After Eric died, my living room was where people gathered. They filled the couch, sat on the hearth, pulled out the piano bench. Some of them had texted "I'm on my way" and some just showed up after they heard the news. A handful had been at the receiving end of a living room of people when loss happened at their home. They had sad and unwanted experience in the area of grief. They offered wise and tender counsel as I navigated the shock of our reality. I had been in their living rooms and now they were in mine. Others lacked experience at this grief game, but loved our family enough to sit with us as we stepped into our new normal. In those moments, with our living room filled to capacity, we started our feeble attempts to move on. To continue this thing of living.
Recently I sat on the couch of one of my dearest friends. She wasn't in my living room that first night. She found out about Eric's passing through a mutual friend who forwarded the email that was sent out at my work. Today, I can't imagine that she wouldn't have been one of the first people I had texted or even called when the unthinkable happened. She became part of my living room as she delivered junk food breakfasts to my chemo sessions and helped me enjoy fabulous dinners when my taste buds recovered. She lovingly encourages and boldly challenges me to continue the task of living.
Another friend was a new an acquaintance at that time--a mom of one of Henry's friends. She lovingly taught 15-year-old boys how to be a living room for their friend who really didn't want to even acknowledge his need for a living room those first days or the days to come. They learned how to show up. They learned that showing up and acting normal goes a long way in the healing process. That friend, along with other moms, filled my son's living room and put words of comfort into their boys' ears so that they had something to say when words were hard. She came into my living room through an unexpected door and continues to show up in loving and creative ways that bring warmth to my heart and a smile to my face.
There are people who I thought would be part of my living room, but they never showed up. When I'm weary of needing a living room, I think about those people and wonder what kept them away. Occasionally I find myself even looking past all the people who sit around me only to think about the ones who didn't join us on the couch. What I've found is that bitterness and pity are easy emotions to latch onto but they erase so much gratitude. The reality is that God's goodness and creative provision are so much bigger than my expectations. For every person that by my plans should have been in my living room, he has given me new, unexpected and lovingly supportive people instead. He has filled my room and heart to overflowing time and time again. I trust that he knows who should be there.
Without the love and encouragement from my living room of people, who obediently answered a nudge to put themselves in that position, my life would look very different. These people, time and time again, set me back on the path of living. They encourage me to live deliberately. To live hopefully. To simply live more.
Who fills your living room? Whose living room are you part of? Whose living room should you be part of? People need living rooms for a multitude of reasons which all boil down to the brokenness of this world. I think we're often hesitant to knock on the door and invite ourselves in to that hard place. We know it will take our precious time. It will take emotional energy. It will take wisdom and prayers. It will be messy and inconvenient. And for all our desire to encourage, we might even get asked to leave occasionally. Always leave room in your life to be in someone's living room. Living is not always easy and showing up at the door of someone's living room might make all the difference in the world.