This past month I had a chance to introduce two friends that I love a lot over lunch. I just felt in my heart they were supposed to know each other, even though I wasn’t exactly sure why. So, they were kind of enough to indulge me and we had a great lunch talking about where we were in our lives and sharing stories. As part of this conversation they asked me if I was going to blog for GraceFull and shared words of encouragement around that. I’m sure my body language gave me away immediately as my gut reaction is to shrink back and cringe a bit when I think about writing for a public audience. This really doesn’t make a lot of sense because I have always loved to write. I am much more comfortable and effective when I express my thoughts through writing. Too often in person I can’t get out all of what I want to say and it ends up in a jumbled mess or often with me in tears if it is an emotional topic (many of you who know me have witnessed this countless times). I think better when writing words versus speaking them. And when I start writing, I never have a shortage of words. Brevity is not my strong suit, so consider yourself warned.
So, here I am – blogging. I’m not sure how often this will be happening. I can’t say that I will be blogging every week or even every month. I guess it will evolve as I have stories that are on my heart to share.
What has been on my heart as a blog debut topic is Relationships. I wanted to begin here as this is what life is all about for me. Investing in relationships is at the heart of GraceFull’s vision. If you visit our home page, we list our 5 core values and at the top of the list is that we will Invite, Welcome and Love all People. Food is the way I love to love people. I want to go past the invitation to making you feel welcome at our table; to getting to know you so I can love you better; whether I have known you for an hour or a year. In my heart, the offering of food is a way of offering love. This concept isn’t new. Sharing meals together dates back to the beginning of society. Think about how we continue to show love today when big things happen in people’s lives – whether it is a birth, a death, an illness, a graduation, etc. When I don’t know what to say I bring food. When I want to help you celebrate I bring food. It’s just universal to me. Food sustains us, so the act of sharing food is sharing life with each other.
Troy and I have the opportunity to open GraceFull in a wonderful home that has many great stories of its own simply because of the power of relationships. I wanted to honor that story by sharing it with you because GraceFull is a personal example of the fruit of investing in relationships. It was back in February that I first visited what was then the Serendipi-Tea Shoppe with my friend who was also my realtor. Little did I know then the ups and down that were to happen in the months following, but thankfully I know now that the story has a happy ending. To try to make a long story short (or at least shorter!), after a few more visits and then falling in love with the property I was abruptly told that it was no longer on the market. The disappointment in my heart was significant. At this point I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk with Jean who was the owner for more than about 5 minutes.
As I find is often true, God’s timing was perfect and the day after I received this news I was scheduled to fly out to visit a dear friend that had moved with her family in the past year to pursue their dream of starting a new life on a family farm in the midwest. I often refer to her as my “partner in crime” as we have so many great memories together of loving people in the kitchen. It was a weekend for my soul to heal from what felt like a great loss of something that was meant to be and there was no better place for me to be right then to ask questions of my heart, search for peace and to be re-united in the kitchen with such a dear friend.
I came back from the weekend with a refreshed spirit feeling like there was more to be invested in; an investment beyond what I was hoping for in my own heart, which was a home for GraceFull. It was a personal investment that had been missing and that I selfishly needed. I never had the opportunity to hear Jean’s story, nor had I been able to share mine with her. Things felt incomplete. It wasn’t about the real estate transaction. It was about our hearts. So, I requested permission from her realtor to write her a letter. In this letter I shared the story of our family’s background and my vision for GraceFull. I also asked if she would be willing to have tea with me so I could hear her story. I felt that after having a chance to invest in hearing each other’s story that things would work out as they should; whether that meant her reconsidering selling the property or not. My daughter Avery and I dropped the letter by the tea shop although Jean didn’t happen to be there that morning. A day later she called and accepted my invitation and later that week Jean and I had the chance to invest in each other over tea. Three hours later we had shared our hearts and heard each other’s stories. She was able to hear my vision of continuing to use her shop as a gathering space for the community and to invest back in the community. I also had the opportunity to hear how so much of her heart was invested in the space where she had pursued a dream of opening a tea shop with her husband who she then lost very suddenly to cancer just two years into her dream. I walked away that day feeling complete. We had had a chance to begin a relationship even though I wasn’t sure where it would lead.
As this post is already becoming a novel, I will skip the rest of the details that followed in purchasing the property over the next 4 months before we closed on June 26th. Finding a home for GraceFull became a reality because of the potential that relationships hold. People are created to be listened to and valued. If we go through life trying to survive on our own or not wanting to let people in, we are missing so much of the amazing richness that others can bring into our lives. With that said, relationships are not easy. They are hard work. Some can be super fulfilling, others can be incredibly draining and messy and leave us broken, hurt and angry; and some can be both depending on the season that we are in. Whether the relationship is easy or hard it impacts us and when we are impacted there is growth. As I write this I am both celebrating and mourning some relationships in my life. I am celebrating with my sister and brother-in-law that live in Russia and just received news that after years of investing in a relationship with two special boys that they finally have formal approval as their foster parents. I am also celebrating 20 years of marriage this week to an amazing man that I am so lucky to have as my husband and that has stood beside me through all of these years which have definitely lived up to “for better or for worse.” But I also have those relationships currently that I have neglected investing in because they are at a hard point and I don’t know what the next step should be or I am too afraid to take it.
To some extent we can and should choose our relationships, but I also believe the opposite to be a difficult counter truth. Yes, we should be very intentional about who we choose as our life partner for example, but on the other hand I think it can be an incredibly healthy and challenging thing to not always screen who we allow into our daily lives. I have already met so many people incredible people on my journey to open GraceFull and I can’t wait to welcome everyone that walks through our doors and begin investing in new relationships over a good meal. The invitation is always there. You are always welcome. We will love you well.