It’s been almost eight months since we left Jackson, Mississippi. I lived there for seven years, in dorm rooms, in a tiny apartment with my sweet friends from college, in a house on the corner with Jenna that first year of teaching, in houses with David up & down Oxford Avenue. David & I both put roots down in Jackson long before we became a family. Our siblings lived there, our college friends lived there. On any given Saturday we were guaranteed to run into five people we knew–before we finished breakfast.
Some things about Jackson were frustrating… the roads and the water, to name two Big Ones. But the relationships were what we loved & cherished. They were why we were so happy to be there & so sad to leave. When we got ready to move here, we were nervous. We made a list of all the people we even vaguely knew that lived here (six). We talked a lot about how you have to work at creating community, how it was going to be hard, how it would take lots of initiative on our part, how we were willing to buckle down and make it happen.
Eight months later, we tell anyone that we can get to sit still long enough to listen the exact same thing: we adore Birmingham, largely because of the friends we’ve made, the people we’ve worked alongside, the community we’ve found. We have story after story of people opening their hearts & their homes, drawing us in, making room.
And you know what? Contrary to all the pep talks we gave ourselves before we moved… we didn’t have to work for it. I’m a “good things don’t come easy, you’ve got to buckle down & make it happen” kind of person. I’m an inviter, a planner, a doer, a list maker. (Translation: employers love me; I’m pretty exhausting to live with.) But I didn’t do one single thing to create our community here. In fact, due to external circumstances, we’ve been in a place where we haven’t been able to go & host & plan & do like normal.
And yet we have a community that is overflowing with love & joy, coworkers/costudents that have born our burdens & shared their own, friends that bring so much light to our lives.
Through all of this I’ve learned two things (told you I was a list maker). First, sometimes God just gives you good things. You don’t have to work for them. You don’t have to deserve them. Sometimes He just gives you good gifts that he knows your soul longs for. Unexpected, unmerited gifts. For someone like me who is always trying to work for it, pay for it, hustle for it? This is such good news.
Second, draw your circles wide. We have been so blessed by people who have drawn their circles wide enough to let us in. Groups of girls who had space for one more. Sunday brunch when our precious friends pull chairs from outside in to make room at the table. Teachers who have worked at a school for thirty years and yet make time for someone who is brand new. People here haven’t just showed us obligatory you’re-the-new-kid-and-my-teacher-said-to-be-nice kind of hospitality, but have truly sewn us into the fabric of their lives. It’s been such a convicting reminder that there is always room for someone else, always space for another chair at the table. When circles are wide, the kingdom grows & everyone wins.
As we enter the home stretch of this first year in our new city, I’m thankful for grace & good things… and I’m committing to drawing the biggest circles I possibly can.