Saturday, February 4, 2017

Craving Connection 2 - A Journey Through Life's Seasons

Hey Friend,

Given the response and the comments I've received on my previous post, I am revisiting this topic of Craving Connection.  

We were made, by God, to be in relationship. First and foremost is our relationship with God.  After that, God has put in us a desire for relationship with a partner in life and with friends of all ages, races, and nationalities.  It's just the way we are wired.  

When those connections aren't made it can make us heartsick.  Yes, ultimately, Christ is all sufficient for us and I have found there have been seasons when God needed to remove everyone from my life so that He could have my undivided attention.

I also know, that the enemy prowls about, seeking to isolate us and destroy us. Just like a lion in the wild will try to isolate a week member of the herd, the enemy does the same thing with us.  If he can get us alone, he has a better chance of his lies sinking in and his message of despair and hopelessness finding a home in a hurting heart.  

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8)

That is why it is not a luxury or the cherry on top to have friends and connections, it's essential.  Now that I've said that, I will admit that making connections - extending my hand in friendship is not always easy.  Ask me to walk into a room full of people I don't know and my hands will begin to get sweaty; my blood pressure will rise; and thanks to this anxiety disorder I have, I have even been known to have panic attacks and have felt a need to flee the room.

I'm much better at one on one encounters, but to get to one on one, sometimes you have to walk into the full room - if you know what I mean.

I remember, in college, not knowing anyone on my floor.  I kind of sat back and did a study of people and tried to get a "pulse" on what made certain people tick.  I believe we are attracted to like minded individuals, so when I watched Christine from afar, I thought, perhaps, this is someone I would like to get to know.  Enter the hard part...going down to her room and introducing myself. That's right.  If there's one thing I've learned is that if I'm going to have  a friend, I can't wait for her to come to me...I have to go to her.  

I remember introducing myself and asking if I could join her for dinner in the cafeteria that night.  Thankfully she said "yes".  Thus started a long friendship. We were both looking for friendship, so we ended up joining the same sorority and wound up as roommates.  So that was a success story.  

I have extended my hand in friendship to others only to be rejected or at least the friendship not reciprocated.  I've had to learn, albeit the hard way, that this is the price you pay for finding kindred spirits.  It doesn't mean you are a loser, it just means you haven't found the right friend yet.

When I was young and newly married, I easily found friendships through work and with neighbors in the townhouses in which we lived.  Besides, I was a young newlywed so friendships were great, but not something on which I depended.

Enter the season in life, however, when with a newborn baby (my first), I found myself relocated to the Mid West, in a town where I knew no one, in January, amidst one of their nastiest winters.  This is when depression greeted me for the first time.  I was like a sitting duck for the enemy.  My hormones were everywhere.  I had experienced several major life stresses at once, and basically I was a mess.

I prayed earnestly to God for friendships.  I knew I needed a lifeline.  I needed others I could ask questions about how I was to raise this little person who demanded all my time and didn't come with instructions.  

Enter my neighbor, who though she had older children, had a friend who was the coordinator of a group called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers).  The nice Welcome Wagon lady also came to my door and invited me to the Newcomers meetings.  Sweaty palms, racing heart, fussy baby and all, I mustered all I had and went.  

One thing my mother told me has always stuck with me...ask people questions about themselves.  A good conversationalist asks lots of questions.  No one likes a person who goes on and on about themselves ad nauseam.

To say that Newcomers and MOPS, especially, were lifesavers for me, would be an understatement.  For women with children birth - 5 years of age (even if you have older children but still have one in this age group you are welcome). Through two more moves MOPS became my gateway to connection.  I found Christian women who were real, like me, and also were craving connection and some adult conversation.

When I moved to NC and my children were 4 and 9 I was moving out of the preschool set and I found myself thrown back in time to college days.  I was going to have to observe and seek out someone with whom I could relate. Fortunately many of us were newcomers in our neighborhood.  I thank God for the one woman who had the gift of hospitality and she invited all of us new folk to her house for coffee.  

That's where I met Claire.  I can't exactly remember who extended the hand first, but we've been close friends for 20 years.  She recently moved to Florida, however, and I'll say losing close connection with friends is a grieving process unto itself.  

I will say that finding a church where you feel at home is also crucial.  That is one of the first things I seek out - I'm like a heat seeking missile when it comes to that.  It may take time, but a church is a gateway to Bible studies, small groups, and other forms of community.

Slowly, over time, I built a comfortable circle of friends.  All was good.  Life was fitting like that old shoe except for my marriage which suddenly ended one day when my husband simply up and left.  To say my world was turned on its head (again) would be an understatement.  Divorce, by far, is one of the hardest things I've ever gone through.  Single parenting is downright HARD!!  

I also found that some friends that we had as a couple disappeared into the woodwork.  Other married friends were busy with their families and weekends became a lonely nightmare.  

Here I was back to square one again... having to seek out like minded and similarly situated individuals.  

I have discovered that God will put people in my path, but it is up to me to take that scary step of extending my hand in friendship.

Sweaty palmed and anxious, I ventured into building connections with three other separated and divorced women.  We became what we called, "The Perseverance Posse".  If there was ever a time I needed friendship, this was it. I really relied on these women and my married friends who stuck with me.  I would have never made it through had I not had these women in my life.  I thank God for them all the time.

So here I am now, an empty-nester who runs a non-profit ministry from home. I am by myself most of the day, except for the company of my trusty beagle, Topper. I can be a bit of a loner, at times, so I don't mind being alone.  In fact I rather enjoy it, but how much alone time is good?  How much is dangerous?

Thankfully I am remarried to a wonderful, godly man, but I still crave connection with other women.  It's harder to make coffee dates and such so I have found an on line community of women through a Christian group called (in)courage.  

The wonderful group of writers at (in)courage put out a daily blog/devotion that I read and comment on religiously.  

They have also just released a wonderful book called, not surprisingly, "Craving Connection".  Each short chapter written by a different writer includes ways to build connection, avenues to join and have community, and opportunities to engage with others and ....yes, even some challenges.

I invite you to join us (yes, I'll be there) starting on FEB. 7th as we will go through 5 weeks of short chapters and challenges.  I am hoping to find some new, fresh, creative ways to make connections.

As I've tried to point out here, craving and building connection is a lifelong journey.  It may look different in the changing seasons of our lives, but the necessity and even the command by God remains.  

Will you join us?  I really hope so!!  

And now the winner of my giveaway drawing for a free copy of "Craving Connection":
Dawn B. - Woohoo!

If you didn't win, please pick up a copy at your favorite bookseller and join us, won't you?  We were not meant to be islands unto ourselves, so lets roll up our sleeves and dig in together shall we?

I will be praying for you as you are brave in building connection.  I hope you will find connection here at my blog as well.  All who are real, honest, and not afraid to be a little vulnerable are welcome...

Be blessed...