I sat in silence watching the streets of New Orleans pass by. I was on my way back to the airport via Uber. It was 4 a.m. in the morning, and I was still processing the two weeks prior. My eyes welled with tears as I asked the Lord to help me put into words what I had experienced. It was not the sites that I seen, the places I walked that were on my mind at the moment. It was an unnamed feeling that was overwhelming me. I heard the simple word “nurture.”
The word is both a noun and a verb. What I was looking for was the verb, as I had experienced it. Oxford Languages defines nurture as care for and encourage the growth or development of. Synonyms include bring up, take care of, look after, nourish, develop, cultivate, assist, help, aid, strengthen. It shouldn’t be a foreign word to me, but this feeling was.
Growing up the youngest of five children, I am not sure I describe a moment where I felt nurtured. My parents were not neglectful, my basic needs were always met. I don’t think I would describe either parent as nurturing. Worn out, yes. Sometimes available, but never emotionally. I grew up believing that my feelings and thoughts were unimportant. Looking back, I know they did the best they could at the time, it just wasn’t nurturing.
I know what it is like to be spoiled. My brother and cousin spoiled me. After I met my husband, he spoiled and continues to spoil me too. In my mother’s later years, she spoiled me also. I could not say “Oh, that is so pretty.” without it soon arriving at my doorstep. I am not a very materialistic person, but I know that if I want something, I can have it. But being spoiled is not always nurturing.
I know what it is like to manipulate to get what you need. Again, the youngest of five, I learned how to manipulate, not ask for what I wanted. I was well into adulthood before I realized how I manipulated others instead of just asking for what I need or want. But just because I can get what I want, does not mean I was nurtured.
I also know that it is like to have people cater to what I want. Maybe it is rally just another form of manipulation or my strong personality, but I can generally get others to go along with what I want. Sometimes this has its advantage, but other times I really want people to feel like we can do what they want. Even in that, I feel like at times they are still catering to me. But catering to someone is not nurturing.
I also know that it is like for people to give in to what I want. I can tell they have a different idea, but because my personality is strong they give in. I can be passionate if something matters to me, but other times I have no preference, only an opinion just like everyone else. People give in to my idea, even if their idea was better. Giving in is not nurturing.
I also know what it is like to have people who will challenge and correct me. I know that I need that more often than not. My mouth and actions can sometimes need to be redirected so that I can honor God and be all that He created me to be. Even that is not always nurturing.
Despite the fact that being spoiled, manipulating to get what I want, having people cater to me, even people giving in to me and correcting me can make me feel like I am cared for, it is not the same as being nurtured. I don’t think I realized what I was missing until this trip. I was with complete strangers, except one close friend. For whatever reason, I felt cared for and nurtured in a way I had never experienced. Maybe because over the years God has tore down my walls of self-protection. Or maybe because I was too tired to allow my dominant personality to come forward. I was willing, for whatever reason, to allow others to care for me, with only minimal reservation.
It first hit me as we were walking up the steep hill to a monastery. I was already spent physically, tired from all the activity and my feet and legs beyond swollen. I woke up that morning feeling off. I have been winded at home with minimal activity, but up to that day on the trip I had not had any issues. I had not used my inhaler, so I didn’t even have it with me. I know that I am slow, so I did not want to hold anyone back. I have learned that going at a slower pace than your body needs to makes the journey so much harder. I encouraged people to go on ahead; one man stayed behind, encouraging me all the way. I made it to the top and others also encouraged me for not giving up, as two others had stayed behind on the bus knowing that the trek might be too much.
The monastery was a little stuffy, with little air circulating. I began feeling more off, clammy to the touch. I had left my water bottle on the bus, I don’t know why as I generally would carry it with me regardless of how short the distance we were walking. Two of the ladies in the group insisted that I drink some water. Initially I declined. I don’t drink after my husband, let alone strangers; at their insistence I finally did, downing over half the bottle. My body needed the water. I teased them for mothering me. Going down was much easier for me, although my friend was most concerned about where I was walking, afraid I would slip going down the steep inclines.
As our trip was coming to an end, we were talking about our travel arrangements home. I flew in to our departure city, but there was not a flight out until the following day back to New Mexico. I am rather logical and could not see going to a hotel for seven hours, so I planned to just stay at the airport. A couple in the group told me they were not comfortable with me doing that. Within a few minutes they were booking a hotel for me, letting me know that I would just stay with them and could uber back to the airport in the morning. A few hours later, the wife was apologizing, realizing she may have overstepped, but let me know the room would be available if I decided to take it. Another couple encouraged me to take the hotel room, that they also would feel more comfortable. I felt peace in my spirit telling me to accept the kindness.
When we arrived back to New Orleans, the couple got us an uber, treated me to dinner and then told me to go get some rest. I don’t typically sleep soundly the first night in a hotel, but sleep came easily. I woke rested in the early morning hours and caught my uber as scheduled. It was there sitting in the back of this strangers care, I contemplated how I was feeling. I needed God to tell me, because it was not something I remember feeling before.
These strangers, who over ten days became friends that I traveled with, took care of me. They looked after me. They nourished a part of me that didn’t know it needed nourishment. They showed me support when it looked like I needed it. They provided encouragement when I felt like I didn’t want to keep going. Even though they did not realize it, they developed a longing in me for more nurturing. They cultivated in my spirit a desire to be nurturing to others. Without question or strings they assisted me, helped me, offered me aid, and strengthened my spirit.
I am used to being the one who takes care of others. I am the one who usually looks after others. I encourage, support, assist and help others on a daily basis. I often find myself looking for that in my own life, who nurtures me? I have a few close people who are consistently my cheerleaders and sounding boards. I know they would do anything for me, but that is not always nurturing. Who knew that I would receive this unexpected gift while on vacation with strangers who would become friends as we traveled.
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