Liberty, Sherah, Rachel, Tonya, Debbie
This weekend was the (in)RL conference. Haven’t heard of it? Oh, you’re missing out if you’re a Christian woman seeking community, because that’s what it’s all about! I discovered (in)RL and (in)courage last year around this time, and I can truly say the the experience changed the way I think when it comes to making friends, finding women to lean on and trusting women. We’ve all been hurt by people who are supposed to be our friends, and I am no exception to that. We’ve all put our trust in someone who didn’t follow through with their part of the friendship.
For the past year I’ve longed to find my tribe, my people, my community. I had high hopes of meeting other local women at last year’s (in)RL conference, and I did make one friend, but she wasn’t local. I started blogging again (this blog, in fact), in hopes of making online blogging friends like those awesome friendships described b the (in)courage writers, and I did make one good friend through blogging, but this time it’s been me who hasn’t checked in on her like a good friend does.
So this year I was determined to make it different. I was going to step out and try my hardest to build community myself. I hosted a Saturday (in)RL session in my own home. I started talking it up way in advance and invited many people, mostly friends on Facebook. Pretty much everyone I am friends with on Facebook are people I have known at one time or another in person, as I don’t friend random people. Not everyone is local, but I found a good majority are. It’s amazing how many people are local, but I haven’t seen in person or spoken to in 10-20 years! Surely some of these are Christian women also seeking community, right?
I admit, I did get my hopes up that about 10-12 people would show up. By Saturday, 8 people were registered to come, and 4 showed up. I’m saying AND, not BUT, because even though my expectations of attendance was not met, my experience with those 4 women exceeded my expectations tenfold! The 3 hours I spent with these beautiful women will forever be in my heart as one of those moments I’ll always cherish.
One of the four women was my mom, Debbie. She was mostly there to help me decorate, serve and host. She’s my rock when it comes to things like this, and I could not have pulled off the evening as easily as I did without her. She loves themed parties and sopping for them, so she helped out tremendously with the decorations. It’s definitely one of her gifts!
Another friend was Liberty, at Random Ramblings and Rants. Let me tell you about this girl, Eric woman! We have been friends since Kindergarten. She has a TON of stories of us that her elephant memory has kept all of these years that I love to hear her tell, because my failing memory has not kept the details like hers has. It’s amazing what all she can remember. We were best friends throughout all of elementary school (which is FOREVER when you’re that age) but drifted apart when I moved from private school to public school. If Facebook, email and texting were around in the late 80′s, I have o doubt we would have kept in touch better. We did still keep in touch some, but the last time we saw each other, according to Liberty’s amazing memory, was the Valentine Banquet our Junior year of high school…NINETEEN YEARS AGO! Over the past couple of years, we’ve kept up with each other on Facebook and even had plans to meet for lunch a couple of months ago, but one of her kids had an emergency, and she had to postpone. So when she showed up at my home last night, it was like those 19 years had been more like 19 days. Our friendship picked up just where it left off.
A third friend who came to my home last night was my cousin, Sherah. We are just a couple of years apart, and she even lived close to me for about a year during my childhood. My memories of us playing in the woods and on the rocks and riding our bicycles are some of my most fondest childhood memories. When she moved away, I only saw her at family functions once or twice a year, then when we became adults we saw each other less frequently. I’ve had the opportunity to see her a few times over the past few years at family functions again and also kept in touch on Facebook. I was thrilled when she RSVP’d the day of the event and said that she was coming. She doesn’t live too far away, and I’m grateful that we both want to spend more time together.
The fourth friend who came is also someone from my past. Rachel and I grew up in the same large church and went to the same junior high and high school, which were rather large schools. We weren’t close friends or anything back then, mostly because our paths didn’t really cross much in a large church and school. I do have a memory of her in Sunday School class during high school when she told us she had seasonal depression and a special light for it. At the time, I thought it was weird but interesting. Of course, about 10 years ago I discovered that I also battle the SAD, and I always think of her when I turn on the SAD light I bought earlier this year. I ran into Rachel a few years ago at a restaurant and found out that she lived just down the street from my aunt. My husband and I bought a house in that neighborhood 2 years ago, and I kept hoping our paths would cross again. They finally did last night! I’m loving the idea of having a friend in my neighborhood, literally within walking distance!
When the evening was over, we had all told our stories, or at least some of our stories, shared with each other, laughed and cried. We all want to get together again and plan to meet at least once a month. To say I was ecstatic to hear that they had gotten as much out of the (in)RL conference as I did was an understatement!
You know what’s really interesting about this whole experience? For the past year, I have been praying to meet a group of friends or even just ONE friend who ‘gets me’. For me, I felt like this person had to have very specific qualities: Christian, married (maybe previously divorced), no children (and no plans for children), and live close to me. I was very specific, you see.
But you know what? God doesn’t work that way. God knows what I need more than I do, and he sent me four beautiful women, all from my way back past, who have different backgrounds, are in different seasons of their lives and don’t really fit into that perfect bubble that I have created in my head. God is telling me that I have much to learn from women who aren’t JUST LIKE ME, and most likely there’s much that they are going to learn from me, as well.
“If you submit yourself to God, He will work in your life. How good it was that God told me to endure in love!” – Sally Clarkson
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