Monday, January 13, 2014

You Have A Story

Hanging upside-down from the monkey bars, on that old country school playground, we were instant friends. Dark curly hair, framed her cherub round face and deep brown eyes. We played without inhibition, skipping as we held hands, just like little girls do.  She invited me over to play. Her home was small, crowded and very different from my own home. Her mom tried hard to make me feel like the honored guest, even serving homemade chocolate shakes in small glasses. It was a treat for everyone seated at the long table.  My parents never let me go to her home again. There were whispers of neglect and abuse. It would be a decade or more before I would even think about what that might have meant for her. So my very first friend slipped away and no one seemed to know what ever became of her or the family.

There were others in those early years. Like Kelly who liked everyone, tea parties in the grove of trees with Mary, easy going, kind-hearted Pat, who arrived and left in the same school year. Just as Anne of Green Gables longed for that bosom buddy, I dreamed of having just one little girlfriend, with whom we could connect our kindred-spirits, as we skipped down the path which led to our families wooded acreage, complete with wildflowers, makeshift forts and cold sparking stream that bubbled up from the ground near our property line. Just one dear friend with whom I could share mutual admiration and intimate language of our hearts.

Mostly that was a fantasy and there were few golden threads of girl-friendships woven into the fabric of my growing up years.

Like so many women I meet, what was the normal experience, were the exclusive cliques, mean girls and betrayal. Even in Christian circles, there are those who like to look down on others as, "less-than" and view others as, "more spiritual."

In the first three decades of life, I secretly longed for the strength, comfort and encouragement that seemed to come to women who had close friendships, yet I lived as though I didn't need them.

I believed the lie, that I wasn't good enough.

It was in the throes of raising two little girls, widowed, desperate for what was real and lasting, I began my walk with Jesus. God then began to unfold His beautiful gift of women and the power of friendships in my life.

Surprisingly, a woman with my history of  few deep friendships, in a season when my heart was the most wounded, this is when I was graced with women, who helped me in the process of rebuilding my life and stitching my wounded heart back to health. 
First and foremost there was my mom and sister who walked with me on the darkest of all days. 

Unexpectedly there was the tenderhearted, beautiful Shelley and Shelly who did one thousand selfless acts of love, helping me with my young daughters, encouraging me on average days, crying with me on hard days and accepting me on all days. There was Holly who had some kind of radar, of when I was awake in the darkness of night and in the dark night of my soul.

The Lord used these women to begin to teach me what it meant to be a real friend and cultivate deep meaningful relationships. They gave me pieces of themselves when I had nothing to give them in return.

As the years have passed Jesus has given me eyes to see past the faces of women, to peer into their hearts, to see them as He sees them.

The Lord has allowed me the privilege of walking along side of many women, as together we have plumbed the depths of heart and soul issues, discovering what it means to really love. Together we have traversed sickness, health, wayward children, death, divorce, doubt, and deep blessings. 

We have discovered each other’s beauty, that our lives have deep meaning, and that everyone has a story. And we've dared to believe  the Word of God, when it says that He has no favorites and that He is wild about how He knit you together. 

We have embraced the reality of how every single story is beautiful and important.

Dee Brestin in her two decade old, classic book, The Friendships of Women, talks about how “we are not looking to find our strength in women, but as women we can strengthen each other in our relationship with Christ.”

Indeed. When we try to maintain relationships, where we are looking for our strength in others, it will sap the very life out of us. When we connect to strengthen each others, in our walk with Christ, it is life giving and beyond anything we could have hoped for.

Since I have come to know Christ, the beauty of the sisterhood of women has become a stunning, unexpected, reality in my life.

Women come into my life unexpected nearly every day. Each one brings with them their raw broken places, their beauty, love and quivering faith. They stop me in the vegetable section, call me late at night, send long e-mails and reach across continents to be heard.

Some come for a single visit.

Some for a season. 

Some have stayed friends for decades now.

Often they hear my messy story and step out brave, to tell their own.

They each have a story.

They each need to tell their story, have their story heard and to be honest enough to admit, that everything isn't as good as people think it is.

Together, as women, we find encouragement, comradery and deep comfort in the Great Comforter.  

The little girl who wanted to find just one kindred-spirit skipping through the wild flowers, has been wildly blessed more than I can count or name. Each beautiful woman, like a treasured golden thread weaving a tapestry of splendor, for the display of His Splendor. 

Part of my friendships and connections with women, is being in the (in) community. 

This Wednesday, the 15th, there will be a sign up for (in)rl conference, which will be happening in April. You can join a meet-up. You can host a meet up. You can join me at my meet up.

Friendships are important. 

You are important. 

There are women who need to hear your story. 

We all need to fully live our story for God's glory.

And I want you to know, from the very depths of my soul, today, you are enough and your story is important.

I love you. Jesus loves you the most.

Women friendships are a gift from the Giver of Life.

How are you embracing that truth?

Linking up and thankful!

# 1282 A phone call, from one longtime friend. Loved celebrating with her news!

# 1283 Homemade soup on a cold day

# 1284 Our daughter, home safe. God's grace in her life.

# 1285 Five car loads taken to second hand stores. Fresh freedom.

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© Rhonda Quaney