Sara. Dianna. Ashley. Erica: Four women that have made a greater impact on my life than they will ever know. Four women that show incredible strength and grace no matter the situation. They are my mentors. My friends. My tribe.
Sara is trendy, funny and optimistic. She is a mother of twins, a devoted wife and a great friend. She is an encourager and an excellent rapper. A fellow English major and a homegrown southern girl, she always has the wittiest comment in the room. She makes work fun and makes bad days better.
Dianna is my mom. Not really, but she might as well be. I have never met someone who I have grown to love so fiercely in such a short period of time. She is the kindest, most thoughtful individual I know. She always brings flowers at the most unexpected times and has a remedy for every sickness. She’s passionate, she’s professional and she loves the heck out of life. She exudes godliness and I only hope to have half of the faith she does someday.
Ashley is my neighbor. She’s a mama to two of the most precious children on the planet. She’s my voice of reason and is always cheering me on. She’s a farm wife. She understands my daily frustrations and is always up for some girl time…even if it means only hanging out for a few minutes. I tell Jon all the time “I just want to be Ashley” and I mean it. She’s got it figured out.
And then there’s Erica, my former English teacher and now soul sister. She loved and encouraged me through my middle school years. She introduced me to the book that would change my life as a young woman. She gave me a love for reading and Les Misérables. She held my quivering hands and prayed with me before my wedding and spent many summer afternoons on her porch encouraging me in my walk with the Lord. She has been with me through some of the best and worst moments of my life. She encourages me daily and she challenges me to write. She is the wife and mother I hope to be someday.
You’re probably thinking to yourself I should have named this post “Ode to My Friends” but it has a much bigger meaning than that. We crave community. We need it like we need oxygen. We need to feel loved and to feel accepted. We need friendship and family and companionship. They don’t tell you that when you study “basic needs for survival” in school. So, you feel like, especially in your twenties that you can handle it alone. You graduate high school, and then college and your friends move away. Everyone has different lives. Some are mothers now. Some have traveled the world. Some are struggling to make it to class and some are in jobs they swore they would never take. Some live on farms and some live in the same house with their parents. Others moved out of state to a big city, promising themselves that they would not have to struggle any longer no matter the cost. Some have completely lost their way.
It seems weird and unnatural to connect with that once familiar group or any group at all really other than a Facebook group. You tell yourself you aren’t the same person-and you aren’t. But you still long for the time when you walked in a place and everyone (or pretty much everyone) was considered a friend.
Why do we disconnect ourselves from friendship? Why are we so quick to determine that we, yet again, have something to prove? Why don’t we message our old high school friends and hang out once in a while? Why don’t we message the girls we didn’t hang out with and invite them to coffee and Bible study? Why do we refuse to reach out? I think we may all struggle with the same two excuses I always make when those thoughts cross my mind: A) What if they think I’m weird? and B) What if they say no? I want to seem like I have it together. I want it to seem like I have friends. I want to seem like I am much better off than I was when they knew me. I am better off alone because they may not understand, nor like whom I am now.
The older we get we realize that community comes at a cost. Friendship comes at a price. It requires us to give as much, if not more than we receive. We crave it-we need it, but we refuse to let ourselves seek it in an effort to control what happens to us and the damage our heart could potentially face. Community requires us to be transparent. It requires us to connect with others instead of hiding our shortcomings. It causes us to step out of our comfort zones, turn off Netflix, and cry with each other at 1 AM. It forces us to think of something and someone other than ourselves, which is completely countercultural. There runs a risk of disappointment, which happens. And there is also a potential that you will learn to love someone so much that it hurts. At least, that’s what God has shown my heart as I reflect on my sweet friends tonight.
I got a phone call a little earlier that caused my heart to sink. I have a family member going through an unimaginable circumstance. I immediately told two of the four ladies mentioned above, for no other reason than they work with me every day and knew more details. They immediately began to pray. As they recited scripture over this situation, and me, I couldn’t help but thank God for their place in my life. I then began to think of the dear friends the Lord has blessed me with over the past few years and realized, the cost of community is worth the payment. It’s worth the tears. The struggles. The disappointments. The detours. The uncomfortable, awkward first hellos. It’s worth the transparency and honesty and deep conversations. It’s so worth it, it makes me want to reach out and say to those from my past “I know we didn’t (or used) to hang out but I want to cook you dinner and pray for you. My house at 6?” I think more than anything I realized tonight that you can’t truly love all God’s people, until you realize and cultivate the love you have for your people. The people he placed right in front of you. The people around you and in your workplace, your community, your yoga class, your home. Because God’s people are your people. All of them. Each person you encounter was fearfully and wonderfully made. But loving them well, starts with loving yourself and your tribe well. Look around you. Who are the people in your tribe? Who are the people you can pray to love well? You’ll be surprised how your heart for others begins to grow.