As I settled into my seat at the annual gratitude mass for a large area charity, I shook my head in wonder. There were hundreds of people at the mass, and it had taken us quite a while to sit, there were so many people to hug. We’ve been a part of this place since the kids were little, and a part of the retreat house across the way for just as long. There wasn’t a row of seats without a friend in it, there had been so many connections made over the years and it was clear as I looked at it spread out in front of me the weight of that, the value of belonging, the clever and wide plan of God.
After all, we didn’t set out to become a part of My Brother’s Keeper, or the Holy Cross Retreat House. We were invited once, and we kept coming. Over the years, our involvement has changed, shifted, and grown. We’ve met some of the best people we know within these walls, shared some of our most sacred and intimate moments, laughed, cried, and prayed together. We’ve given pieces of our hearts away here and gotten so much more in return. It’s astounding what can happen when there’s a little bit of light, and a door, and the grace to walk through it. With one invitation and one ‘yes’, God has made us a home.
There is such a power in invitation, and an even greater power in welcome. When we open doors for others, there’s no telling how God will use it. In the years since Jodi first invited me to live cursillo at the Holy Cross Retreat House and we started volunteering with My Brother’s Keeper’s Christmas program, we’ve invited dozens of people to share those special experiences with us, and it always enriches us when we do. When you have something good, you want to pass it along, and it grows like ripples in a pond.
I was in my early thirties when I started going to these two places, a young Mom with the meager beginnings of faith and just a glimmer of a voice. By the grace of God, I was marinated in wisdom and goodness, and the real-life practical example of good people who formed me, without my knowledge, into who I am today. Connie, Kathy, Erich, Jodi, Judy, Denise, Marie, Jack, Jess, Barbara, Patty, Jim, Michelle, Lori, Fr. Joe, Isabel, Nancy, Jim, Terry. Just some of the many people who’ve been the face of Jesus for me over the years. I shudder to think who I’d be without them and their example, their kindness, their prayers, and their influence.
In this particular time of life, there is time to pause and see just how God has steered our lives to where we are today and, honestly, it’s astonishing. Pieces of the puzzle we could never have chosen or moved or forced have come together to make a really beautiful picture, and it’s one that nourishes other people and us, too. It’s something only God could do, and I’m grateful.
As I sat in that chair at mass, I bent my head in recognition of the small and slow ways God works to make beauty and order out of our disconnected lives, how He brings people and ideas in when we most need them, and how he makes small seeds grow in time. I’m grateful for my seat and I’m awed at the ever-expanding table of God, where we can always pull up another chair, where every soul is family. Thanks be to God.
Note: if you live near me and are interested in volunteering with My Brother’s Keeper or in living the cursillo retreat, please reach out. There’s always a place for you.