While we don’t have plans to do a formal (in)RL gathering this year, God has put it on our hearts to continue to encourage and equip women to gather in real life throughout the year — not just one weekend.
Since the last weekend in April holds a special place in our hearts, we want to launch our first “Girlfriend Gathering” Saturday, April 25th. We’ll spend each Wednesday in April sharing our own “friendship on purpose” stories, with topics to inspire you as you gather with your own friends. Then, on April 25th, get together with the women God puts on your heart for a few hours of fun and fellowship!
Each Wednesday we’ll include a challenge, invitation, or resource to help you as you plan, but there will be no set agenda, theme, or to-do list for the Girlfriend Gathering.
It’s as simple as this: Invite your girlfriends to gather. Plan as much or as little as God has put on your heart. Let’s do some (in)RL community together, yeah?
I scanned the familiar room looking for someone with whom I could converse. While I’d been with the good folks in the room before, I was still new enough I didn’t yet know everyone. As my eyes swept from one end of the room to the other, I noticed everyone huddled in pairs or trios, talking intently with one another. So I plopped down in the seat nearest me and placed my purse beside my chair.
I scanned again, looking for a comfortable break in a cluster where I could easily and nonchalantly saunter in and say hello. Coming up empty, I wrung my hands, one over the other, like I was washing them without soap and water.
Like I’m trying to wash out that nervous feeling creeping up in my soul.
After some time, no conversation appeared approachable, so I became overly invested in the contents of my purse. Every whipstitch, I glanced up to see if I could make eye contact with anyone, but I couldn’t.
I’ve been here before — more than once.
Most times I handle being a wallflower just fine, but this time it got to me. So, I stood up and walked calmly but purposely out of the meeting room to the bathroom. I darted into a stall and slammed the door. And because I’m particularly lady-like, I proceeded to kick the door. Twice.
Crossing my arms and breathing heavily, I looked toward heaven and said, “Why can’t I just enjoy myself here and not feel like the loser at the party?”
I cried like a woman who was heart-weary from the work that getting to know people entails.
Here’s the thing about me, dearies. I’m not afraid to talk to people I don’t know. I’m comfortable “making the first move” and starting a conversation with someone. I’m pretty adept at asking questions and breezing over small talk easily but not awkwardly. I like meeting people and getting to know new friends better .
But in spite of all this, sometimes I still find myself alone in a crowd, and I can’t help but think it would be lovely — really lovely — if I didn’t have to make the first move. It would be fresh air fabulous if just one person would do the work of seeking me out first so connecting could feel less chore-like and more party-like.
And this has me thinking: If it’s not hard for me to do all the “right” things yet still struggle with insecurity around women, how often do others — especially those who find approaching people and striking up a conversation with them difficult — feel the same way?
There’s just no way to get around it: Making friends is hard. It takes purpose and effort — it takes work.
There’s also no way to get around this: It’s always worth it to get up, dust yourself off, and keep working at it.
So I closed my eyes and breathed deeply enough to raise my shoulders and my confidence. And then I swung open that stall door, washed my hands, and marched my size 10 cowboy boots out of the bathroom.
Because the only way to stay open to friendship is to let the door of your heart stay open.
So stay open I do. Sometimes this works out not so well.
But much more often, this works out more beautifully than I could have imagined.
As a longtime military wife, I have waved goodbye to dear friends and waved hello to new ones more times than I can count. If there was a formula to make connecting less work, I’d know it, maybe even pay money to cup it in my hands.
There isn’t a formula to make connecting easier, but there is hope — the warm smiling, arm-embracing kind of hope. If Jesus walked the sandy, gritty paths of this world with people, then it’s His desire for us to do the same. You, sweet sister, are not the exception to the rule. Neither am I.
So I calmly but deliberately walk over to a duo in the meeting room, sit myself down beside them and say, “How’s your morning going, ladies?”
They answered with kind eyes and inviting conversation, no furrowed brows or who invited you? stares. So I tossed my expectations over my shoulder and instead offered them the opportunity to take my hand of friendship.
That’s all we can do, really. Offer friendship, not demand it. If they receive it, great. But if not? Well, then. We will keep our hearts open still.
I’d love to know: Have you ever found yourself in a situation similar to mine?
How do you do the work to purposefully move toward making connections and friendships?
Kristen Strong, your friend at Chasing Blue Skies
Community Challenge: Be brave! Remind your girls about your fun plans on Saturday. Follow through and get together for laughter and fellowship – and be sure to tag us on social media (we’re @incourage on Twitter and Instagram!) with your photos so we can see!
For more Girlfriend Gathering resources, including recipes, the other posts in this series & videos to watch together, head here!