Originally posted at SheLoves Magazine.
I have a habit of collecting all things mint or aqua-colored. I line them along my shelves and my desk, even my windowsill—jars and mugs, a hand-made teapot, an antique pan, a couple bowls.
I know I don’t need one more mismatched mint treasure, but vintage stores and clearance shelves have a way of turning up lonely artifacts just begging to come home with me.
I think I collect people the same way.
I make friends on street corners, in grocery lines, in dense traffic in downtown Los Angeles and coffee houses in Seattle. I ask questions like a journalist. We talk about faith and travel, about uncomfortable shoes and new haircuts.
I line their stories up, in shades of aqua and mint along shelves and commit them to memory. Sometimes they remain longtime friends. Sometimes our interaction is fleeting. Every time I am left knowing my own heart more and more.
But I didn’t always make friends this easily. I used to sit on the edge and wait. My eyes would beg for company at my empty lunch table. I did my best to blend in and just get by. I bit my lip. I fought back tears. And I let myself believe the lies of a lonely heart: I am unwanted. I am unlovable. I am broken.
I can’t tell you when or how I stopped feeling that way. Looking back, it’s like a shock—a lightning bolt epiphany—that tells me those thoughts are just lies to keep me lonely. But I suspect the transformation is occurring gradually, like the way a leaky pipe fills up a bucket, drop by beautiful drop.
I suspect my heart started to expand, so that the more people I met and learned to love, the more my capacity to love grew with it. And the more people I collected in my minty memories, the more grace I found even for myself.
It’s as if the past six years I have been learning to belong to myself, rather than to a place. Idelette has written about how home follows her as she moves. And Rachel said it toojust last week. O glory, their stories read as truth to my adventuring heart.
This week I celebrated my birthday. If there was ever a doubt about how beloved I am, my birthday and Facebook are sure to team up and prove me wrong. Messages poured in from my tribe around the globe—notes from Iraq and Australia, Seattle and San Jose, a call from a South African transplant in Canada and a Norwegian in Louisiana. Notifications set my phone ablaze and I was reminded that there are so many places where I belong, where I am accepted.
I belong to a sun-dappled table and a cup of tea in Holly’s Missouri home. And to a flat in Kolkata, sipping thick, syrupy chai. I belong to an artist’s loft in Los Angeles and a brick cottage in New Orleans. I belong to a red couch in Canada where Idelette and Scott take turns making me cry happy tears.
I never belonged anywhere. And yet, somehow, I’ve found myself belonging everywhere.
And I’m pretty sure that is the greatest birthday gift a girl could ask for: to look around and remember that a daughter of the Most High is home, because her heart is being ever-redeemed and filled with shelves of blue-green Truth.