at the table

Growing up in a family that was very intentional about sitting down at the table together each night, the transition away from home and into a space without a common table of my own was challenging. While there were often still people gathered around the table, I didn’t have a space of my own to start my own traditions as I was used to doing. At the time, this never specifically struck me as odd or disappointing. While I didn’t have my own table to cultivate community around, there were other ways this manifested throughout those years. And while I still don’t have a table, one practice remains the same.

Coffee.

Steaming cups, frothy milk, perfectly [or not so perfectly] pulled espresso shots, and a table. Not a table placed in the center of a dining room in a beautifully decorated home, but a table, in the middle of a coffee shop, used as a common place for people to meet – to gather around.

In fact, at this moment, I sit at a coffee shop in the Brussels airport, watching people gather together. Some, you can tell, are in a hurry, while others have stopped to linger, making the most of their international layover. But even in moments of the hustle and bustle of airport life, people still sit around a table – sharing words and coffees and moments together. *NOTE: I started writing this blog almost two years ago and I am, in fact, not sitting in the Brussels airport. Unfortunately.*

Community around the table can look different in various seasons and stages of life. But for me, in this season, “the table” is the corner comfy chair with the little wooden coffee table in front of it. It’s gathering and connecting over our commonalities, even if the only thing we have in common is the steaming drink that sits in front of us.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve showed up at a coffee shop, normally earlier than planned, meeting someone for the first time. Though to some this may seem intimidating (and honestly, I still feel this way sometimes), there is something beautiful and life giving about hearing someone’s story, coffees being sipped, and nothing known in common other than the mugs in our hands.

Common ground. That’s what coffee is. It’s the leveling of expectations – stripping down our preconceptions and our fears – creating a space that allows us to get down to the basics. Whether conversation comes easily or if it takes work to get things moving, the vulnerability and courage displayed by simply showing up permeates through the noise around you.

I’ve always said the best conversations happen while sitting on the kitchen floor or driving on a road trip. But after the last few years, I may have one more to add to the list. Honestly, I think some of the best conversations I’ve had, either first meetings or with the oldest of friends, were experienced with mugs in hand. The steam somehow breaks down the barriers put up by unknown expectations or anticipation; removing the walls that so easily place themselves between words and meaningful conversations.

I know for myself, fear creeps into every aspect of life it can. The big and small things alike are all permeated with some level of fear or the anticipation that accompanies it. As it’s something that has been more present in the last few years, I’ve also been much more aware of fear’s ability to impact my life in significant ways. So, you would think the thought of meeting someone I don’t know, in a coffee shop I may not have been to before, to probably make some sort of small talk (which I often dread), would terrify me; to the point that I would use any and every excuse to avoid such event. And to be honest, often times it does. But you know what, acknowledging that, yet stepping out anyway is not only empowering, but rewarding beyond measure.

There’s something about that table, in that random coffee shop, with that piping hot coffee in your hands that screams out “bold” – on both sides of the table. Because let’s be honest, the person sitting across from you is most likely feeling just about the same thing you are. But you know what, you both showed up. You both took bold steps forward – risking vulnerability and possible rejection, all for the sake of relationship and community. And suddenly, you’re both on the same page, at the same starting line, with the same goal in mind.

Relationship.

People going beyond the surface, the exterior, the façade, to truly engage with another human being on a level that is beautiful and God honoring. So many times, we place a big emphasis on “community”, as it’s something we all strive to have in our lives on multiple levels. However, I believe relationship with others, seeking and chasing after The Creator – individually and together – will naturally become “community”. It’s not something that needs to be accomplished, but instead becomes something we are able to experience because we are relentlessly pursuing the Lord together. And it may start with something as simple as boldly saying yes to the unknown waiting for you in that corner coffee shop.

So, whether or not you have a table in your home to gather people around, whether or not you feel as though you’re in a place to invite people in to your space, or whether your “table” is outside of the four walls you consider home, know that the place you find yourself is significant. Even if this is simply the coffee shop around the corner with the person God has placed in front of you, for such a time as this.

Rest in the fact that no matter where you find yourself, boldly stepping out to walk alongside someone else, pursing the Lord together, your “table” will meet you where you are. All you have to do is say yes – and order the coffee.

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all that i am

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Kindred spirits. Heart friends. Fellow journeyers.

They are the people you do life with – the people you can’t imagine doing life without.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of miles can separate you, but they’re still you’re people. They’re the ones you cry to, laugh with, and complain to. They’re the people you drink coffee with – no words or full sentences required.

They’ve seen you at your worst – they’ve celebrated your greatest achievements.

I have these people to thank for keeping me sane, keeping me focused, keeping my life fun. I won’t sugarcoat it, each of these relationship has had rough patches. There have been times when I’ve been ready to walk away from them completely, but found the strength and drive to fight for them with everything in me. These are the people worth fighting for.

Just being around these people makes your soul feel at rest. No fuss needed. Sometimes all you need are some m&ms and an xBox controller in your hand. It could be an oven full of frozen pizza and an argument about which Netflix movie should be the feature that night. It can be as simple as staying at home and just being. It can be as adventurous as serving alongside them thousands of miles away from home. At home or across the world, these are your people – they are the ground you stand on and the push that propels you forward.

You don’t appreciate these people enough. You go through life, day-by-day, knowing out of habit that they’ll be there. It’s not until you’re removed from it that you truly appreciate and acknowledge these friendships, these people who make your life what it is. I’m thankful that they’re still my people – just a few more miles away. I still cry to them, laugh with them, and complain to them – it just takes a little more co-ordination and the help of a few Apple products.

I’m thankful for my people. I’m thankful that they know me to the core. I’m thankful that they believe in me more than I could ever imagine believing in myself. I’m thankful that we can be ourselves – laughing about things most wouldn’t even understand.

Different paths. Different continents. Common journey.

Here’s to many more tears, laughs, and cups of coffee.

forevermore

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What a weekend.

Thursday started with a rather chilly ride to Asheville, a quick Target run, a drive to Greenville, a bit of procrastinating at Starbucks, and a trip to the Greenville airport – all before 10:30am. We picked up our much anticipated guest Natalie (a blogger and Sole Hope Advocate who can be found at Take the Cannoli) just in time for me to realize that I had forgotten all 200 shoe patterns that we needed for the conference. It was 11am and the weekend was off to a…stressful start. While Nat was ecstatic that she would be able to visit the Sole Hope office in Asheville, Asher and I were trying to crunch the numbers and figure out how we could fix this little mistake of mine. We started our trek up the mountain and found ourselves at one of my favorite overlooks. It’s the perfect time of year to visit the mountains, and Nat was experiencing all this beauty for the first time. We continued to Brevard, said our quick hellos, and sped off to Asheville as fast as our loaded down van would allow. A quick visit to the office, three inhaled crepes, and a walk around the block later – we were on our way to Greenville – again.

After the morning chaos, the stress of setting up our booth, and forgetting to give the van keys to the valet, we settled in for a much anticipated weekend at the Allume Conference. Sole Hope had the honor of sponsoring the conference which allowed us to not only share our mission on stage in front of 450 attendees, but we were able to host an Impact Opportunity on Saturday in the form of a shoe cutting party. It was incredible seeing this group of 45 women coming together with the SOLE purpose of cutting shoe uppers that will eventually be put on the foot of a child in Uganda. I was honored to be a part of the event, and was taken aback by how excited everyone was about being involved with Sole Hope. I loved seeing people as excited about these projects as I am. It was a successful weekend of not only connecting people with Sole Hope, but making personal connections with so many women that attended the conference.

It was three days full of laughter, tears, ridiculous humor, blogging, and friendships. To say the three of us had fun would be just the beginning. To say we got enough sleep would be a joke. To say I’m thankful for new and old heart friends would be an understatement. To say I’m even more passionate about Sole Hope would be nothing but the truth.

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Asher was able to bring back a few of the shoes whose uppers were cut in the States, sent to Uganda, and have returned in the form of the most adorable shoes. While I spent all weekend being a little jealous (okay, unbelievably jealous) that they do not yet come in my size, we had a few pairs that fit Nat like a glove. Clearly, a mini photo shoot in the cold (or freezing cold if your Miss SoCal Natalie) air of Greenville followed. Hopefully these shoes will be available for purchase in the States within the next year.

From the USA to Uganda to South Carolina – these shoes are world travellers.

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The weekend was more of a success than I could have ever imagined. I left with a refreshed passion for Sole Hope and blogging. I can’t wait to share new updates in both of those areas, but we’ll leave that for another post…

The weekend was filled with amazing speakers that made you think about life and art in a completely new way. Refreshed, renewed, and a little sleep deprived, we left the conference excited about not only the future, but where we are right now.

You are where you are for such a time as this; not to make an impression, but to make a difference. – Ann Voskamp