Thankful for…Community

It’s been difficult for me to make friends, and that’s my own fault.

I used to be a social butterfly, but as I got older–and had some bad experiences–I took on the mentality of “I have 3 friends; I don’t need more.” Throughout my marriage, my husband and I have moved every 2 years. Not for the military, but because we changed universities. When I first started college, I had a desire to make friends. I wanted to have those late-night, candy-fueled study sessions in a dorm.  I wanted to giggle with girl friends and walk to class with people and go on adventures with others. And for the first year or two, I did that. I made friends. We studied together, we did projects, we had Bible study, we went on weekend trips.

But then my husband and I moved. And I was devastated. Not at the move, but at the loss of my friends. There were nights I cried. There were nights I begged to go back. There were nights I insisted we move back to our home state because I knew I had friends there.

The move was for the best. We weren’t happy at the first university, and we wanted a different environment. My learning style required small classes, and I was about to change my degree from biology to English, and the college we transferred to was a small liberal arts school. But after marriage and the move, I felt like making friends was hard. Not because of any fault of my husband’s, but because I struggled to find people who could relate. I was young and married, so I was a bit of an anomaly. I also knew we would be graduating in two years, and I would be headed to graduate school. I also wanted to keep my head down and study to get the best grades I could.

So, instead of pressing in and trying, I stepped back. My husband became my best friend, and the only time I talked to classmates was really while I was on campus.

When we moved for my graduate program, that mentality didn’t change. I knew I would be graduating in two years, so I thought it would be pointless to make friends. I didn’t want to be distracted from my studies, and I thought having friends would negatively impact my grades. I even recall telling my husband once, who wanted me to make friends, “What’s the point? We’ll be gone soon.”

I had grown close to a few girls my last year of high school, and we have stayed friends. I always thought I didn’t need anyone else. What the issue really was was fear. I was afraid to make friends that would make it difficult to leave. I didn’t want to fall in love with where we were or who we were surrounded by because if we left, I would be devastated and feel alone, just like I did when we left the first university. I was protecting myself.

So I never thought I would again see a time that I made friends and was happy about it, regardless of what my future may hold. But now is that time. Thanks to my church.

I have become friends with a few girls from church, and I find that, for once, I don’t feel entirely defeated after spending time with them. I don’t get my energy from being around people. Social situations, especially ones with more than 3 other people, take an emotional toll on me, and I tend to have to go home and decompress. While where I get my energy from hasn’t changed all that much, I don’t feel completely drained after spending time with these people.

They have welcomed me with open arms when I was beginning to think no one would. I am fearful, I have anxiety, I’m uncertain, I love my pets more than most people, I have a pseudo non-traditional job, I often feel broken and unprepared for life…and yet, they have accepted me. They encourage me to grow and think and be myself.

And it is for that I am thankful.

I am thankful for the community I have found. I am thankful I know people who make me look forward to going to a small group every week. I am thankful for people who allow and encourage me to be open. I am thankful for people who accept me. I am thankful for new friends.

If you’ve struggled, or are struggling, to make friends, no matter the reason, take your time. Allow yourself to come to a healthy place where you would be willing to accept friendships. Be thankful for even that one person you trust. And if you blog, you have a welcoming community here. Because we all need community of some kind.

So, to my girl friends–all of you–if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for knowing me and knowing my struggles and accepting and loving me anyway.

And to this wonderful blogging community, thank you for following me on my journey and for helping me to grow not only as a person but as a blogger.

Today, I am thankful for community.

. . . . . .

What community are you thankful for?

I Want Your Advice

I’ve decided to begin writing a book.

As I mentioned, I was sort of bullied in high school and teased because I was viewed as “innocent.” And if you remember anything about high school, it’s not cool to be innocent or naive at that age. That innocence and curiosity has been questioned on a number of occasions, and people have thought it is an act and that I was playing dumb for attention. It really affected the way I viewed myself, and it’s taken a long time for me to be okay with who I am.

So I want to help other girls.

I’m beginning the journey of writing a book on this topic, for girls who are like me. I want them to know it’s okay to be that way, it’s okay to question, it’s okay to not fit in. I want them to know they are not alone and that they will come into their own. They will survive and they will flourish.

But to begin, I need your help. I have a few questions that I would love your input on. You are welcome to comment below or email me, whichever you are most comfortable with: digitalinkandparchment@gmail.com

  1. What advice would the current you give to high school you?
  2. What is one thing you wish you would have known in high school?
  3. Were you teased in high school? Why? And how did that affect you?
  4. Have you grown in your faith since high school? How?
  5. How has God moved in your life since?
  6. What do you think high school girls need to know that maybe they don’t?
  7. Any other comments.

I love the community in the blogging world, and I hope you are willing to share just a bit of your story so we can help others.

 

 

The Lies We Believe

Each time I make new friends, a terrible thought has wormed its way into my head and my heart: they’re only my friend because they feel obligated to be.

I have had this thought more often making new friends this time around. I met them through church. I see them often. They know my storm. They ask how I am. And each time, a sinister voice whispers, They only hang out with you out of pity. They only ask to talk about you later. They think you’re such a fool. 

I may not be able to read minds, but I know those are lies.

People befriend others because they want to, not because they are forced to. We spend time with others because we want to. If we didn’t want to, we would always make excuses. The voice telling me I am worthless, telling me I cannot possibly be a good friend, that I annoy people, and any other negative thing is the enemy. God would never tell us we are not good enough; He says we are loved and He is enough.

In studying In The Middle of the Mess, I have had a lot of moments where I think “me too.” This was one of them–that I am a burden to others, that they are only around me because they feel they have to be. I believed this long before this storm, and I know it affected my relationships and my mental health. I don’t know when this lie formed, only that it did and I allowed it to take root deep within me. I know it took stronger roots when I began to remove myself from others because I had begun to believe it. It became a cycle. But no more.

We are all told lies at some point in our lives, whether they are from the spiritual enemy or a worldly nemesis. If we remove ourselves from community, from those who can speak truth into us, then the lies will take hold, even when we don’t mean them to. The truth then becomes hidden because we are so focused on the lie. Words, good or bad, mean so much more when they come from someone else.

I’ve realized I need community. Even though being around others for long periods can drain me, I still need community. I need friends I can share my secrets–my truest pain and struggles–with. We all do. That is what brings healing.

. . . . . .

What lies have you been believing? What truths do you need? What relationships do you need to recommit to?

Making Friends

I realized yesterday that I have quite the busy weekend.

I have a girls’ night with some friends from church this evening, I have family in town and we are going to do a tour and tasting at a distillery tomorrow, and I am hosting a rum tasting at my place for a few friends on Sunday evening.

A year ago, I couldn’t even handle entertaining the idea of making friends. I had just started going to my church (we celebrate our first birthday the 16th!), and I was still in the throes of my depressive state and multiple episodes. Going to church frightened me–heck, meeting people frightened me–and I kept feeling I would never return to the at least semi-social girl my husband had married.

And yet, here I am, going to events and actually inviting people into my space.

I admit, I almost backed out of girls night. I do much better in smaller groups, but our small groups with church are about 12 to 20 people, and that is about how big this girls’ night will be. So I’m going for it. I even made food–a roast with some glazed carrots. It’s Harry Potter-themed, actually, because we are all huge fans, so I also made Butterbeer (the non-alcoholic version).

But the closer the time got for the events, I found the more excited I was. I have friends, I thought. And, while it’s nerve-racking, it’s also exciting.

So here’s to making new friends and expanding horizons. Because we do better in community.

Broken Together

How I wish we could go back to simpler times
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light
Now on this hallowed ground, we’ve drawn the battle lines
Will we make it through the night?

It’s going to take much more than promises this time
Only God can change our minds

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I’ll bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we’ll last forever is broken together

 – “Broken Together” by Casting Crowns

. . . . . .

I haven’t listened to this song in months. I don’t feel strong enough to. I break into a flood of tears each time, and I can feel my heart re-break with every line. Yet it has been circling through my head since Bible study last night.

We walked through and discussed the scripture from Sunday’s service: Jeremiah 29:4-13. I’ve already walked through the highlights of that message and what stuck out to me. But this small group allowed me to go deeper and to ask questions and share insight with others, something I’ve missed out on not having a church family. As we finished up the study, a question was asked about exile, since the Israelites were in exile in Jeremiah. Honestly, I don’t remember the exact question, but I remember thinking I’m in exile.

This seems both literal and figurative. I’m quite literally separated from my husband—while I lack the paperwork (which I have chosen to feel is a “good” thing), we are not speaking. At the same time, I also feel like this is the only way God could get through to me. If it weren’t for this situation, I wouldn’t have, as my therapist put it, taken a look to see “is what I’m doing working?” I would continue to act the same—demanding plans and timelines, making decisions for the both of us simply because I process quicker, never pausing in my view of adulthood. I wouldn’t be writing as I am, joining writing groups and letting my skills and passion flourish. I may never have even tried to draw near to God the way I am trying now.

I am now conscious of how me-oriented some of my decisions were. I was so desperate to prove myself in a world I didn’t feel valued me that I let what was truly important slip away. I pray every day I get a chance to make things better.

Without a sense of exile, though, I probably never would have grown in this way. For that, I have to thank God.

. . . . . .

One of the things this church reminds us is that brokenness is real. We are all dealing with something, but community makes dealing with those things better.

Even with that knowledge, I was surprised to find that song floating around in my head. The song is about a marriage, so of course, I instantly thought of my situation—yes, we are broken, as he had expressed to me before, but we can be broken together and work through it. I still feel that way, and I still want reconciliation more than anything.

But the same can be said for community. Brokenness can be easier to manage when you have a community surrounding you, when you have others who do not judge you but support you and honestly and powerfully pray for and with you.

I don’t know if that song suddenly coming to mind was God speaking to me. If it was, I wish the message of what I can and should do would be clearer; I wish He could just tell me what will happen. I would like to think, though, that it was Him, that He was telling me something. And there’s a part of me that thinks it was because as I climbed back into my car and turned the ignition, I took a breath, said out loud “it’s going to be okay,” and felt a small sense of calm.

. . . . . .

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the Christian community in the blogging world, and even more surprised at how willing you have been to share your stories, insight, and inspiration. Like I said, community can be a great thing, showing us we are never alone.

In the spirit of community, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you experienced brokenness? How did you cope? Were you willing to admit you were broken up front, or did it take time?

Have you experienced exile? What happened? Did you learn something from it?

What can you take from Jeremiah 29?

. . . . . .

Maybe being in exile is okay if it means I am being guided and taught. Maybe, then, it’s okay to not only admit I am broken, but also continue to live in what I feel guided to do and not worry what others may think.

I am broken, but God can provide healing if I keep pushing forward.