Fortify yourself--make time for godly friendships

This week, after I drop Joy off at a great drama camp every day, I am working so hard on my book about joy. As usual, I am the one who benefits the most when I have to dig deep into scripture. Yesterday, I was writing on a chapter about relationships. We all hunger for love and friendship and intimacy. We want to know there are people who care for us, really care about us, because we are valued. 

I travel a lot and know many people and have many acquaintances and friends--but very few inner-circle, sister-like friendships. I have had many people say, "I always thought you were so busy and had so many friends that I didn't want to bother you."
For many, many years, I longed for community in a world that is becoming more and more isolationist. Because our values are quite different, in some ways, than my family, and because we have moved fairly often, we have not had the benefit of community with  family. But, no one is made to go without fellowship. 
Family, I am convinced, was designed by God so that we could have our emotional needs met. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, parents were to make up a natural, large community of people who could, together, be a testimony of what it looked like to be a community where God's presence dwelt. Family was to provide help, comfort, wisdom, sharing of traditions, history, purpose, morality, celebration in the life of relationships through the seasons of life. 
That is why the breakdown of the family is such a strategic move for Satan. If he can rob us of support systems, accountability, encouragement and tangible love of God, which was to be given through the love relationships of the many people we belonged to, in our families, then he can break down the foundations upon which we build righteousness and godly purpose. People tend to drift and wander when they don't have connection and responsibility of relationships to a family. And then loneliness sets in and we long for what we were made to have --fellowship and intimacy. We become an easy target for Satan when we isolate ourselves and are alone. 
Because I am a lover of people and I have really ached, at times, for closer relationships, I feel it is an area the Lord has taught me so much about. It is a very important Biblical priority. When Jesus told us the most important commandments, to love God and to love people, he was elevating that which is really important in life--relationship. Relationship to God is his most important priority--to love Him; second is to love others.
For this reason, the Lord has taught Clay and me, over the years, that we have to make relationship a priority, if we are going to stay tender to the Lord, and have the strength to keep going. There is so much more to say, but I must go write my book. But, in light of this, we continue to seek to build groups of people into our lives, so that we may continue to have relationship. Try some of these this summer.
Tea and talk times--let your friends know that once a (week, month) you will open your home for friendship and fellowship. You light the candles, everyone else brings a snack to share. Then, pick one or two verses or concepts to talk about and just have a time of fellowship for a couple of hours--letting everyone know that they can look forward to more times like these. Share prayer requests at the end, have them break up in twos or threes and pray for each other.
Clay and I started a once a month potluck with 3 other families. We take turns meeting at each other's houses and have fun together and then close in sharing and prayer. It has given my children a sense of a closer inner circle of people who they know will care for them. We even have lots of plans for the year ahead--4th of July together, grilling and shooting off fireworks; in the fall,  we will hire a caller who teaches the old English dances to groups and we will have a pot luck and invite many families and do these fun dances as families. (We learned this from Scottish Ceilidh gatherings where there would be folk dances for families, story telling, eating and singing. It is great fun.) We have a ministry plan to help with our churches' ministry to adopt a neighborhood and work as families there. A Christmas progressive dinner will happen again--as we go to each other's home for a portion of the meal and sing carols and read the Christmas story together. 
Have a girl's group for your daughters once a month--gather friends--moms and daughters and plan something to do once a month--or go through a book together.
Start a Mom Heart Group ( :)  Use one of my books as a base, meet regularly covering the discussion of one chapter a week, prayer and fellowship, and develop friendship with those who are like minded. (I have a once a month group at my hone and we always share treats, fellowship, have a time in the word and then hang around and talk--it starts at 6:30 and sometimes people don't leave until 10:30
Host an "I appreciate you" tea for your closest friends or special people you appreciate.
Give a tea with your daughter with some of her friends and also list girls who need someone to love them and invite then over--and teach your girl's the importance of reaching out and being  friendly to those who don't have friends. (we have been there lots before on moves.)
Schedule regular park days and invite friends.
Do ministry alongside other families--volunteer at a retirement center or a homeless shelter. Our closest friends are those who travel with us and work side by side at our conferences--all the parents and children work hard and play hard. 
When you create venues for fellowship, you are providing relationships for yourself and for your children--and you are providing close friendships, and support systems that Satan cannot easily tear apart. 
One sweet mom initiates so many time to others and yet she said, "Almost no one ever initiates to me!"
That is our own family's experience--but many people are so overwhelmed in life, they wouldn't think they have the time to reach out--and also, many people just assume others, who lead, already have friends.
Finally, make dates alone with your husband and children. Take time to celebrate relationship. I just had breakfast with Sarah this morning and we had such a wonderful time together from many, many long years of meeting together. We still live at home together and have the burden of washing dishes, cooking, caring for all the normal house needs, but time alone, away--says you are more than just my slave--or child--you are my friend. Joy got a shake yesterday and 30 minutes talking before we went home. Nate is for lunch on Friday. Clay and I have an early morning sneak away planned--Sorry Joel, I can't get together with you while you are so far away--but I hope you enjoyed my email and my phone message and the cookies Sarah sent.
Relationship--it is all about taking the time to meet, give and send and verbalize love and appreciation, and you will, in time, reap what you sow. May God bless each of you with friendship as you seek to serve others this summer.