Archive for July, 2015

Welcome to the table

There is a story I’ve kept inside for almost three and a half years yet it’s never left my thoughts. Sometimes you don’t know when it’s the time to talk about something until you just feel the peace that it’s the time to talk about something.

At the time I was fairly new to motherhood. Still learning my new baby. Trying to find balance in soaking up the sweetness and connecting with my child and maintaining some sort of “Alyssa” inside of the “Mom” that I now found myself to be. At the time one of my closest friends lived an hour and a half away, the other was a full time teacher. My older sister was working, my younger sister in school. My mom was working and being the care taker of her mother. We were serving at a small church, and I just longed for community with women somewhat like me, whether mothers or believers or both. I didn’t know many people who were stay at home moms or free during the day (even if they weren’t moms) and so I spent most of the days just talking to a baby that didn’t talk back and mainly being okay with that but occasionally feeling that if I didn’t interact with women similar to me soon that I would lose my mind.

A friend invited me to a mid morning bible study that a group of women from her church were a part of and I accepted the invitation. It was going to be a good fit I thought because it was in the lower level of a ladies home and the upper level was where a few women watched the children.

I was very nervous to leave Brooklyn that morning but felt better with her being just upstairs in the same house. My friend was kind enough to keep a seat for me as I transitioned from hanging upstairs with B to joining the study downstairs.

I’m a shy person at first. Or mainly all of the time. As I arrived I tried to make myself say hello to unknown faces of potential ladies to connect with. As the study was about to start I left Brooklyn upstairs with the caretakers and tried to breathe easy.

The ladies were studying Ruth and I was enjoying listening to everyone’s input. I tried to engage in a few side conversations to no avail but I pushed past my desire to check out and feel embarrassed that no one was really talking to me, but instead talking around me.

Throughout the morning of study and worship I could hear some crying coming from upstairs and I kept thinking I wish they would bring that baby to whomever her mom was, but assumed maybe it was just a regular attendee and maybe her child did this all the time so it was routine to wait it out.

About half an hour passed from that thought of mine and someone motioned towards me while the speaker was talking through another point in the study. I immediately felt alarm, I knew then it was Brooklyn that had been crying so long.

I panicked and I could feel the tears coming to my eyes but tried to maintain composure amongst these new faces. My body felt overcome with so many emotions: embarrassment for not realizing it was my child, rage that no one had gotten me sooner since it was my first time and I was not at the time a “cry it out” kind of mom, self-consciousness about what anyone was thinking about me/my child in that moment.

“Ummm your daughter hasn’t quit crying since she got here.” The care taker told me matter of factly.

“Oh…” I remember saying stunned “…I wish you would have gotten me sooner.” Was all I could manage to say.

“We thought you would know the cry of your own child.” She said smugly.

I am now face to face with my baby whose face is covered in tears and snot and is doing that intense cry-breathing, huffing almost. I scoop her up, cannot manage to speak to anyone and head for the car just constantly telling B “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know, mommy didn’t know, I’m here, I would have come so much sooner, I’m here now.”

Though this was over three years ago, it is one of my most vivid memories of her short life so far. It is painful every time I think about it.

I have grown as a person since then. I am a different kind of mom. I may react differently today than I did then. I may not join at all without doing more research on the childcare situation. I may just keep my baby with me. I may give grace to someone who doesn’t know me or I may speak my mother-mind as I’ve learned I have to do to advocate for my kids from time to time. There’s a lot of ways this situation probably wouldn’t unravel the way it did then if it were to happen today. But, it did, and so- every so often I continue to think about it.

I sat in my car and nursed Brooklyn back to happiness and just snuggled her before figuring out what I was going to do next. I texted my friend that had invited me that I was going to leave and sorry I couldn’t stay until the end.

We chatted later about all that transpired and though it was no fault of her own I could tell she felt bad how it all played out and was incredibly helpful in making me feel validated as a person, mother, friend. We’ve maintained a heart level friendship and I really don’t see the day as any reflection of her, and really I tie a lot of our bond to her response to me that day.

Aside from my friend though, I was really put off by the closed off crowd of women but thought maybe I caught them on a bad day.

I remember thinking in those first few days where everything was really fresh in my mind “you know, I’m not an unbelieving visitor- maybe they didn’t put their best foot forward because they knew I was
‘secure in my faith’ so I’d connect myself”.

As I have grown as a woman, friend, mother, believer… I consider that “benefit of the doubt” I gave quite ridiculous now. There’s not much of an excuse (read: there isn’t an excuse) for not welcoming an outsider, no matter how Jesus filled they may already be.

I never went back to the study but the day has never left me. It has caused me to really consider how I treat women, mothers, new comers. I’m no longer bitter about it but use it to fuel change in my own life when I feel indifferent (or even turned off) towards someone instead of welcoming towards them.

It reminds me of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the account given about their welcoming nature to an outsider- whom though they didn’t know his horrific plan- still looked, talked, and acted nothing like them and yet they welcomed him. They welcomed him so intensely that he uttered he almost did not follow through with his mass murder.

One morning of being unwelcomed, and a believer felt as if she never wanted to step foot in a place again.

One night of being welcomed, and a murderer admitted the potential impact that had. He could not deny their acceptance despite his differences.

That speaks volumes to me, in a chilling and inspiring way all the same.

Romans 15 talks about Christ’s example of being welcoming. Do we realize when Christ welcomed us to the table, it wasn’t because we bring anything of value (anything at all) to the table? We come empty handed and yet Christ fills our spiritual plate with love and acceptance and forgiveness and encouragement to strive for holiness and challenge for growth. What do we do then when someone’s enters the tables/couches/rooms/churches of our lives where we already have our fill of friendship and fellowship? We need to be mindful of how Jesus welcomed us as we consider others. We need to welcome others- others who may become best friends, others who may have nothing in common with us, others who may even be in contention with us. We need to be a welcoming people that doesn’t look for what anyone can bring to the table, but instead fill them out of the overflow of our own hearts of love.

I have no way to tie this with a bow neatly, I just want you to think about how you treat others and beyond thinking about it- I want you to change how you treat others that aren’t in your circle. Welcome them. Love them. Strike a chord with them that they cannot ignore Jesus in you.


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