Community

Community

I’ve been asking myself if something is wrong with me at least once a week for a while now. It’s not out of a pity or a reverse way of puffing myself up—it’s a legitimate question I ask. It’s not necessarily a healthy way to approach things…it’s actually a little cynical and self-degrading for my taste. But it seems to be a natural question these days. Why? Community is hard. Really hard. I think over the last ten years, I’ve always thought the next stage of life would be easier with friends. In high school, college would be easier simply because there would be MORE girls….my senior class had EIGHT girls, counting myself. College happened, and while I met a couple of lifelong friends there, I remember talking with my roommate about how we would have made more friends if we had joined a sorority and how great the next stage of life would be because we would be married and have couple friends. Now, weekends with her (& our husbands & kids) are coveted—we talk about them, looking forward to them for weeks, planning potential meals to make and activities to cram in our short window of time.

That's all 8 of us senior girls when our bus broke down way early in the morning. I obviously won the pajama award.

That’s all 8 of us senior girls when our bus broke down way early in the morning. I obviously won the pajama award.

That time I thought my freshman roommates forgot about my birthday & walked into THIS. #MeanGirlsinthebackground

That time I thought my freshman roommates forgot about my birthday & walked into THIS.         #MeanGirlsinthebackground

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I’d move back into our cute little college house in a hot second.

Yes. We dressed up as different decades & then went to the movies. #AbileneFun

Yes. We dressed up as different decades & then went to the movies. #AbileneFun

....Or that time we all bought outfits at Goodwill and invited others to do the same for a dinner party.

….Or that time we all bought outfits at Goodwill and invited others to do the same for a dinner party.

Blake & I got married, but couple friends did not fall out of the clear, blue sky like I apparently thought would happen. Our community was our work environments, and thankfully we both had great ones, but nobody was in the same stage of life as us. Church was hard. It was really hard to meet people that way. For the first time, it became a strong, valid question of choosing a church for what we would be fed spiritually versus what we would be fed community-wise. We wanted both, but it just didn’t seem to be there for us.

That dream when we walked through mountains in Colorado in June...& there was snow.

That dream when we walked through mountains in Colorado in June…& there was snow.

Then a lot of change happened all at once. We got pregnant, Blake changed jobs, and we moved, so I left my job, too. We were starting completely over with a baby on the way. We knew if we wanted community, we had to move fast. We visited churches and fell in love with the church we’re still at immediately. They don’t have Sunday school (is that term even used anymore?), but we joined a community group nearly right away. I was just shy of being 7 months pregnant. While having community group is great and important, it’s hard when the group is small while also being your primary outlet. We don’t go to the same service as anyone in our group, so it’s very normal to only talk with the nursery workers on Sunday mornings. I don’t feel sorry for us because of that—we haven’t been intentional regarding meeting anyone else—community takes being intentional, & church is one area, a pretty big area, where we struggle.

I joined a first time mom’s group in Dallas when Collins was just six weeks old. It was an eight week course that met once a week, but the whole idea was building community, so I jumped at the chance. The hard part was all the girls lives in Dallas…except me. And while a 30-45 minute drive may not seem like much normally, it is a handful as a new mom. So I understood when I tried hosting play dates or cookouts for the whole family a few different times and nobody could come. Or at least I tried to understand. I really thought that if someone else was doing the hosting, I would do my best to be there….because I craved the community. But maybe it was me that was messing things up? Maybe it wasn’t the 30 minute drive or whatever other barrier provided an out….maybe it was me. We can feel so strong one moment….and then something happens, and our confidence comes tumbling down. Even when things were completely out of our control, we question ourselves like we’re on trial. All the while, we’re deeply hoping a truth will appear reminding us of our worth…reminding us we aren’t just big failures. There is a palpable battle happening within us—one side strives to make us feel like trash…the other to make us strong. It may look black and white and so very simple on paper, but in life, it’s real. The battle rages, and we have to cling to Truth. We have to remember who our souls belong to if we are to remain intact.

He longs for us.

“This I know, that God is for me.”  -Psalm 56:9

He pursues us to make us more like Him. That requires work. That requires pursuing Him back.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  -Psalm 51:10

He is our joy. He is our satisfaction.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  -Psalm 16:11

I’ve always been a 2-3 close friends kind of girl. I’ve never been the sociality who had millions of friends and always ran into someone I knew. And I’ve very much been okay with that. But something changed this season of life. For the first time, I didn’t have a single close friend living nearby, and I didn’t have community through my job.

I’ve never (& I mean never) felt like I belong. I’ve never felt normal, never felt like “the other girls.” And I don’t mean in a special Harry Potter way. Nobody has ever passed by me and gleefully referred to me as the chosen one. No, I mean I’ve always felt odd. Growing up, I didn’t like it—I just wanted to fit in. There are still times I don’t like it now—I just want to be liked & better yet, loved. It’s those days that I ask myself what’s wrong with me. But I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the parts of me that are holy….and I strongly believe those are the parts of all of us that make us feel different, like we don’t belong. I think it’s just so unnerving or unattractive to some of us, that we push it away until we recognize ourselves without that best part of us. There are so many parts of me that need work & need holy grace…I’ll discover more tomorrow and more the next day, I promise you. But my heart longs for something that doesn’t always meld well with easy friendship. It longs for growth & light & joy. I think there are more of us that relate with this than we know. It’s fairly easy to be vulnerable with something once we’re through it, but while we’re in the throes of it all?…It’s far easier to stay quiet. Easier never wins though, does it?

Ann Voskamp is such a sharer of God’s Truth….of His constant light in the midst of both beauty & pain. I love how she says this:

All my brokenness is a whisper that I don’t belong, and every time I don’t feel like I belong, the Scarred and Rejected God whispers, “Come here, my beloved.”

And the longer I live, the more I feel like an exile. This is a gift. The exiled make His extravagant love their home.

Community is hard, you guys. I’ve never heard anyone say differently. If it seems easy for someone now, it probably wasn’t always that way. That’s hopeful….just because the way things are now, it doesn’t mean they’ll always be that way. But live in the present…be with the people in your life right now. While I have lovely memories of past stages of my life, I wish I hadn’t harped so much on what future seasons of life could bring. Dreaming is one thing, but sometimes those thoughts take us too far away from where we’re meant to be now. Being intentional with our relationships provides fruit. It takes time, though…& time is life.

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I read an interview with Rachel McAdams the other night.

#girlcrush

#girlcrush

I’ve always adored her both as an actress and the type of person she seems to be off camera. She talked about the years around The Notebook when her fame was rapidly growing and she was busy, busy, busy with stardom. People loved her, and she was getting to work with some pretty awesome people. But she wasn’t happy—she didn’t feel joy. So she went back home to Canada and re-evaluated life for a couple of years before stepping back into the spotlight with a stronger grip on the person she wanted to be. This article revamped my girl crush all over again, because I thought YES! This is what I want to be like. Not like her, necessarily, but confident in who I am and able to step back when I feel like I’m being pulled in an unfulfilling direction. I want my soul to be so well connected with my heart & mind that I know who I am, I know why I’m here, and I know the purpose of my day. If I can be confident in those three things, I don’t think I’d ask myself if something was wrong with me. I don’t think I’d be focused on the number of friends I have or nurture the moments I begin to feel less than I was created to be. I think I’d be focused on where I am, what I’ve been given, and what I’m going to do with it all.

Community will come, you guys….community will come. Instead of putting so much stock into that, though, I’m going to start putting more stock into who I am, why I’m here, and the purpose of my day. The rest will take care of itself. And I’ll just be here….giving my heart and letting it be filled at the same time.
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1 Comment

  1. sarabface on July 2, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Beautiful Jenna, you are such an incredible human. The fact alone that you take time to recognize your thoughts, feelings, desires – and then study them, write of them, scrutinize, pray, ask questions – this alone shows that you ARE living in the present. And human kind’s biggest obstacle in life IS staying in the present. It’s crazy hard! And you’ll probably never be there all the time. Only monks in mountaintops can do that. And community? You said it, sister. You’re totally right. We must remember that it’s what everyone else is craving, too. Connection, physical touch, being witnessed, being heard. All you (& me) need are a few quiet minutes in the morning to sit and focus on the things we’d like to bring into our lives. Nothing is too big, too crazy, or too impossible. We don’t have to know “the how,” only “the what.” (those aren’t my words, but I like ’em)
    Love you. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for being you, even if you are odd. I’m glad. <3

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