We’re sitting in the glow of neon, the golden arches casting pale yellow and red on the asphalt where we’re parked.

I’m sipping iced tea even thought it’s cold and we’re clutched by winters deep spell, flurries scattering around outside haphazardly lacking the stamina to collect themselves on the ground. The windshield wiper swipes at them randomly streaking the window with frost.

I’ve pulled my hat down low over my unwashed hair and my arms wrap across me as if my embrace could somehow hold all my broken parts together.

The world is quiet and dark and we sink past midnight as the hours tick by. It’s 3:00 a.m. when she drops me off and I fiddle for my keys. My home has long since gone to bed but someone’s left the light on for me. They knew I would be back late. This isn’t the first time she’s come and got me.

I heard her knock, not long after I got her text. I still wasn’t ready. I stood in my pajamas with the front door cracked open, the evening light filtering into my hallway, my body wilting in the cold air as I let her in and she waited for me to pull on yoga pants and a sweatshirt, grab a hat and scoop my greasy limp hair up under it.

I glimpse myself in the mirror and my skin is creased and blotchy from too many days of tears and a head so full of sorrow, it drags down defeated. Makeup is pointless.

When we first met I wore red lipstick and wore outfits. I made jokes she laughed at.

 sad

We used to sit in her living room grasping tea mugs with our legs tucked up underneath us on her deep couches, leaning in to the conversation like girls up past our bedtimes, the kids scattered around playing late into the night as the candles burned down.

We made dates to browse bookstores and grab a bite during happy hour. We went to the French bakery and bought something delightfully flaky that drenched our tongues in butter and sugar.

At the start of our friendship I showed up and made an effort. We talked for hours and the words and stories came smoothly. She was bubbly and enthusiastic, a whirl of energy and accomplishments, her extroversion a draw and contrast to my introversion. For being so different we had so much in common. I felt I had something to offer back to her.

I enjoyed who I was when I was with her.

I began to believe in friendship again.

And then the despair entered. The deep drag of depression pulling me down. Lulling me with the invitation to stop fighting. To stop trying and just close my eyes, pull my duvet up over my brittle and desperate mind. The darkness inviting me to stay there, whispering I am alone and unseen, irreparably broken and useless.

It would be so much easier to just let go of everything since I can’t seem to hold it together anyway. And I find myself there again, in this place I’ve had to survive again and again. The cycle that never seems to relent. And I know this is where my heart goes to die, this is where dreams end because I am emptied of me.

And still she comes and gathers me.

Quiet Hospitality

We bypass the living rooms filled with children because some things can’t be said with tender young hearts, things about their mama and how she wishes she could just sleep and never wake up, questions about whether or not she’d hurt herself, confessions about how it’s so hard to hold it together for them and how when they see her breaking apart she wishes they had someone better, someone stronger to mother them.

We bypass tea shops and happy hour because I am unwashed, and crowds wither me. I bruise under the guilt of everything I can’t bear.

We end up in the McDonald’s drive thru, ordering iced tea and snagging an empty spot in the parking lot. Evening sinks to night and everything seems to still as we sit. We watch the night watchman make circles through the empty parking lot, headlights flashing into dark shops, eyeing our parked car with suspicion.

The words don’t come as fast now. I don’t make her laugh anymore. I’m not being a good friend, I can’t offer her fun or interesting. But still she comes.

She doesn’t rush into the pauses, she sits in the hush and lets me collect my pain, ease it out slowly like a prayer. She asks good questions but doesn’t expect easy answers. She’s gentle and slow, a presence willing to sit in the dark cold night to show she’s with me.

Still she comes.

I didn’t see her hospitality in the tea cups or the comfy couches, the home she keeps decorated and spotless. I don’t see it in the things she does or the ways she serves, although I know it’s there too. I know she does those things with a frenzy of energy and intention.

But I’ve seen lots of people do those things. Maybe for some people it’s easier to check off a list, drop off a casserole, set up the good china and make a roast. But it’s hard to sit with someone’s pain, let it roll off their slumped shoulders and drag it across yours so you can stand together. And that’s what I needed most.

I see her quiet hospitality in the space she makes, the hollowed and holy quiet.

She reminds me of the Gospel when I open the door and slide into the passenger side as wrecked and empty as I am. I see it when she’s willing to sit in the discomfort of being unable to fix me with a meal or an errand or a Bible verse.  I see it when she’s willing to keep coming back to love me through the darkest nights. 

I saw Jesus a little more clearly when we were sitting in her minivan at McDonald’s at 3:00 a.m. 

Alia Joy Hagenbach / Posts / Blog
Alia Joy is a storyteller, speaker, and homeschooling mother of three making her home in Central Oregon. She shares her story in broken bits and pieces on her blog and finds community where other’s stories intersect. She's a cynical idealist who is always trying to find the beautiful bits in the midst of the messy and broken. She believes even the most broken stories have a redeemer and she'll always dance to the good songs. She is a regular contributor at (in)courage, SheLoves, The Mudroom, and Deeper Waters and can be found on twitter hashtagging all the things, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and making goo-goo eyes at her husband.
  • Tonya

    This is so achingly beautiful… I am so glad that I came here this morning. I have no words for you and maybe that is the point, yes? That we can sit together safely here in this space and enter the hush of holy lament together? You are right… it’s Gospel.

    February 9th, 2015 11:58
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    • Alia_Joy

      What beautiful grace, right? That we can come imperfect. It’s the call of the gospel and the gift of friendship. So glad you stopped by, friend.

      February 9th, 2015 17:49
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  • Lori Harris
    http://loriharris.me/

    My soul just heaved a heavy sigh, Alia.Thank you for sharing your most vulnerable parts- it gives me permission to do the same.

    And your words encourage me to enter in to another’s sorrow, something I’m not so good at.
    Keep sharing.

    February 9th, 2015 12:31
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    • Alia_Joy

      Oh my gosh, yes, don’t we all just need to give ourselves permission to be. I think we might actually participate with Jesus in setting the world free if we were comfortable with being the truth more instead of tidying it up for good company 😉 Then we’d really show the power of the gospel to save.

      February 9th, 2015 18:37
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      • Sarah

        I just had a moment here with this comment, Alia. Setting the world free by allowing Jesus to be the answer in all situations – – the tidy AND the messy. Somehow He’s easier to chat about in the tidy, but so much more necessary in the messy. The Spirit just moved me with your words.

        February 9th, 2015 20:11
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        • Alia_Joy

          Interesting huh? When I was more together (on the outside), I was never as convinced of my need for him although I’d have never said that. I knew exactly what you were supposed to say. I thought I’d serve him with my amazing skills and single handedly lead all the lost people, who I didn’t actually love, to the Lord. And then I really encountered Jesus in my weakness and I’ve never been the same. We need him in the tidy and messy, but for me, I didn’t know it until I was too tired to pretend anymore.

          February 10th, 2015 4:53
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  • Stacy
    http://servantslife.com/

    So very powerful. Sometimes, the best (and only) thing we can do is just to be present in someone’s pain. To not look away. To, like you said, be willing to be uncomfortable in a situation that we can not fix. Love this so much.

    February 9th, 2015 12:51
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    • Alia_Joy

      Yes. This is the call of God’s people. To not look away, to be present, to stay with. She loved me good and well. I always want to be willing to do the same for someone else.

      February 9th, 2015 17:57
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  • Jamie H
    http://www.brownpaperandstrings.com/

    Often when I read posts I have no profound words. Today is the same, but I so love the hospitality and story you are offering here.

    February 9th, 2015 13:03
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  • Shelly Miller
    http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

    Gorgeous Alia. It seems easier to be a fixer, than to sit in the pain. To find a friend who is comfortable and confident with friendship that accepts and gives unselfishly is truly a pearl of great price. The quiet moments of our lives, not those that draw crowds, will be the ones we carry with us into eternity. I’m convinced of that.

    February 9th, 2015 13:42
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    • Alia_Joy

      Thanks friend. I think it’s a hard balance between doing tangible and often much needed things for people and doing nothing but sit with someone and be ok with the mess of it. There’s definitely a place for both. I’ve had my sister in law show up and clean my toilets when I was really sick before and it was a blessing in a whole different way and a huge act of love because I have boys and ewww. So I don’t think there’s one right way to love people but in it all sometimes we forget that doing isn’t the most important thing about hospitality. Sometimes it’s being with.

      February 9th, 2015 17:48
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  • Linda@Creekside
    http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com/

    She is present for you in the most faithful ways possible.

    He is, too.

    Lifting you up to Him even as we speak … grateful for your presence at the table.

    February 9th, 2015 13:56
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    • Alia_Joy

      Thanks for joining me at the table, Linda.

      February 9th, 2015 17:53
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  • Traci Rhoades
    http://www.tracesoffaith.com/

    Alia, This side of it. Beautiful. And harder than the cute meals and throw pillows fluffed up just so. I’m thankful for your friend. She teaches me how to invest well.

    February 9th, 2015 15:45
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    • Alia_Joy

      She was a gift at just the right time. A beautiful display of acceptance and grace. I’ll always be grateful for her.

      February 9th, 2015 17:51
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  • Chandra

    No words, just beautiful…and I can relate.

    February 9th, 2015 17:32
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  • Holly

    Oh Alia, the way you spin your words, your pain? It is redemptive, friend. Thank you for articulating so precisely such a beautiful way to be Love to one who is hurting so profoundly. It’s really quite simple, actually. Not easy, but simple. Perhaps the best and purest way to love is to just let each other be.
    Thank you for how you wrap us in wisdom and point us to the better ways.

    February 9th, 2015 18:31
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    • Alia_Joy

      I love that Holly, not easy, but simple. I think you’re right. Being love means being with and that can look a million different ways but it’s really just saying you’re worth it, I love you, and I’m here.

      February 9th, 2015 18:49
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  • Karrilee Aggett

    I love you. That is all.

    February 9th, 2015 18:41
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    • Alia_Joy

      I just want to make a heart emoticon here or maybe one of those smiley faces with the heart eyes but my keyboard won’t let me. So, you know, my powers of description will let you imagine that I inserted one in reply.

      February 10th, 2015 4:48
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  • Jennifer Camp
    http://youaremygirls.com/

    Alia, thank you. I will be keeping your wisdom close for a long while–but particularly the humble beauty, and your courage, and the powerful love of your friend. xo

    February 9th, 2015 20:32
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    • Alia_Joy

      Thank you, Jennifer. I’m not really courageous, I’m tired. Honesty is less exhausting, freedom is easier when we live authentic lives. Grace is more accessible when we realize how desperately we need it. 😉 The powerful love of a friend is a gift for sure.

      February 10th, 2015 4:34
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  • Annie Barnett
    http://annieathome.com/

    Nothing beats presence. Love this, Alia.

    February 9th, 2015 20:46
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    • Alia_Joy

      I know! That’s why we need a cottage or a beach house or a cabin. Heck, I’ll sit in a parking lot with you. Name the time and place. 😉

      February 10th, 2015 4:36
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      • Kris Camealy
        http://kriscamealy.com/

        I’m totally honing in on this cottage adventure…just so you both know. @annieathome:disqus and @Alia_Joy:disqus

        February 10th, 2015 11:52
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  • Jennifer Frisbie
    http://www.jenniferfrisbie.com/

    Alia, I am certain that if you sat down to rewrite the phone book I could hang on every name. You truly spin whatever you touch with your keyboard a magic that can only be gifted directly from heaven. Though you share something heavy on your heart and I know how difficult it must be to let those words fall on many eyes, I am grateful that God has gifted you with such a talent. You words pull the darkness out of me and make me willing to lift it up to Someone who knows what to do with it. They beckon me to leave it all at the foot of the cross. To seek community with those who care for my heart, even if they can’t do a thing to make it right. I don’t know you well, but I can see what an amazing soul you have and I am grateful to know you at all. Keep doing what you do, friend. You’re making such a difference in this world.

    February 9th, 2015 21:21
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    • Alia_Joy

      Ha! You’re very kind. I don’t know any better compliment than that it takes you to the cross and into the arms of Jesus. I’m thankful for the clarifying work of suffering in my life and I know many others who know their need and hunger because they’ve been through it too. He uses all things for His glory. Even this. Also this. To God be the glory.

      February 10th, 2015 4:40
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  • Michelle DeRusha
    http://michellederusha.com/

    Besides being absolutely beautiful, crisp, clear writing, I love and appreciate your honesty about this hard place so much, Alia. Thanks for being brave and letting us in.

    February 10th, 2015 2:09
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    • Alia_Joy

      Thanks for joining me here, Michelle. I appreciate it. You should know about honest. I laugh/cried/laughed through Spiritual Misfit.

      February 10th, 2015 4:44
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  • Grace Girl
    http://girlplusgrace.com

    Because I know to well the pain of being in the empty place, I see how beautiful and priceless is this kind of hospitality. God has truly blessed you through it. I hope to be that kind of friend to someone even as I pray for someone like that in my own life. Thank you for opening the door to let us see this quiet hospitality. I’ll take it over dinner parties any day.

    February 10th, 2015 17:55
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    • Alia_Joy

      My hope is that you have someone who comes alongside you in your empty place but even if there’s no one present right now, know you are not alone. Maybe you’ll be that friend because you’ll remember how alone you felt. We comfort with the measure we’ve been comforted. Know God is with you and feels your pain too.

      February 11th, 2015 23:00
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  • Sarah Denley
    http://inthewarmholdofyourlovingmind.blogspot.com

    Most beautiful thing I’ve read lately. It really resonated. So often we need someone just to sit with us in our despair and so often that is, I think, one of the hardest things for another human to do.

    February 11th, 2015 20:44
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    • Alia_Joy

      It’s hard not to offer solutions or do something to fix it when someone’s hurting. Sometimes we do need to do more than just talk, tangible things to meet needs but it takes wisdom to know which is needed and sometimes just asking, how can I love you well right now is where we need to start.

      February 11th, 2015 23:30
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  • Kara Chupp
    http://thechuppies.com/

    …and this is friendship Alia…willing to wade through the heartaches…and I long to be that kind of friend (and to thank God for those who are this place of love in my life). This is beautiful in so many ways.

    February 13th, 2015 17:55
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  • Carol Vinson
    http://upsidedowngrace.com/

    This is so incredibly beautiful. I write a lot about how Jesus sits with is in our pain – that he never promised quick fixes or easy solutions to the hard things in life. And how sometimes that is all we are called to do, all we really can do. Such a difficult task when it is so much simpler to do the tangible things. You are fortunate to have a friend who really embodies all that Grace is…

    February 23rd, 2015 7:37
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