And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Tears have been welling up in my eyes--can't help it. I have been editing the final version of my new book coming out in February. But, reading it and having written it is touching a deep place in my heart. This book is the story of our home, our children, our traditions, our stories, our lives. To re-live what God has allowed our family to weave together into the Clarkson history has been one of the most profound privileges of my life. And I want to inspire others to live a story worth telling to their own children for generations to come.
But in the midst of writing this, I realized that I wanted to be sure I was not living such a "working" life in ministry, now that my children are adults, and working, living and going about their own responsibilities--without making time to invest in the sweet women around me. I knew that our home had always embraced the people God brought into our lives. So, I also knew I needed to make room in my life for real live relationships.
I have been teaching a Bible study for about 10 years here in the Colorado Springs area. But eventually, our email list contained 180 women--sometimes as many as 100 would be at my monthly meetings. I never had time to know anyone individually, so I taught and felt a distance between me and the many women who came.
My leadership team and I decided that this year, we wanted to make room for personal relationships with the moms who were in our monthly meetings.
Last Bible study I taught, I gave them an outline for making plans for their years. We told our women that the first 10 women who completed a plan for their year, would be invited to a dinner at my house for a personal time of sharing. We were designing some accountability in that the sweet women had to do something that would help them ultimately, and 10 women accepted the challenge within a couple of days. Tonight was the night.
I made a simple meal--homemade chicken vegetable soup. My friends who help me lead the study brought salad, bread and an apple crisp. We gathered around the table with candlelight and music and I pulled out the china from my mom and we had a wonderful time together.
Each of us had several minutes to tell our story and what we were planning for this year to "Own Our Plans and Schedule." Sharing heart issues, struggles, ideals, loneliness, exhaustion, hopes, dreams, goals--such a warm, lovely evening together. Now, when I go to teach the large Bible study, I will know the stories behind these precious ones. I know how to pray for them. Some have determined to get together for coffee to share further.
I have observed over the years that when I extend an invitation to others, over a simple meal or mug of tea, and we sit together face to face, God shows up. He knits our hearts together when we make time for personal, intentional time to talk, share burdens and just laugh together.
It was so easy to do, but sooooo great to be together, and now we are beginning to build bridges toward closer friendships. What about you? What might you do to begin building bridges with women in your area who also need and want friends. I would love to hear what you are doing.