We’re spending 5 weeks chatting on the sofa over hot tea, cookies, and 5 questions about in real life friendship. Won’t you join us?

  1. 09/04 Week 1: “What does community mean to you?”
  2. 09/11 Week 2: “How do we stop hiding from and open ourselves up to community?”
  3. 09/18 Week 3: “How do we forgive past hurt by community?”
  4. 09/25 Week 4: “How do we build local community: some practical ideas.”
  5. 10/02 Week 5: “How do we build community right where we are, not letting circumstances limit our connections?”

Every Friday we’ll invite you to share your thoughts – link up a post, share a comment, discuss on Facebook.

We loved hearing your thoughts last week on what community means to you. Congrats to Karen who won the (in)courage DayBrightener for the post she linked up – here’s a peek – you should really go and read it:

I’ve learned community is not something attached to proximity.  Nor is it dependent on the every day.
Community happens when two people choose it.  It flourishes when two individuals, made in the image of One Creator, push through obstacles and reach into each other’s lives with care.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you guys and blessing at least one of you each week with some of our (in)RL resources.

So, this week we’re discussing how to stop hiding and rather open ourselves up to community.

The text slips in unexpectedly, “I’m with Barry at the emergency room.” It’s from Stephanie, fellow (in)courage cofounder, dear friend, business partner. Barry is her husband. My heart skips a beat.

“What’s wrong?” I write back, fear behind each syllable. They don’t know she tells me. Sudden symptoms. Spiking fever. Unanswered questions. “Do you want me to come?” I ask.

I sleep with my phone by the bed that night. I wake up to pray silently as I look at the ceiling.

In the morning she writes again, “Come this morning. Bring Starbucks.”

I throw off covers and jump in the car without make-up, a tossled mess of a ponytail on top of my head. I don’t even change clothes. I meet her in the lobby and she tells me that Barry is doing better but they’re still not sure what’s happening. We exchange words that thinly veil our worry and even dare to laugh. We remind each other that God is here, in this place.

I hand over her caffeine and breakfast. It’s only as I do that I catch a glimpse of the shirt I’m wearing, the one I slept in last night. It’s my (in)RL t-shirt from last year. I smile because this moment is real life. As real as it gets. In the middle of the unknown. The unexpected and unplanned.

(in)RL last year was very planned–all about intentionally bringing community together. And yet we hope it didn’t stop there for you. It didn’t for us. (in)RL is what we’re intended to live all year long. It spills over into the days and weeks and busy schedules.

Thankfully, Barry made a full recovery. It turned out he had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. He’s happily training for Iron Man races again (and yes, Stephanie is rightfully proud of her man).

When I think back to those moments of standing in the hospital lobby, it always reminds me of how much of community is just about showing up.

Showing up when we don’t know what to say.

Showing up when we don’t know what to do.

Showing up when all we’ve got to offer is Starbucks and a smile.

We try to make community more complicated than it needs to be. But really all it means is being there. Not hiding. Not believing the lie that someone else could do it better. Not even waiting for someone to reach out to us. It’s just making ourselves available. Being willing to be messy–whether it’s our hair or our hearts.

Someone needs you today. Just as you are.

And maybe all you’ve got to touch a life is just show up.

Today, tomorrow, the next time the unexpected text comes.

You’ve got more to offer than you realize. And in community, sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest difference.

How are you showing up for someone else? How has someone else showed up for you?

–Holley Gerth, best-selling author of You’re Already Amazing

Free Printable: Just CLICK HERE to download a free 8.5 x 11 printable version of the above quote on friendship.

It’s this week’s free (in)RL Check-In Printable – featuring copy and art from a postcard in the forthcoming Postcards from God’s Beach House Encouragement Set.

{The downloadable print is available through DaySpring.com. This is a free download and your credit card information will not be requested. You’ll receive a link to the Printable in your confirmation email. Easy. Free. And Fun.}

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  1. 1

    :)

  2. 2

    “But really all it means is being there. Not hiding. Not believing the lie that someone else could do it better. Not even waiting for someone to reach out to us. It’s just making ourselves available. Being willing to be messy–whether it’s our hair or our hearts.”

    It may not be complicated but unfortunately it’s not easy.

  3. 3

    I think an openness to community and a sensitivity to those around me really comes as I center my focus on Jesus. The times that I burrow down and hide is when I get off track and get sucked into our cultures thinking that it’s all about me or when I start to feel sorry for myself (i.e. moving halfway across the country after marrying my husband, switching to a new church from the one of my childhood, etc). And that’s not to say that God doesn’t use times of isolation or aloneness to do some incredible work in us…because I definitely think He does. But when my focus is centered on Jesus (rather than myself or the things around me), then community and sensitivity to others really does happen instinctively. To borrow a phrase, it’s like looking at the world through a Jesus lens.

  4. 4

    Really enjoyed reading this…. and totally excited to write a post and link it up this Friday. :)

  5. 5

    Thanks for this Holley. I’ve been praying about this very thing. Sometimes, when you’re in a season of unexplainable silence its hard to know how to show up. For me lately, its just been a phone call to someone He puts on my mind. One step at a time.

    • 6

      I’m right there with you! It’s hard to know what to do during certain times…especially when it’s been so long. A simple phone call is a wonderful start! That’s always my problem…I don’t know where to begin. Like you said “one step at a time”.

      BTW: A very inspiring post, Holley! Thank you!

  6. 7

    The needs of others can help us overcome our own isolationism. When the Spirit moves us to be there for those we love, care for, or, just know need our help, it often causes us to truly rely on our faith for the inner strength to motivate and empower us to selflessly serve others. The greater challenge for me is to step outside my ‘safe space’ without a critical need.

  7. 8

    Just lovely. I find this all so very true. I have struggled with community the past few years. Sometimes in the church you have to be part of a ministry or a group to live in community. But few want to do real life community. My husband and I stepped back from some of our commitments at church so that we could be more available for moments like this. Thank you for sharing. So refreshing to my spirit this morning.

  8. 9

    So true. I sometimes find myself avoiding situations because I’m not sure how to respond, what to say, or because I’m sure they would rather someone else. And I think the other piece to community is not only to show up, but to start asking for others to be there. To give them an opportunity to love and care for you.

    • 10

      This is so where I get at times as a Pastor’s wife. There are times that the minute the last Amen is said in dismissal prayer, I retreat immediately to my husbands office. I will not come out until everyone is gone. It really upsets my husband, after all, I have a shared responsibility with him as he ministers/pastors (to) the church. After reading your reply to Holly’s post, and me responding to yours, I did not realize, not only do I retreat, but I have chosen a seat in the congregation right next to his office door. WOW! This has opened my eyes to a new area of prayer for me, more than why I occasionally make myself unavailable to a community who I need and needs me.

      Thanks Holly for the post and Sarah Van Beveren for your response. I have been blessed by this today. It’s a “God moment.”

  9. 11

    Community is something I talk about incessantly and seek for constantly, which isn’t too terribly hard since I actually live in community. Intentional community. With over 300 other people. http:// http://www.jpusa.org. I spent my twenties there, left for 8 years and returned recently. My family needs community. I need community. I need women around me who draw me out of myself when I am sinking inside. I need women who will pray with me when I have no words left. I need women who are amazing wives and mothers to help me believe I can do this thing.

    I’ve also been writing about community, in RL and online. At a time when I was struggling and sinking and thought I was friendless, a community of women online surrounded me and help bring me back to life. These women have been a huge encouragement to me, in my writing and in my everyday life. http://lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday/.

    Here is a story of a time when community showed up for me: http://bit.ly/I1E1lm

  10. 12

    As a person who must hide for physical well-being (boy in bubble stuff) and yet yearn for company of human beings this is an opposite problem for me. As long as I was healthy, enough to get out into the community it was easy for me to be part of it. Now that I am physically isolated, it is hard to get people to come for visits, as they must be free of anything scented or from carrying any scents of petrol chemicals. God has taught me a blessing in this isolation in how to turn it to solitude. The difference is that isolation is without the presence of God, where solitude is with His presence. In this, is the blessing, to grow in Him, in ways I never did when I was a social butterfly. I am not always content to be in solitude, but the longer I must deal with it the better I am getting at it. Community is great, but not everyone has such a luxury, the shut-in or homebound, must learn to cope with being alone in order to thrive, though it is not God’s intent. Community is God’s will, and I pray you all are blessed with such.

    • 13

      Oh Eileen…this resonates so so SO deeply for me. While it is for different reasons I understand what you are saying here about isolation vs solitude. Even in solitude, I do struggle with loneliness, but there is also a richness in this time that I have grown to love.

      • 14

        Hi, Eileen:

        I really appreciate what you said about isolation vs solitude. Thank you.

        Holley, thank you very much for sharing these thoughts. “Being there” is
        a good thing to think about. The comparison game is, as I think about,
        selfish among other things. I must let God define and direct me. I must
        focus on His love for me and the value which He places on me. Whew!
        Praise Him! God bless you all!
        Him!

  11. 15

    I needed this message at this very moment. I want to serve in women’s ministry, mentor middle school girls and work as a life coach. This requires me to step outside myself and my places of comfort and into community.

    Thanks for reminding me that even though ministry/community can require all of who we are, it also may require a simple gesture like showing up.

    Monica

  12. 16

    You had me at five weeks on a sofa with tea and cookies! Ha! :)

  13. 17

    Yup. Showing up. When I lost my mom, my best supporters were people who just showed up. No questions about what they could do or what I needed or talk about how awful this was… just people who showed up with food, or chocolate, or a chick flick to lift my spirits for a while. Really, that’s the best thing anyone can do – just show up. It speaks volumes.

  14. 18

    I didn’t really feel that much community with my church. I didn’t always feel like I belonged anywhere. Then my husband was diagnosed with cancer. People showed up. None of them knew what to say or do. Who does? But they showed up, brought us meals, took our son to play, gave rides to chemo, spent time just praying. They were there. 3 years earlier they made the meal for the potluck at our wedding and they made the meal for the potluck after his funeral.

    When I reflect on how I felt before Jerry got sick I realized that it was me being unavailable. The community was there, I just hadn’t taken the time to be a part of it. I do not take them for granted anymore. I love the community of my church and have developed such wonderful friendships through our harship.

  15. 19

    For me, I’m not afraid to show up, I’ve shown up before. I’m afraid to ask others to show up. Because I’m afraid nobody will. Because I’ve been hurt before. So I shrink from it and push forward alone. How do I get past that?

    • 20

      ME TOO! Just this weekend, a church member’s daughter took her own life. I “showed up” – and was rebuffed. Not needed (I’m a psychologist). I’m becoming afraid to show up.

      • 21
        Wini Schiemann says:

        But you did show up Elaine. Nothing we do at the prompting of the Holy Spirit is ever wasted. Bless you for your compassion & your vocation!

  16. 22

    Remembering…it’s okay to need other’s to show up for me.
    I’m good with jumping in where I’m needed and just doing whatever it takes to help. It’s the letting go and allowing someone else to do that for me that I struggle with.

    Thanks for sparking a new way of thinking!

  17. 23

    Thanks so much for sharing your hearts here, friends. I love exploring community with you. All your voices matter and make a difference!

  18. 24
    Karen Wilson says:

    Your words have so much truth to them!!! I recently was on the receiving end of the love of community. My husband had a serious health issue, and late at night, had to be rushed by paramedics to the hospital. I don’t drive, and I’m deaf. Wow! Did the neighborhood come together for me!!! My husband had to be in the hosptial for a few days, and couldn’t drive after that, either for about a week. Friends and neighbors were THERE for us…helping, driving, loving, praying. Bringing us stuff. Listening. I was so amazed and felt so loved. My husband I have been helpers in the neighborhood, too…God’s love goes both ways.

  19. 25

    I’ve found the best way for me to get into community is to put myself into its midst regularly in the same venues, be it at church or other group activities/functions. I then become a familiar face and others’ faces become familiar, too. Also, looking for another “lost” person and connecting with them to help them out ends up helping me come out of my shell, too. It’s hard work for an introvert, but worth the effort to achieve a sense of being part of a community.

  20. 26
    Katherine says:

    It’s even harder when you are the one(s) who’ve always shown up for others but when you need someone, really need someone to show up– there is no one. God’s communiyt–our church, our community they weren’t there.
    “Oh, I put you out of my mind. I can’t do anything now, I’m leaving for vacation.” Uhmm… that was our summer after my dad broke his back in June and my parents had signed up prior to his fall for new flooring– a big job of moving out and back in left to two ladies. Give and it shall be given to you— not sure it works that way anymore.
    The flooring is completed but not everything is back into the house. My dad, he has more not so good days than good ones and the doctors have us on hold (btw-he is 70),

    • 27
      Beth Williams says:

      Val

      Praying for your dad. My God help him to have better days. Also praying everything gets moved back in–Wish I could have been there–I would have lended a hand or two!

      God Bless!

      • 28
        Katherine says:

        thank you, Beth- we found out today that he will be heading in for a procedure within the next couple weeks and then onto back surgery. We still have much to move, pray that God sends “community” our way— we could sure use the help to move back in and also the support as we face the unknown. You all are such a great blessing- in this “on-line” community! Blessings, Katherine

      • 29
        Katherine says:

        thank you, Beth- we found out today that my Dad will be heading in for a procedure within the next couple weeks and then onto back surgery. We still have much to move, pray that God sends “community” our way— we could sure use the help to move back in and also the support as we face the unknown. You all are such a great blessing- in this “on-line” community! Blessings, Katherine

  21. 30

    katherine — I can totally relate to you … I too feel like I am the one who has shown up and been there for others but in the past year when I needed help certain “friends” were not available. Sometimes in a midst of a crisis we find out who are true friends really are and realize that perhaps we have invested our time in others who don’t value us as they should. I will continue to show up and help out when needed but I no longer invest in those people who I learned are not my true friends.

    • 31
      Katherine says:

      Val, even Jesus wipped the dust off his feet as he moved on to the next group of people in need. We must keep our eyes on Him, He will direct us to those He wants to touch– remember we are His hands and feet. He was despised and rejected, and scripture tells us we should be blessed to walk the same paths as He. It’s tough, boy do I know– but God is always with us… He is our truest friend, our closest confidant. Blessings, Katherine

  22. 32
    Janice Salisbury says:

    It always amazes me how God brings just what I need to confirm what He is speaking to me through your blog or someone else in my life. I live in a community that I know few people in but I have a community through Christ on Facebook of all “evil” places. They encourage me, they share with me, I share with them & we have turned what so many think of as bad into good community ground! I send out prayer alerts, we pray, GOD moves!! Thank you for helping me realize that I am part of a community! I fret that I can’t seem to get into this physical community. Now, I think I will just stop that & believe what God opens I will just walk through. Thanks again, Holly.

  23. 33

    I love the people that show up and then just offer a plain, ol’ “that sucks.” No trite sayings or words of wisdom, or I’m-praying-for-yous that leave you feeling like maybe, just maybe, they really aren’t. I try so hard to be this person and I fail miserably a lot, but I try.

  24. 34

    I love you and Stephanie both and imagine that your offerings of Starbucks go both ways and have made many wonderful memories :) This post was just lovely. (As usual!)
    xo,
    Sherri

    P.S. I thought Rocky Mountain Spotted fever was a fictional ailment from old movies? That is crazy! Glad he is all better.

  25. 35

    Just an Encouragement for all who feel like there is not some one
    around when they feel they have given out and then, there is no
    one around when needed. The Master, Yahshua Himself, feels
    that way, too. That is why He upbraided the folk and asked them,
    “Is it because you were fed yesterday that you came today?!”
    And the famous one, “Could you not even tarry with Me one hour?”
    We must all remember that He kept giving, and giving, and giving some
    more, up until and during and after His death. And then, there were
    not many at the burial site….
    We are Loved by Him, today, and frankly, lately, to me, He is ALL that matters
    (and if some folk happen to show up for me when I think I need them, that
    is great, and if not, the Savior is All I need. I will continue to give and give
    and give and then: Some Day , very very soon, He will say, “Well done,
    thou good and faithful servant! Enter in to the Joy of Yahweh!”)
    There will be no greater words. EVER.

    • 36

      Thank you, Karen! This is a good and encouraging word. He loves us so greatly and deeply. He is still giving: He makes intercession for us according to the will of God (Romans 8: 27 and 34), and so much more. Praise You, My Jesus and Father God! God bless you!

  26. 37

    Why do we show up for others? Is it for our self or is it because we feel led by God to reach out or go visit, make a phone call and so on. What I have learned from my experiences of being ill is that it is not always the people you expect or whom you have helped in the past who are the ones to show up for you in time of trouble or when in need of the community. I have had the doors close and empty offers of help which when I asked left me in tears at the reply. I stopped reaching out but that only made matters worse. So now I tend not to ask anyone for help except one close friend who I know if they can will willing help me out. I though still reach out to others in need if I can help them or they ask me for something. I decided a long time ago that despite of others and the hurts, rejection, I would follow Jesus and do what he would do. I follow the tug on my heart from Jesus especially if that tug won’t go away until I follow through. It is not easy but what other way is there.

  27. 38

    GREAT post!! LOVED it!! We are just about to begin a new year of growth groups on Sunday mornings at my church. Growth Groups is another name for Sunday School
    classes. So my Pastor was reminding us of this very thing “community” we need each
    other. Hopefully we all learn to show up more for one another as we grow in community.

    God Bless You! Love your posts!!

  28. 39
    lola Oliyide says:

    God Bless you, Holley . Want you to know that God uses you to teach me lessons and help my walk with HIM . Thank You

  29. 40

    This touched me right where I am today!!! Thank you so much!

  30. 41

    Thank you Holley .
    It may me think of how people reach out to others I experienced it this past couple weeks when I needed a ride quite a ways from home for arranging back surgery , had a friend to go with me from out of town but then surgery has been pushed up a week so needed to find some one else for going with me so again I have been blessed from people who offered to go with me next week.
    I will remember how blessed I am so when I am better I can reach out to some one even a phone call or house visit which I have done . It bring joy both ways .
    Thank you Dear Holley Love you Betty

  31. 42
    Beth Williams says:

    Thank you for the heartwarming story. I did something similar to that. A while back my hubby’s ex father-in-law was in hospital with heart problems. I came home from work & quickly put together some meals-chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans–and took them to their house. They weren’t expecting anything, but accepted it none the less. I did it because I’ve been there with loved ones in hospital and you sure don’t feel like cooking at that point.

    Other times I’ve given people gift cards to use when they get done at doctor’s or chemo treatment. That is real community to me!

  32. 43

    Community has always meant having at least a group of friends that are always there for each other and since I haven ‘t found a “group”, I keep feeling like I haven’t found community. But I just realized that the 2 friends that have been showing up for me- texting me and assuring me of their prayers, throughout these few weeks, are community. This has made me more grateful for them.

  33. 44
    Celeste says:

    Community to me is being “Available and Invested”
    To be there for your bestie since 3rd grade. The call no friend ever want’s to get and hear her say, ” I have low grade follicular lymyphoma.” Then in a brief nano second relive the nightmare of her losing her beloved brother from Non hodgkins lymphoma.
    To love over the phone, to be available and follow up, and to ensure your friend that no matter what you will be there for any need.
    To rally family that leaves a bit closer than you do to pray for your bestie, to visit and love on her.
    I am grateful for family, friends and this community.

    Until HE shouts,
    Celeste

  34. 45
    Chris Carter says:

    Just “show up” got my attention. This has been my new motto this past year. I used to think what can I do? Then God changed my thinking. I know now its not what I do, its what He can do through me! Now I get excited for new opportunities to see what Jesus is up to! I am thrilled to experience the love, compassion, & power of Christ at work as we share & show up for one another.

  35. 46

    God was speaking softly to my heart this morning about opening up my heart and home and being available for others.
    Then He reminded me how I have been through so much and how much I have to offer others.

  36. 47

    So good and so true. Having been on both ends of that. Yes. Go. Don’t second guess yourself. Just show up. Be there. God will show you what to do next. Sometimes, He just wants you to be there……
    And starbucks goes a looonnnggg way too! :)
    Love it. Thank you Holley.

  37. 48

    Thanks Holley!
    I don’t always get to read each email as it comes, but this one from before really was what I needed to hear today. I try to drop things when people need me (No, not the hot chocolate mug!) but all my day to day life stuff that seems so important but is small when someone is struggling or handling a crisis. Just this week I made time to take a small bunch of flowers to a friend whose sister died and spent a short time visiting with her. Your email reminded me that those moments of being there for someone are important, even when I am feeling overwhelmed.
    God’s blessings! Karen

  38. 49

    WOW!! Thank you so much for the fun giveaway! I’m SO excited!! I have been so blessed by the community at incourage. You women are FANTASTIC. I love your heart for unity, for building each other up, for being real and honest. Thank you for the shout out and TLC. {{HUG}}

  39. 50
    Krista Larson says:

    I have been dealing with depression on and off and at different levels over the past 10 years. One of the main thing that helps brighten my day is time with friends. I am a stay-at-home mom and child care provider, which increases my chances of being ‘stranded’ on isolation island (aka. my home). So, in order to help cope with this, I decided (with MUCH encouragement for others) to host a coffee/playdate with other mom friends. It blessed me more than I can say! And the best part is, that is blessed those moms as well! It was a blessing for me to have grown-ups to talk to and a blessing for them to be able to get off of their ‘islands’ as well. :) We all have little ones that were included in this, so we jokingly named our time together as “Monday Morning Mayhem”. ;)

  40. 51
    JeanniePage says:

    Am so glad I found this blog and conversation! As a shy and introverted single mother (widow) of two teenage sons, I have found it uncomfortable and stressful trying to teach my sons to open themselves up to friendships and being involved in our community and church. Uncomfortable and stressful because it’s my tendency to be a homebody, a loner, a person who loves being snowed-in! BUT, I don’t want my sons to inherit these traits. I want them to feel good about getting out there and making friends and getting involved! So . . .I have made myself the past few years get involved in community affairs, have met many friends and regularly schedule outings with friends and have stepped up my volunteering at our church. (We are very involved at our church and always have been). But I’ve been thinking we should start having people over on a monthly basis for dinner. I want to teach my sons it’s okay to entertain even if you don’t think your home is perfect or even if it may be a little stressful getting ready for it and opening up your home to others besides family. I’m a rolemodel for my sons, and I hope they grow up to be productive and responsible and involved citizens but they’re not going to learn how unless I show them.

  41. 52
    DeAnn Miller says:

    I used to hide, I thought I was some how not good enough. I am learning to show up at church willing to help and contribute what I can because I do have something to offer. With many hands helping the job is easier and helping is not hard its a joy, this is how we find out who we are. So now I am brave enough to be myself and I see the faces and hands of the women at my church reaching out to welcome me as we go on this journey. I don’t know why I didn’t start sooner but it is never too late.

  42. 53
    Deb Stevens says:

    wow .. talkin bout speakin right to the heart of MY matters. that one kinda stung a bit too ..

    im great when it comes to connecting with people. but horrid at following up :( I want to connect and have community. actually this is what my hubs was talking about before we moved. he said i need to be able to talk with someone. and someone said on here before that no one seems to wanna get involved if ur loaded with issues and struggles. my life is too messy for people ..

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