Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Is the Deal with Women Friendships Being So Hard?


I didn't get married until I was twenty-nine, which meant that I spent my entire twenties wondering what life as an old maid was going to look like and calculating the cost of cat food for the thirteen cats I would obviously have to acquire to keep me company in my spinsterhood.

OK, that's not really what I was doing, but there were a lot of evenings spent with girlfriends, bowls of ice cream in hand, over-analyzing our love lives and lamenting our singleness (insert sad emoticon face here). There was a lot of whining, tear-filled journaling, neurotic behavior and general emotional overload, but through all that drama, I had a solid group of girlfriends who were walking the wild and weird road of singleness with me. I'm pretty sure I'd have joined a traveling circus if it hadn't been for them.

I've had some heart-deep friendships over the years, most of whom I still feel like I could call up this minute and ask for advice or invite myself to their house in Texas or California or wherever else they've settled (Right? Lex, Chrissy, Lynds?).

There have also been new friendships each place Matt and I have lived and, while it takes a little longer to get close now because whole conversations take place over the course of at least eight play dates, I'm still finding "kindred spirits" in the midst of the crazy-town that is being a mom and a wife and the keeper of a house.

But, even while having friends who are more like sisters to me, I find that there are still some things about friendships between women that make them hard. And, it seems like no matter the depth of friendship, there can still be confusing emotions and jealousies and comparisons and hurt feelings. And, sometimes there's just plain weirdness that nobody can wrap their heads around.

A lot of times, I can track those issues right back to my own sin. Just this week, I sent an email and didn't get a response back in the "timely" fashion I expected to. And, so, I quickly formed opinions, cast judgment, and wrote someone off in the midst of assuming the worst. You're afraid to be my friend now, aren't you. Obviously, you can see what I see now, which is that I gave in to some really gross pride and let my own insecurities speak into a situation that turned out to be nothing more than an email lost in cyberspace. (This is why I'm for actual letters and possibly smoke signals).

So, here is what I'm wondering. What is the deal with friendships between women being so hard? Why do we assume the worst about each other sometimes? Why are we so quick to get our feelings hurt?

Somewhat annoyingly, men don't seem to have these issues. They talk about sports. They meet for lunch and talk about work. They watch football together and tell jokes and maybe get the chance to go on a camping trip on the rare occasion that their wives allow this temporary abandonment. But, according to my husband, they don't suffer the kind of relational drama that women experience. And, what's more, they do not understand it. Let me emphasize this reality of life: If you try to talk this sort of stuff out with the man you married, prepare yourself for a blank stare and possibly an awkward pat on the shoulder. He's not going to understand because, well, he doesn't have ovaries AND because most of what you're telling him doesn't make sense anyway. To anyone.

I have a theory. Despite all the seemingly obvious reasons that we have issues with one another (emotions, feelings, insecurity, jealousy, selfishness, comparison, pride, etc.), it's possible something else is going on underneath it all.

John Eldredge, in one of his books whose name I can't recall, talks about redemptive relationships being opposed. In a devotional book he's written called The Ransomed Heart, he says that, "Our enemy despises relationships, hates love in any form, fears its redemptive power." Pretty sure he's on to something.

Any relationship that offers some kind of redemption will be opposed by our enemy. And, I can't help but wonder if that's what's behind all the inexplicable drama that lives underneath the surface of relationships between women. We all need one another so desperately, and yet, we manage to push each other away all the time over petty disagreements and perceived hurts and misunderstandings.

But, what can we do about this?

We can fight back.

Let's promise each other that when we find ourselves believing the worst about one another or we give in to anger over some imagined snub, that we go to our friend and honestly tell them "This is how I feel. How can we be reconciled?"

It looks easy enough when I write it down, but Lord knows, I am not good at confrontation. I love to sweep things under the rug and pretend that everything is "just fine." I'm Southern, so it's basically a tradition. But, if you and I want to experience the kind of friendships we were made for, it's going to take a little initiative on our parts. We might have to expose our hearts in a way that isn't comfortable. We might even have to apologize for some wrong assumptions and maybe even some not so pretty pride.

But, it'll be worth it.

You and I need friends who offer the Gospel to us. And you and I need to be those kind of friends. There is redemptive power in this way of doing friendship that can overwhelm the mommy wars and the Pinterest-fails and the comparison traps.

Let's go there.




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mom Laws: These Are Why Chocolate Chips Were Created.

After a few years of parenting, here are some truths that I have found to be the mom's version of Murphy's Law. These also answer the question of why God made chocolate:

~If you choose not to take a shower for two days, you will most surely be called into your child's school for some reason and be seen wearing stretched-out yoga pants and yesterday's make-up by other moms who have recently showered and are wearing cute skinny jean/tall boot combinations.

~If your preschool-aged child takes a short slumber upon an afternoon, you will find yourself watching Curious George at 11 p.m. with said child who is still more awake than you have been in the last five years.

~If your tiny babe gets moderately warm in the car and falls into a deep sleep upon which she cannot be awakened when the car has stopped in the garage, you will carry her into the house on tiptoes and lightly lay her down in her warm little crib only to have her eyelids pop open the moment she touches the sheet. Every. Single. Time.

~The cinnamon oatmeal you lovingly made for your eldest child upon a Tuesday morn will be eaten with joy and gratitude while watching Wild Kratts for a happy half hour. But, upon your Wednesday morning when you lay before that child the same repast,  the oatmeal will most assuredly be met with disdain and suspicion. For. No. Apparent. Reason.

~The moment you find yourself indulging in a tiny piece of Halloween candy whilst hiding behind the pantry door, you can be assured that your offspring will suddenly appear and demand to know what devilry is taking place. You and candy are never safe together. Ever.

~Every phone call you will ever make during the duration of your child's preschool years will be met with cries for "Juice!"and "Watch Curious George with me!" Also, small people will be drawn to you like magnets and wrap their arms around your legs and most likely there will be a river of tears over someone having taking the toy someone else thought about possibly playing with later this afternoon. Lesson: Phone calls are out of the question.

~Anything other than yoga pants being put on in the morning qualifies you for being a human kleenex. And also having people wipe peanut butter on you. And maybe also having small people managing to over-fill their diaper the moment you set them on your lap. It's just science, people.

~It's essentially your destiny to be called upon for some life-saving rescue situation the second your skin touches the cold porcelain of the toilet seat. Accept this and choose to dehydrate yourself and also remove all fiber from your diet. From now on, bathroom breaks are for hours in which your children are not awake.

~Despite your culinary efforts in the kitchen for the past two hours while also breaking up occasional, Lego-related arguments and having two small people underfoot tossing Tupperware back and forth, the meal you offer your family at dinner will be met with cries for "Peanut Butter Sandwich!!" and "I can't eat that green thing on my plate!" And you will declare to yourself that in your next life there will be enough money for a cook. And also a masseuse.

~After a long week of early morning school drop-offs and late night diaper changes, Saturday morning will arrive with the delirious hope of a possible chance of sleeping past 7:30 a.m. Go ahead and let that dream die now. You will absolutely be awake by 6:00 a.m. at the latest.

This mission of mothering, if you choose to accept it, will require every ounce of emotional, mental and physical energy you have ever thought about having and maybe a teensy bit more. A handful of chocolate chips before starting each day may or may not help you make it through. Most likely the latter, but I would choose to eat them anyway.

May the yoga pants be with you. 


Monday, October 20, 2014

A Warning Label: In Which Things Get Real

*It's Day 20 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading yesterday's post and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

After all that warm fuzzy talk about how fabulous real community can be, I feel like it might be necessary to slap a small warning label on intentional community. I'll let Dietrich say a few words and then we can discuss amongst ourselves...

Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin. - Bonhoeffer, Life Together

So, here's the situation. If we're serious about being a part of a heart-deep community where people invite each other into their messy lives, then we should probably prepare ourselves for the occasional "severe reprimand" Bonhoeffer refers to.

We know that eventually we are all going to be in need of a bit of tough love. A community of imperfect, in-process people is going to require real talk about sin and possibly the occasional minor (or perhaps major) intervention. Community is made up of actual human beings and because people can at times be weird, temperamental, awkward, pouty, selfish, and a dozen other things you might also describe your toddler as at any given moment, there are going to be sin issues that need to be handled. If your community is trying to actually love one another in any sincere kind of way, this is just part of the deal.

The whole already-but-not-yet kingdom situation we're in means that we shouldn't be too surprised when one of the members of our fellowship has some issues, or makes a significant mistake, or gets their feelings hurt too easily, or has a meltdown, or kills a man in Reno. Except, you should be surprised if that last thing happens.

This is where the grace of community comes in. Despite the temptation to not deal with things and just sweep them under the rug with a big ol' "bless your heart," instead stuff has to be dealt with, which will probably be uncomfortable and make things hard for a bit. But, at the end of the day, it's critical that we seriously deal with each others' sin while also offering armloads of grace.

A community where nothing is required of you and no one holds you to any kind of standard is not real fellowship. The hope is that someone cares enough about us to notice when we start down a road that will be hard to come back from and that they lead us back to the gospel with grace and compassion.

Last night our community group met on our back deck because the weather was perfection and it felt criminal to be inside. We talked about the Samaritan woman at the well and how compassionately Jesus addressed her sin and encouraged her to leave it behind. And then we went on to talk about, because we're not Jesus, how in relationships, we need to earn the right to speak into someone's sin. We need to know that we are genuinely valued before our sin gets pointed out. This is one of the most powerful things about being a part of an intentional community. People know us and love us well enough that we can hear a reprimand from them and trust that it is absolutely out of their hope that we can be better.

Living in deep community with one another makes it possible for our real selves to be known and treated with grace and gentleness, especially when we're off-roading in the wrong direction.

I know I desperately need others to point out my blind spots and love me enough to tell me when I'm choosing my sin over what's true. And to experience that sort of kind intervention, I have to be in intentional fellowship with people who love Jesus and love me.

It's a little scary to willingly accept this kind of relational vulnerability. But, how much better is it to be drawn back into community by friends who care enough to compassionately reprimand us rather than be casually abandoned to our sin by acquaintances who just aren't invested enough to say anything.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
~ Proverbs 27:6



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Old Friends Must Always Begin as New Ones

*It's Day 16 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading yesterday's post and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

Every morning on our way to Sam's school I come close to veering off the road as I crane my neck to see the sun rising above the treetops and the early morning mist that's still clinging to the farm fields we pass. We drive by old barns that farmers are still actually using as they continue the rhythms of planting and harvesting. There's a lovely little pond that sits at the bottom of a corn field that never ceases to draw me in as we wend our way through the countryside. I realized this morning that as we drove by one of the little farms we pass every day, that I referred to it in my mind as "our farm." As if we have some stake in it now that it has become part of our daily routine and perhaps because it occupies a small place in my heart somehow.

The roads we drive to and from school have become familiar and comfortable and the short drive from our house to where Sam spends his mornings feels like it belongs to us in some indefinable way. I know where to look to see the morning sunlight breaking through the line of trees at one of the turns we make. And I know to look for the horses that have made their way out of the sleepy barn to eat their breakfast. And right now, as our local farm hosts it's own fall festival, there's an orange patch of pumpkins that almost glows with orange-ness through the foggy morning mist before the sun burns it away.

This morning found me pondering how less than two years ago, I didn't even know any of this existed. Even though I grew up in this county (before moving away for twelve years), I never laid eyes on a single one of these barns or farms or backroads. And, now they are becoming like old friends to me, familiar and welcoming and known.

I can't help but relate this to friendships we've made over the last two years since we moved here. I think we're finally starting to experience the depth of friendship we've hoped for and we're beginning to see friends start to feel like family. It always takes longer than you think it will, but once it finally begins to happen, you wonder how people it seems you just met have suddenly become so familiar.

Friendships that matter aren't usually forged over night. It takes time to reach the places in our friends' hearts that endear them to us and hopefully us to them. It takes time to learn the idiosyncrasies and the quirks and the expressions that make that friend themselves. And it takes time to let them discover those things about you.

Communities of friends are always in process. We are always learning new things about each other, hearing stories we haven't heard before, observing hand gestures and facial expressions that make each friend distinctive.

There is time for all of this. Rome wasn't built in a day. The community you and I long for can't be either.Give yourself time to live into the community you are hoping for. And remember that old friends must always begin as new ones.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Choosing People Over Technology

*It's Day 15 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading yesterday's post and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *


Back in the old days (the '80s, obviously), kids who were really into computers and video games were kind of, well, nerds. Fast forward thirty years and those kids are billionaires and the rest of us who can't read code or write html (are those the same thing?) are just as obsessed with technology as those guys were in middle school.

Up until five days ago, my husband resolutely still used his flip phone. Despite it's having suffered a near fatal experience in the pool this summer, it lived long enough for Matt to realize it was time to enter into the modern world and accept the smartphone into his heart. And, now the blue glow of it's screen lights up his face in the evening when I turn to say something witty to him as we sit on the couch. Or is that the glow of the 50-inch television we recently acquired (i.e. won in a raffle.)

We love our screens over here, and despite my constant sense of our lives being sucked into the cyber vortex of our computers, iPhones, Nooks, and television, we cannot seem to pull ourselves away. It's disconcerting.

I know you've probably seen that short video circulating online that is basically a montage of people just living their lives while also staring constantly at their phones. The video is somewhat amusing until you realize what's actually happening. People aren't looking at each other, they're looking down, completely engrossed in whatever is happening on their tiny, little screens. I do this, too. All the time. Every day. It concerns me.

When I was in my twenties, phones were just starting to evolve into the smaller versions we hold in our hands from the bag phones and the awkwardly shaped flip phones that would fit into no one's pocket ever. I remember even then, before the internet had even thought about being accessed from a phone, that we were all starting to carry them with us everywhere. Obviously, that made sense for safety reasons and convenience and all that. But, they were beginning to be a bit intrusive. A pastor I worked with for a bit in my early twenties talked about this in a staff meeting at one point. He was noting that people were beginning to stop conversations with friends in order to answer their phones. The problem with that, according to him, was that it basically communicated to that other person that you would rather be somewhere else with someone else instead of in that moment with them.

That's been approximately twelve years ago since I heard him say that. And, the reality is, the epidemic of social media and smartphone worship is off the charts.

What I'm wondering is, how is that affecting you and I in our pursuit for real community? What do we lose when we substitute significantly engaging with the actual, living and breathing human beings in front of us with a glowing screen that gives us information and show us pretty pictures?

What are really sacrificing in the way of relationships and fellowship and connection (with people, not wi-fi)?

I'm a little unnerved by how enamored my little people are with our phones and our computers and our television. I find myself wanting to be super vigilant to teach them to value people over technology. Not just in theory, but actually, practically, intentionally valuing others over the screens that in the end can never offer what the person standing in front of you can.

Perhaps, today is a good day to consider what our screen time might really be costing us in the way of community and relationship. And, in response to the answer to that question, asking what we can do to change that.

Because in the end, people are what matter.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - 
immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Make Something Happen

*It's Day 13 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *


At our little stay-at-home moms' Bible study group the other morning, my friend mentioned that she hated the word intentionality. Like hated it. I think her strong feelings towards that word might have something to do with how frequently it comes up in the land of Christians who love to speak Christianese. Similar to the words authentic, vulnerable, and possibly community (yep).

We Christians love to use words until they almost don't mean anything anymore. I'm sure every sub-culture does this, but we have a gift for it. There are websites dedicated to our idiosyncratic ways of communicating.

All this to say, the word intentionality might make your brain turn off when you read it because you may have heard it a thousand times. But being intentional is a huge part of creating community, so in order to keep you (and me) from going into a word coma when you hear it, here's a list of synonyms to round this word out:

deliberate, 
conscious, 
intended, 
planned, 
meant, 
purposeful,
considered, 
designed. 

Now add the word community to that list. And then take a minute to think about what that kind of community might look like. (i.e. purposeful community, conscious community, etc.)

On rare occasions, community happens effortlessly and it's possible that in different seasons of life we might find ourselves a part of a fellowship before we even have a chance to think about how to make that happen. But, in my experience, it usually takes real effort. Oh, and intentionality. Did I mention that? Making community happen involves what you might expect: prayer, planning, inviting, engaging, etc. Intention.

Matt and I love having people over to our house, but for the last two years we were either expecting a baby, having one, or living in the vortex of a baby year. Now that the babe is one, we're coming out of our cocoon and remembering how to use our home to help create community. We're trying to be purposeful in our desire to engage others in real, heart-deep fellowship.

Somewhat similarly to wanting to be married, the desire for community requires doing more than just sitting at home hoping the UPS man shows up and happens to want to hang out. That would obviously be all kinds of weird, but I think we can sometimes neglect to act because we're "waiting on the Lord" to make things happen. He definitely can drop a husband onto your doorstep or provide community in a completely supernatural way, but I don't know that it's going to work like that for most of us.

Acts 2 shows God's people committing themselves to the fellowship, sharing their food and possessions, attending church together, inviting each other into their homes and in the midst of all that, God was "adding to their number day by day."

Let's follow their example and be purposeful and deliberate as we invite people into our lives. If your intention is to experience community the way God designed you to, don't wait for it to just happen.

Take the first step toward someone else and invite them in.

Be brave enough to be intentional.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

When I Don't Have It All Together (Which Is Always)

*It's Day 12 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *


Sometimes I overachieve. Such as this weekend when I booked us to high heaven with stuff and now it's Sunday afternoon and we all want to crawl into our beds and sleep until next weekend.

A quick overview of the last 48 hours includes: cooking and delivering a meal to a family who just had the sweetest little baby imaginable, having friends we love over for dinner, and celebrating my mom's birthday all day Saturday at Stone Mountain Park. Activities not listed: grocery shopping for aforementioned events, cooking meals, baking a birthday cake, chatting with a long-distance friend who I never get to talk with, cleaning house for company, occasional showers, and keeping small people fed and clothed and alive.

All of this to say, I've been busy. And, on that note, let's talk about how to have community when we're keeping schedules that make us occasionally consider moving to North Dakota to live off the grid for a month or two. Or for always. We are all busier than we probably should be. And that makes it hard to have deep, meaningful, unhurried community.

As a card-carrying perfectionist, I get somewhat neurotic when things get busy because of my love for all things neat, organized, put-together and punctual. Busyness exacerbates this tendency, which is unfortunate for me, for you, for anyone who steps into my small tornado of perfectionism.

Friday afternoon, as I was somewhat frantically getting things ready for our friends to come over, I realized, close to half an hour before they arrived, that I had yet to take a shower that day. And I still had more vegetable chopping ahead of me. And there was a baby to feed. And a living room to vacuum. I considered not taking a shower and just wearing the yoga pants I was still wearing from the night before. They're close friends, but maybe no one should be close enough to make that wardrobe decision a right one.

So, I took a shower, and I felt more like a human being, which always gives your dinner party a better chance at success. But, it also meant that once our friends arrived, there were still lots of things to get done before dinner was actually going to happen. That wasn't ideal. BUT, the kids headed to the yard, the dads went out to get the grill started, and my friend and I hung out in the kitchen to chat while I cut up sweet potatoes and made sweet tea. My OCD nature was slightly disappointed with the fact that the evening hadn't gone exactly according to my plans, but it all turned out just fine. Better than fine.

The next morning my friend texted me to let me know that they'd had a good time and then said something to the effect of how community can still be great even when it isn't perfect. (Sidenote: She brought over a Dutch oven full of homemade mac and cheese that only needed to be kept warm in the oven. Somehow it managed to be baked an additional 25 minutes on 400 degrees.)


If you're anything like me, you can let your perfectionist tendencies keep you from inviting people over or from enjoying the time spent with guests when they do come over. I'm not free to feel joy in the midst of community when I'm so bound up by my need to be perfect or create a perfect environment.

Perfection is a myth. And it's a thief. It's steals significant moments from us by directing our attention to the details that are inconsequential in the midst of the fellowship going on around us.

It's hard, but I'm learning to let things go. To let there be dust bunnies under the furniture and small, greasy handprints on the windows. To be okay with dinner being an hour and a half later than I'd planned. To let go of the supposed need to look like I've got it all together

I'm trying to let insignificant things go for the sake of community unhindered by the trivial so that I can experience the unhurried, undistracted, life-giving fellowship you and I were meant for. Join me?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Let's Do This Community Thing Better (A Re-post)

*It's Day 10 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

It's been a day. And by that, I mean, from the minute I rolled out of the bed to get Sam ready for school and pick the baby girl up from her crib, I have been on the move. Despite what it may sound like, it's been a good one, but I've definitely reached that point in the day when putting together sentences is starting to be slightly hard. And so, to save you and me from a blog post that could either be mind-numbingly boring or just incredibly awkward, I've decided to give myself a measure of grace and not write a post on community tonight. Luckily, before I started the 31 Day Writing Challenge, I'd written a little post about community that I'm going to share again. This just happens to be the post that sparked my interest in committing to a month-long conversation about intentional community:

A fellow stay-at-home mom (a.k.a. laundry-dominator, kid-chaser, house cleaner extraodinaire, nutritional snack czar, etc.) called me yesterday. We talked on the phone, which is in itself a small miracle, considering that children are drawn to moms on the phone like moths to a flame, except they're more needy (the children, not the moths). It's a natural phenomenon that I do not have the scientific credentials to explain. Even as her little ones bounced around her house and fought and needed things from her (Sam was at school and the babe was asleep, if you were wondering where my people were), we shared actual words of encouragement and words of understanding and words of wondering what it's all about, this life we are leading, shepherding small hearts and souls in our little homes from sun-up to sun-down and sometimes long after that sun has gone down.


And we hit on something in the midst of that conversation. Something that you have probably already considered or wondered about or maybe even acted on. We talked about the strangeness of raising children the way we do in this weirdly isolated society we live in. And I'm not just talking about the social media phenomenon that helps us keep up with friends who live across the country whom we haven't seen since we were twelve even as we don't know our neighbors or see friends who live only a few miles from us more than twice a year. I'm talking about the situation in which most stay-at-home moms find themselves in day after day, raising their babies in virtual isolation, tucked away in the solitude of their own houses waiting for husbands to come home and give them a couple breaths of relief from the unrelenting constancy of it all.

We don't live in community the way women did fifty years ago. You've probably noticed this. Our neighborhoods are full of strangers who we wouldn't recognize in a police line-up. Our children don't play with the kids down the street because we're kind of afraid they might sell them drugs (or equally alarming, trans fats) or join a preschooler gang. Our mornings aren't spent with moms who live next door drinking cups of coffee on the porch while the littlest ones who don't go to school play at our feet.


We drop older kids off at school and then drive straight back into our garages, retreat into our homes, and spend the day doing our usual stuff, disciplining children, cleaning bathrooms, making meals, paying bills, with the occasional guilty glance at Facebook as we wonder what other women are doing right now and hoping for some small connection with them online as we face another day alone.

Um...that sounds a little more bleak than I meant for it to. But, you know what I mean. Being a stay-at-home mom these days is, for the most part, kind of a loner experience.

And, so, this brings me back to what my friend (we'll call her Courtney, because that's her name) and I were mulling over. We want more than that. We want real community with each other. Community that's more than just a playdate at Chic fil a (although those are occasionally extraordinary). But, how on earth do we make that happen? And, are we even willing to be intentional enough to make it happen? My introverted self can occasionally choose to be alone when community would be so much more life-giving.

We need to be intentional about community with each other, but, I think we also need to be somewhat unconventional about it. Playdates aren't really community. Can we just be honest about that? Playdates make my brain want to explode sometimes. But, if we aren't living across the street from each other, can we even have the kind of comfortable, familiar, intertwined-life community that seems so out of reach? I honestly don't know yet. But, I really want to at least give it a serious try.


My friend and I talked about having family dinners together where everyone brings food, so that no one feels like the burden of dinner is completely on their shoulders. We talked about being intentional about driving over to each others' houses after kids have been dropped off at school to have a cup of coffee and talk for an hour before heading back home to put the baby down for a nap. We talked about going on walks in the evening and about being intentional to occasionally involve our husbands in our pursuit of community so that we aren't tempted to be exclusive in some kind of  "No Boys Allowed" cliche.

I'm curious if it's possible. I think it is. I think we can create the community we were designed for.

We need each other. I need friends to speak truth into my life daily so that I'm not tempted to hide out in my house and allow the Enemy to convince me of things that aren't true. I need friends to walk with me consistently in this parenting thing because on any given day I can easily believe that I'm screwing it all up. I need friends to encourage me to be myself, to live out my purpose, to pursue gifts and talents that I'm tempted to put away until the kids graduate from college.


What would it look like if we made choices about where to buy a house based on where our friends lived? What if we took back our neighborhoods (so to speak) and created the community that we long for? I know that sounds a little far-fetched, but wouldn't living a stones' throw away from a dear friend be worth about a million double-sink master bathrooms? I'm pretty sure our quality of life would benefit from the friend across the street way more than the bonus room in that house across town. I say this and I currently live on a street where I know zero neighbors and I've lived here almost two years. And it's not for lack of trying to be friendly. I think real community just feels so foreign and possibly even outdated that maybe no one really tries anymore.

I want to borrow a cup of sugar from you and I want you to call me to remind me to pull my shade at night before I put on my pj's (because, oops) and I want to know that you'll water my flowers when I'm out of town for the weekend. I want to know that you will drop by and feel the freedom to come in without knocking. I want to feel like we're in this together. Because we are. We just don't always realize it. 
  


Let's be different. Let's pursue each other. Let's get all up in each others' business (in a good way, friends). Let's change this weird trend of moms locked up in their houses trying to go it alone. Let's figure out real ways to be intentional about unconventional community. 

I'm in if you are.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Community is Necessary


*It's Day 9 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

A few years ago, we lived on Lookout Mountain in a tiny little house that we loved, despite the lack of a dishwasher (and by that I mean a non-human version) and the occasional scorpion that I will never be able to forget. Ever.


We went to a church that met in a big, beautiful barn on the back of the mountain and we made friends who welcomed us into their community from the moment we showed up.


Just down the road from our house was Covenant College, which was full of some pretty exceptional students, many of whom we got to know and invited into our little home. One of those was a senior at Covenant named Hannah. She and I would meet once a week and talk about a book we were reading over mugs of hot tea. One semester we discussed a chapter a week of Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a twentieth century theologian. If you haven't read it and you're interested in Christian community, I'd suggest clicking over to Amazon right this minute. It's a relatively easy read and absolutely worth your time.

Life Together is essentially Bonhoeffer's thoughts
on the basic elements of Christian community and what those can and perhaps should look like.

You probably know this already, but Bonhoeffer experienced Christian community, at least as an adult, in the shadow of the Nazi regime in Germany before and during the war. His opposition of the Nazi's treatment of the Jews eventually resulted in his being executed at the end of the war, only weeks before the concentration camp where he had been held was liberated.

I point all this out because I think it's important to understand where Bonhoeffer was coming from when he wrote the quote below. I would imagine, in light of his circumstances, his evaluation of Christian community probably would have had more of a sense of absolute spiritual necessity about it. And I'm sure he also understood it to be something that could possibly be taken away at any moment.

Page six of Life Together includes this quote: "It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren."

I can tend to think of community so casually and, at different seasons of my life, even think of it as negotiable. But, if we see it for what it really is, essentially a life-line in the trenches of a very real battle for our hearts and minds, we would likely be less inclined to put it off or take it for granted. More than just a comfortable group of friends to spend time with, Christian community is, very literally, necessary for our spiritual health.

The privilege of having community with people who love Jesus and who also love us is all grace. I wonder if we would value it differently and commit to it with more vigor if we could see it through the same lens as Bonhoeffer must have.

It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God's word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing." Life Together, page 3.

It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing." (p. 3) - See more at: http://chrishall.org/post/75130995975/20-quotes-from-life-together-by-dietrich-bonhoeffer#sthash.PWhVJL3a.dpuf


"It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren." (p. 6) - See more at: http://chrishall.org/post/75130995975/20-quotes-from-life-together-by-dietrich-bonhoeffer#sthash.PWhVJL3a.dpuf
"It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren." (p. 6) - See more at: http://chrishall.org/post/75130995975/20-quotes-from-life-together-by-dietrich-bonhoeffer#sthash.PWhVJL3a.dpuf

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Being a Parent + Making New Friends = Awkward

*It's Day 8 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community


There's a new couple at our church. We like them. I think they'd be a great addition to our community group. The only catch is, it's hard to actually have a real, live conversation with them at any point because there are small people hanging off of us at all times. At. All. Times. We are human jungle gyms. The end.

But, wait. Surely, making new friends and possibly inviting them into our community can still happen despite our total inability to focus during conversations or make eye contact or finish a sentence. Right?

I wonder sometimes about this. Most people I meet are meeting a version of me that is so different from what I consider to be the REAL ME. The current version of me struggles to think about things unrelated to juice boxes, cartoons, diaper changes and naptime. If you have procreated in the last twenty years, I'm guessing you know something about this mental block.

The aforementioned couple at church don't have any children. That's about to change in a month or so but for now, they are calm and cool and collected. Their shirts are tucked in and their hair is in place and they don't have peanut butter fingerprints on their pants. No one's tried to hand them a booger in the last five minutes. They haven't endured mind-numbing episodes of Thomas the Train on repeat. And because of this, I find myself hesitant to approach them sometimes. My ability to form complete thoughts much less complete sentences in public is at an all time low. I have very little to talk about that can't be related to PBS children's programming. What do I have to offer to anyone in any sort of valuable relational way right now?

These are the thoughts that run through my mind two seconds before I meet someone new. It's a problem.

BUT, sometimes, I push through. And despite the child on my hip chewing on my hair or the other child who just raced by me as he let out a loud, warlike whoop, I chance it and say hi. It's hard. I feel awkward, but suddenly it's happening and I'm in conversation. And, it's good.

When I was single and attending a huge church in Knoxville, Tennessee by myself, I remember wishing that some family would approach me and make conversation with me and maybe even invite me over for lunch in the midst of their chaotic, crazy, kid-filled Sunday afternoon. That never happened and on the flip side of that experience, I'm a lot more understanding of why that was. But, I want to do things differently. Despite my insecurity and despite my hesitance to invite people into the crazytown that is having a family that includes small, high-on-life little people.

I'm not sure if we've made that couple at church a little afraid of having children now that they've seen the weariness and the wildness and the intensity of parenting up close and personal when we walk up to say hello on Sunday morning. We might have.

But, even in the midst of this season of raising our small ones, we can still invite people in and hopefully give them glimpses at times of the incredibly good parts of parenting. Who knows. It might be exactly what they need right now.

Waiting until we have it together before we invite people into community with us means it probably won't ever happen.

So, set the juice cup down, move your kid to the other hip, and hold out a Cheerio-scented hand to that person you haven't met yet. I'm pretty sure they won't even notice you smell like peanut butter.

I may or not be wearing a Thomas the Train conductor's hat here. 


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Every Person Matters

*It's Day 7 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community


Sometimes my thirteen-year-old self resurfaces and I find that the strange tendency toward clique-y behavior isn't so far behind me. It creeps up unexpectedly and I don't realize that it's happening until I notice that I'm enjoying being on the 'inside" a little too much. It doesn't happen often, but every now and then, this 36-year-old adult reverts back to middle-school worthy relational habits. And it's not pretty.

Obviously, now that we're all older and wiser, we know better. And we're so above all that mean girl stuff. Right? Except when we're not. It just plays out differently now that we're not awkward middle-schoolers.

Looking back, I can see that insecurity was the underlying issue of most of the weird grouping dynamics in school. We were all just trying so hard to fit in somewhere, anywhere, that once we finally got in with a circle of friends, we wanted to close it up tight so that we could create the relational security we wanted so badly. I think we'd probably do more of that as adults if we weren't so busy doing other stuff like work, and dropping kids off at school, and getting adjusted at the chiropractor.

There are a lot of problems with that kind of behavior, but I'm just going to point out one. Mainly, because I'm not a psychologist and also because you don't want to read a dissertation by someone who doesn't know all that much (i.e. I just figured out "clique" isn't spelled "cliche," which changes this post entirely).

Essentially, we miss out when we don't let people in. All this talking about community and creating a circle of friends to relax into reminded me that we also need to be sure we're not creating cliques. Because that's easy to do without even realizing we're doing it.


C.S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, puts all this better than I ever could:

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.... two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend...

He goes on to explain that more than just helping bring out different facets of one another, we also reveal aspects of God to one another unique to our own experience: For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest.


Your presence in a fellowship of friends is invaluable because it highlights aspects of each friend to the others through your unique perspective of them. Similarly, our specific experience of God gives our friends a glimpse into His character and His heart that they might not have seen were we not there to offer it. Each person we invite into our community has that same ability to shine a light into places we might have overlooked.

Community isn't a big crowd of acquaintances who spend time together. But, it also isn't a tight circle that doesn't let anyone else in.

Lewis also said that friendship is the least jealous of loves. As we create
community, let's remember to invite people in.

For their sake, but also for our own.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Meet Me at Luke's Diner

*It's Day 6 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *


My husband suffered valiantly through five seasons of Gilmore Girls with me. And then we stopped watching after that fifth season when things got weird with Rory and Lorelai, but we'll save my minor soapbox rant on that for another post. Right now, I want to talk about how much I want to live in Stars Hollow.

Stars Hollow, Connecticut is basically Mayberry in technicolor but with more caffeine. I love that everybody in town runs into each other at their impossibly tiny grocery store and that they all order coffee and pancakes at Luke's diner and that every last person in SH shows up for random town meetings about random town issues. Obviously, I'm aware that the town in Gilmore Girls was just a set. On some Hollywood lot. Possibly with plastic trees and turf for grass. It also turns out that the actresses who played Rory and Lorelai actually hated coffee in real life. I was strangely disappointed to find that bit of trivia out. Basically, everything about Stars Hollow was a figment of someone's creative imagination.

But, I love it anyway.

So, why am I talking about Stars Hollow like a semi-obsessed fan who might be willing to drive to L.A. for the chance to walk down SH's Main Street and pretend like I belong there for a half a second? I think the Stars Hollows and the Mayberrys, and whatever other fictional depiction of community we find ourselves drawn to, uncover and even point us to our very real desire for gospel community. I've been told that "every true story borrow it's power from the gospel."  Maybe it's possible that, despite their obvious flaws, the images of community we see in our favorite television shows reflect something true about what real, gospel community should look like.

The desire stirred up by those depictions of scripted community is an honest response to what we were designed for. We were made to be in a circle of friends. We want shared experiences. Despite our insecurities and our fears and our issues, we don't want to do life by ourselves. Sometimes we think we do, but if you dig down deep enough, you know that your heart wants community. It's built in. We're hard-wired for it. Life is basically a group activity, a team effort, a village situation.

Don't let yourself believe the lie that you are just fine on your own. Don't give into the temptation to keep others' at arms' length. You and I were not made to be lone rangers. We just weren't. (If you need to be convinced, rent Castaway this weekend).

Pursue community. Make it important enough in your life that you fight for it. The Enemy will put lies about you and others on repeat in your head, but God's desire for you to be placed in a fellowship is bigger than those.

I read once that "every redemptive relationship will be opposed." (maybe John Eldredge?) That means building real, intentional, heart-deep community will most likely be hard. It will require something of you. Most importantly, it will require you. But the effort is worth it. Redemptive community helps us work out the gospel in our lives. It'll kick us in the pants when we need a wake-up call. It will love us back into fellowship when we've wandered off at times. God will use that kind of community to help bring about His redemption in our hearts. I promise. I've seen it happen up close and personal. 

My friend Sarah shared a few verses at small group last night that speak to why community is necessary:

Hebrews 10:24-25

24 And let us consider how we may spur each other on toward love and good deeds. 

25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all  the more as you see the Day approaching.

Invite people in. Be faithful to meet with them. Be honest with each other and pursue God's truth together. Encourage each other to live the gospel out for real. You and I will see redemption in our lives and in the lives of those around us when we live in that kind of radical community.

And all the Stars Hollows will pale in comparison.



Photo of Stars Hollow courtesy seeing-stars.com








Sunday, October 5, 2014

Twenty's a Crowd


*It's Day 5 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community


Once upon a time, I was young and fancy-free and lived in Nashville. I moved there after college for a job that turned out to be a really strange three months of my life that felt more like three years. But, despite a weird start, I moved on to other things and built a life in Music City for four years that changed me in about a million ways. Mostly good.

When I was twenty-four, I moved into a house with a friend whose other roommate was about to move out to get married. She was ten years older than I was and owned her own graphic design company, which was beyond my early twenties' comprehension. Her husband-to-be and she had met at a wedding where she was a bridesmaid and he a groomsman, which was basically one of my top five dream ways to meet the love of my life. Anyway, I thought she was the coolest.

I remember one evening coming home from a huge party of some sort with a myriad of singles from the super hip church I attended. There was a big group of single people between twenty-two and thirty who hung out all the time, and it was very much like a large youth group full of young adults, many of whom were connected to or trying to be connected to the music machine that is Nashville. Anyway, I came home from this event I'd attended, heavy with twenties' angst and wondering why I felt so alone after having spent time with about fifty of my closest friends that night.

My roommate was there doing something wedding-related and I stopped to chat with her before heading to bed. I think she must have recognized something in my mood that she had experienced when she was in the same season of life I was in at that point. I don't remember how the conversation came about, but I do remember her telling me that when she turned twenty-five, she realized she was over the "youth group" hang outs (which seem to be a weird phenomenon in urban cities among large groups of young single Christians, and I feel warrants a sociological study.) She told me that at twenty-five, she thought through which friendships in her life were most significant and decided she was going to focus on that handful of friendships and stop feeling the pressure to be friends with fifty people she wasn't even close to.

She moved out that fall to get married and it wasn't long after when a friend and I started a Bible study with ten girls who became like family to me. That Bible study and those friendships were a significant part of my experience in Nashville as I struggled to determine who I was exactly and what it was that mattered to me. (The twenties are hard, y'all, especially for a girl who was sure she'd get her MRS. degree the day after college wrapped up.)

I'm sure you've heard somebody say "quality over quantity" to you at some point in your life. I think that totally applies to friendships. We don't need a huge group to be a part of. We just need a handful of Jesus-loving friends who go deep with us.

Jesus had twelve. That's probably a good indication that we should keep things small. Community isn't about how wide your social network extends. It's about how deep your relationships go with a few people whose lives intersect with yours.

Who are those people in your life?


The Bible Study girls (minus one). Note: I'm wearing athletic wear, but without any actual athletic purpose).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Building Barns

*It's Day 4 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community

I kind of want to be Amish. Not all the time, but every now and then. If I ever manage to drive to the Big City for a trip to IKEA or a rare opportunity to hear live music, I usually come away thinking that I don't want to ever live in a big city. Instead, I want to buy a farm and churn butter. Well, sort of. I really just want a pretty farmhouse and an herb garden.

If that dream does ever come true, I'm going to also want to have a barn-raising, vintage Amish-style. You know, where you need a barn to house your livestock and your grains before the harsh winter sets in and so all your farmer friends come over and help you build one in half an hour. And while the men are building an awesome barn, their wives are setting up a 30 foot picnic table covered up with biscuits and chicken and pies and sweet tea. It's pretty much the best thing ever. Or, so I've read.

Here's where I make the connection between how to be intentional about community and Amish barn-raisings. We all have stuff that needs to get done around our houses. Leaf-raking, yard-work, painting rooms, repairing a fence, building a playset, sorting through children's clothes that need to be tagged for the consignment sale you entered but kind of wish you hadn't because it's become a stress bomb in your life. These are all major opportunities for some serious community. You need help. I need help. Why are we doing all this stuff alone? Invite some friends over to help you refinish your Grandma's antique dresser. Call some friends to see if they'll help you bake pies for the school bake sale. Instant Pie Party. And then, make sure they all know that when they need help doing something, you are totally there.

Maybe you're thinking you don't want to impose. I mean, your friends are busy. They've got other stuff going on. But, maybe, instead of looking at it as using your friends to knock out your to-do list (which it is not), look at it as an unconventional opportunity to spend some impromptu, unstructured, quality time with people. That kind of time is the foundation of real-life community building.

In case you're not convinced, here's a little C.S. Lewis quote that runs along these lines:

"Friends are not primarily absorbed in each other. It is when we are doing things together that friendship springs up - painting, sailing ships, praying, philosophizing, fighting shoulder to shoulder. Friends look in the same direction. Lovers look at each other: that is, in opposite directions." -Present Concerns: Essays by C.S. Lewis

I think it's interesting the distinction between friendship love and romantic love here. Friends aren't content to sit and stare at each other across a table. They do things! Together!

Community will happen when we are simply living life with people. The trick is to actually live life with them, not just sit and talk about the lives we're living separately from them.

Do life with people. Build barns with them. Bake pies with friends. Invite people into the crazy, chaos of your unorganized life and let them help you. And, then do the same for them.

Anybody want to build a barn next weekend? I'll bake a pie.

The barn where my brother and his bride had their wedding reception last October. I heart it.


Friday, October 3, 2014

How to Not Create Community

*It's Day 3 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

I realize that you're probably a little more interested in how to actually create community and a post about how to do the opposite is not really what you were looking for. But, before you head off to do that laundry you just remembered you forgot to do, let me explain.

I'm wondering if, when we think about how our desire for community always seems to be greater than our actual experience of it, maybe we should be asking why that is. And, so I'm going to propose a few possibilities to mull over while you're switching the whites out for the darks in the laundry room a few minutes from now.

I'm not drawing from any scientific or sociological research, mind you. I'm just going to offer you a little run-down of all the things that keep community from happening over here in my little world. Maybe you'll be able to relate.

The Distraction of Media - My husband just won a disturbingly large television at a work raffle. While I'm excited to be able to watch Mr. Darcy fall for Elizabeth Bennett like they are actually in my living room, I'm also biting my nails over whether this means the television is about to take over our home. Additionally, there have been moments when I've looked up from my iPhone and realized that my children are watching Curious George while I've been checking Facebook and my husband has his eyes glued to the sports news on his tablet. Those moments scare the Lucky Charms out of me. Media is a weird drug and a cheap substitute for actual face-time with actual people.

Fear - What if it's too hard to create the kind of community Acts 2 talks about? What if I try to make it happen and it just doesn't? What if nobody else wants to do this with me? What if...you name it, I'm going to think of a reason to let fear convince me the effort isn't worth it. But, it is. It's so worth it.

Vulnerability/Insecurity - Real relationships put us in close proximity to each others' hearts which is also having a front row seat to each others' sin. Do I really want to be that vulnerable with people? Being aware of each others' sin can be awkward and uncomfortable, but it can also be freeing. It's good to be reminded that none of us has it together. And if we're close enough to see each others' sin, then we're also close enough to offer real, honest-to-goodness grace to one another in a way that doesn't feel artificial or vague.

Unrealistic Expectations - The "perfect" community I imagine in my daydreams does not exist. People, including moi, are messy and confusing and broken and needy. This means that real community won't look like that Instagram photo of people sitting at a farm table in a foggy field somewhere eating locally sourced, rustic food while wearing Ralph Lauren's latest line of hipster/farmer attire, musing over the latest book of poetry they just read or maybe wrote. Wait, that's not what comes to mind when you hear perfect community? Well, regardless of what ideal image comes to mind for you, that's probably not it. I need to be reminded that real community is going to include some tough stuff at times. Doing life with people won't always be comfortable. But, it's still worth doing. It's worth being in the kind of community that loves you authentically, even at your worst. I need that. You do, too.

Laziness - Sometimes I'm just unmotivated and don't want to do the work it's going to take to make community happen. I forget that nothing worth having comes easy. Real relationships take work. It's easier to get on my phone and send pithy little messages to friends who live far away and call that community. But, when I'm lazy about working toward real, live relationships then I miss out on something my heart desperately wants and needs.

Unbelief - Do I really believe that God cares about me enough that He wants to place me in community with people who love me and love Him? It's easy to feel that He's got bigger fish to fry right now and my need for friendship isn't high on His list of stuff to get done. But, that's a lie from you know where. Your heart matters. My heart matters. It matters to Him that we are in real relationships with one another, speaking truth into each others' lives and loving the heck out of each other. He cares about that. He gets it. He made us for that kind of community.

 What about you? What keeps you from creating community? What lies do you believe about yourself, about others, about God that keeps community at arms' length for you?

There are a lot of things that keep us apart from one another. The Enemy loves to help us build walls around ourselves so that we can keep each other out.

Today's a good day to choose something different.



Our friends, the Rose-Levans, who represent some seriously great community to us. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Call Your Realtor

*It's Day 2 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading yesterday's post and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

So, despite the fact that there's a new television show in the fall line-up called Stalker, I thought I'd talk about how it'd be fun to be your neighbor. I promise I'm not a crazy person and I won't be sifting through your trash at night or watching your television "with you" through the window in your kitchen. I just want to come sit on your porch with you sometimes and for you to run over for a cup of coffee in between dropping kids off at school and going to the grocery store. Basically, I want a friend who lives across the street.

Can we make this happen?

I know, I know. You love the neighborhood you're in and the kids are at a great school and your husband's close to work and you just finished re-doing the kitchen. BUT, think how great it would be to be NEXT DOOR to a friend.

I keep thinking about the challenge of creating for-real community that lives and breathes with consistent grace and familiarity and easiness and simplicity. I keep wondering how I can make that Acts 2 fellowship jump out of my Bible and into my life. And, honestly, even though I know it's a little far-fetched, my heart just wants people close by, like across the street. Is that so much to ask?

These days, our cars can carry us wherever the heck we want to go and so running over to Trader Joe's for that addictive jar of cookie butter and a couple bottles of their cheap-o wine is no big deal even thought it's 45 minutes away. Our church is 25 minutes from our house. I went to high school 50 minutes from the house I grew up in. And, I just got back from Target where I bought a $10 dollar rug and a pumpkin spice latte and it took me 30 minutes with traffic. Our automobiles make distance no big deal. But, it also means we buy houses far away from each other. Like across town. And, I'm wondering if maybe that's actually a negative by-product of the freedom our cars enable.

Maybe, instead, we should live next door to each other. Get all up in each others' lives. Raise our kids together and then see them have lifelong friendships and maybe even marry each other if we're really lucky. I'm starting to wonder if being able to travel so far so quickly only makes us more likely to keep our distance from each other.

So, here's what I'm thinking. I'm going to pray that God moves you or me into the other one's neighborhood. Are you re-thinking your assessment of my sanity right now? Does this prayer make you a teensy bit nervous? Did you just peek out your window to make sure I'm not standing outside?

But, seriously. I just had the thought today that God could do that. He could make it possible for friends to live in neighborhoods together. And He could also make it possible that the neighbors we have right now could become our friends. I'll be honest, though, and tell you that the middle-aged, single man across the street and I are not destined to be baking cookies together any time soon. But, still, there's a lot of possibility in the neighborhoods we're living in right now for real community.

So, I'm proposing that we start asking God for the community that we're longing for. Praying that the folks who already live across the street become real friends to us. Praying that God moves friends into our neighborhood or us into theirs somehow. Praying ourselves into that Acts 2 community that seems so out of reach right now.

I'm not advocating communes, I'm just thinking proximity could help us create the community we want. Proximity would make it possible to have those late evening conversations on the porch and unplanned, unscheduled quality time. And that spontaneous, unexpected time is usually when friendships go deep.

James 1:17 says that "[e]very good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

God gives good gifts. Community is a good gift. Let's ask Him for it.

(While we're on the subject, there's a house on my street for sale. Pray about it.)




Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Community 101


It's fall. I've been waiting 283 days to say that. And yes, I'm one of those cardigan-wearing, PSL-loving, fall-obsessed people. I'll just put that out there in case you feel the need to turn back now. Anyhoo, it's October, which also means it's also the beginning of the 31 Day Writing Challenge put out there by The Nester.

I'm planning on musing over the ins and outs of intentional community over the next month and I'm eager to talk it out with you. Be forewarned, I'm no expert on community. I've just been reminded lately that if I want to experience the heart-deep, life-giving relationships I'm hoping for, I'm going to have to be intentional about it. And, so here I am, trying to be intentional.

Here we go...

So, as I mentioned, I've been thinking about community. I've also been thinking about George Clooney's Italian wedding, pumpkin spice lattes and my love/hate relationship with skinny jeans. But, mostly I've been thinking about community. I've been wondering how to go about it, I've been feeling the lack of it here and there, and I've been mulling over what actual community is supposed to practically look like. And then there's the question (perhaps mixed with fear) of whether or not the kind of community I want and need is actually attainable.  

In light of all this pondering, I did what most grammar nerds do and that's look up the origin of the word community. You do that too, right? Interestingly (or maybe not so much), when you type in "community" in the Google search bar, the name of a quirky television show pops up first. I think that's a little ironic, considering the potential role of media (in my humble opinion) in the demise of real, actual, in-your-face community.

Turns out, the word community comes from the Latin word, communitatem meaning "society, fellowship" and basically a commonality of "relations or feelings." (Thank you, Online Etymology Dictionary.) You can wake up now if you fell asleep when Latin was mentioned.

To be honest, for me, the word community stirs up a lot more than what that somewhat stale definition describes. I'm betting that's the case for you, too. When I hear the word community, a film reel runs through my brain and in about 3.5 seconds, the faces of friends and well-loved places and unplanned, spontaneous hang-outs flash in my memory. Some of these include late night runs to Wal-Mart poor college student-style. (Don't judge. I went to college in a mini-town and there wasn't much else to do). That film reel also includes images of moments that I have spent being loved and loving others, living life with people in ways that made us feel like family, being a part of a small fellowship of people that made me feel safe and alive and myself. These are the sort of things that come to mind when I hear the word community.


What about you?
What does the word community do to your heart?
What images run through your mind when you read that word?
What disappointments does it remind you of?
What hopes does it stir up in you?


Even as I remember times and places where real community happened almost effortlessly, I can also find myself recalling places where community was ridiculously hard or out of reach or just simply non-existent.


For Christians, the kind of community I'm talking about is better described by the Greek word koinonia. A very simplified definition of this multi-faceted word is: " The idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the body of Christ."


This special type of community is mentioned at least twenty times in the New Testament and its defining characteristics are pretty much all the things most of us find ourselves quietly hoping for when we hear that somewhat ubiquitous word community: partnering, sharing, fellowship, intimacy, vulnerability, giving, family, bonding, inviting, welcoming, etc.

All those things and more are encompassed by that full-bodied, incredibly hope-giving word koinonia.

The Bible describes community, or koinonia, with beautiful simplicity in this passage about the fellowship of believers in the early church:

Acts 2:41-47 (The Message)

41-42 That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.
46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.


How much do you want that kind of community? I know it's what I ache for every long, diaper-filled day of my somewhat solitary stay-at-home mom life. A life together that includes shared prayer, family/friend dinners, shared experience, full hearts, joy, worship, unselfishness, and people discovering and believing in Jesus.

Life. Together.

Let's talk about how to get there together these next 30 days of October.









Friday, September 26, 2014

31 Days of Intentional Community

Hi Friends!

Just a little programming note: For the month of October I'm joining up with The Nester, along with other bloggers, for her 31 Day Writing Challenge to write 31 consecutive blog posts.

All month long, I'll be talking about intentional community and how (and why) to make that happen. So, join me this October for 31 days of discussing all the ins and outs of what it means to be in heart-deep fellowship with one another and why it's so darn important. (-;

Feel free to wear your pjs.

DL

Here's where you can find each day's thoughts on intentional community ~

Day 1: Community 101
Day 2: Call Your Realtor
Day 3: How to Not Create Community
Day 4: Building Barns
Day 5: Twenty's a Crowd
Day 6: Meet Me at Luke's Diner
Day 7: Middle School Habits Die Hard
Day 8: Being a Parent + Making New Friends = Awkward
Day 9: Community is Necessary
Day 10: Let's Do This Community Thing Better (A Re-Post)
Day 11: (Life happened and a blog post did not.)
Day 12:When I Don't Have It All Together (Which is Always)
Day 13: Make Something Happen
Day 14: (If I told you the kind of day I had with little people, you would understand).
Day 15: Choosing People Over Technology
Day 16: Old Friends Must Always Begin as New Ones
Day 17: (Would you believe the computer battery died?)
Day 18: (I have no excuse).
Day 19: (See above).
Day 20: A Warning Label




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let's Do This Community Thing Better

A fellow stay-at-home mom (a.k.a. laundry-dominator, kid-chaser, house cleaner extraodinaire, nutritional snack czar, etc.) called me yesterday. We talked on the phone, which is in itself a small miracle, considering that children are drawn to moms on the phone like moths to a flame, except they're more needy (the children, not the moths). It's a natural phenomenon that I do not have the scientific credentials to explain. Even as her little ones bounced around her house and fought and needed things from her (Sam was at school and the babe was asleep, if you were wondering where my people were), we shared actual words of encouragement and words of understanding and words of wondering what it's all about, this life we are leading, shepherding small hearts and souls in our little homes from sun-up to sun-down and sometimes long after that sun has gone down.


And we hit on something in the midst of that conversation. Something that you have probably already considered or wondered about or maybe even acted on. We talked about the strangeness of raising children the way we do in this weirdly isolated society we live in. And I'm not just talking about the social media phenomenon that helps us keep up with friends who live across the country whom we haven't seen since we were twelve even as we don't know our neighbors or see friends who live only a few miles from us more than twice a year. I'm talking about the situation in which most stay-at-home moms find themselves in day after day, raising their babies in virtual isolation, tucked away in the solitude of their own houses waiting for husbands to come home and give them a couple breaths of relief from the unrelenting constancy of it all.

We don't live in community the way women did fifty years ago. You've probably noticed this. Our neighborhoods are full of strangers who we wouldn't recognize in a police line-up. Our children don't play with the kids down the street because we're kind of afraid they might sell them drugs (or equally alarming, trans fats) or join a preschooler gang. Our mornings aren't spent with moms who live next door drinking cups of coffee on the porch while the littlest ones who don't go to school play at our feet.


We drop older kids off at school and then drive straight back into our garages, retreat into our homes, and spend the day doing our usual stuff, disciplining children, cleaning bathrooms, making meals, paying bills, with the occasional guilty glance at Facebook as we wonder what other women are doing right now and hoping for some small connection with them online as we face another day alone.

Um...that sounds a little more bleak than I meant for it to. But, you know what I mean. Being a stay-at-home mom these days is, for the most part, kind of a loner experience.

And, so, this brings me back to what my friend (we'll call her Courtney, because that's her name) and I were mulling over. We want more than that. We want real community with each other. Community that's more than just a playdate at Chic fil a (although those are occasionally extraordinary). But, how on earth do we make that happen? And, are we even willing to be intentional enough to make it happen? My introverted self can occasionally choose to be alone when community would be so much more life-giving.

We need to be intentional about community with each other, but, I think we also need to be somewhat unconventional about it. Playdates aren't really community. Can we just be honest about that? Playdates make my brain want to explode sometimes. But, if we aren't living across the street from each other, can we even have the kind of comfortable, familiar, intertwined-life community that seems so out of reach? I honestly don't know yet. But, I really want to at least give it a serious try.


My friend and I talked about having family dinners together where everyone brings food, so that no one feels like the burden of dinner is completely on their shoulders. We talked about being intentional about driving over to each others' houses after kids have been dropped off at school to have a cup of coffee and talk for an hour before heading back home to put the baby down for a nap. We talked about going on walks in the evening and about being intentional to occasionally involve our husbands in our pursuit of community so that we aren't tempted to be exclusive in some kind of  "No Boys Allowed" cliche.

I'm curious if it's possible. I think it is. I think we can create the community we were designed for.

We need each other. I need friends to speak truth into my life daily so that I'm not tempted to hide out in my house and allow the Enemy to convince me of things that aren't true. I need friends to walk with me consistently in this parenting thing because on any given day I can easily believe that I'm screwing it all up. I need friends to encourage me to be myself, to live out my purpose, to pursue gifts and talents that I'm tempted to put away until the kids graduate from college.


What would it look like if we made choices about where to buy a house based on where our friends lived? What if we took back our neighborhoods (so to speak) and created the community that we long for? I know that sounds a little far-fetched, but wouldn't living a stones' throw away from a dear friend be worth about a million double-sink master bathrooms? I'm pretty sure our quality of life would benefit from the friend across the street way more than the bonus room in that house across town. I say this and I currently live on a street where I know zero neighbors and I've lived here almost two years. And it's not for lack of trying to be friendly. I think real community just feels so foreign and possibly even outdated that maybe no one really tries anymore.

I want to borrow a cup of sugar from you and I want you to call me to remind me to pull my shade at night before I put on my pj's (because, oops) and I want to know that you'll water my flowers when I'm out of town for the weekend. I want to know that you will drop by and feel the freedom to come in without knocking. I want to feel like we're in this together. Because we are. We just don't always realize it. 
  


Let's be different. Let's pursue each other. Let's get all up in each others' business (in a good way, friends). Let's change this weird trend of moms locked up in their houses trying to go it alone. Let's figure out real ways to be intentional about unconventional community. 

I'm in if you are.



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