Welcome and Invite Them In

Thursday we moved our oldest son Tim to Chicago, where he will be student teaching this year in an urban high school – the culmination of his preparation for the calling he feels to teach in the inner city. The sense of adventure we all felt that morning as we pulled out of our driveway began to fade just a few miles from home. I watched the tarp-covered load in our trailer anxiously in my rear-view mirror as we pulled onto the highway. What seemed stable and secure while sitting in our garage now shifted with the force of the wind at high speed. The tarp billowed out alarmingly far, and I began to imagine items flying off the trailer, creating havoc for unsuspecting drivers behind us. We pulled off the highway three different times to re-secure the load, adding a new tarp and an increasing number of bungee cords with each stop. A number of other mishaps added to what was already turning out to be a much different trip than we had planned, and by the end of the day I was feeling exhausted and more than a bit overwhelmed.

As I began to connect with all that I was feeling, I knew my heart was holding the weight of this move in a different way than his previous moves – this wasn’t a temporary move to a college dorm – Tim had actually sorted and packed all his belongings, knowing that he wouldn’t be returning “home.” So it wasn’t only the events of the day that had me feeling so much; my heart was feeling the weight of another significant transition in this parenting journey. As I watched Tim and his fiancée, Anna, work together throughout the day to solve problems as they arose, I felt the familiar mixture of pride and grief so present lately with all of our children moving into adulthood. I am not needed in the same way, and that is as it should be. And it is a loss worthy of grieving, which is also as it should be.

As I hold the fullness of all the emotions swirling in my heart at this moment, I am reminded of words from a poem that has become my theme for this year: “ Welcome and entertain them all…invite them in…treat each guest honorably…be grateful for whoever comes…” My counselor noticed how difficult it was for me to welcome all my emotions, having learned well as a young girl to dismiss them, because they were too much for me and everyone else to handle. I had learned that the depth with which I felt them was something that made me different, and not in a good way. As he read “The Guest House” to me that day, he invited me to consider welcoming my feelings with kindness and acceptance, rather than harsh judgment.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes ,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
– Rumi

I had no idea that day just how much I would need those words, but I believe something in my heart knew, and took the words spoken with such kindness in – into a place I could return to again and again over the next months as painful transitions began to unfold in just about every area of my life. For someone who finds change anxiety-inducing, the temptation to hide out and avoid feeling all of the accompanying emotion has been strong. I can actually even pull it off for a while, until it all catches up to me, and I can no longer hide; and I find myself feeling crushed as overwhelming emotion seems to press in from all sides, leaving me panicked and sure my heart will never feel rest again.

Welcome and entertain them all – even the crowd of sorrows! That feels appropriate tonight as my heart feels the absence of our oldest son and anticipates the departure of our youngest daughter this week as well.

What if I allowed myself to hold the possibility of new delight alongside that crowd of sorrows?

What if I believed everything I am feeling has a sense of purpose, being sent from the One who is beyond, who knows exactly what my heart needs, and speaks the words in the language my heart will understand? I’m not to the place where I swing open the door with with laughter yet, but in this moment, I am gratefully inviting them all in.



Janet Stark is a woman learning to bless her depth and sensitivity. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband, Chris and their kids and grandkids. Janet loves curling up with a good book, trying new recipes on her friends and family, and enjoying long conversations with friends over a cup of really good coffee. She is a life-long lover of words and writes about her experiences here: http://wp.me/p1qbAy-k.