Every group I’ve been a part of started with some anticipation of not being received. It must be a little natural to assume the possibility of not fitting in. After all, there was a time in my early adolescence that I couldn’t seem to find my fit. In the fog of trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be, I had this longing to belong. It can be a dangerous place for young people; the reason why I’m deeply grateful for how the Lord orchestrated my steps and the people who helped me walk them.
I’ve heard people refer to groups as being clicky. The word carries a very negative portrayal of a cruel, obnoxious group of people. But that doesn’t necessarily fit all the people who have been labeled as such. I wonder how many people evaluate a group and conclude that they’re not accepted because they didn’t put themselves out there to take that first step, to face that possibility of rejection or perhaps the wonderful gift of belonging.
I remember my first day working in my unit. I was super nervous about nursing alone. I mean, I had the BSN education behind my name and that RN certification, but I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and for some reason I had this fear– as if I was going to need to resuscitate a baby on my own the first day (I didn’t really think that, I just felt THAT nervous). Coupled with anxiety was concern I wouldn’t be received. I had signed a two-year contract. I was committed to this place come rain or shine, and nothing would make that time inch by more than a cold hearted atmosphere.
My approach was to show myself friendly; don’t wait for others to introduce themselves to me; don’t wait for someone to roll out a welcome mat; just put myself out there and start learning this new group of people who were now my co-workers. I spent the day saying, “Hi. My name is Heather. I’m new.” There’s no telling how many times I shared that bit of information. Everyone was warmly receptive. But it wasn’t until I was in the break room and introduced myself to one of the ladies in housekeeping that I was told, “Yes. I know. You have a yellow badge.” Oh my goodness! My temporary new employee badge was this bright yellow, which screamed, “I’m new!” And there I had been including that bit of information in my introductions. So embarrassing, but so funny!
At this time of year when I’m evaluating all the gifts so meaningful to my life, I count the gift of belonging to such an incredible group of health care professionals as one of them. I work with wonderful people! And work is only one area. I’m prompted to reflect on the groups I’ve had the privilege of belonging during the course of my life, the ones that played a role in who I became.
Why does this matter? Because we all are designed to be loved. Genesis 1:27 says that we were created in the image of God, and I John 4:8 tells us God is love. Therefore, we are all geared to be loved. To be accepted. To be well received. Anything less is a wall of protection and fear.
People give meaning to one another. Being apart of something provides purpose. The challenge is finding where is our niche. And thankfully, we have the perfect Navigator to guide and direct us where we will be most effective for Him. It may take some closed doors, but our ultimate goal is to be right where He wants us when He wants us there.
My Gift of Belonging:
Oklahoma Kids ~ George and Rose Earley’s “Rock On” group
This group came along in God’s perfect timing. I had great difficulty connecting with my peers at school and never felt that I fully re-assimilated with them after my accident. Once I returned to school, I was constantly in and out for surgeries. It was like the first day of school several times throughout each year. I just didn’t feel a part. Then I found I really loved to sing. I was nervous and shaky getting on stage, but still loved it and wanted to keep doing it. George and Rose Earley gave their time to drive nearly an hour one way to work with a group of young performers in creating a show titled “Rock On.” We practiced several nights a week and had shows on the weekends. I found purpose and meaning during that time. And above all, I found acceptance. I experienced the wonderful feeling that comes from the gift of belonging.
My Gift of Belonging:
Frontline Youth Ministries ~ Coweta Assembly of God ~ Steve and Michele Lee (click to visit Michele at her blog)
Yes, this was the age that things really started to unravel. I was increasingly aware of my body, as many young people are at that age. The image I had of myself was very negative. I detested the scars covering my body. And insecurity paved the way for me to believe that those scars were what people really saw when they looked at me. This led me down a path to take control of what I could control- my weight. And it got ugly and dark. I experienced that deep place of depression and that spiral fall of an eating disorder. My youth pastors constantly spoke God’s Word into my heart and challenged me to see myself the way He saw me. They allowed me to experience what it was to serve in ministry through music, singing praises to Him in our worship services. It was a long road. But my youth group provided me warm memories of fun, laughter and purpose through the many activities we shared together.
August 29, 2007 ~ Steve and Michele stepping out of youth ministry to young adult ministry ~ today they are our church’s lead pastors.
Katie, Mandy and Amber and I gathered for their last youth service. Many years of service to touch young people in mighty ways.
My Gift of Belonging:
TABS ~ Tulsa Area Burn Survivors
From the time I was injured in 1988 until now, my family has been involved with TABS. When I was young we had consistent support group meetings, which was a magnificent blessing to my family. My parents were greatly involved with giving of their time coordinating an annual 5K run, and constantly giving of their hearts, sharing their pain of loss and their obstacles of my recovery. The time in TABS kept me close to the burn center where I received my care. Literally. The meetings were always in the burn center and that consistent return allowed me to see my nurses and meet new ones. It kept the place that was home for a few months, feeling like home. And that’s how it remains when I return today. I’m proud to have the gift of belonging to such strong and brave people.
Our 2013 TABS Christmas Party ~ December 15th
Assembled and delivered baskets to the patients in the burn center. The strings that tie us together. The memories may be painful, but the people are comforting!
My Gift of Belonging:
OU College of Nursing
When I started to pursue the calling God had placed in my heart to become a nurse, I did it with complete focus on accomplishing exactly that– becoming a nurse. I didn’t even consider the possibility of building special friendships with those along the way. And I got more than friendships from the experience, I got a family. We spent countless hours together in the classroom, in lab, in study and in clinical. Nursing school was so taxing on my family. It was a very difficult two years. By the time we got to the end I told my husband, “I am so done. I just want to be finished. But I’m afraid that when it is, I will miss what has been one of the greatest seasons of my life.” Yes, I did say that it was a very difficult two years AND I said that it was one of the greatest seasons. And that is because of the people who I spent it with. Only God could have assembled our group the way He did, and the memories I have, the friendships I carry, the bond we share will be a most treasured gift of my life.
Our Class Party this Year ~ December 20th 2013
Thankful we get together for Christmas each year! Wish everyone could’ve made it. Love these people!
My Gift of Belonging:
God gave me a custom made group; my lil’ family. Mark Batterson said something in one of his podcasts along the lines of the people who know you the best should love you the most. My husband and my children see me. They see every angle of me; the good, the bad and the ugly. And they love me. These people within the walls of the house I live in are my drive, my ambition, my joy, my pride, and they give the greatest meaning and purpose. God wrapped up a gift in each of them. I get to belong to them and them to me. My precious gift.
thank you to malloryhallphotography.com for catching us at our best!
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