Posted by on Feb 24, 2012 in (in)courage, Blogging, Friends, friendship, Personal | 8 comments

People who need people,
Are the luckiest people in the world.
Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merril, unforgettably delivered by Barbra Streisand

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Sometimes I can't see the trees for the forest.

The big picture is plain enough, but I'm blind to trunks and limbs and twigs and leaves within touching distance

With roots burrowed deep and scattered broad, 8½ years ago I moved from a place I still consider my hometown, despite not being born or raised there.  It was in that town I journeyed newlywed years, worked vocation that married passion and purpose, birthed all my babies with other mama-friends doing the same, did my best to serve God and his family through way too much doin'…and became glued and glue to a friend-family that shared life in the best ~ and worst ~ of ways. 

There's no telling how many meals I cooked and delivered for celebration and mourning.

After 14 years we moved to a new place, hours from home and hometown, and where we didn't know a soul.

We knew how to extend friendship and hospitality.  We were initiators–always the initiators.  In this, without realizing it, I think we had become prideful.  We had also become weary and complacent and just needed to rest

…a toxic combination. 

It was inward-thinking navel gazing, bordering on pointless martyrdom.

It served absolutely no one.

It wasn't that we never had people over or hosted parties; but something about it was harder, much harder, than before.  And though it's likely not accurate, it seemed like only one or two couples returned the effort and affection we offered to others. 

But, here's the important takeaway–

One or two couples returned the effort and affection we offered to others!

Why was I focusing on the void instead of the fullness?

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A few years into our move to Tennessee, I began blogging.  Though initially anonymous–even to my husband–eventually my blogging community grew to a diverse group of women and men.  This was during the early years of mainstreamish blogging, before social media, blog conferences and monetizing were the focus, when people actually read and commented to blogs {knowing smile to long-time bloggers}. 

My blog filled a friendship void in my life and I knew more about my online friends than I did about the people I was meeting in real life.  Every blogger who commented to my posts received a reciprocal visit from me; I'd read their current post (or six) and thoughtfully comment to each one.  I'd reply to every comment–my imaginary friends were a constant source of encouragement and I was grateful they'd take the time to read my words (that part is still true).  

It took a lot of time.

My life was out of balance.

So one day I started withdrawing.

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There is so much more I could share, but for now this is what I need you to know:

1.  These things served a purpose in my life. 

The void, the plenty, the delights, the disappointments. Some things were a result of my choices (good or bad), others were unavoidable circumstance.  All have had their role in maturing me.

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Ecclessiastes 3:1-8; my heart whisper-shouts its theme as a Martin Luther King, Jr. oration–

There is a time, there is a time!  Thank God Almighty, there is a time!

2.  See the trees.  Then hug them.

I got word-slapped twice recently by two people who are close to me; my husband and a friend who loves me enough to tell me what she REALLY thinks.  In one instance I was singing the dog-tired song about "how deep friendship was hard to find" and in the other, my friend flat out told me I was oblivious to those around me who were trying to do that very thing.

Over the years I had either grown too calloused from being hurt to notice or it was packaged differently than I expected or I misinterpreted the actions or motives or others or who knows what else?

I removed the stingers from the words of these two who love me, trusted that they spoke with my best interest in mind, sifted them through a reality sieve and recognized "truth" was relative, resting somewhere between their perspective and my own. 

It's changed the way I see and receive the beautiful, amazing people in my sphere. 

3.  Delight in your online community but if it is precluding real life friendship, do something about it.  Now.

It is SO easy to appreciate and care about people who share a love for words, ideas and encouragement online (I have mad love for my readers and subscribers!); but there is absolutely no substitute for investing in the lives of friends where you live; say, the people who will help watch over your children while you jaunt off to Germany on some kind of crazy adventure for weeks on end…. who will feed your babies home cookin' and make sure THEY know someone's watching, even if mama and daddy are 5,000 miles from home.

No doubt, one of the coolest aspect to blogging is meeting those whom you've made real connection with through reading each other's websites and engaging in conversation on your favorite social networking channels.  Blog conferences provide that opportunity, but often the barriers are monumental:  financial, family, time, travel–all incur some type of cost that might prohibit attendance.

Not too long after (in)courage was launched, whispers were heard among readers (and writers) lobbying for a conference to bring the reading community together face to face, skin to skin, heart to heart.

Enter (in)courage and brilliant thinkers behind their scenes who imagineered (in)RL, a coordinated initiative to bring the (in)courage community together, but without the hassle and expense of travel.  Instead, on April 27 & 28 readers are encouraged to host a meet-up in their own back yard, bringing together real life friends, perhaps virtual friends, and even folding newcomers into community. 

Would you consider hosting an event?  Small and intimate in your living room, at a local coffee shop or filling a church hall, everything you need to know is right here.

 

 

Yesterday, my soulful friend Ann wrote a beautiful piece about 4 Ways to be a Better Friend; tomorrow, a visionary friend, Stephanie shares her perspective on friendship, community, and why these hometown meet-ups matter.  Pleasevisit their spaces to gain a broader perspective.

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Even though I don't think luck has anything to do with it, people really DO need people ~ ?