After a fairly traumatic early childhood, I was a very anxious and self-conscious tween. My fifth-grade teacher noted to the whole class that I wouldn’t speak up when called on during instruction time and made a snide comment about how she would be shocked if I ever did, causing every classmate to turn and stare furthermore when I was called on to read aloud or answer a question.
As you can guess, my social skills didn’t improve much that year.
In another didactic effort to help me blossom, she offered me a nickel for every week she didn’t see me nibbling on my nails. I had a few good friends and an empty piggy bank. I was polite with adults but pretty terrified of having to make conversation with them.
Moving around gave us a lot of rich cultural experiences and lifelong friends, but also grew in us a sense of compassion for the outsider and newcomer.
Fast forward forty years, and I’d say I’m fairly outgoing and very social. While I can still be shy at times, I’m confident and willing to jump in on new activities and love to make new friends. I joke that my favorite question is, “What do you think, Teresa?!”
So what happened in between? What life experiences helped transform me into a more outgoing person?
We moved nine times over the next fifteen years with my husband’s job.
In that time, we lived in four cities in our ever-threatening-to-secede home state of Texas, and then spent time in Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Maryland, and Arkansas. In this pre-cell phone era, the days could be very quiet because calls from people we knew were long-distance and cost money. I remember wishing the phone would ring with a call from a friend who had just thought about me.
With each move, we perfected the art of making community. I’d design a flyer inviting neighbors and their kids to join us in a July 4 bike float parade, or organize neighborhood BBQs. We’d find a church home as quickly as we could agree on one, and then we’d jump in with both feet, because we knew we would probably only live in that spot for two years at the most, and we needed friends.
While it was always hard to say goodbye, I think our whole family would say that moving around gave us a lot of rich cultural experiences and lifelong friends, but also grew in us a sense of compassion for the outsider and newcomer.
Each week at worship, I am on rotation. I purposefully sit in a different section of the church. I have to stay up front so Alex can find me, but I try to not sit with friends and community group members so I can meet new people and visit with others whom I don’t see regularly. If there’s a potluck or picnic, Alex and I rarely sit together, because we want to maximize our outreach to others. We’ve offered our home to visiting bands, missionaries, and family of friends who are in town for weddings or funerals. For years, we hosted a First Taste of Grace lunch after worship and invited visitors to our church so we could get to know them better.
The blessings from these offerings of our hearts and resources have been bountiful. I now find myself scheduling down time and getaways because I am surrounded by so many friends and family members.
In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes about Psalm 128, “Christian blessing is a realizing that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ As we learn to give and to share, our vitality increases, and the people around us become fruitful vines and olive shoots at our tables.”
Maybe hosting social events isn’t your thing, and you would rather be by yourself all day curled up on your couch with a book. Even so, my guess is you’d be blessed if you got involved with helping the Mwenda family whom our Grace Church Canopy team will be welcoming sometime between July and October, God willing! You might help by setting up their apartment with us, giving their family members rides to doctor’s appointments, or taking them with your family to a concert at Gulley Park. It might be out of your comfort zone, but that’s where the good growth often happens!
Peterson says, “There are no tricks involved in getting in on this life of blessing, and no luck required. We simply become Christians and begin the life of faith...we start doing the things for which He made us…we do specified things. There are ethical standards to follow, there are moral values to foster, there are spiritual disciplines to practice, there is social justice to pursue, there are personal relationships to develop.”
Stand in awe of God’s Yes as we gather together each Sunday to worship in freedom and truth and encourage our global workers who are coming and going. Revel in the goodness as you help serve and blow bubbles at Grace Church’s new rEcreo outreach to Latino families of children with disabilities next fall. Enjoy the good life in Jerusalem every day of your life as you send a quick text, call, or handwritten note to someone who the Spirit puts in your mind. Enjoy the blessing as you answer the call to help start a new Grace Group with another couple of friends.
Enjoy the blessing.
Teresa Cornett's favorite question from others is "what do you think about......?!" so she loves to write when she gets a chance to mouth off.