October 2013 was an epic month. Along with thousands of other bloggers, I took this challenge: to choose a theme and write every single day on that topic. I chose the theme of Belonging. For a day by day list of posts, click here. What follows is a summary of it all, with the links embedded. The most popular posts are marked with an asterisk*.
Writing about the same thing for 31 days made me think deeply on this topic.
I chose the topic because I wanted to incorporate things I’d been learning about what it means to be Justified by God, which I understand to mean to be irrevocably declared to belong to His people. I laid out the basics in – The Illustrated Guide to Justification* (and got a very encouraging email from Someone Significant saying it was helpful, which totally made my month!) More posts on belonging to God’s people followed: Us vs Them: The Church Edition, “I love Jesus but I don’t go to church”* , You can tell shame where to park it, Dear Mary, About that list… and Global Passport.
The beauty of the truth about belonging to God was thrown into sharp relief as I was teaching about justification at the same time as visiting one of my best friends just weeks into her breast cancer diagnosis. I had the rare and heart-breaking privilege of sitting with her as her hair fell out, and she affirmed again and again that her identity was not to be found in her hair or her illness. Her identity was in belonging to God: Cancer is not her tagline*.
I thought about aspects of our church life and how we express belonging in This is how I want to worship. I was thankful for guest posts from Elisabeth Corcoran on Divorced: now where do I belong and Kate Motaung on how we experience culture shock even as believers ( Attitudes and accents). The church is made up of beloved and hurting misfits. We are glorious and we are gutted. We need vulnerability – and God showed me that most comically by having me dance Gangnam style – in public. It was exactly as awkward as you might imagine.
I thought about the sense of belonging we cultivate in our families: in marriage (A Geeky Kind of Love), and in our parenting. There are truths about belonging we want tattooed into our children’s souls (Soul Tattoo #1 and Soul Tattoo #2). I revisited 7 Amazing Parenting Tips from Rose and Rudolf, and tried to think forward to how the message about belonging is applied to teenagers ( Where to Teens Belong? )
Other big things happened in October. I missed the Redbud Writers Guild Retreat, which made me aware of the beauty of belonging to a community of faithful and encouraging writers ( The Buddy System). I also missed my 20th year high school reunion , which brought about an unexpected amount of introspection about how the fact of belonging somewhere is often not matched with a feeling of belonging. In fact, often we don’t feel we belong, and it keeps us unnecessarily discouraged and distant. I had had a plan about where my writings about belonging would lead, but was surprised to find myself moving in another direction: writing a letter to my teenage self*, and then later turning it into a talk for a college group as I reflected on The Sophomore Doldrums, by which I mean that season when you’re no longer new but you still don’t feel you fit…
I was excited to find new avenues for belonging in our community: in public school, in The Empty Chair at my dining room table, in Social media. In fact, the post What if Facebook Makes me a Better Mom?* turned out to be one of the most read posts of the month. I felt fairly confident about the whole facebook question, but by the end of the month got all tripped up on just how badly I wanted to “belong” to our community when Halloween rolled around. My last post was simple entitled: It’s Halloween, and I’m confused.
The more I wrote, the more I realized that the feeling of belonging was intricately wrapped up with our sense of identity, particularly our identity-in-relationship. I was acutely aware of being South African (There’s rooibos in my soul*), and thought a lot about the concept of home being Where the Heart Is. All that thinking about belonging and home made me yearn for heaven and our ultimate home, another topic In Which CS Lewis Nails It.
I cheated once this month: and wrote on the topic of belongings instead of belonging. I’m glad I did – money and possessions are a tricky topic and it can be helpful to know One question to ask if you’re wondering “should I buy this?”*
It was a challenging-but-rewarding, good-but-hard month. It was humbling to have to post something everyday, even when it didn’t feel polished and my thoughts didn’t feel complete. It was eye-opening to experience why writing mentors say you have to write EVERY day, even if you don’t feel inspired. There were many days I didn’t feel inspired, but the discipline of having to return to my keyboard stretched my mind and my soul.
I learned a lot through the writing, and was so encouraged by those who read, commented, and “liked” the pieces. I was honored that some even thought them worthy of sharing with others by re-posting. This online community of writers and readers is precious to me – they call the web “virtual”, but the community we belong to is real to me.
I’m thankful. Thankful for 31 days. Thankful for the opportunity to think deeply about belonging to God and His people. Thankful I could write. Thankful that the posts were read. And also, I’m thankful that it’s over 🙂
Three loud cheers to the other 31 Days Writers who took the challenge and whose daily writing efforts I read and considered to be team-encouragement in the blogging marathon: Kate at Heading Home, Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs Darcy, and Tim over at Tim’s Place, who didn’t officially take the challenge but who posts every single day and for whom I now have a new marvel at his blogging stamina. Seriously. You all are champions.
I’d love to hear what your favorite posts were, or if you learned anything about belonging with me? Please leave a comment – you’d make my day!