For The Love of Community.

Last week I flew to Austin in what was a culmination of 6 months on a launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For The Love. {What!?} It was one of those right place, right time kind of moments, and one that I will never forget. I was ready to read the book and participate in the publisher-launch team banter. And I was ready to talk about the book {who has a hard time talking about the level of real life connection that Jen has?}. I was kind of ready for a private Facebook page, where 500 other launch team people shared vulnerabilities, prayer requests and dubsmashes{introvert here, people}. But I was NOT ready for the impact that flying to a state I had never been, staying at a house with 12 other women I had never met, walking around Jen’s property with 200 other launch team members that I had never met, and having a heartfelt connection with another stranger on the plane ride back would bring.

The thing I can not escape upon my return from a whirlwind weekend is something that I have heard Jen say numerous times in the last six months:

“There is room at the table for all of us.”

I encountered so many unknowns last weekend. This introvert stayed with 12 women, and partied with 200 other women that I had never met. {I am so beyond proud of myself for this} We all kept looking at each other saying “This is SO weird! Who does this?!?” And in the whirlwind of 36 hours, we found community. Introverts, Extroverts, Girly-girls, Hipsters, Southern gals, Northern gals, Momma’s, Single Free-Spirits and yet we had ONE common thread in those first few moments: launch team member. And by the time Sunday came, we had so much more than that. We had made a table together. We had empathy, understanding, perspective and community. We made room for each other.

“We are not promised a pain-free life but are given the tools to survive: God and people.” -Jen H.

Whenever I think of community, I can’t help but think of this autism journey that we are on. The community that has formed around us and walks with us, is air in our lungs. The value of being seen and heard and loved is unmatched by any currency. There is room for all of us at the table. Those with disability and those without, those who parent special needs, and those that don’t, those with a faith, and those that don’t, those that walk in chronic pain or loss, and those that don’t. There is room at the table for all of us. Life is richer, more beautiful when our table is set without judgement or pretense, and we say “Come! Let’s eat together!”. We share the load, the burden of the moment, and I can’t imagine anything better than a group of people taking care of each other and sharing in a feast of community.

“Nothing can happen-no tragedy, no suffering-that cannot be survived through the love of God and people.” -Jen H.

XO, Team Oakes

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