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Who is Invited to the Table?

A year ago when we sold our house and stuff and embarked on this journey as The Graveswolds, God put two words on my heart: GATHER and TABLE. I said, “Really, Lord!? You are teaching us about hospitality, but we don’t even have a house OR A TABLE?!”

And He said, “You don’t need those to experience hospitality. Wherever you go, gather around tables with friends and strangers and break bread. Share your hearts and listen to those gathered. Do this often. This is Kingdom Come. This is the work of peacemaking.”

I’m sorry I haven’t spoken up sooner, at least not in my writings or a more formal venue. I honestly thought my voice and heart didn’t matter on a scale other than loving others and practicing peacemaking in the day to day.

I’ve rethought that a bit…and my voice and heart matter big time, just as much as yours!

I’ve grappled with these feelings, and a deep down knowing, for likely my whole life. The last several years they have resurrected, and too many “coincidences” and gut feelings have “fallen into place.” When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, there were reminders everyday, but since life seemed peaceable, I wasn’t sure what to do with how I felt or the things I wondered. It just was what it was and life kept going…my life kept going, at least.

Specifically, these feelings resurfaced when I found myself in Auckland, New Zealand and Australia, last year on holiday, and again, just a few weeks ago. I walked the streets freely, my accent the only thing distinguishing me from the locals at first glance, and that, only if I used my voice. I sat stunned on a park bench one day, overlooking the bustle, watching the swells of people, diverse, colorful and living, thinking of tensions around the world and back home on American soil. And I can’t say it any other way as I thought,

“Holy shit! Some Europeans just went all over the whole freaking world and started ‘discovering’ other places to live, in spite of whoever lived there first…”

Not only that, they swung by Africa and other countries and continents to do a little “shopping” on their way there, for a “workforce” to make their dreams come true. What the what?! #$%^&*?

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A bumper sticker on the back of a car we saw while recently in Australia.

As a kid, celebrating Thanksgiving and learning about the earlier days of the “discovery of the New World” and the founding of the United States, my young heart wrestled with some key, un-ignorable logistics.

Wait…people were already here, so really, did Columbus ‘discover’ a New World?”

I remember a commercial with a Native American chief atop his beautiful horse, overlooking pollution, a tear streaming down his cheek, and my guts hurt. Every single day of high school, and then some, I drove across an Indian “Reservation,” past government-issued housing, to get from my custom home to classes and activities. I pondered, too, the very real possibility that maybe some of my German blood could have been traced to the brutally hateful side of things in the world wars, but hoped they had sheltered or helped, and seen the deception, instead of the devastating alternative. I wondered if any of my earlier Stateside relatives had befriended Natives or rallied for or against slavery in America’s history, or civil rights, which crowd they followed, or if they blazed trails of healing instead. I hoped distant relatives had loved well as much as it depended on them…

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Me, circa 1977, leaning against our house that was an old hunting lodge my parents remodeled, along the banks of the Maumee River in Ohio.

 

I am a vanilla white, mixed breed American girl, born and raised in the United States. From word of mouth, as well as DNA testing, my bloodline includes: German, French, Swiss, English, Irish, Scottish, early Egyptian Jew, and 2.67% caveman… (“23andme” is an interesting way to learn about genetics from a medical standpoint, as well as an historical one). These things don’t define me, but they are part of who I am today, no matter how far removed I am from them.

My family moved to Arizona in 1978 to be closer to relatives. Had my family personally removed the Natives from the Phoenix metro in order to move there? No. We didn’t. We simply moved into the neighborhood, just as we had on the riverbanks of Ohio where we found exquisite Native tools and arrowheads, and, as an adult, I’m aware of this now, mindful of this, conscious of the fragmented reality that my freedom to move about wherever I want, to vacation to the ends of the earth, to drive and fly here and there, have come at a cost.

I’m a peacemaker. Why were there battles in the first place? And if someone “won”, that means others lost, and I don’t really think we have “enemies” since our battle is not with flesh and blood, soooooo, what does that really entail? What happens to the “losers?” Is there a better way to do all this? Is anyone actually speaking to each other or are WE all just pulling weapons on one another, pointing fingers, erecting walls, or corralling people into segregated groups, heaping label after label after stereotypical label on each other?

One thing I know…we have hurt one another. WE. There is no “us” or “them” but WE. And WE belong to each other. WE are a family of humans who cannot choose the members. WE ARE FAMILY. But this God-breathed human family is hurting. We may not have family trees to point a finger at who the bad relatives were versus the good ones, but the human family has a common trunk in the Tree of Life and the breath of God, and somewhere in the Garden WE began distinguishing, deciding, and judging between each other rather than belonging to each other.

I’m from a mixed bag of a lot of history…none of us knows all the specifics on how our blood has been woven into this world’s pain. I know I’m not a racist, nor do I have ill will towards anyone, but the reality is, not knowing what to do about the broken system doesn’t bring healing if I don’t do anything at all. If I’m going to be completely honest with you and myself, I can hope and wish and pray all I want that my ancestors were trailblazers of peace, but here I am today, comfortable in society in 2015 while heartache abounds on every side, so there’s been a breakdown somewhere along the line.

It’s not a matter of pointing fingers…we all have logs in our own eyes. WE have ALL hurt someone at some point, just as WE have all been hurt. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I am sorry. And I forgive you. I’m responsible for my life and actions and how I see and treat others. Help me understand…will you please tell me your story?”

I think TODAY is as good a day as any to start trailblazing peace and love. It starts with US…you and me. WE must stop waiting on systems to clean up the messes of our ancestors, no matter the color of our skin or our dark histories. Our SOULS run deeper than systems. We each must take responsibility for loving others well. Our present state of being is not without context.

The quote at Hemingway's in Manly Bay, Australia, the night I met a friend for dinner.

The quote at Hemingway’s in Manly Bay, Australia, the night I met a friend for dinner.

Have you ever heard the statement, “Can’t we all just get along?” Some people don’t believe it’s possible, but WHAT IF we tried? “Getting along” doesn’t mean everyone is best friends or believes the same things or even shares all the same interests, but it does imply seeking the good of all people, as long as it depends on each of us. At a table, we are compelled to sit with others and look into another persons’ eyes, to really SEE them and HEAR them and seek to KNOW them.

In this beautiful, bustling, broken, and hectic world, I believe there’s been a breakdown in making peace over time. We are naive to believe ALL the Native Americans and ALL the Pilgrims sat around that first Thanksgiving table…or that just because the lunch counters didn’t have dividers anymore that all the white guys saddled up next to the black guys for biscuits and gravy…or that within our own families, certain relatives were ever even on the guest list. Perhaps mealtime got interrupted, was hurried, or became all about the food and not about who was gathered there to share stories and break bread?

I’m a simple girl…idealistic, but unabashedly hopeful. As long as it depends on me, God has given me a glimpse of my life’s work and it’s to live and breathe peacemaking, everyday. I don’t know all the details of how it will work or look, but Someone modeled Love for me many years ago and it looked a lot like gathering around tables, breaking bread, and sharing stories.

 

Maybe the basic act of breaking bread together again
is where everyday peacemaking must begin?”

Ways to Survive the Cold this Winter

It’s not me…it’s you, actually.

No. Really. It’s you, and we just can’t be friends…at least not until next spring.

As awesome as I know you probably are, lingering to talk in the parking lot at school or work or church or the gym or wherever, lingering to talk outdoors just isn’t going to happen…at least not until next spring…and by “spring” I mean late spring, like early June, realistically. [Read more…]

Today I Woke Up Lonely

It’s not that I woke up feeling alone…it’s that I had a feeling of extreme loneliness.

How can this be when I am married to my best friend, usually accompanied by a small child, and have a teenaged daughter who actually chooses hanging out with me once in a while over friends? How can this be, this deep feeling, when I have some of the best friends on the planet, family, blood and extended, that are all sorts of awesome, and a beautiful community of friends, past and present, on-line and on Facebook?

How can I feel loneliness today, to the point of tears, when I’m in a town of over 20,000 people?

The feelings were too raw, so I confessed them to Jason in the middle of the kitchen, he plugging away at his computer at the other end of the table.

She said: I’m so lonely.

He, doesn’t say a thing, but walks over and holds me close.

She said: When you are talking on the phone all day, do you actually feel like you’ve BEEN with those people, like you aren’t alone, but together? Does it fill that for you?

He said: Adrienne, when you work from home like we do, you have to be intentional about connecting with friends…

She said: I miss my face to face friends…the ones who have my heart.

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But this isn’t my town and, though I’ve loved these people for 25+ years, they have their lives and routines and friends and pursuing them to breathe the same air at once feels intrusive…almost presumptuous, as if they wanted to spend time with me.

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This season of “houselessness” we’ve embarked on isn’t all galavanting around France and jaunts to Australia or wherever. Sure, those are fun and exciting things that have been on my dream list for years.

But more so, this season is a space of learning. And I’m learning, even more, the necessity for the practice of empathy. I feel this deep loneliness because something in this town is crying out to my soul. I hear these cries in the faces that smile and keep pressing on in the grocery store and at the coffee shop and at the kids’ games.

“We’ve always been a fiercely private people…these walls are comfortable…don’t broach them…”

Sure, on the physical, tangible side of things, I just want to carve out a day with my girls and walk for miles, go grab a great bite to eat somewhere new, open a bottle of smooth red, and share hearts. But they live in Colorado and are hanging out without out me.

My empathic heart senses I’m not the only one who hears the cries or feels the loneliness, in this town, or any town, for that matter.

So what will practicing empathy look like today when I really just want someone else to practice it towards me?

It will look like vulnerability…like telling Jason I’m lonely, then calling or texting a couple of friends, not in expectation that they remove the feeling, but just to share my heart, and saying, “Friend, I’m so lonely today. Thanks for being in my life…thank you for loving me…would you like to hang out?”

Get Your Party Started

On October 11, 2014, my Dad, sisters and I threw a party we should have thrown years prior, but under different circumstances. Life gets busy. We have jobs and spouses and kids and appointments and things to do and budgets and we get tired and the thought of traveling with niños in tow is less than appealing, and so, the seemingly responsible and practical reasons for not doing WHATEVER it is that is very important, but could maybe be put off until our lives slow down a bit or aren’t as crazy, well, those things don’t happen. And then it’s too late, over, after the fact.

There were special milestones we looked forward to acknowledging, but planning for a 70th, 80th, or 90th birthday party or a “remission from cancer” celebration, well, those never happened.

My Mom even said to me before she passed away in June, “Boo Boo, I think I was waiting to get better before I did such and such…”

Every one of us has lives filled with things to do and places to go and sights to see, check lists to complete, errands to run, things, things, things, busy, busy, busy, some of it good, some of it mind-numbing, some of it slowly sucking the life from our bones. But when the day is done, it’s the people with whom we have come in contact with, from the guy at the checkout at the store to the person across the table at dinner, to the person reflected in the mirror, who matter the most…

I’ve sat with death on several occasions. I’ve held those I love, hand in hand, close to my heart as they took their last breath and moved on to the realm of real living, but the realm I’m not welcome in yet, the one I can’t see…the place where much of my heart resides and my mind wanders to, yet my eyes are blinded because I’m meant to live here, right now, fully engaged, beautifully intentional, eyes open to the present, heart wide open, loving and celebrating the gifts (people) of God all around me, on this given day.

And so, though we celebrated our Mom with daily phone calls and family meals and gatherings, trips here and there, hours over the sewing machine, snuggles on the couch soaking in her wisdom, we never threw her a party like the one we did in Arizona just this last weekend. It wasn’t that it was some fantastic venue or even that the food was super yum. This party was one of the most beautiful gatherings I’ve ever attended because the setting was love and the décor was a room full of friends, all people my Mom loved and who loved my Mom. Set in one of the wealthiest and most beautiful cities in the world, I looked around the room and realized with an overwhelming sense of awe that my Mom was one of the richest women who ever walked the planet…her heart had been filled with the gift of friendship, both in the giving and receiving, and everyone else there knew it, too, their presence speaking louder than words.

I think Kid President is onto something…personally, I’m not so much a parade girl…they are kind of long and I’m not a fan of having candy chucked at me from a distance, but, baby, say “party,” dinner party, cocktail party, well-digging party, dance party, charity party, beach party, garden party, wine tasting party, coffee party, fund-raising party, freedom from slavery party, cupcake party, impromptu party, just hanging out party, birthday party, divorce party, because the house is clean party, bad/good day party, anniversary party, because it’s Monday party, hiking party, biking party, whatever the heck kind of party, party,” the key word here is “party” and my heart lights up!

Life is short no matter the timespan. Sometimes waiting for tomorrow, scheduling, or “special occasions” establishes a mindset that TODAY isn’t miraculous enough…

I mean, really. What’s more special than right here, right now, and the people around us?

Forget Pinterest and go break bread and throw someone a party…because you still can!