Community, friendship and belonging–so needed, such a balm

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

Winnie the Pooh

My sweet group taking the last 24 hours away at a prominent hotel in a suite of rooms just to make time to treasure the friendship God has given to us and to keep the fires of our close relationship to each other burning. (Sweet Micala, we missed you and prayed for you!)

Arranging babysitting and rides for our children to all of their activities was quite a feat, but here is the rest of the story……..

God created us to be his friends, as Moses was. He was walking in the garden to share fellowship with Adam and Eve. He communicates over and over in scripture that He mostly desires our love and our time. God created marriage because it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. He gave Adam and Eve children as a model for families–that children would give purpose and meaning and relationship to a man and women in the blessing of them becoming a family. Jesus chose 12 disciples to be with him, for community, for living, teaching, training and preparing to take over reaching the world. He wanted/needed/chose friends through whom He would work in the world, though He could have gotten the message of his love and redemption out in any way He chose. He chose 12 committed men who would become friends and comrades in kingdom work.

And so it is that we have been created for relationship, friendship, belonging to a group bigger than ourselves. It is a part of our being, our design, what we were made to enjoy.

And yet in an isolationist world, we find ourselves, I think, by Satan’s design, lonely, not knowing our neighbors, feeling unknown in our mega churches, far away from family, and very different in values, faith, age and interest from most of our neighbors. If Satan can get us alone and unaccountable, then we fall prey to depression, feelings of being unloved, sensing a hole in our heart from not feeling we “belong” to a group, often feeling that we don’t really have any friends who care.

What a recipe for destruction of morals, values, faith, inspiration and strength. Scripture is very clear about the results of those who are alone.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down, his friend can help him up.

But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I can see that those times times when I felt heart-wrenching darkness overshadowing my soul and a deepening sense of isolation and feeling a longing for companionship and love, was when I felt I was alone and under the suffocating burdens, doubts and trials of life, without a friend to care. Having moved 17 times, 6 times internationally during my marriage, there were ever so many times when our family felt deeply alone. As a mom of young children, it was especially difficult to manage all the issues and care constantly for my children with never a break and often no kindred spirit with whom to share life. As a mom of teens, I also found the challenge of filling my home with families and kids so that my children felt that we somehow had community and people who cared personally for them.

A couple of years ago, a friend observed, “Sally, I think you need an Aaron and a Hur. You are being consumed–giving, giving all the time and never being refreshed or refueled yourself will eventually destroy your ideals and your vibrancy. You need to have a support system of friends who can be help shoulder your burdens, commiserate with you personally in your trials, share in the personal victories and memories of life.

I remember saying, “I don’t even know how I would go about that. I have many friends all over the US, but I have moved so much, it is hard to start over again and push through to find close community.”

Her words simmered in my mind. “Best” friends, “sister-friends”  to share life has been a history since my childhood-to have that one who “gets” me and still likes to be with me,  to share broken dreams and hurt feelings, insecurities and longings and to be understood and cared for, to share the graces of shopping, lunching, laughing and getting older together through experiences shared.

But the older I get, the more crowded my life and the harder plant and cultivate the seeds of  close friendships. But God would not let her voice of admonition go away. Purposing to pray about it , a plan began to form.

Constantly surrounded by women all the time in groups and ministry and classes, but often feeling alone in the crowd seemed dissatisfying. I have been blessed to have many friends and I love and appreciate them all. But with having older children, in a relatively new town,  that no one knows, and focussing on my home and ministry, which requires lots of travel, often means I don’t have the luxury to give lots of time to those casual friends.

The Lord seemed to place on my heart to pray about and identify  other women who seemed to be in my life in a more prominent way than all the rest. First, a couple of close friends who had been special to my life for several years. Then, those who had actually taken the initiative to ask me over for lunch or dinner (a rare occasion for me–usually I am the one who does the inviting!) and I looked for someone who had initiated to me personally. There were a couple of people who stayed after at my Bible study to help or who sent me an email and or encouraged me. I came up with a list of 9 women after praying.

Inviting them to dinner, I shared my heart to have a group of friends who could cultivate accountability, friendship and prayer for one another. For about a year, we met once a month for lunch at my house, a Christmas party, a potluck with our husbands and children. Within a few months, the lunches lasted longer and longer, we had dinners together, began to get closer. We prayed for one another. Had our husbands over for a big pot luck. Eventually, we grew into a living, with a purpose–besides just having fun, we began to work in ministry together. These precious ones served at my conferences, made all the meals and organized our leadership intensive at my home.

Goodies, gabbing, gobbling and guffaws.

Now, we consider ourselves the closest of friends, and feel so deeply blessed to share life. From 30′s to two who are 57, small children to older children away from home, city girls and farm girls–we share in all of life, though not often–a committed time each month, a commitment to work at conferences together, to pray, study the word, share new restaurant finds, to “be there for one another.”

The flower girl–flower shirt, flower background, flower carpet!

Pals

Beautiful friends—thank you, Lord, for letting me be loved and for letting me belong.

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Comments

  1. Peggy says

    You are very blessed to have such dear friends…it made me feel sad to read. There seems not a one around my life. I have my family, but friends, I wonder if they truly do exsist.

  2. Amy V. says

    Thank you for sharing with honesty and encouragement. Such wisdom from the Lord (and from Winnie the Pooh.) I will be praying for my 9, or for whoever God already has in store.

    • says

      hi how are you all i just wanted to say that i really enjoy reading your story it real nice and make me feel confortable. thanks god bless you all

  3. Sharon O says

    That is awesome. I miss ‘good friends’ haven’t had a good friend for a long time… well I have to say my ‘good friend’ got married a year ago and by right she is spending time with her new ‘husband’.
    I miss ‘a sister hood’. My own sister said ‘some mean things about me and it hurt me deeply’ haven’t talked to her for a year. I miss the company of ‘women.’ My husband and I do well together but it is not the same as a good ‘sister friend’. You are so blessed.

  4. Beth says

    I feel privileged to have met all these wonderful women, and happy for your friendship with them. You give, give, give, and I am glad you can receive from them as well as enjoy girl time. I know this hasn’t always been the case for you, so rejoice the season is here to have this circle of friends right where you are.

  5. says

    I love reading this because it shows how God has provided exactly what you need so your heart will be full to give to others like me!!! Hooray!

    God has provided me a smiliar group through my “Good Morning Girls”. I have 6 ladies that I email each morning Monday through Friday about my quiet times but our friendships have grown into playdates, girls night outs, laughter, love, meals when we are sick, encouragement when we are down – just a place to be safe and understood. We have emailed for 3 years now. I never imagined when we began how amazing our friendships would become…which is why I started the blog http://www.goodmorninggirls.org this summer.

    I was surprised to have 700 women sign up to start their own Good Morning Girls groups. It shows women do long for community and there is a gap in our culture where women don’t have it. Thanks for role modeling it Sally!!!

    Much Love,
    Courtney

  6. says

    I enjoyed your post, Sally and agree wholeheartedly with it. The season I’m in now is the one that you described as ‘ isolation and feeling a longing for companionship and love, but under the suffocating burdens, doubts and trials of life’. It does make me a little sad that it is like that, but the very fact that you can describe it so well shows that you understand and that is in a way quite encouraging.

    It is quite hard too imagine how I could possibly cultivate time for deeper friendships (as I’m sure/hope I have friends who care!), it will have to wait for another season as time for just myself and my husband is difficult to acheive as it is, let alone with other women that I know.

    It is comforting to know you have been in the season I’m in now. Chapter 11 in Seasons of a Mother’s Heart has always been my life-saver, without which I would think I was going mad!

    Oh, God Bless you dear, Sally, for your encouragement.

    Susan

  7. says

    Ok….seeing all of your sweet Colorado team together has brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for challenging us all to create a community of Sister Friends and Families! Love you all and miss your sparkling eyes! KellieC

  8. Charise says

    What a gift each of these women are! They truly were amazing at the MHLIT and a great blessing to all of us as well. I have very fond memories of each one of them. And what a blessing that you have them Sally.

    It truly is a choice we have to make isn’t it? We have to make that time to surround ourselves with godly women who can encourage us especially when we minister to others and can quickly feel depleted.

    Hugs and many joys to you today Sally. You continually bless me. Thank you.

    Love,
    Charise

  9. Ruth says

    Thanks for the reminder on this. I used to harbor the romantic notion that a “best friend” would just ‘click’, live next door, watch your kids, etc. We really do have to make intentional choices, pray, invite, be vulnerable, etc. You tended this garden of friendship faithfully and now it is bearing fruit. I’m going to start praying about the seeds I can sow this coming year to build a network of friends.

  10. says

    Dear Sally, You are so wonderful to share so fluidly and beautifully your journey into female friendships. I love you so dearly. When I went to your first conference 3 years ago, and read you books, I recognized what “Anne of Avonlea” would have called a kindred spirit. If we only lived in the same town, we could be better friends. I find you to be so fun, faithful, and friendly. I am thankful for you in my life! Love, Mary-Robin

  11. Deb says

    Sally, I have said to many, many times over since MHLIT that I felt more connected with a group of complete strangers that were only together for a weekend than I often feel in my community here. Just knowing we all had that Christian Love and we were all sharing our stories and getting to know one another. It was nice to be with so many women and not one was complaining about their spouses or their children, but all were praising God and reaching out to help one another. Your wonderful friends did so much for all of us that weekend and I feel so blessed and so priviledged to have meet them all and spent the time we had together. It was definitely a time a needed to be “filled” and “refreshed” and not just be the “giver”.

    I thank God for women like you and your friends and I know when it’s right, God will give me that same kind of group. I think he’s working on it now. Since you were here and spoke, I have talked with many moms who are also longing for that “connection” with other moms who have the same heart for God and don’t necessarily know where to go to meet others with that same heart. I am hoping that when Julie and I get our Mom Heart group going we will be able to reach to women here as you do all over the world. I know that HE brought Julie and her family here so we would have someone to bounce things off of and be there to pray for and help one another in all ways. We may not get to talk or spend time together as much as we’d like to right now, but I know God is good and He will work things for HIS glory.

    Thank you and all your crew for a great time at MHLIT. I will always cherish the time we spent together. Thank you for all your words of encouragement and your great blog. I love you and pray for you often. May God continue to bless your ministry and make it grow because of women you have touched and encouraged to share HIS plan for Motherhood.

  12. Joanna Snow says

    Thank you!! God’s perfect timing… I needed this today I can’t even put it into words but it spoke so deeply to my heart. The Lord knows!!

    • Sally says

      So very sweet to hear of all of you and your heart for friends and great need. I pray He brings just the friends you need. Love to you all.

  13. Renee Parris says

    Sally…these photos and this posting make me homesick for Colorado and it’s never been my home. But being there for the MHLIT for just a few days has tied my heartstrings to that place. I miss all of you so much and would love to live closer and be a part of your “group.” Thankfully, the Lord has blessed me with great friends….tried and true and proven through the years. God was so gracious in creating the idea of friendships. I love and miss you much.

  14. Karin says

    Sally, I so much appreciate that you write frequently on this topic of friendships, the need for community, and your own struggles in this area throughout your life. I, too, have felt lonely and without a place of belonging for most of my life. I’ve often thought this is something God has intentioned for my life so that I would remain sensitive to those around me who are also on the “outside”. The few times I have felt like I belong I have lost my sensitivity to others who may not. Thankfully, in God’s grace, he hasn’t allowed me to stay like that for long. Should God give me a place of belonging again someday, I desire to let it be a gift that provokes me to bring others in, rather than hoarding his goodness to myself. Praise God that his goodness is not dependent on my past record for abusing what he’s given!

    It’s interesting how from the outside it has seemed as though most other women have great female friendships, and that I am alone in my “aloneness”. But it’s obvious from the comments on this post that many other women do not feel a place of belonging either. And I imagine that if I were to have a heart-to-heart conversation with the women I know who appear to be relationally set, they may contradict my assumptions. Perhaps others have made incorrect assumptions about my relationships, too. Why is it that so many women can appear to be satisfied in their relationships?

    Thank you, Sally, for once speaking honestly about your life.

  15. megan says

    What a pleasure it was to read this entry! I was looking for a devotional about the sense of belonging and being in a community. Your words hit the nail on the head and I am inspired to use this example to share with others!

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