Last night, our plans for the evening were interrupted, and it left me feeling fuller than I had in a long time.
We were supposed to host Braverly’s small group at our house, but after most of the food was prepared, we found out that all but one of our women was either sick or out of town for the upcoming Songkran celebrations. Sometimes life goes this way—unplanned and unpredictable, completely out of rhythm and totally beyond our control.
Instead of cancelling, we gathered whoever could come, plus some, and our house went from quiet and mellow to vibrant and colorful. Hser Na Gay, the house mom for our children’s home, brought her three daughters and Amy brought hers. Little kid chatter filled our small space and single sentences were formed with a combination of English, Burmese, and Karen. In a moment, it seemed like our air conditioners couldn’t keep up with the heat from the stove top and the number people making themselves comfortable in our house.
And I love that.
I am an introvert by nature, and I value a quiet home as much as my next introverted friend. But sometimes, my introvertedness means that I separate myself from others, that I push friends away, that I mistake self-care for isolation. I have learned that my life is exponentially better when I’m surrounded by a few extroverts, because through our differences, we pull out the best in each other.
This is what Kristy does for me. She keeps my independent, introverted self soft. She keeps me close to the people who keep me going. She keeps the door to our home open—open to possibility, open to anyone, open to game nights and movie nights and sleepovers with mattresses laying side by side in the living room. She doesn’t do this all the time. After all, she’s also kind to my introverted self, but last night was one when the door to our home was open.
People walked in without knocking. They helped themselves to cold water from the fridge. They dunked chips in salsa well before we set down to eat. They adjusted the fans and slouched on the couch. They weren’t in their home, but they were home.
We had a lot of plans for the evening. We planned to introduced our Braverly women to burrito bowls and homemade salsas. We planned to ask them new questions, and dare them to be a little vulnerable with the group. We planned to share together, pray together, and end the night with fruit pizza.
And all of our plans flew out the window, replaced by coloring and conversation and a quick fashion show when Hser Na Gay needed to try on a few dresses. And that’s ok, because community doesn’t demand that every gathering become a space for the hard questions or the vulnerable conversations.
Sometimes it invites us to take off our shoes at the door and snack on a few grapes before dinner. It invites us to adjust the temperature of the aircons and sink into the pillows on the couch. It invites us to sift through the craft drawer to find markers and pieces of paper for the kiddos. It invites us to pull out toys and snuggle babies so the mammas can have a break. It invites us to simply be, to let the evening go wherever it should.
It’s these moments—the ones of feeling at home in someone else’s home—that build something beautiful, something lasting. The masks are off. The guards are down; it’s a different kind of vulnerability, the kind you can’t name right away. It’s the vulnerability of being absolutely, truly yourself with a group of people who create the space for you to simply be.
This is why my heart felt so full.
We didn’t have an earth-shattering, soul-revealing conversation. We didn’t fix anyone’s problems or solve anyone’s worries. But we did find out how Hser Na Gay’s trip to Burma was. We found out how her family was doing, how her village was doing. We heard another terrible pun from Meghan and realized that Kayla also had a few puns to add to the mix. We heard Chichi and Nono practice their English and watched Joy come alive as she played with other toddlers. We heard about all the big and little things that happened in each other’s days, and sometimes that feels just as important as hard questions and vulnerable conversations.
Because you can’t have one without the other.
Because sometimes you need evenings when everyone slouches on the couch, takes turns snuggling babies, fills up bowls of rice and beans and salsa, and does the little, simple things of life that maybe aren’t as simple and little as we think.