The Courage to Creative Friendship on Purpose - incourage.me

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?

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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!

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The only way to stay open to friendship is to let the door of your heart stay open too. {Tweet this!}

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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Kristen,
    Having moved around the country a lot, I can relate to your experiences. Just once, I’ve thought, it would be nice if someone approached me and I didn’t have to be the one making the first move. The blessing in being “that girl” is that God has given me compassion and has trained me to scan the room and look for the wallflower – the woman sitting or standing alone. Through my struggles, He’s built in me an inclusive vs exclusive mentality. I keep thinking of Jesus calling the little children, who others overlooked, to come to Him. I would be wise to follow His example and do likewise. Great wakeup reminder Kristen!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • KristenStrong

      “The blessing in being “that girl” is that God has given me compassion and has trained me to scan the room and look for the wallflower – the woman sitting or standing alone.” ~ nodding up and down to this one, Bev. You are a real-deal friend. Much love!

      • http://www.jacquewatkins.com/ Jacque Watkins

        And you do it so well Kristen Strong. This I know. xo

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Kristen, you made me tear up with your opening story. Yes, I’ve been there. My hubby was in the military for the first portion of our marriage, and we moved three times in our first 2 1/2 years together. It was hard. Having dealt with rejection issues for many years, I found it difficult to step out and make new friends. As I’ve grown older—and God’s continued to work in my heart and renew my perspective—I’m learning to be brave and step out. Ultimately, if I want to make friends, I probably am going to be the one who takes the first step, because most women are as nervous as I am about offering that first hello.

    Your post tapped something deep in me today. It’s just beautiful.

    • KristenStrong

      Thank you for your beautiful contribution here, Jeanne. I needed it today. So much love to you!

  • http://crystalstine.me/ Crystal

    I needed your words today, friend. They’re like a little burst of courage covered in grace with a bow of hope on top. xoxo

    • KristenStrong

      Smooooooch.

    • http://www.jacquewatkins.com/ Jacque Watkins

      YES!!

  • awestruck wong

    Thank you Kristen for your encouraging words. It touched and strengthened me to trust God and keep staying open in my heart. I am a foreigner married to an American. In our part of the world, we relate and communicate more freely as we are community minded. In group meetings we share openly our needs and we pray for each other. It is different here. People are more private.
    When I first came to America, I noticed that it is such a beautiful and blessed land but I hardly see anybody outside their home. Besides, I thought people would be very interested in me to want to know about my part of the world and culture, etc. I was shocked and almost fell into depression when I was ignored and no one seems to be interested to be friends at all. We moved as God called us out from my husband’s birth place where he was raised. He shared the same sentiment even as an American and he is much more outgoing and friendly. We moved again to be close by our son. We are still struggling but have breakthroughs, thank God. However, there is still quite a journey to go. The golden nugget I received through these experiences is a stronger dependence on God, a deeper intimacy, allowing His love to break open my heart and let Him love through me.
    Shalom

    • KristenStrong

      Awestruck, I have heard this before from other folks who are new to America. I wish it wasn’t that way, but alas it is. I’m praying for you as you journey forward. May new friends enter your life who build you up and love you in powerful, beautiful ways. Thank you so, so much for sharing a bit of your story here. I am so thankful. Shalom.

      • awestruck wong

        Hi Kristen,

        What a nice surprise to hear from you. Thank you very much for your encouragement.

        Yes, I believe that this will help me empathize with those going through what I am adjusting to myself. I will be praying for those going through similar adjustments and perhaps one day write a book or start a blog to encourage those like me to not bow down to circumstances but rather surrender to Jesus and remain hopeful.

        shalom

  • Crystal P

    Yes! I was there 2 years ago when we moved to Michigan, I left church in tears more times than I can count just desperate to meet anyone. But I didn’t give up and made tons of wonderful friendships, of course this was just in time for a death in the family to cause us to move across country again. So I’m there again. Trying churches, praying we fit somewhere, feeling like I fit nowhere. Trying another one Sunday I truly believe God led me to this week, praying He just was waiting to lead us to the right place at the right time!

    • Nancy Ruegg

      Your words gave me comfort, Crystal, because we, too, are new to our community, trying churches, praying we fit somewhere, feeling a bit “in limbo.” With you, we wait for the right place at the right time, knowing that God does have a plan. I’m so glad I noticed your comment here, “Friend!”

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you for your encouragement, Kristen. I’ve got my eye on a potential new friend, and you’ve given me the little push I needed: “Offer friendship. If they receive it, great. If not, we will keep our hearts open still.” If someone doesn’t show interest, there is no cause to take the “rejection” personally. Their friendship circle may just be complete right now. I’m hoping to see that potential friend tonight, and begin with an invitation for coffee!

    • KristenStrong

      Nancy, thank you thank you for this comment. I love the visual of the friendship circle and the way it reminds us to not see the disinterest as rejection. Sometimes God just has a different circle in mind for us. Really, really beautiful. So thankful for you!

      • Nancy Ruegg

        Well, you’re welcome and thank YOU again, Kristen!

  • http://www.jacquewatkins.com/ Jacque Watkins

    Oh my, you sweet thing, in that stall kickin’ through tears with your boots on! I can so relate…that nervous I-want-to-belong-yet-don’t-want-to-seem-creepy-desperate feeling. So. Hard. And although I don’t mind reaching out to others either, I’ve so been there too. Because risking our hearts is so hard, especially with people we value so much. Because what we’re really worried about deep inside is not being loved like we long for–not being seen or known or valued–not connecting. I have personally been the recipient of your generous pursuing love, reaching out beyond yourself, and it was all kinds of lovely, and you were an oasis of friendship to me, and your courage and authenticity give me courage too, to do the same. And you’re right, it is no nice to be pursued and invited. Thank you so much for your words here. They are a great encouragement to me today and wishing I could meet you for tea! Sending so much love…xo

  • polly

    so true, I find that people shut themselves off from friendships where I am too, either they are too busy making money or busy with their families and don’t want to add another expectation to their daily routines of being a friend. its easier to close off and just have 1 best friend is what I see in my area, sadly its hard to make new friends and I think god calls us to draw closer to him in that time and really find out who he is, its a great journey to seek out god more even if we are frustrated and want another girl pal to do our nails with and chat with.

  • Leslie Benson

    I can so relate to your words! I attended an event last night at our new church. After a long day I was tired, worn out and just not up to “pushing” myself into a room full of barely acquaintances. I did however make a conscience decision to plant a smile on my face and “push” anyway. The evening that could have ended in a pity party was okay and sometimes okay is good enough.

    • KristenStrong

      Sometimes okay is good enough ~ yes and amen. A standing ovation to you, Leslie, for keeping your heart open and pushing through anyway. May we all be as brave!

  • Joanne Peterson

    Kristen,

    I’m in that phase now with my dearest friends moving out of state, retiring, and able to travel. I’m liking the young moms, but not feeling like I fit in with the young moms being a grandmother myself and raising kids again. The way things are being done with children, and friends, swapping each other’s kids, etc. isn’t the same as when I was raising my first round of children. So, I’m feeling lost right now, not entirely sure where my place is.

    Even though I’ve raised kids, things truly are different now, with more moms working outside the home, school procedures different, so much volunteer time expected for school and different faces each time, even so much done through social media now instead of face to face or phone voice to phone voice, I am finding myself in your place now. I’m sure I will adjust, but right now really is a stretch.

    Blessings,

    Joanne

  • Dancer Mommy

    Hi everybody, I’m merely out of high school a year, engaged, and with our 6 month old, and I have such wonderful friends who have been such an amazing help during my pregnancy (even more emotional support than my family), but since my little one has been born I’ve really gotten out of contact with many of them, but still hold close to a few. Its a struggle with many of my friends starting college so its difficult to see them, and lately I’ve been missing having my large social group of friends and my besties. I know I’m starting new in my life and I’m excited to make new friends, and I know in the Lords timing I will be led to others, but for now I’m just enjoying the quiet days as a mommy, taking care of my family and teaching about our Heavenly Father in the everyday, and truly living in gentleness, for that is written in my plan for me right now. I have hope for a future bountifully full of friends. <3

  • Deena Marie

    I felt your description all through your post. I’ve had a few of those “potty pitty parties”slammed a few doors and cried my eyes out. My children say I make friends with a post in the lane, but honestly, the causal conversation in the grocery line is esay. It is the one on one investing in people that is hard. I spent 15 years in a church that I could not Crack the code to girl-friendship. Only a small chuch, but nobody wanted to invest in me. Employ me yes, be my friend no. Now only two ever even send a “howdy”, and they are house bounds that miss my visits. I am blessed with a new ministry in a different church and after so many dry years God has given me two friends. One is younger, but already going to be a Grandma in December. She shared last week, God brought me to “now” for her. The other, I have been holding the hand of through cancer treatment, miracle and now 6 months cancer free! When she cried, because God didn’t let her go to heaven yet,I cried thanks that HE didn’t take her home yet. Each day I ask that the words if my mouth, the thoughts of my heart be pleasing in YOUR sights, my strength and my Redeemer.

  • http://jumbledupjoy.blogspot.com Joy Nicholas

    I’ve been meaning to comment for days now, but it’s been a crazy week. This just totally resonated with me. I’m a fellow military wife and also grew up moving frequently, and, especially after my last move, I was just so done with trying to make new friends. I felt exactly as you say here, “I can’t help but think it would be lovely — really lovely — if I didn’t have to make the first move.” Okay, I still feel like that most of the time. But I mean, I was just so sapped of the effort it takes. I finally just had to accept that I had to go out there, putting one foot in front of the other, knowing only a little of what I sowed as a friend would be harvested. Still, the more I did it, the more I felt like doing it — by the grace of God. I learned the truth of “The only way to stay open to friendship is to let the door of your heart stay open too.” Yes! Love that! Thank you!

  • Beth Williams

    I am the introverted wallflower. I don’t do small talk well. Once I get to know you I will talk up a storm! In our small church I try to seek out the “newbies” welcome them as I once was. They need to feel like they matter & are cared about! God has been gracious to give me a few really close good friends with whom I share life!
    Blessings :)