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Chasing Freedom

To belong and be welcomed…just as I am.

By April 24, 2013 June 7th, 2013 No Comments

To Belong and Be Welcome Just as I Am squareIt was the first night of 6th grade science camp. All through elementary school, I looked forward to this week away from home; it meant I was a big kid, it meant adventure, and meeting new people from other schools in the county.
Although it’s been decades, I still remember the exhilaration of walking into the mess hall for dinner wearing my favorite clothes-a pale blue short-sleeved sweater with tiny flowers on it, green corduroy pants, and suede saddle shoes (brown tones, not the black & white version). I sat down at a table for eight. I can’t remember if I sat at this table because it was assigned or, because I was late. It was the only one with an empty seat, but every face sitting there was new to me. As I sat down, one of the boys asked, “Are you a boy or a girl?” I remember laughing it off; I thought my short hair was the height of femininity even if I was built like a boy. Couldn’t they tell by my pretty floral sweater that I was a girl? “I think we’ll call you ‘Aardvark’,” said another. His reasoning was that aardvarks are an odd animal and no one knows what they are either. I was told by the group that this name would stick with me for life, it did not, but this rather humiliating experience did. I don’t like groups, especially groups where I don’t know anyone. I usually feel “less than” and fear people looking at me and analyzing me, especially my body. Fast forward 40 years to Hungry for Hope 2011. Both my husband & I were concerned how this conference would affect my eating and my mental state, as we knew my food issues were rearing their ugly head. I had a healthy respect for both the positive & the negative that could happen as a result of my attending. Being far from home and with a group of new people was both exciting and terrifying, as I had experienced in 6th grade and several times since. After my husband & I unloaded the luggage in our room, I decided to explore on my own. I rounded a corner of the main corridor and there was Constance. Even without a tag, she knew my name and asked how I was doing. I poured out that I was concerned I was the oldest person there, that I didn’t belong. Built up fear and anxiety about the new surroundings, new people, and being away from my son, only added to my insecurities. She assured me that I would fit in beautifully, and her excitement for the event, her confidence, and her radiant personality relieved my fear and relaxed me for the rest of the conference. The transparency and candidness of the presenters, and the openness of the attendees sharing their own stories, allowed me to feel that I belonged, with no judgements. I was not an aardvark in this place or with these people! To be greeted with such warmth, and to feel so important & special, is the longing we all have. This year’s Hungry for Hope conference will be my third and May 16th can’t come soon enough! “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had…” -Romans 15:5 NIV RELATED People Pleasing Devo #2, Karen Amos You ARE a Story, Michelle Watson, PhD, LPC Identity Theft – Don’t Be a Victim, Mallory Hood

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