Even in my favorite season, I’ve hit some bumps. I’m enough of an extrovert that I’ve always created the community I crave. But, honestly, I haven’t had the energy to invest in relationships, so this summer has been filled with my few closest friends and whoever invited me into their life.
Kristen Strong’s encouragement and guidance in “Back Roads to Belonging: Unexpected Paths to Finding Your Place and Your People” helped me find my place in my own season of letting roots sink in more deeply while learning new things, processing how sorrow and hope can co-exist, and finding renewed perspective in belonging right where I am. She’s spurred me on to seek God’s beauty and adventure right in front of me. While doing so, God filled my soul when I feel empty and reminded me of his promises for me and my place with Him.
One of the gifts this summer was a Bible study my friend Megan hosted. Honestly, I shy away from regular commitments in the summer, but I knew when she asked me about it in the spring that I wanted to go. I didn’t anticipate backing off from some of my usual invitations to others. I didn’t realize sorrow could lead to feelings of not belonging. I didn’t know at the time I would need for someone to welcome me in. (Plus I’ve learned a lot from studying Hebrews.)
This summer has definitely been a season of growing down, letting roots sink in more deeply while learning new things about myself and my family. My tendency is to make plans and invite people over and fill the wide-open spaces. But this summer I drew the circle a little smaller and found fresh perspective in belonging right where I am.
“The specifics of how we relax in this growing down season aren’t important. Using the time and not wasting it is. This is not the time to fret about growing up or out to be seen in our belonging place. This is the season to be known by growing down, to build a stronger sense of belonging that is rooted in Christ, in whom our closeness overshadows our place here on earth.”
– Kristen Strong in “Back Roads to Belonging”
Kristen’s words in that paragraph and her whole book came when I needed them most. I preordered “Back Roads to Belonging” long before this season and then I received a copy for being on the launch team. It’s one of those books that literally feels good to hold and figuratively feels good for your soul.
I actually gave my early copy away to my friend Becky who moved at the end of July because she’s been important to my belonging — to this season, to this community, and to Christ. (I also gave her a copy of the mix I made for myself because I needed to hear truths of about how sorrow & hope could mingle together. Here’s that playlist, if you’re interested.)
My friendship with Becky surprised me in the sweetest ways this summer because I didn’t see all our conversations and time around tables coming. But God knew. He knew I needed her wisdom and authenticity. He knew she needed to belong in a different way too. He knew things we haven’t even learned yet because that’s how he provides and sustains us in our eternal belonging.
I’m grateful for my own back roads, Kristen’s words, and the belonging that happens here. As my kids head back to school and we fall into a different routine, I’ve still got belonging on my mind. So here’s to saying yes to others, welcoming others in even when it looks different than expected, and believing hospitality matters because it helps heal.
So, in Kristen’s words: “When you believe you’re in a season of wandering around a barren belonging landscape, may you know you don’t wander purposelessly. God is aware of every bump and bend, and Jesus walks with you through every setback and delay. May you never stop participating in your own life, even through the mystery — because God is moving for you in your life. May you remember Jesus was brought outside so you could be brought inside forever.”
About the author & book
Kristen Strong, author of “Girl Meets Change,” writes as a friend offering meaningful encouragement for each season of life so you can see it with more hope and less worry. She and her U.S. Air Force veteran husband, David, have three children. Together this military family zigzagged across the country (and one ocean) several times before settling in Colorado Springs, Colorado. You can find her at her website, DaySpring’s (in)courage, and on Instagram.
“Back Roads to Belonging” is a 208-page paperback published by Revell (Aug. 6, 2019).
And I’m sharing a copy of this book with one of you. Thanks for being here and sharing pieces of your story. Use the Rafflecopter below for various entries. I’ll randomly choose a winner Tuesday, Aug. 13.