A week ago, I returned home from a weekend getaway unlike any other. I’ve been slow to write and share because it was one of those experiences where words fail for what the heart feels. While I still can’t fully articulate it, the weekend deserves words.
In January 2020, I joined a writing group of five other women from four different states. The goal was to share and support one another in our writing endeavors. I only knew two of the ladies from other writing groups, and the other three women were strangers.
But not for long.
We formed our group using the Voxer app, leaving messages for one another and sending short texts. And while each woman has helped me in my writing, their friendship has filled my soul, fueling my faith in unexpected ways.
I’m quite surprised that a group solely reliant on a relationship through a phone app has grown so deep so quickly. My dearest friendships are those that I’ve carried through years of ups and downs with women who know many pages of my story because they’ve walked with me as the pages turn.
Yet the five women in my writing group I’ve known for only 21 months. In just shy of two years, God graciously gave me these new relationships — a blessing I didn’t know I needed.
My deepest friendships directly correlate with deep conversation, those that dive beyond the surface and get to the heart of things. Usually, this happens over long lunches, late-night chats, and occasional phone calls. So when I joined the Voxer group with women from across the country, there was no way I could anticipate the type of connection I’d feel with conversation limited to voice messages (and not lingering over lunch).
But connect, we did.
And I shake my head at the wonder and beauty of a personal God who formed us for relationships, not only with him—but also with others who help us know him more.
Beginning our group just a few months before a worldwide pandemic most likely helped us go deeper relatively quickly. We were social distancing and separated from our typical communities. Perhaps God knew our hearts needed to be heard because of the seclusion we felt during a very disorienting season.
Part of my hesitation in sharing about this blessing of unexpected friendship is that I want others to experience it, but I can’t duplicate it. I wish I could give you a formula or hand you a five-step guide or bottle up this loving community to share with you.
But I can’t.
Because as the ways of God often are, the process is a mystery.
Depth of friendship relies on the courage of each heart to be vulnerable.
My circle of five friends journeyed with me through the book publishing process. They heard my frustrations and my joys. And they “got it” because they are writers; they know the lingo.
Yet, our community is so much more than sharing the ins and out of blogging and social media and publishing conundrums. We process life together. We share struggles with authenticity. And because we all follow Jesus, how we listen and encourage one another flows from a desire to point each other to him. We remind one another of Biblical truth. We offer advice in humility, knowing our ways may not be God’s ways. And we pray for each other.
It’s no small thing to share a struggle and hear my friend in Minnesota remind me of a promise in scripture while my friend in San Antonio claims the character of God in the moment.
It’s no small thing to admit frustration and receive empathy from my friend in South Carolina, gentle encouragement from my friend in Indiana, and a heart-felt prayer from my fellow Texas friend.
It’s no small thing to share exciting wins and have your own little tribe cheering you on with wild and sincere applause.
It’s no small thing to be trusted with the words, emotions, and struggles of a friend and pray for her.
It’s no small thing, this gift of friendship.
So it was a huge thing for the six of us to meet in person!
A week before we gathered, sickness attacked two households, threatening our travel. Kristina reminded us that our enemy didn’t want us to meet. Instead, he wanted us to give in to the fears of what-ifs and be defeated by dizzying logistical details.
So we prayed. We asked God to protect and heal each family and make a way for us to arrive in South Carolina for our weekend together.
Thankfully, we all made it there.
When Rebekah pulled up outside the airport to pick me up, my soul sighed with relief.
I am here, I thought.
I put my suitcase in her trunk and climbed into the back seat.
With Sarah beside me and Kristina riding shotgun and Rebekah driving. Here. In-person, soaking up the presence of my real-life friends for the first time.
We ate lunch on the front porch, sharing quirky stories as if we’d done this a thousand times.
Jill arrived later, the Uber dropping her off as we were finishing our meal. We hugged, laughing at how tall she was (Voxer doesn’t transfer height).
More stories, more laughs, more soul exhales.
Then Cassie arrived, smiling, of course, even though her travel day was the longest (you can hear that smile in her voice messages, too).
I’m thankful for Voxer and how it connected us, but nothing compared to being all together, in person. I soaked up each expression. I loved watching the light in their eyes. I delighted in seeing their whole selves chatting right in front of me around the kitchen island.
Goodness, they are beautiful. I love their voices, of course, but these five ladies radiate the beauty of a transformed heart, each in her lovely unique way.
Rebekah cooked, and that’s an understatement. She prepared our meal like an artist paints a watercolor—brushstrokes of spices and splashes of sliced vegetables anchored with roasted meat. I smiled in awe as I watched my friend in her element—creating in the kitchen, and nourishing our souls with food, hospitality, and space for conversation. What a gift.
We gathered around tables all weekend.
The kitchen island. The dining table. The patio table. The ice cream parlor table. The restaurant table.
The conversation was rich, filling the deep parts of my soul.
The whispers through tears.
Truth gently spoken.
Our weekend together was sacred.
I don’t use the word sacred flippantly. But as I’ve tried to articulate the depth and joy of our getaway, it’s the only word that comes close to describing our time together.
Sacred, not only because the six of us love Jesus, but because around those tables, finally face-to-face, we all felt a sort of reverence for the moment. As if something special was taking place in real-time.
And it was.
The good work of Jesus was happening. Of course, it’d been happening for 21 months prior, too, but when you’ve waited and planned and invested and made time for a weekend away with friends you’ve never met in person, the whole thing has an aura of holy anticipation because you can see God’s grace handing it to you.
It was sacred.
And I just had to write it down.
Record the moment.
Remember the emotion.
Re-tell the memory.
Because our enemy does all he can to keep us from the table of community.
He distracts us from the delight of knowing and being known.
He fights against the forming and deepening of faith-filled friendships.
And he wants to keep us from gathering together.
Because he knows that time around the table is sacred.
Keep gathering, friends. I’m here to tell you it’s worth it.
Rebekah, Sarah, Kristina, Jill, and Cassie: thank you for welcoming me into your hearts and loving me well. I’m so grateful for the unexpected blessing of your friendship.
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