On Sunday we piled into the back of trucks and squeezed as many people as possible inside where the air con was on full blast. We drove toward the mountains where Mae Kasa waterfall is tucked away. On the last Sunday of every month, the Braverly crew spends the afternoon together, laughing and playing and usually drinking some form of caffeine. This week, though, everyone from Outpour Movement was invited. It was the twin’s birthday, and we wanted to celebrate together.
That afternoon, while the Thailand heat settled around us, we laid out wicker mats and took of our shoes. We ate chicken fried rice and one too many snickerdoodle cookies. Conversations in Thai and Karen and English and Burmese filled the air. Babies napped in mammas’ arms. Toddlers were too distracted by the promise of swimming to eat their food. It was, in so many ways, a classic family gathering—food, laughter, play, and conversation.
I’ve been doing life with these people for nearly nine months, and while that’s certainly not a life time, it’s been long enough to know that I have been given a gift. This tribe, this crew, they’re not perfect. We have our dysfunctions and quirks. We make mistakes and have disagreements and face challenges, but even still, we have a kind of love for one another that far exceeds the messiness of doing life together.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about those first weeks with my team. I’m not always the best at transition and change, especially when it disrupts the well-established relationships I have built around myself. I remember those awkward first days of trying to figure out where I fit. I remember the way I cautiously stepped into meetings or meals around the table, the way we do when we’re trying to get a feel for a group’s dynamic.
My dear friend sent me some words from author Shauna Niequist when I first moved to Thailand. “Six weeks,” she said, “it takes six weeks to settle into any kind of routine or rhythm when you move to a new place or start a new job.” Lucky for me, I did both of those things, and let me tell you, it took at least that long to settle into some kind of normal.
It’s taken even longer to settle into family, but that’s sort of wonderful to me.
I’m a destination kind of person, usually wishing the journey didn’t take as long, but this season, more than any other, has taught me the importance of coming back to the table of community day after day. It has taught me the importance of choosing to be intentional. Before I moved to Mae Sot, I was healing from deep hurts from those around me, and in my first few weeks here, the Father whispered to my soul, “It’s time to tear down the walls you’ve built around your heart. Brick by brick.”
Brick by brick.
What a slow process. He didn’t give me a sledgehammer or a wrecking ball. Most days, this idea of tearing down the wall brick by brick looked like simply showing up. It looked like saying yes to moments with my team. It looked like sitting across from a teammate and inviting her into some of the messy parts of my story. It looked like asking good questions and listening all the way to the end, no matter how long it took. It looked like choosing to be with instead of being isolated.
And it’s taken nearly nine months of this kind of daily choice to get to the kind of beauty we experienced on Sunday. Even still, I wouldn’t trade this season for anything, and I wouldn’t go back to the Kate I was in August.
When we choose to tear down the walls we’ve built around our stories, our fears, our insecurities, our whole selves, we open ourselves up to something so much more wonderful than we could ever imagine. We open ourselves up to family.
Things can still be messy, complicated, and painful, but if we choose to show up day after day after day, we just might find ourselves sitting among people who were once strangers, holding their babies, laughing about inside jokes. We just might find ourselves honored to help carry each others stories, joys, and struggles. We just might find ourselves speaking a common language we never knew was possible.
It takes time–weeks, months, years. It takes a willingness to embrace awkward transitions. It takes being able to laugh at the moments when we get it wrong, forgive when there’s misunderstanding, and encourage when we need to be challenged.
But I promise that if we keep choosing this kind of life, we just might find ourselves a little less lonely, a little less afraid, a little less insecure, because we will have created something so much bigger than a community.
We will have built a family.
I couldn’t be more grateful for mine—Thai, Burmese, Karen, and American.