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Maybe it’s the little girl in me or my Southern roots, but I love a good gathering. Any time of year for whatever reason. The planning with anticipation, the palpable buzz in the air, and the sounds of conversation. There’s just something special about people coming together, especially when we invite the Guest of Honor.

Settle in for a moment and let me share something with you

Years ago, I found myself in a place where I avoided gathering with other people. I wore the shame of bad choices and my hurting spirit around so blatantly that I was sure it was all others could see when they looked at me. So I hid. I stayed away, avoiding family and friends – something that is very much out of my character.

In the way He always does, the Lord gently led me to a place where I felt safe and accepted. That first session of (in)courager Community Groups was huge for me. Earth-shattering huge. Life-changing huge. It was virtually walking into a room of women whose stories and feelings were similar enough to mine that I felt understood for the first time in a long time. That “me, too” moment changes everything.

You’ve been hurt?
Me, too.

You’ve let your pain set in like a fog and you’re finding it hard to see past it?
Me, too.

You want desperately to be known, yet find yourself terrified of being seen?
Me, too.

The Bible tells a story of community in Nehemiah 8. It goes something like this…

The people of Israel were settling into their towns and they came together to hear a reading of the Book of Revelation of Moses. As Ezra read from the book, the people worshipped and wept together. With hands raised to the heavens and on their knees with faces on the ground, this community was in awe of the Lord and the things He had done. At some point, Nehemiah steps up and tells them, “This day is holy to God, your God. Don’t weep and carry on… Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of the Lord is your strength!” {The story can be found in Nehemiah 8:1-10.}

At the core of our being, we need each other & long for togetherness. The Lord shows us throughout His Word that He created us one for another. And when we come together with people who know our pain and share our longing for Jesus, it’s an emotional experience. There is so much release and comfort in the “me, too.”

God calls His people to prepare and share with those who don’t have – in tangible as well as immaterial ways. One thing each of us have is a story. Each one different and, yet, in many ways the same. Maybe you have the strength to share your story; and, in doing so, give someone else the strength to open themselves up to community again.

The most beautiful thing is that, in seeking opportunities to bless and encourage another, the Lord will bless you in ways you can’t imagine. He will fill your heart with a joy that is indefinable. And that feeling, that delight will be your source of power to persevere and keep on keeping on when the hard days find you. The joy of the Lord is our strength!

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  • http://stonetoheart.com Tonya Salomons

    Jessica!! I love this!! That passage from Nehemiah is my favourite… so much of God’s redemption is captured in that book… thank you for this!

    • http://jessicaleejourney.wordpress.com/ Jessica

      Thanks, Tonya! I appreciate you taking the time to leave me some comment love. Having a post on your favorite site can be a tad bit intimidating! xoxo

  • http://3dlessons4life.com Lyli @3-D Lessons for Life

    Jessica, thanks for sharing your story with us. “Me, too,” my sister. Me, too. xoxo

  • http://www.graceinprocess JoniG.

    Thank you for this post, the encouragement. I so needed it this morning.

  • http://www.justfollowingjesus.com Elizabeth Stewart

    Beautiful post, Jessica! Having sisters in Christ is a very wonderful, stretching and needed thing.

  • Rebecca

    where do I need hope the most? hmmmm….. I need to have hope and believe and trust that God does have a husband for me. The hope for change!
    Wonder why it is so challenging? I know He spoke and said , “I have a husband” . I can relate to Abraham and Sarah , they didn’t like the wait either and thought they should help God out! I don’t want to wait, I’ve been waiting some 25 years now. When it seems impossible, with Him, all things are possible. I know He can and does just change things.

  • Lyn

    The understanding that I am not alone in my struggles is the greatest comfort. I have lived with depression for many years- drifting in and out of my life. But The Lord has never given up on me(even when others in my life did) and has worked to put me in a much healthier situation so that I could experience joy and love. This has meant HUGE changes- some unexpected, but all meant to help me grow closer to God. My depression has dimished; my heart is healing and life is full of new possibilities. I am now surrounded by people who love me. With the strength of The Lord, I’ve regained personal strength and emptional stability. I can’t wait to see what God has planned for me next! I know that the joy of The Lord is indeed our strength!

  • http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com Kristin Taylor

    Ah, yes, two simple words that hold so much power. Me too. Me too. So thankful God restored your perspective of community and has loved you through that. I love seeing your words here today, Jessica!

  • K.O.

    “You want desperately to be known, yet find yourself terrified of being seen?
    Me, too.” I can relate….Thank you for sharing your words and your story. I’m going back to read that story in Nehemiah!

  • http://www.healingforheartbreak.com Pamela DeNeuve

    I had always felt alone even in a crowd of people. I feel like I was born lonely and, born to feel lonely. Because of my upbringing, I felt alone most of the time. I didn’t feel like I belonged in my family and I certainly didn’t below to any of the groups at school.

    My next stage was seeking anyone and everyone to be part of a group. I would make many sacrifices in order to be identified with specific groups. Then I realized that even with the group I still felt alone.

    I realized that my loneliness had nothing to do at all with my circumstances. I had not learned how to love myself and love being alone with me. This was a hard thing to admit to myself.

    My task was to learn how to love me and love being in my own company. It was one of the most difficult things I had ever done. But I can say that I am my own best friend. I can easily go and be with my friends or communities of which I have many. I am made to be with and round people but today I do NOT have to be with people. I can just as easily be alone.

  • http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com Marty

    This is beautiful and so perfect for where I am in life right now. Thank you so much for sharing your heart in this post. :)

  • http://www.hollybarrett.org Holly Barrett

    I love a good gathering, too! In fact it’s one way I can check in with myself and know there are things in my life I am hiding if I’m avoiding gathering with my people. Yes we all need a safe place…and we all need to be that safe place for one another. Great post, Jessica.

    • http://jessicaleejourney.wordpress.com/ Jessica

      Thank you, Holly!

  • http://sallyswords.braveblog.com Sally Ferguson

    There are so many who hide behind their pain. We isolate ourselves when we’re hurting. But we need each other and the healing that comes from being together!

  • http://www.blessedbutstressed.com Anita Ojeda

    I often forget that joy can be found in community–it’s rough being an introvert ;). But what you say is true–we must be in community in order to find others to minister to. Thank you for the reminder!

  • http://www.the315project.com Todd Miechiels

    Jessica,

    Just discovered Incourage.me today and am so happy to know there is a community like this!

    We have a ministry at http://www.the315project.com/stories that helps people through the process of knowing and sharing their story. You’ve got so many courageous women on this site! Hope we can connect up and encourage and lift each other up!

    Peace and love,
    Todd