It takes a village.
I’m on the eve of celebrating four years of marital bliss. Doing a happy dance that is admittedly not graceful. I spent an hour yesterday pouring over journals from the very month Dan and I started dating. It was a really sweet time. It was also a time fraught with giddy, insecure teenage girl kind of emotion on my part. I’m oh so glad God works despite my immaturity and run away emotions. Looking back I’m filled with wonder, awe and most of all thankfulness.
These past four years have been a harvest kind of time. A reaping of joy that was sown with a lot of tears, a lot of pressing into God in very hard places. So many prayers went up on my behalf and so many dear ones walked alongside me in my pain. I didn’t get here, to this spacious, joy filled place by myself. Of course God’s fingerprints are all over every minute of my life- but today I’m thinking about the village that God put in place to see me through.
Psalm 42:3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
If you’ve ever lived in a place of brokenness, experienced any kind of grief, then you know exactly what it means to eat tears day and night. That was true for me. But the second part of that verse is what’s truly disheartening to me. It’s hard enough to be in a broken place, let alone have naysayers whispering doubt, discouragement and questioning your faith. The whole book of Job in the Old Testament is full of this. Job was a righteous, God-fearing man who lost more than any of us can imagine. In his darkest hour, his closest friends, even his wife all doubted not only Job but God. Let’s never be friends like that! In my broken place, I wasn’t surrounded by men who questioned my God. I was surrounded by strong, faithful, brave, compassionate women who pointed the way to where my God was.
My friend Alison, is the girl who became my friend after suffering through one of my beauty make overs at the tender age of 15. She shared in all of the fun and angst of my teenage years. We grew up into knowing God together. She is my soul sister. She’s the one who gets me best, knows me deepest. She became my spiritual adviser. She’s the one who counseled me with God’s wisdom and Word. She’s the one who called me every single day for more than a year to check in. She didn’t give me platitudes. She didn’t judge me in my weakness. She listened. She prayed. She shared my burden. She prayed some more. She spoke only what God directed her to, no small thing in the midst of big emotions.
My friend Andrea, is the epitome of a loyal friend. She’s the kind of Mom I want to be. She was my on the ground, in the trenches, physically present protector. She sat by my side in court. She showed up at my front door faithfully. She prepared the way for me in telling others the short version of my story so that I didn’t have to answer a million, uncomfortable questions in my circle of friends who weren’t quite close enough to know I was in the middle of a divorce. If you “heard” something about my ex-husband that you thought I should know, she became the filter. Oh what a gift. She invited me to every single family dinner, birthday, and holiday celebration her great big family hosted. She has a really big family, so this was an every weekend kind of thing. I didn’t want to leave the house or be social but she made me. Sometimes I’d break down in tears in the midst of small talk with one of her relatives. I’d excuse myself to the bathroom and cry it out. They’d all graciously pretend not to notice. My friend and her family embraced and wholeheartedly loved my party of five. Basically, they adopted us. While I was faking it til I made it, reluctantly attending all of those gatherings, my kids were being loved on, deepening friendships, having fun and just getting to be regular kids and I was slowly learning to enjoy life again.
My friend Michelle, who has known me since I was 14, wore my hair too big and my eye shadow too dark, was my encourager and cheerleader. The first Christmas it was just me and the kiddos, she invited us to her beautiful home in southern California. Away from my house that felt too empty and the weather that was so cold, there was healing in that SoCal sun. There was healing in that warm home of laughter and love. The kids played tons of games and had guy time with her husband and son. The girls learned how to set a pretty table, and enjoyed time with an older “sister,” Michelle’s sweet daughter. My friend is a gourmet cook and fed us the most delightful culinary treats. This is huge when you’ve dropped 20 pounds because of just having no appetite. Her meals and love nourished each of us in deep places. She offered up countless, fervent prayers before our Heavenly Father- I know she’s known to him as a daughter of prayer. Her gracious words and wit soothed my sore soul. Oh how she made me laugh! She took me to the mall and was my personal shopper. She bought me some new clothes and raved about my beauty. She took me to her favorite hair stylist and encouraged me to be bold and fearless. She made me believe I was worthy and valuable. She celebrated me.
My friend Keri, is someone I admire for her grace and fashion sense. Even more I admire her friendliness and true people skills. She’s anchored by a strong, daily, faithful, consistent walk with God. She was on the front lines in the very early days of my life falling to pieces. She listened to my really hard stuff when I was an emotional wreck. I poured out profusely (dumped) a lot of my hurt and pain onto her when I was in the very rawest, darkest of places. She didn’t shrink away. So brave. She loved me. Her true friend words were supportive, gracious and kind. She prayed really hard. She wanted to climb into the empty bathtub with me (see my other blog). She sent me encouraging cards, and Scripture. She connected me with a Christian counselor and found a way to pay for it. She also directed me to a Stephen Minister at my local church who became a lifeline and is now a dear friend and mentor. (That’s another blog.)
My younger sister Amanda, who is one of my very best friends, became the older sister for a season. She took care of me. She championed me. She prayed ceaselessly for me and the kiddos. She listened and listened and listened. She encouraged and encouraged and encouraged. She’s gifted with gentleness, compassion and patience. Just days into my new normal, she brought me to her home, as in physically drove 3+ hours to my house and followed me back to her house to make sure I was okay. She booked a massage and hair appointment for me, insisted on babysitting the kids and made me go. She loved on them when I was in an empty place. Her pastor husband poured wisdom and truth into me. Some of it was hard to hear but his counsel directed me in countless ways that brought me wholeness and healing sooner than would’ve happened had he not loved me enough to share it.
This is how God intended relationships to be. The Body of Christ at work is a glorious, beautiful thing! All of these women had lives and families and jobs and responsibilities, yet they took the time to pour into me. They gave of themselves, sacrificially for me. I wasn’t just one, I wasn’t alone…your not just one, you’re not alone.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-13 (NIV) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
God never leaves us alone. His way is that we do life together. We journey together. That’s part of the function of the Body of Christ, the verse below is a command from a loving God who knows we need to share life.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 (NIV)
So my challenge to you is this, do you have a village? Do you have a community of loving, wise women to come alongside you when you’re in a hard spot? To rejoice with you when you get that promotion or your three year old finally uses the potty? To listen when you’ve had a bad day because your laundry is out of control or your boss, or 15 year old snapped at you? Someone to show up and wrap their arms around you in the dark places and weep with you? If not, then I’d encourage you to pray for friends and reach out. True friends aren’t just fair weather friends.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 3:20 (NIV)
True friends don’t mock your faith or doubt your God. True friends don’t just want your happiness they want God’s very best for you. Do you go to church? Are you connected there? If not, volunteer to serve somewhere. Some of my deepest friendships have grown out of serving alongside others. Alison and I rapped as silly teens in Vacation Bible School together, Andrea and I met at a girls’ conference while working in different youth ministries, Michelle and I attended the same youth group, Keri recruited me onto her children’s ministry team. If you don’t go to church, go. I know there are a hundred things wrong with every church you’ve tried- but you know, there are a hundred things wrong with each one of us on any given day, and anytime you put a few of us together- you’re going to see the not so pretty stuff. Go anyway. I promise you it is worth wading through our imperfections to find that we are actually jewels in the rough.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:10-13 (NIV)
Maybe you have great friends and are connected within a church already. My challenge to you is, what are you doing for someone else? Are you pouring out into others? Is there a broken sister on the outskirts of your life or church that could use a champion? A protector? An encourager? A prayer warrior? Don’t miss out on the tremendous, rich relationships God has for you because your comfortable with your current “circle”.
It takes a village. It takes a country. It takes and army. It takes the Body of Christ. It takes you. It takes me.
(PS The women I mention here are just a few of a larger, wider circle of friends who’ve walked alongside me. Like any list of “who I’d like to thank”…there are dozens more I could include but this is a blog, not a book and I’m already at 1900+ words!)
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