All three of my kids went to the same little Episcopal preschool in our town. We loved this little school. Our attendance there was not intentional; we actually stumbled into it by chance. It was the only school with a space for Dillon when we moved into town in the middle of the year. He was 3 and a crazy bundle of energy. This pregnant mommy needed a place to send him for two days a week so she could rest, and St. Philips answered the call.
But what I didn’t know back in 2009 was that this would be a life-changing happenstance.
Because what I didn’t know back in 2009 was that at St. Philips I would meet Ms. Jena.
Ms. Jena is a force of Jesus-loving, baby-kissing, music-teaching nature. She pours everything she has into every child she meets at that school, and her biggest goal is to show them the love of Jesus, pure and simple. She’s a local celebrity. A Ms. Jena sighting for a St. Philips kid is like a Kardashian sighting for a teenager. Only with less cleavage and more clothes.
So when Ms. Jena invited Kenzie and I to join a Mother Daughter Bible Study, I knew I was being handed pure gold. Despite being shaky in my faith at the time. Despite being unsure of where I stood on grace and feeling as if I was too far gone. Despite feeling like God had forgotten about answering my cries of pain. I knew I couldn’t say no. I knew it was something to grab with both hands and run.
So just about one year ago, I walked into a complete strangers house with my daughter, not knowing what to expect. The only other person I knew was Jena. I was not in any way comfortable. I’m an extrovert and can talk to any stranger I meet, but walking in to this house I still felt largely intimidated by these women who seemed to be so much more put together than I was. They went to church. They had the God thing down. I’m certain that they didn’t have the doubts I did. Or the life problems I struggled through.
I reminded myself that I was in this for Kenzie. After all, every little girl needs as much Jesus in her life as she can get. This was my “in” for her. With Ms. Jena at the helm, Kenzie’s spiritual walk just turned golden.
But, like a lot of things in life, things didn’t go exactly as expected. And what started out as a group for the girls, quickly became a group for the mommas too. And these strangers, these moms who I thought were so much more put together than me, they turned from moms who intimidated me to moms who inspired me. They went from moms who I assumed were so much better than me, who got life better than me, to moms who were real, and vulnerable, and struggling just the same.
And we became a tribe.
A bring you dinners when you’re nursing your sick kid tribe. A meet you for coffee when you’re sad tribe. A stop and pray for you anytime of the day or night if you need it tribe.
The kind of tribe every girl needs. No matter how young or old.
I’ve made a lot of friendship mistakes in my life. I tend to let my insecurities get in the way of connection and I don’t always want to let my guard down and let people see the mess inside. And usually, once I have, I cut and run after a while because it’s hard and it hurts.
But these ladies, they don’t let me. I’m so grateful that by some crazy twist of fate, Ms. Jena chose to invite us. I’m sure it has more to do with how awesome Kenzie is (she really is pretty cool) than anything about me. But either way, these ladies are my lifeblood and I can’t imagine doing this life thing without them.
God doesn’t want us to struggle through this life alone. Remember, even Jesus had a tribe. And together, they all did some pretty awesome things. Life is hard. Being a Christian is seriously hard, especially in this world with its struggles and its heartbreaks. But it’s better lived with others. Good solid community supports you when you’re down and celebrates you when you’re up. It doesn’t judge, but it does tell it to you straight when you need it. God calls us to share in worship and community. Even if it’s uncomfortable. He also promises to show up when you gather in worship, and we all know that the good stuff happens when He shows up.
So find a tribe. Either through your church, your school, or your work. Gather with them. Take the chance of vulnerability. Life is better when you do.
And make them this Spicy Baked Shrimp. This recipe is hands down the best appetizer you can make for a crowd. It’s spicy but sweet, it’s got a kick but it keeps you coming back for more. Ironically, I got this recipe from another member of my extended tribe, my dear friend Katie (of the infamous sock comment) . She made it for us when she was visiting and it has become a household staple. The original recipe can be found here on Epicurious.com.
Gather. Make this. Tell me about your community. I’d love to hear how you found your tribe.
Spicy Baked Shrimp
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp Cajun or Creole seasoning
- 2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice (the juice of about 1 lemon)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (Italian variety)
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- pinch Cayenne Pepper
- 1 lb uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- french bread for serving
Combine first 7 ingredients (through Cayenne Pepper) in a 9x13 baking dish. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450. Bake until shrimp are cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with French Bread for dipping.