 143 by bed. Why? Because of a Secret Sister ornament exchange and prayer partnering through a support group for homeschooling moms who use a certain curriculum. I'd done the exchange once back in 2007ish, then took a few years away from homeschooling, and was shocked and delighted to find it still running (strong!) in 2013 when I picked up where we left off. So amidst all the emails I was also frantically filling a package with love and treats to send off to some woman I'd never met.

All the while my oldest boys are like, “Mom, you realize this is a Facebook group, yes? These probably aren't even real people.” “Yeah, it's probably just one person faking all these accounts to get a bunch of stuff.” (Oh, how I love my boys!)

Well, this past weekend I proved, once and for all that these people I've shared prayers and packages with are, indeed, real. And that's just the beginning. I learned so much more over the weekend, like I could master agoraphobia, I could love and be loved and, oy I'll have to structure this another way. Prepare for epic length. Here goes….

The Amazing things I learned at SuperMeet 2016!

pillow present supermeet 2016

IRL is not the same as online:

At all. And I'm really really bad at matching up online details with in-life people. I did a sewing project prior to the meet with another woman, and I hugged at least three ladies thinking SHE was my partner in needle-and-thread-crime before I got to the right one. Yes, we have photos of ourselves on FB (well, most of us), but there's a strong disconnect for me between two dimensions and three. That first evening I looked from face to face trying (failing) to recall details of these ladies lives.

But the disconnect doesn't last. And now when I see these lovely faces in FB profiles, I see and hear and love in three dimensions. Somehow connecting the relational dots is easier. I know who's using a cane, who has awesome boots, who loves to sew or crochet or huff essential oils (j/k, we all huff oils).



Y'all is a real word:

Yes, yes it is. As in, “Y'all with boots stomp on that fire!” Or, “Y'all listen up, it's the Gluten Talk time!” I learned that it's “Yous” in some parts of the country, and the especially lame, “you guys” where I live. Personally, I want to move to where they say, “Y’all, I’m not that into math.”

The Wonderful World of Gluten Talks:

Here's the thing. I'm probably celiac. I'm not “officially-I've-been-biopsied-and-my-intestines-show-damage” celiac (because peeps this test is EXPENSIVE and would require me to be on gluten which would be h@ll for all involved so no thank you), but I really have no doubt. I mean celiac is kissing cousin (as they say) to Hashimoto's and I have been diagnosed with Hashis. Anyhow, all that is to say, I've grown accustomed to not eating and/or brining my own food when I go, like, everywhere, because otherwise I and all around me are very, very sorry. But I could not bring my food for an entire weekend, so I did the crazy thing and hoped against all hopes that the chef at Hachland Hill wouldn't throw soy sauce in the turnip greens because, hey, it's Soy sauce!

Hachland Hill Supermeet 2016

To my delight and surprise, every meal was prefaced by what we soon termed, the Gluten Talk. I knew before any plate was passed what I could or could not eat. At lunch Saturday the GF folk went first (thank heavens since I'd gotten to breakfast after the GF muffins were all snapped up so I was ravenous), to avoid cross contact. Seriously! I could put mustard from the little bowl on my Udi's sandwich bread! Those who are not gluten intolerant are probably all like, “What? Who cares?” But cross contact is a real thing. Truly. The GF communion wafers at my church are held in the same little bowl as the gluten ones, so I have begun surreptitiously slipping mine to one of the children because I am just so sick of feeling like crud every Sunday afternoon. Yet over the weekend I was able to eat and enjoy everything. Until the drive home (d@ng you, Taco Bell and your pintos without cheese). Do you know how awesome that is? Probably not, but I assure you it is supremely awesome.

My Daughter is Amazing:

And she's so much like me it's Not. Even. Funny. We both (I've discovered) cry at most every overwhelming emotion, so a good bit of the drive home was drippy, in a happy way. Except for the post-gluten Siri misdirection in the rainy dark, which was less happy (d@ng you, Siri and your, “I can save you 11 minutes if you take this route along unpaved winding roads.”)

You'll never guess which is mine (hint: socks)

You'll never guess which is mine (hint: socks)

Yet my sweet daughter is also entirely herself. For one, I hardly saw her most of the weekend because she was growing and developing new friendships: staying up late, giggling, splashing in a creek. I already knew she was not “Me” in many huge ways. I've known this since I bought her a Cabbage Patch doll at four (because I liked it) and she smiled, said Fanks, and set it aside. She also has a very different sense of style than I do, which I love and encourage no matter what crazy (to me) outfits she puts together. But seeing her independence again, seeing the pure beauty of her heart as we cried together many of the twelve hours home, I recognized a glimmer of the future. The more-than-daughter. The friend she will one day become.

Cynicism is a Choice:

The sad truth is that when it comes to “Bible stuff” I sometimes feel like I already Know everything. I had a religion (and philosophy, she says defensively!) major, spent one semester at a Bible college, have done studies, mission trips and more. Over the years I’ve come to dislike—strongly—certain expressions of the faith, certain phrases and styles. I mean I grew up with church camps (I still hear in my head the old camp song, “Camp Barakel, Camp Barakel, we're glad to turn again to this blessed place where truth and grace in God's own words abound!” Where, in my provided Camp Journal, there was a question on the final page, “What was your favorite part about Camp Barakel?” And my scribbled 12-year-old answer, “Going home.”)

I do not fit in many/most homeschool communities. I have heard all (and I do mean all) the trite answers to deeply felt pain. I used to say, “I've already been to hell, and it's not that bad.” Meaning that “Fire and Brimstone” theology doesn't provide satisfying answers for those who've experienced devastating trauma: abuse, rape, violence, or especially mental illness: depression, anxiety, or the darker more confusing issues of dissociation, bipolar, schizophrenia. There's a lot of victim-blaming, and a h@ll of a lot of gnosticism. Anything that even hints at either of those has typically sent me into a mental tirade of anger, self-doubt, shame, sorrow, which usually ends in me walking away feeling disappointed and alone.

Saint Francis St. Francis garden statue

But here's the deal… When my hackles went up, I realized I didn't have to give in to the subsequent, “Are you kidding me?” I could take a deep breath and remind myself to see the heart and intention behind the words and actions. I could remember that my response, both internally and externally, is up to me. One of the dear wonderful organizers of the event reminded us beforehand, “Stay open, don’t put up walls.” And I kept reminding myself of this, reminding myself that I don’t *feel* spiritual movement the way some do and That Is Fine. And amazing things happened. I made a discovery that has me, well, it has me writing a nearly 2k-word post in a public arena. So there you go.

The Stunning Beauty of Community:

Those (like zero) of you who read my posts regularly will notice I’ve seldom written about spiritual or even personal things in quite a while. Like, how many posts can I put up with recipes and book reviews before my readership drifts into the negative numbers, right? I have many reasons for holding back, which I may share at some point, but I'm about to get all gooey, so consider that fair warning, ok?

For a long while I’ve had a certain hope, a prayer, a longing. For a long while I’ve fought a bitterness that stemmed from disappointment: every time someone mentioned a family gathering, every time a friend spoke of a need met by a sister, a parent, I’ve felt a twinge of sorrow. I lost family by my refusal to live a lie, and I miss it.

This past weekend I had all these ladies around me, and we talked—about abuse and anxiety, about pain caused by the church, about raising children and health and oils and food and husbands and work…. I spent hours with mommies of littles and those with (Lawd help us all) teenagers and those with grown children and grandkids. We had so many generations all under one roof (two roofs, whatever) and on the one hand it made me wonder why churches segregate by age because it’s so artificial, detrimental to true community. And on the other hand, I realized that God was holding out before me the answer to my prayer.

Arriving to the bonfire (note burning grass)

Arriving to the bonfire (note burning grass)

As I was sitting around a bonfire Saturday night (after y’all with boots got up to stomp on flaming grass), I looked around and realized, these ladies are not just FB “friends,” which we know can be one step up from imaginary. They are Real, True, Lovely Sisters (and Mamas and Aunties). They love me despite (because of?) my tattoos, my Harley boots, my food allergies, my inability to wear pants (I just really don't like them!), my propensity to make inappropriate comments about mathematics, my heartaches, my joys. And you know what? I absolutely adore each and every one of them. I prayed for family, and God has gifted me family tenfold. And now my most terrifying joy: to be their family in return.