“I think those women are checking you out again,” Jeremy had a wry grin on his face, refusing to let me off the hook for how “CUTE!” the women at the bar had insisted I looked tonight.
“Well you know, I AM rather fetching…” I said it with a hair toss, not to be out done by my most extroverted friend. But my slightly arched eyebrow spoke another message, “Don’t you dare drag me over there for awkward stranger bonding.”
Jeremy’s a fairly intuitive soul. With a mischievous glint in his eye, he laughed and took another long sip of his stout. I joined with mine.
Already the week felt like a long one, but these well-worn chairs in a quiet brewery down the street from the place called home—they felt like belonging. A belonging so ordinary I didn’t realize I had been missing it.
The sass and invitation of friends like Jeremy has done a lot to help me to stop analyzing if I belong and instead just embrace my belonging. This year, as the American holiday of gratitude approaches, I find myself belonging in brand new ways. For the first time, I am helping host Thanksgiving.
For a long time, I thought hosting Thanksgiving would come later in my life—after marriage, and maybe even after kids. There seems to be a rhythm to hosting big holidays, and I had every intention of following it.
But this year is the first Thanksgiving I won’t share with the family gathered around my parents’ table. As I have considered what that means, I’ve thought of dreams I started cultivating three years ago about what my house might feel like for Thanksgiving. I think those dreams are ready to find some life.
Because Thanksgiving isn’t about following a life script; it’s about showing radical inclusion in the middle of your right now life.
I’ve chatted with my mom multiple times this week, attempting to play it cool rather than shriek into my cell phone, “HOW THE HELL DO YOU COOK A TURKEY?!”
Instead, I’ve asked more logical questions about order of cooking food and ensuring I get portions right. Mom has exuded reassurance: “You’re too good a cook to be worried about Thanksgiving, Katy. You can handle this meal, and you will do a beautiful job.”
On Wednesday I received a text from Mom, “I’m sending something to help.”
“Does ‘something to help’ mean a kindly grandmother to create lump-less gravy?” I wondered, standing by till the promised delivery date of Saturday.
The set time of arrival ticked near, and I walked down to the main lobby of my building.
“Do you see him?” the text chirped at my phone.
“Not yet… What exactly am I looking for?” My mother had intentionally evaded details in her texts: someone named Jose was delivering something that I needed to pick up in person at my place of residence.
I feel it’s important now to articulate in clear terms that I don’t buy drugs. Or use drugs. Or sell drugs. No drugs.
The next text chirped. “He’s there but he thinks he might be at the wrong door.”
I looked out the windows: rain pummeling the cement, exhaust billowing from nearby cars, thickly protesting the 37-degree weather. On my feet, a pair of powder blue slippers now struck me as utterly ridiculous. I punched open the door and ran briskly to the nearby sidewalk, flipping my head quickly from side to side, searching for Jose who was not a drug mule.
He was, however, a hipster—Warby Parker glasses, thick cream-colored sweater, hand woven beanie and a well-manicured beard. He met me in front of my building, laughing and apologetic, laden with groceries.
“Hello Katy, here’s your delivery from Shipt.”
“Oh, uh, thank you!” I said, a bit confused.
“Yep, have a great day.”
I rushed back indoors, hands burning a bit from the weight of the bags. Once back in my loft I dialed my mom.
“Did you get it all?” her voice had a bounce to it.
“Um, yeah, this is great…”
“It’s everything you need to cook Thanksgiving dinner.” She explained. “Well, minus the turkey.”
I couldn’t help but smile and breathe a little relief. Even across the miles, Mom was ensuring the nudges and wisdom I would need to pull this meal off came through.
This Thanksgiving, life looks a little different and so does my sense of belonging. I belong to my mother and my family in Texas. I belong to my friends, stretched around the world and here in West Michigan. I belong to the families who’ve extended invitations to their home this holiday and the students from seminary who will find their way to mine. I belong to work friends and professors. I belong to all those choosing to share life with me, right here in the ordinary. As Mother Teresa says, we belong to each other, and that is the heart of peace.
I hope to remind myself of that truth this holiday season, over and over again. I hope to choose belonging over stress, expectation, performance, or worry. And I hope the same for you.
In this week’s moments of solitude and moments of gathering, may we will feel seen by the heart of God, held by those bearing witness to our lives and rooted to the purpose of peace, remembering with every breath that we belong to each other.
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 28 year old seminary student, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.