Do you have a village? A support system you can call on (I say call on lightly, because these days it's more like "text on") for anything - from venting to sympathizing to helping in a pinch? People you genuinely LOVE to be around?
I've written before (as in two weeks ago but who is counting?) about my search for compatible family friends - adults that you can more than just tolerate (and actually like) along with the combo of children that get along. We're still in the process of finding our matches (though there are lot's of prospects!), but today I want to write about the need for rich, authentic, personal, gal-pal friendships. I feel confident in writing about this because I am blessed with an abundant village! A village that has saved me time and time again - even when they do not realize they are!
Three years ago I wouldn't say the same thing, though. Well, I wouldn't have claimed to have a strong local village. Most of my "village people" were in Tennessee (pictured above), the home I had for many years right after college and through my young adult professional life and on into my first year of marriage.
Three years ago I was in the throes of motherhood with two young children, in a relatively still new-to-me-city, a full-time working mom (who was about to lose her own mom) and in a "we're just surviving" type mode with my husband. I see a lot of young families in this same spot and it's miserable. I desperately wanted "my people" close by and instead, I had to drive two or three hours to see them!
So what changed? I was invited to join a monthly supper club, for starters.
In 2013 I had signed up to go on an October beach trip loosely planned by women at my church. I barely knew any of the women going and I remember emailing the organizer, "I don't care who you put me in a room with, or who you assign me to ride with. I just want to meet some new people!" Pretty daring of me, if I do say so...
But this just goes to show that God really does work through the most ordinary of situations! And in a time when I was lonely and depressed, searching for answers in making marriage work, beaten down by working full-time and physically exhausted by two children, God was leading me to my answer. I love looking back on that now and seeing the whole path He took me down to get me where I am today with, as I said before - an abundant village, mostly made up of the ladies that invited me to that supper club (there are others out there too - don't think I've forgotten about you!).
I digress... Back to the beach trip: I was connected with the woman who would just a few short months later invite me to join the supper club I now hold so dear. And many of the people I met on the trip and after, ended up being my saving grace when my mom was hospitalized the next month (November) and passed away (December). They prayed with me, they brought me meals, they kept my children, they listened, they helped me shop for my mom's burial outfit... I've borrowed their clothes, their jewelry, accepted their hand-me-downs for my own kids and cheered for their kids as the grow. We've bonded over relationship woes or frustration with spouses, children, society, work - whatever the case may be. When my third child came into this world I got the most robust meal delivery I have ever seen, which was organized by them. The list goes on and on and on of how my village supported me then and still does now.
And the friendships I have with this group are so authentic, I never feel like I have to censor myself or act a certain way to "fit in." We're real. We're authentic. And it's the way I believe true friendship is designed to be.
I must be going somewhere with all of this... other than gushing about my friends...
In my case, my supper club (which started with the connection from the beach trip) is my testimony of finding my way back to a personal relationship with the Lord.
I was lost and flailing around, trying to find pieces of Him everywhere. The Lord gave me 12 (13 now) of the dearest friends and plopped me smack down in the middle of them. My heart felt immediate ease and I knew this was a divine meeting. However hokey that sounds, I felt His love and continue to feel His love through this group of women I like to eat supper with and drink wine with once a month.
They love me even though I'm a mess (often times a physical mess - like in yoga pants mess), even though I have no internal filter once one drink is in my system, and even when I'm a micro-managing planner or stubborn, opinionated little bitty (which I'm usually one or more of those).
Building a village of support doesn't happen overnight. That's the one piece I was so frustrated with when I first moved away from my old village in Nashville. But looking back on it, I didn't really do anything to change that either! I was just sitting around for my first few years in Huntsville complaining to myself about how far away my friends were. I didn't seek it out, which is my biggest advice to anyone out there who feels unfriended or alone or tired of being left out. Put yourself out there and give it an authentic try. It may take three or four tries even with the same person or group. Be persistent but not pushy.
I made myself vulnerable at church, within professional organizations (another story for another time on how that worked out to a closer pal than I could've ever imagined!), with coworkers and old friends from my youth. It will eventually pay off - just like any other "lifestyle choice" (be it exercise or nutrition, etc.), you have to work at it.
And then when the gem of a friend or group of friends does come along, value it for every good thing it is. To me it's:
To me, supper club is my favorite day of each month, and one of the constants in my life to keep me grounded. And I consider myself BEYOND blessed to have this in my life - especially when three years ago, authentic relationships seemed so unreachable.
It is my sweetest story of God's work in my life. And it's a story I'm so glad to share.
Do you have a dependable village outside of your family? Do you find it as important to have girlfriends as I do? Let me know in the comments below. I'd love to hear how cultivate your village!
Wife, mom and full-time marketing pro. Diet coke addict. Auburn fan (and alumn). Christian - striving to comprehend grace.