I have the most tremendous group of friends. We met in our late teens and early twenties, and over time, we became chosen family. We are siblings to one another and aunts and uncles to each other’s kids.
We’re not a small group either — 14 adults, 4 kids, and 1 on the way. We have a wedding coming in October, so we’re welcoming in others too. We live in 6 states. None of us lives in Austin, Texas anymore, the place where we all met and became so close.
Yet more than thirteen years later and spread out across the U.S., we continue to be just as close. In fact, this circle of belonging has become deeper over time. We get together once a year for an annual Friendsgiving, our own family Thanksgiving meal. We have our own private social media spaces where we post pictures, laugh at things, and share what’s happening in our lives.
A couple of years ago, one of our folks came across a wonderful article about four women who had been remarkably close over decades, and they had many adventures, taking annual vacations together. Though I forget what it was now, these four woman made an acronym out of their names. This is what they chose to call themselves.
So our person got curious, wondering if she could make an acronym name out of our many names. She did, and it’s wonderfully silly. We are…
J.J. STARK BLIMP JR.
And so, we sometimes call ourselves this.
Some of my folks in Ann Arbor know about this group, and when I’m telling stories, I’ll sometimes say: “One time, [Person’s name] from J.J. STARK BLIMP JR. and I. . .” It’s a very silly but good reference point.
But more seriously, I have found myself pondering the great gift of this kind of vision for connection and chosen family. Basically, collectively we’ve created a community of care across time and across distance — the kind of community of care that will laugh hard; love deeply; and care tangibly, for emotions, for bodies, for vocational pathways, for losses, for hopes, for dreams.
And I’m realizing how rare this is. Except I don’t want it to be. I want to keep creating circles like this one. I want many others to have this kind of experience.
I am fortunate in this regard. I’ve experienced and cultivated this type of community vision more than once, and it’s been a great gift to me. I haven’t always been as deeply connected as I am in this part of my life. But over time, a deep source for this kind of connection and belonging has grown, and it continues to expand.
I am very grateful.
So I’ll close with something kind of dear and hilarious. I’ll tell you a bit of a secret.
Sometimes, when I’m in church services, and someone creates the opportunity to lift up names of people during a prayer, inviting everyone to say a name aloud here or there, I will whisper,
“J.J. STARK BLIMP JR.”
And after voicing that aloud, I always — always — give myself the church giggles. For this reason, I can only do it when I’m not the one leading. It’s like my own inside joke.
But it’s also a very convenient way to pray for your a bunch of friends at once.