Gal Pals and Sisterhood

 

I look around my living room at the 8 other women listening to our last Beth Moore video in our study, “Believing God.” We’ve just had a “potluck” dinner where everyone brought something special, and sat around the table together “breaking bread” (figuratively… as most of us either gluten-free or avoiding carbs)!

One sister had earlier emailed how sad she was that the exigencies of a project of work were causing her to cancel for our last meeting… I had selfishly prayed that God would clear away her obstacles… the door bell rang and I hugged her sweet neck, never happier to see anyone.

I feel a rush of emotion and blessings that words cannot express because of these sisters in Christ.  I take a quiet moment. thank God for giving me these ladies, and all of the other girls he’s given me in my life as friends.

I am an incredibly blessed woman when it comes to friendships, more than I think I deserve.  My sister-friends have meant the world to me and have carried me through both happy and difficult times, wiping away tears of joy and frustration: holding my hand; offering words of encouragement and prayer; and sometimes just hugging and listening.

When I began college at 18, I knew only my best friend from high school, whose parents convinced her it was best for us not to room together so that we could broaden our acquaintances beyond the hometown.  At the time I felt sad, but not for long.  There were a gaggle of girls on that 4th floor all-female dorm who would one day grow into 7 of my dearest and closest friends in the world.  After college, we’d have girls’ weekends, and beach weeks together.  Even when we scattered and moved to new towns and new lives, we always made it a point to get together. I’ve saved most of the letters sent to me in those IMG_0750pre-internet days.  Eventually we called ourselves “The Divas” and added husbands and children into the mix, and gatherings topped out at 40 bodies jammed into two beach houses.  Our kids became like cousins.  Our husbands marveled to see the “sisterhood” side to us. Problem is, we don’t live very close to one another.  We are closing in on 40 years of friendship now, and still going strong. These are the women who are always a phone call, text or email away– day or night.

My move to hubby’s hometown 24 years ago started a new chapter in my life.  Along the way, most of the women I met where the Moms of my kids’ friends.  It was a busy season, and there was somewhat of a divide between the stay-at-home and working moms.  Many of us wanted the image of “perfect kids” and “perfect parents,” a pursuit that could get quite competitive.  A few fleeting “friendships” came and went, and a couple endured.  When I was going through some difficult times, I never felt at liberty to share my heart with anyone in my new community.  Even with the frustrations I was experiencing in marriage, I was clear that I didn’t want to speak ill of my husband (of course this led to us faking a perfect marriage in our little Utopian bubble).  As my leadership roles grew at church, I felt responsible to be strong (aka faultless?) to help others.  As a teacher, I felt it important not to expose any personal weaknesses or issues that could come back to haunt me (sure, parents know teachers are human, but truthfully we want those professionals who spend so much time with our babies to be just a tick closer to Super Woman and Saint).

With career and parenting behind me, I felt led to work harder at female friendships.  I began seeing many women like myself who had wrapped themselves in the “Have it All Together Veneer.”  Even if they had husbands or other close friends, they had few opportunities to just be a woman with other women,  to share and celebrate our uniqueness, the laughter, the conversation, the lack of shame about tears. To hold each other up and to build each other up.  Women’s Bible studies were one great way to meet and interact with other women, but sometimes these could get limiting… 90 minutes, once a week, harried and busy women covering up the blank lines in their workbooks where they couldn’t squeeze another moment from their busy days to complete homework; a few poor ladies who clearly had no one in their lives to vent to, and used a Bible study to do this via prayer requests.  Don’t get me wrong, I think women’s Bible studies rock and there are so many good ones out there, God uses each one.  But it involves an element of work and accountability that sometimes lacks the laid-back mercy of mere friendship for its sake.

So, I began thinking– what do we women love to do together?

We love to eat. 

We love to talk.

We love to laugh. 

We love warm hugs.

We even like to cry (i.e., at a good movie).

We love feeling our female-ness.

It’s one thing to become feminine and vulnerable with a husband you love, respect and trust.  Although some women are missing this in their marriages (another topic), women need the ability to bond with other women in our unique female ways.  We need the Titus 2 women in our lives:

Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

(Note that some translations substitute for slanderers the words “malicious gossipers.” Husband-bashing is a no-no, but of course we may have some cute Mars-Venus stories to share…).

I was determined to find ways to have girl time again.  Something as close to the fun and intimacy of sleepovers as possible.

So I instituted movie night at my house– chick flicks that make us laugh, feel, cry and bond.  The ones we love to watch over and over again, know dialogue and songs by heart.  I’d accompany the evening with a simple dish that might go with the theme of the movie (I happen to love to cook). Those who wanted to contribute to the meal were welcome to, but it was never an expectation.  Once we just ordered pizza.  We’d eat together, have great conversation, tell stories about when we met our husbands, or other funny anecdotes from life.  We’d cuddle up on the couch and chairs and floor in my living room and watch a great movie.  The bonding and connection during these times was palpable.

My wonderful husband has been hugely supportive of this.  He’ll take the evening to go do things on his own, even though I assure him I am not kicking him out of the house (as he loves to tease).  I think SJ “gets” how this feeds us ladies, and makes us better wives. At times “the guys” go do some male bonding (also important).

There are many other ways for ladies to harness the female power.  Any other ideas out there?  I’d love to devote a post to “Girl Time” ideas!

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4 Responses to Gal Pals and Sisterhood

  1. C for now says:

    Periodically pick one who, beneath the veneer, needs deeds over words. Go to the one and humbly do what Bible Studies talk about. If none among you fit, find one who does.

    Quiet service is an unheralded part of the lifestyle that too many overlook but it draws believers closer to one another and their God. It certainly improves the lot of the recipient(s).

    Probably not the fun idea you might have sought but possibly a fulfilling endeavor none the less.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Spoken like SJ 🙂 My husband would agree with you whole-heartedly. He is very much about acts of service and quiet service. I am very proud of him, his humility and quiet care, and he challenges me in this way too. One way I enjoy serving is alongside others.

      One thing about most women is our need for “belonging,” affection, caring, and inclusion. Because I have the gift of hospitality (I love to cook and entertain), this is a way I try to serve others. I’m a firm believer that sharing a meal, especially in a home, is a powerful way to connect to people and make them feel at ease and more open to relationships. Still, there are moments I feel called to share a quiet moment with someone who needs a listening ear and prayer, and I try to be attentive to that need.

      Like

  2. a. says:

    …huh – I want to greet you by name, but don’t know how. SW? 🙂
    I so loved this post when I read it a few days ago, but couldn’t respond properly at the time.

    The friendships you describe make me ache with longing – I have few friends like this, and they are so far away! None whom I consider sister-friends live close to me anymore, and I find it difficult to risk the vulnerability it takes to form new bonds. Deep hurts have left their scars. So much so that I even hesitate to be vulnerable with my sister-friends anymore.
    Nevertheless, I long for women like this in my life. For the sense of belonging and the unconditional love and support that goes with it. It’s been too long since I participated in a good Bible study – and even that one…I didn’t really bond with the women there.

    As for Girl-Time ideas, I can’t think of anything more than you have already mentioned – and I have done all those over the years, except for the girls only trip. But I want to! Working on it. Small groups, though, are where I feel most secure – 4 or fewer!

    C – I like you idea of quiet service. It is something I try hard to do in small ways. Going deep is harder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know! ASW works as a moniker for now. I had all intentions of using my real name but in light of the latest, I guess I’m staying anonymous for now.

      I feel for you on the friendships. They are not easy. I spent some “lonely” years in my 2+ decades here in hubby’s hometown, never meeting people I could get really close to. That is just something that usually happens over time and many shared experiences, which is why I’m so grateful for my “far away” Diva friendships that have stayed strong (and I work hard at that too– I’m usually the one to get the ball rolling on plans). I’ve been in some Bible studies where no one reached out or seemed interest in taking it a step further; and then I’ve been in some where I met people I’d seen for years and didn’t realize how much we had in common. Vulnerability can only come when trust builds. And trust builds when people are willing to listen and not quickly judge. Most (not all) Bible studies are great for building that trust and vulnerability.

      If I were you, I’d continue to pursue women’s Bible studies. Some will have great people and others maybe not so much. The thing is, you never know when you’ll bless someone else. I’d also reach out to people who seem like potential friend material, and suggest low-commitment times together– lunch out or a chick flick at the movies. You can build from there. I will tell you that most people don’t take the effort to reach out, and sometimes that feels hurtful. Just realize it’s not their season to be able to do that and it isn’t necessarily about you.

      I really wanted more local gal pals. They will NEVER be as close as my Divas, but I had to work at it. I had to keep inviting people until they began to realize how much they enjoyed the time. The tyranny of work and family and other life pressures can make people forget how important these friendships are. Now I get so many positive comments about how grateful some have been that I’ve reached out and made the effort, and made it as effortless as possible for them. And of course you know that saying, to have a friend you need to be a friend. I have to constantly remind myself to be a better and more caring listener, and turn conversations back to others and not towards me. If I can even ask a question that shows I’ve listened, like “How are things going for your Dad? Son? Sister…” it means the world to people. I also have to expect them to be imperfect like me, and not overburden them with my long list of issues (aka, become a drain on anyone).

      Praying that you are able to find what you’re looking for. It can be hard if you’ve had hurts. Just heard a great Rick Warren message on happiness, and one thing that can so totally change our attitude about people is to pray for them (rather than complain about them or judge). It’s something I know I have to work on!

      Liked by 1 person

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