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!


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