Last week, we discussed the first two steps of creating community. The first step mentioned was to ask yourself what needs you have, both perceived and real needs. The second step was to acknowledge what season you are in.
1. The Third Step: SO, THE NEXT THING IS, “WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR HAND???
“Seek out what you need but give what you can. The next phase of this conversation is to concentrate on what you CAN offer. There will be seasons like I mentioned above when you have extreme need. Yes, you will need to seek out assistance or friendship for yourself at times. But remember the best friend who took all my children for a few days? What if YOU can be that best friend?
There are things you CAN do in the season you are in. Even if you feel stuck at home, even if you are homebound, even if you are nursing, even if you are homeschooling, even if you are working…even if you expect others to offer you community, you can be intentional about doing your part to create community. Susan Miller, again, says, “It begins with you!”
Could you send a real note in the mail to that new gal you met who needs a lift? Write a note, and actually sign it, post a stamp, and send it out during naptime. What if you are baking cookies, and you decide that you have 6 extra cookies to spare to offer that new neighbor next door on a paper plate? What are you already doing in your day that you could offer to another? If you are already making dinner, double the recipe and stick one in the freezer so you can give it away. The next time someone has a death in the family, or a baby is born, food will be ready. You won’t necessarily have time to bake each time you hear about something, but the freezer is wonderful.
Keep something homemade or store-bought there all the time. ALL THE TIME. It is the best and easiest gift to give when you find the right moment. And the most fun moment is when a friend drops by unannounced and all you need to do is put the plate of frozen cookies in the microwave on defrost and heat up some water for tea. And this is an easy one – when you are at the grocery store, call that new friend and ask if you can pick up something for them while you are out. Amazing!
What if you don’t bake? Do you draw? Write beautifully? Sew? Paint? One of my most precious gifts from a friend was a hand painted watercolor bookmark. I think of her every time I read the book it’s in. It cost her time, but not much money – but I love it because it connects me to her heart and our friendship.
What about the real telephone? When you are nursing, pick up the phone and actually call that old neighbor you miss a few states over. The one who cried when you said goodbye? The best friend who was really hard to leave?
Taking moments to offer friendship and connection in these simple moments doesn’t have to take long, either. It might be that you only have 5 minutes. Well, you know what? I say so! Tell them when they first pick up that you only have 5 minutes. Catch them up for 2, and then ask them to take 2 to share about their life, and make sure lastly to have a plan to connect again soon.
One important side note here:
Friends from other seasons of life can still offer you community NOW. If you are having trouble finding that deepest, heartfelt friend here in town, or now during COVID, call up one who knows your heart. Be real. Be transparent. Share the trials or the joys.
Daily community doesn’t have to be someone present in your living room. It can be a simple connection with someone across any number of miles. My dearest and best friends, two of them, are from college and from Louisiana. I never thought I would still have long conversations and encouragement and wise advice from someone I only see every couple of years. But I INVEST in those relationships, because I can TRUST them.
I make myself take time to ask how they are doing…to listen to them for a while. And they, in turn, call me once in a while and really listen.
So, consider what you have in your hand. Sometimes you have little to no energy but give what is in you. As a military wife alone in Texas, after that first miscarriage, I had a little two-year old son who loved the old couple next door – Joe and Ines. They lived about 30 feet down the sidewalk in the next rancher over. What I had in my hand was grief, but also a delightful son – and they loved him with a passion. Sometimes, I would stand at my front door, tell Alex to go down the sidewalk and to knock on their door. Then Joe would open the door, say, “COME IN THIS HOUSE,” and he would bring delight and smiles to their hearts for a few minutes.
The tips I’ve shared are simple, practical tips for offering community, creating friendships, being a friend. I’d like to highly recommend the book I referenced earlier – Susan Miller’s book called After the Boxes are Unpacked. She makes a list at the end of every chapter called “Unpack your Survival Box.” Tips that I suggest you try are in her book and include the following:
Let me tell you one final story. I was in a summer volunteer job in Dallas, Texas, at the Summer Institute of Linguistics. I was living far away from home in Virginia, but I found out my younger brother was flying through DFW airport on his way to a summer internship in Mexico. An adult student at the center offered to take me to the airport terminal to say a quick hi to my brother on his layover. I tried to pay her $10 for gas, but she wouldn’t hear of it. She said, “I felt like God said I’m supposed to take you to the airport, so don’t take away my opportunity to be a blessing to you.”
Did it occur to you that in some seasons, others are just waiting to be a blessing to you? And in other seasons, maybe one just around the corner, you are going to be able to be a huge blessing to someone else? Look for ways to ask for help, and then look for ways to be a help. Look for ways to be a friend, and then also look for ways to allow someone to be a friend to you.
Lots of us at PCC have found that by being in a regular, weekly community called Home Group allows us to do life together. Once in a while, we hear of a need someone has, and another in the group has the means to meet it. Another time, we might share a need and be shocked by how the whole group steps up to serve us.
Last September I listened to a new podcast by a friend of mine, Stephanie Pletka. It was on the topic of “What is Life without Community?” Her guest said, “Don’t give up, if you are waiting for a friend. And while you are looking, create a warm and peaceful environment.” You will be ready when the opportunity comes. She also added something I mentioned earlier, “Have friends in multiple stages of life,
Be intentional about finding your tribe, love them, and be loved. The investment is worth it.
You are in a particular season of your journey through life. What you do and how you do it matters. A t-shirt I bought while hiking the Grand Canyon in college says, “The journey is the reward.” This journey is lifelong. Don’t forget that where you are right now is not where you will be forever. Each part of life, each season you are in, is temporary. The two points to remember are these:
Accept the season are you in.
Seek out what you need but give what you can.
What can you do right now to create a small bit of community in your own sphere? As Elisabeth Elliott often quoted, “Do the next thing.” Take steps today to implement some of the things you have learned today to create community and enjoy the reward – the journey itself is the reward.
Susan Miller: After the Boxes are Unpacked, Just Moved Ministry, blog, and podcast “Hope for the Uprooted Woman”
Sally Clarkson: The Mission of Motherhood, The Life-Giving Parent, and her new book, Help, I’m Drowning, Sally Clarkson has a “Home with Sally” podcast, a blog, and many other resources
Stephanie Pletka: Living Your Best Life: Letting Go of Self-Doubt, Fear, and Other’s Expectations to Live the Life You’ve Always Dreamed, “Mother Mindset” podcast
Connie Albers: Parenting Beyond the Rules, blog, “Equipped to Be” podcast, Parenting Teens, and Mom Mentoring
Here you can read perspectives on life, ministry and God's Word from a variety of PCC's female leaders.