A Weekend of (in)couragement
This weekend I had the opportunity to meet with a variety of women, women from all walks of life, different stages in life.
“Yup, we’re bringing the beach house to you with the goal of connecting women beyond the blog post! How? Well, with a day of (in)courage meetups – think mini beach house parties – all around the country and globe and a webcast for everyone to tune into. A local meetup on a global scale; friends will gather to watch live webcasts of (in)courage contributors and community, connect with one another, and discover new friendships they didn’t know were right around the corner!”
It was something I signed up to attend a few months ago on a whim. It was probably when I was feeling really disconnected, lonely and wanting face to face fellowship. It was a leap of faith for me as I would be going to an unfamiliar home to meet women I have only known online.
Some of the anxiety of meeting new people was lessened because we already had a few things in common. Most of us were writers and grew to know each from reading and commenting on each others’ posts. Most of us were mothers, married or single and more importantly (I believe) we all had enough faith to step out and believe that God would show up in our gathering.
He did not disappoint.
The night before I received an email from someone who works in the birth community with me. She had noticed my name on the invite list and asked if I was still attending. Boy was I happy she emailed me. I honestly forgot that the Meetup was this weekend in-spite of several daily emails leading up to it. I get so many emails that I have become desensitized to them. I was also planning a much-needed afternoon outing that day with my husband after some doula consultations. I was torn because I know how important our time together is (it’s really rare with three children and we have to plan for it) but I also knew how much I was struggling with isolation and was challenging myself to step out and make establishing and growing friendships a priority.
Mr. Incredible knew that as well and without a blink encouraged…no insisted that I go. The last few weeks and months I have had at least one kid joined to my hip while they were recovering from surgery and he knew I needed the fellowship.
So I went. Nervous stomach and all.
There was a lot of us showing up at the same time. As we all nervously and quietly took our shoes off, placed on name tags and slowly made our way to the kitchen where let’s face it, is the best gathering place of all, I immediately felt at ease. I was in good company. There were a lot of us meeting each other for the first time, a lot of us not knowing what to expect and a lot of us who were looking for God to move on our behalf in the area of friendship.
After I greeted the hosts and grabbed a plate I looked for a corner to stand back and observe in. There was another woman in a great spot so I asked if I could share it with her. She warmly made room for me and we began to chit-chat. A few minutes later, the colleague who’d sent me the email the night before came over. We greeted each other and introduced each other to the women we knew.
So far so good.
There were over 30 women in attendance at this home and you can imagine the volume of laughter and banter. Soon we made our way to where we were to watch a sequence of webcasts. This event was being held all over the world at the same time that was really cool to consider.
There was about two and half hours worth of videos that we watched. Every once in a while there would be chuckles in uni-some, random sniffles and the clicking of tweeting or note-taking. I hate crying in public and I did everything I could to avoid it. You know that “look up at the ceiling” thing? Did it. The “hold-your-eyes-open-as-long-as-you-can-without-blinking” thing? Did that too. I wasn’t too successful as a few tears did manage to escape. There were some stories of friendships that really pulled at my heart and a story of a woman who lived her life avoiding the very thing she longed for. Community through friendships. Secretly that is the cry of my heart. I may not mention it often but it’s there.
When the event was over we exchanged email addresses, twitter handles, and blog sites. I actually ran into a few familiar faces and it was really sweet to reconnect with them. I am optimistic about the new acquaintances that live although not super close to me, close enough to meet for coffee or a playdate.
When Mr. Incredible picked me up, he asked me how it went. I began to sob and cry for at least fifteen minutes while he drove trying to explain how great it was through my blubbering. Luckily he “gets” me and didn’t need translation. He also gets that for me to be the best mom, wife and child of God I need interaction outside of my four walls. It is outside those four walls that I can be challenged when I am being stubborn or unreasonable with my husband. It is outside of these four walls that I can be encouraged that I am the best mom for these children that God has trusted in me. It is also outside these four walls that I can allow God to love and speak to and through me, use and grow my gifts and talents and where “iron can sharpen iron.”
God values friendships. He wrote about it a lot.
I have a close friend who I do not have the privilege of seeing as often as I (and she) would like. It’s nothing personal just life. Family life and other things scream for our attention and sometimes it’s just really hard to align your schedules. We occasionally catch each other on the phone but mostly live on texts, emails and blog posts. One day I left her a voice-mail and said, “it’s been too long…I just gotta get a look atcha.” She loved that statement and I believe it spoke to her because social media is wonderful and it has its place, but there is nothing like a real hug. Locking eyes with someone. A side squeeze. A warm hand on the back. And seeing someone share your pain and joys in their real life tears.
What about you? What do you do to seek out and cultivate friendships in your life? I’d love to hear about what you do.
Also, if you are interested, the dvd’s from the weekend are available for purchase here.