Community: It heals you, it breaks you, it causes you to grow in ways you never expected.
There are many people who fit into my definition of community. My mother and sister were the first to direct my steps and teach me how to get along with others, be a friend, teacher, supporter and fighter.
All my girl cousins down in the deep south taught me how to jump rope, play hide-and-seek, shoot a live crawfish off my grandpa's two-by-four, drive a golf cart and play until I was dog tired.
I had a core group of girls I spent time with during my childhood. We had sleepovers, rode horses, attended church, swam out at the farm, put on performances in the living room and sang songs about Jesus.
I met my best friend of 20 years in homeroom class during 8th grade. This girl, this woman has carried me through my darkest days, my most glorious moments and the truly mundane of life. We can go months without seeing each other and pick up right where we left off.
I could write a whole book about Jessica's friendship.
Then there are the women I met when I became a mother. We shared our secrets about the exhaustion during the baby stages, the weariness of diaper patrol, the joy of milestones, and the life-changing moments when time just stops because your child says, "I wuv you, Momma."
For a time I quit reaching out to people. I shut the door and found the deepest hole where I could bury myself. I plugged my ears, pretended no one was there and ignored the signs that I needed those women around to hug me, love me and tell me what to do.
It wasn't my proudest moment.
Then I made the decision to admit my weakness. I shared my pain and waited for the repercussion. There were some who did not understand my choice and stayed away.
But then others entered my life and brought community to a whole new level.
Ruth has mentored me for almost a year now. She's walked me through her pain, her life lessons and bestowed upon me wisdom I never knew existed. She's tied to me in more ways than I can understand and I'm eternally grateful for her friendship.
The women I have met through opening myself up on this space has been phenomenal. The pain that has been shared, the raw emotion revealed and the camaraderie based on the fact that we're all in this together, sharing our voices is such a beautiful thing.
We moved to Ohio in May and I prayed for friendships.
God gave me more than I ever imagined.
Rachel, Andi, Carrie, Jo Ann... these ladies have grown to be my FRIENDS. I did not know any of them three months ago.
In Jo Ann Fore's book When a Woman Finds Her Voice she talks about community and how many are silenced by the very people we trust us the most. She discusses how those who quiet us through fear and intimidation can cause anxiety in to runs so deep we dare not reach out to anyone for fear of exposing that raw pain.
She also explains how depriving ourselves of community goes against the very nature of our design. God created us to have thriving relationships with other people. Jo Ann offers some timely advice on how to begin building relationships again and getting over the loss of what was. She wants you to focus on the now.
Will you join her? Will you join me? Will you find your voice in the community God has given you?
Take the Pledge to help yourself and others heal from whatever has caused you to search for your voice and make a difference by sharing your story.
Linking up over at Jo Ann Fore's blog where women are telling their powerful stories, standing up for truth and finding their voices.