May 14, 2013

Love Yourself: In Community

A few months ago we started going to a new church, and almost immediately we got plugged in with a small group on Wednesday nights with other couples of young children. It was there that I met Theresa.

She was spunky, beautiful, confident, and real. A few weeks into meeting with this group, she saw a glimmer of something in me (akin to desperation I think), and pulled me aside at the end of prayer. What are you doing tomorrow morning? she asked me. I think I mumbled 'nothing' as I held back those tired mama tears. She told me that I needed to come to a moms group at another local church. That it would change my life. That it would become my life line. We exchanged phone numbers, and in the morning when I thought of a million nervous reasons why I shouldn't go, she texted me to make sure I was coming.

So I went. I was nervous and had my huge diaper bag and a stroller, and a squirming boy who was clinging to me that I decided to keep with me, rather than put him in a nursery in a new place. I got there late. I walked into the room and met eyes with about 30 other women. And instead of judgment for my lateness, or annoyance for bringing in my child, or stifled laughter as I would have expected for all of my stuff, I was met with warmth and open arms.

The woman standing at the front of the room said in an excited voice, 'Theresa, is this your friend?' They were waiting for me. A seat had been saved for me in the front and center row of the room. Women waved and smiled those big, real kinds of smiles, as I tried to sit down as gracefully as possible without drawing too much more attention to myself. Theresa swept in and took my coffee out of my hands so that I wouldn't spill, and the girl on the other side of me helped me pull that big ole diaper bag off my left shoulder. Emmett and I settled in and I felt a huge sigh of relief sweep over my body.

Probably every other week at moms group (okay, I'll be honest, every week), when we split off into our little small groups, my eyes fill up with tears as I admit how exhausted I am. And there is no judgment. There is no pity. There are hugs. There are prayers. There is, let me hold that boy of yours so you can have five minutes to not worry about him. There are messages during the week to check on each other. There is a letting in on the real stuff of life. There are circles of prayer and there are laying of hands on a Bible being sent to an estranged family member. There are first whispers here before anyone else knows of new life on its way, and there are tears in admitting its hard when these mamas have to be strong for everyone else. This? This kind of community gives me a glimmer of the Kingdom, and it is where I can love myself more fully.

I am a deeply relational person. I think we all are, at our core. If we admit it, we need others. Not in a sense where we need clean laundry or nourishment from a meal, but there is a craving in each of our souls to be known. To be loved fully for exactly who we are. 

When I am isolated and feeling lonely, those thoughts start creeping in and they grow exponentially louder of, ugly, awkward, needy, unwanted. 

When I am surrounded by true, genuine, loving friendships, I hear and reaffirm in myself: loved, worthy, beautiful, caring, accepted.

I find it in car rides singing with girlfriends, or riding silent and content next to one another. I find it in Skype dates and phone calls and text messages where tears and encouragement and prayer requests are shared. I find it in email chains between good friends, sharing the high lights and low lights and everything in between. I find it in hearing my best friend say last night, you never have to apologize for being awkward with me. That's what brought us together in the first place (and following up with pictures of ourselves making the ugliest faces possible and admitting our quirks with laughter and that knowing of, that is why she's a lifer). I find it where there is no pressure to be anything except for the fullest version of myself.
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Where do you find your community? Where do you feel like you can be loved for being you, quirks and realness and all
I'm so glad you stopped by, and I hope you'll join in this community for the Love Yourself Link-up with Anne the Adventurer.


6 comments:

  1. This is beautiful. I related so much with the first half of your post- the nerves of taking the next step into a new community, the worry about what new people will think. I need to take that next step like you did so that I can hopefully find out those worries are unfounded!

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  2. Hiya Love,

    This post was beautiful! I feel like your writing gets better and better with each post (and I didn't think that was even possible because I thought you were an amazing writer before you started My Little Bird!).

    I needed this post today. I was so worn out and I had about 15 minutes to scarf down a sandwich before running off to see my next kid. I opened my google reader and scrolled through your post. So uplifting and positive. Then, I got to the line about me :) I have the best best friend. I think I went back and read that line about 3 times during work today! It kept me going and made me crack up thinking of those pictures! haha! Love you!

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  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I can so relate, even not being a mom quite yet. When you wrote : "I am a deeply relational person. I think we all are, at our core. If we admit it, we need others. Not in a sense where we need clean laundry or nourishment from a meal, but there is a craving in each of our souls to be known. To be loved fully for exactly who we are." I could feel my heart swell. I am completely relational too and you have just reminded me again how important community is. Love it.

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  4. You speak the Truth, Heather. I know both that trepidation you described of being a newbie in a group and of the pre-judgements I tend to latch onto as a safety blanket. And I love it when God squashes those pre-judgements, humbles, us, and makes us realize that we may forget our needs but He does not.

    I've been blessed to experience this real community (the raw and most honest kind) in several circumstances, but the one that stands out most is my theatre ensemble in college. (I know you'll appreciate hearing this as a fellow theatre-lover). Our group met twice a week (on top of doing three shows a year) for what was called "WorkOut" where we did a lot of rolling around on the floor like cats and mirror exercises and yoga...but at the heart of it, it was about letting down the facade and being real. So sometimes, that meant someone would cry in the loving arms of a few friends for the hour and a half or sometimes it meant having a day in "the pillows" catching up on sleep because that's what you needed most. Other times we sculpted each other into statues that spoke to the word "grace" or enacted the season of advent in frozen pictures. I have never felt more fully seen and loved by a community than in Workout. It was really an exercise in living out the gospel; so, you can imagine what a remarkable experience it was to do theatre with these people. Sigh. I'm still very close with a lot of my Workout friends and I've aimed to take some of the same exercises and traditions into my own theatre teaching. I'd love for my students to experience even a taste of that kind of Christian community.

    Warmly,
    Lauren
    The Thinking Closet

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  5. Hi Heather! I loved this post, it got me to thinking what I consider my community :) Friends play a huge part in my life too, more so than they know I bet! It's so good that you have this place to go to just be you...Thanks for stopping by my blog, I am now following you back! Have a happy day my friend!!

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  6. Heather, this is such a great post. I'm so glad that you found a community that supports you in this time of transition (but isn't life just one big transition?). I have been searching for a new community out here in Colorado to support me through the changes of being a newlywed, starting my own business, and just living life. This post gives me a lot of hope.

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