Where Do I Belong

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. Niles, Illinois to be exact. Home of the Leaning Tower of Pisa YMCA. (See picture above) I’m not kidding you. Why and how, I have no idea. We never asked. It just seemed normal to me as a kid. Who doesn’t see a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa on their way to swim lessons?

My senior year in high school, my best friend Mary and I decided to go visit her sister who was attending the University of Wisconsin- LaCrosse. I had no idea where that was but thought, why not. Mary and I took the five-hour Amtrak ride to LaCrosse and immediately, I fell in love with the bluffs and the fact that I was not too far away from home but far enough to feel like I was on my own. Mary and I knew we had found the university we would call home for the next four years.

One fateful day my freshman year, while treating myself to a soft serve cone at the food center on campus, I met a tall, dark, and handsome fella from Mineral Point, Wisconsin and the rest is history.

Part of that history was settling in Milwaukee. I love Milwaukee…now. Forty years ago, when we settled here was another story. It was hard to really feel like I belonged. (You transplants to Milwaukee know what I’m talking about.) I realize, now that I have experienced how awesome it is to raise a family here, why so many families have generations of family members living here and just blocks away from each other. It’s part of why I love Milwaukee. Many of the women I met initially, through work, spent a lot of their free time with family. Sundays we would come home from church and often there were family get-togethers and cookouts at the neighbors all around us. But not us.

I struggled with feelings of loneliness. I wasn’t particularly spiritual back then. Prayer wasn’t my first line of defense. But that is the preciousness of God. Even when we don’t see him, God sees us and tenderly cares for us. I was led to a group at my parish that ended up being the women that I grew up with in my spiritual walk. To this day, they are my God friends that I cherish. They are a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness and love for me.

They made me feel like I belonged.

In my last blog I asked you to let me know what it is you really need to feel alive and safe and cared for. A sense of belonging was an undercurrent in many of the responses. It was expressed in different ways. A need for friendship, a need for connection, and a need for acceptance and a place that feels like home.

Do you struggle with feeling like you belong? Is there a longing in your heart for friendship, connection, acceptance, and a place that feels like home? Especially after the isolation of the past year or so.

Maybe Firstfruits is God’s way of caring for you. God’s way of saying “I see you; I hear you; I love you.”

In my blogs for the next month or so I’ll be sharing the exciting new Fall offerings at Firstfruits. I pray that you will seriously consider joining us.

It’s where you belong.


Joan Carey, Firstfruits executive director, is an author and speaker with a passion for helping women grow in their relationships with God. Her Ponder This book contains a series of modern day parables sure to get you thinking about and seeing our extraordinary God in our ordinary experiences. Joan invites you to use resources on this website for daily reflection in your journey to grow in God's loving care for you.
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