No Longer Strangers

A lot has happened this week. A. Lot. (No Alots were harmed in the making of this post.)

One of the things was my laundry, but that’s among the least exciting – though I do love having clean clothes.

Among the more exciting things were (in no particular order) my students voting to turn in their essays early so we can watch Moana in class on Monday and talk about how it connects to the Gospel, copies of my first published book arriving at my house, the English department creating a framed version of the cover of my book as a birthday gift for me along with tea and a teapot shaped planter for my students when they can gather for teaology, I enjoyed incredibly delicious Laura safe (nut free/soy free) sushi plus a Laura’s Lent friendly dessert (also dairy free) department lunch to belatedly celebrate my birthday followed by a bonus sushi bowl take home dinner, I had a group call with three of my most encouraging students, I got to see Rich and Carol briefly (and watched Carol react to discovering that my poetry book is dedicated to her), I watched the school play livestream while letting all my hilarity loose in a group chat with Veronica and Paige, discovered I have more than one similarity to Joan of Arc (as we both have a sister named Denise), had a really uplifting conversation with Maggie on her birthday, heard my very favorite almost seven year old has read my book and wants me to write another one, got both my Covid vaccine shots booked, delayed my Botox injections for a third time because symptoms still haven’t returned, experienced a couple excellent restful nights of sleep, started reading No Longer Strangers, and I became real friends with Gregory Coles.

I’d considered a whole post on how much I love Moana (because I really, really do), but after reading the first half of my new friend Greg’s new book with Emily this afternoon, I changed course for today’s post. You see from that run on sentence above that there really was too much going on in my week to cover in an average length post on my blog. And I only addressed the highlights. There were also a lot of leg spasms, news of some great hurt, discovery of four more people I care about diagnosed with Covid, one really terrible night of sleep, and a big prayer burden interspersed with all that joy going on above. Greg’s book includes stories from his life with highs and lows that anyone can relate to, and he talks about how life just is – it’s not a better or worse way to live when you encounter something that’s different between continents. His example as an MK from Indonesia is milk in his host country versus his passport country. He also writes about the open sewers in his childhood home and how he wouldn’t trade the experience of growing up in Indonesia for living in Pennsylvania, but he’s also so happy to have idyllic experiences as an adult in the US.

Greg and I have emailed back and forth a couple of times now, but we’ve not met face to face. While I would absolutely love to be able to someday do that, I also can rest assured that he’s my friend who has graciously agreed to schedule a time to skype into my class in the future (I use his first book as a resource in my curriculum). One of the last chapters Emily and I read today was debunking the myth that friends to have to constantly be in your life to remain friends. While we absolutely need people who are there for us IRL consistently and frequently, there are some people who are always our people no matter the number or rate of texts exchanged or meals shared together. I can be secure in my friendship with Greg and have some great future conversations with him, but we won’t talk daily.

Kara is the best example of that in my life. I’ve had Kara in my life since I was seven, but we go months at a time without talking. Then we catch up, and it’s like no time has passed at all with us apart. Living overseas requires me to be able to maintain friendships that way – friends are always coming and going. Half the people referenced in this blog aren’t in the same country as me, and some others are leaving this country in a year or two. Who even knows where I’ll be in three years? I know I can still text Kara whenever I want, and she’ll always love me. I have a sense of belonging with her, and she knows I love her deeply too.

Greg’s book is centered around the idea of belonging and how as humans we are aliens on this earth because Jesus gives us a better way of belonging. I resonate deeply with that as someone who struggles to belong by worldly standards but has a human craving for belonging. If you’re looking for a book recommendation after you finish reading mine, I can’t emphasize enough how worth your time No Longer Strangers will be.

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