It starts with my sister and I half joking about how other families seem so normal.
Until they don't.
Like mine, for instance.
At first glance, we're stereotypical suburbanites with our two parents, two kids, golden retriever, house with a fenced-in backyard.
But then upon closer inspection you find these oddities -- these unique-to-us traits
like how E wants, no, needs someone to rub his toes every night before he goes to sleep.
Or, G, how he still will reach up to touch our ears when he feels out of his element.
And John's sock length guidelines for jean-wearing versus shorts-wearing.
Oh, me, too. With my inner deep desire to be keeper of the chickens.
Maybe those oddities are laughable, all of them.
But there's the ones I don't normally wear on my sleeve, too. Like my brain-eating amoeba fears. The ones that are strange and deep-seeded and not readily understood or mentioned.
There's those pieces of strangeness, the ostracizing and lonely kind that leave us tight-lipped, letting the thoughts meander or stomp around the romping grounds of our minds in solitude. The kind you don't really want to share with your family or best friend or even your husband because it doesn't just dance in the room of unusual or quirky ... the isolating kind of strange that binds our tongues and keeps us standing in the quiet of our thoughts.
We walk into the church building, smiling and saying hello to families we've known for years and some for just minutes. I catch another mom's eye in the mirror in the bathroom; we exchange pleasantries. The conversation ends with wishes for a great weekend.
She seems to have it all together together -- hair brushed, clean clothes, smiles abounding and words shared easily. We both seem to have it all together.
We both seem so normal.
Until we're not.
We've all got those deep pockets of fear, these wells of uncertainty that keep us lingering in isolation, keep us captives in the darkness because we think we're too far gone.
But the lonely of strange or abnormal can only be isolating if we keep it to ourselves and everyone else does, too.
I wonder, as a community, as a church, as people who seek to walk in His footsteps, what it would take to go past the places of polite conversation and smiles and normal and venture into quirky so can begin to walk into the halls of the lonely, the strangeness together and get real about what normal really means.
Because normal redefined would make these places so many of us struggle to get a grip on far less lonely and far more easy to tackle.