We shared a week together at Bible camp, me a college counselor and she a high school camper. We prayed, drank hot chocolate, stayed up talking into the night, held our hands high in worship, sat in the cool canteen, and played field games. All our activities were threaded together with the love of Christ. Our faith grew that week as we connected and shared pieces of our hearts. She took home a puzzle piece that I gave her, reminding her that she was one piece in a vast puzzle that – though we’d never see assembled – we knew we were an intrinsic part of. A part of a community bigger than we could literally see. And without that one piece, there would be a hole. You’ve done a puzzle with a missing piece – the hole it leaves detracts from the bigger picture, right? She mattered to that community, to that puzzle.

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Years and college degrees and weddings and children later, we re-connected thru the (in)courage ‘unconference’, (in)RL. I was a co-host of her local meet-up, and she asked in a comment if I had worked at that Bible camp. When we met on the day of (in)RL, laughing and sharing pictures of our baby boys who have the same name, we felt our puzzle pieces coming together. God was giving us a glimpse of the bigger picture, of the whole that only He knew.

We both felt a tug towards encouraging women – specifically, working mothers of young children. When (in)courage announced their new (in)couragers community groups, we knew this was the place for us. And so she & I opened up a shiny new Facebook page, threw open the doors, poured the coffee, and invited women in to breathe.

Isn’t it lovely how God uses ordinary, simple things to do extraordinary work? To truly speak into our hearts and lives and fill up our souls? And isn’t it wonderful how He lives on the internet? We gather online, in pockets and corners, to encourage and be together when we can’t actually be together, and to share our hearts. (in)courage has truly become a ‘home for the hearts of women online’ where we can gather, and through (in)couragers groups we can take it one step deeper with women who share our circumstances.

Is it scary? Yes! To share our stories and ask for friendship with strangers is never easy. But let’s look at where we all gather right now, at incourage.me. The name says it all in courage. In courage, we join in. In courage, the group leaders and mentors have stepped up. In courage, we offer bits of our stories. In courage, we pray for one another. And only in courage can friendships be built.

Each of us holds a puzzle piece. Each of us has a place in this community. Without our individual piece, there is a prominent hole that our eyes are drawn to. You matter. There is a place for you here. And whether you join a group and talk every day, or quietly listen, or become a prayer warrior for others, or ask others to pray for you… no matter the level of your involvement, your presence has taken courage and it does not go unnoticed.

In our small yet mighty group, all working mothers of young children, we found community. Real, authentic, beautiful community. We laugh out loud and cry real tears. We lift each other up to the One who has gathered us there, and rest in His presence. And this spring several of us met outside the screen as she & I hosted a local (in)RL meet-up. Our puzzle came together – all because of a week at Bible camp, a shared passion for encouragement, and a God who wove it all together.

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  1. 1

    I want to thank y’all for making me one piece of the (in)courage puzzle…and thank God for making me a unique piece in life’s greater puzzle. I have developed some wonderful bonds with other writers and dreamers through your website. Sometimes I hate my computer, but on most days I love the fellowship and encouragement that it brings me through women like you. Thank you Anna and my other “cyber sisters” in Christ.
    Blessings,
    Bev

  2. 3

    Beautiful! Yes, so amazing how God brings us together.

  3. 5

    Anna, that’s such a cool story of how God brought you two together when you were younger and then again as adults. I think I remember hearing the two of you speak about it at the (in)RL conference on the video. :)

  4. 7

    It is always neat to see how God validates what He is speaking into and through us! After writing a post on my timeline about God using each of us as ordinary people to do extraordinary things – I received your email and read this entry! Thank you for sharing!

  5. 9

    This line – “Isn’t it lovely how God uses ordinary, simple things to do extraordinary work?” It just tugged at my heart – it truly IS lovely!

    ~Peace,
    LuAnne

  6. 11

    *sigh* Thank you for your elegant words, Anna.

  7. 13

    It was a huge risk for me, the introvert who doesn’t like one-on-one conversations, especially with strangers, to attend the (in)RL group. I took my sister for a little support. Meeting the 3 other women who attended was a wonderful experience; one I will repeat. Jacque Watkins made the day relaxing and homey. Her co-host, Denise Hughes, was quietly encouraging. Through talking with these Godly women and listening to the speakers on the video, I was nudged by God to do more risk-taking with community. Thank you (in)courage, (in)RL,, and especially God who walks with me.

    • 14

      Oh Debbie, I am so glad you took a leap out of your comfort zone and went to (in)RL. I can’t think of a more perfect host to make you feel at home than Jacque. I hope you’ve been able to live out those God-nudgings and take more risks with community building, because scary as it is… it’s always worth it.

  8. 15

    Aww, you’ve got me tearing up! I am so grateful for your encouragement in my life, from camp until now. You have shown me how to love like Jesus, and have helped me to boldly take little steps of faith. It’s such a gift to (in)courage by your side, to be your friend, to watch our babies grow up together! Keep writing, keep encouraging, keep shining His love, sweet friend. :) xoxo

  9. 17

    Each of us hold a piece. Each one matters!

    So true, love how He fits us together and the image on the puzzle – is Him!

    xo,
    Stacey

  10. 19

    I love that! Knowing that God is in the internet and in (in)courage… How amazing that he brought the two of you back together to be able to talk and share how many more pieces of the puzzle He’s put together in your lives. This post just brought a big smile to my heart.

    • 20

      It has been amazing! And such a blessing. And I just adore (in)courage for allowing this space to be inhabited by Him.

      So, so happy that my words made you smile. THAT makes ME smile big!! =)

  11. 21

    I love how you say we are pieces of a puzzle and when we are missing, eyes are drawn to the empty space. That is beautiful, Anna! Thank you for giving such wonderful encouragement today. I stand with you and these other women (sisters) In Courage!

  12. 22
    Karen Thompson says:

    I do not have children and I don’t have a job, but I do love Jesus and reading about other women’s lives through (in)courage, gives me hope that as single lady of 47, that my difficulties as person with a disability makes me not so different and that having Jesus on my side, makes me part of the puzzle, even if (in)courage is not for me, it still incourages me to keep going. To be able to join in with people I may never meet, but who are connected to me as part of the picture that is the body.

    • 23

      Oh, Karen, you are most certainly an important part of the incourage puzzle, and of God’s story! The group Anna is talking about is one of many community groups that incourage hosts, including a couple for people with chronic illnesses. Much love to you!

  13. 24

    What a delightful story to highlight the glorious puzzle God is putting together. Every now and then he gives us a glimpse of how the pieces fit perfectly, as he did for you, and your friend. Thank you for reminding us that each piece is important. And to your statement about God living on the internet, I say a loud “Amen!” The wealth of information and encouragement available is amazing. Thank you, Anna, for yours today.

  14. 25
    Beth Williams says:

    Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this In Courage group. Through this group I realize that my problems are not all that bad and that others out there are much worse off than me.

    Thank you for allowing me to encourage other women & pray for them. I love being part of this puzzle!

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