I’m still not over this past weekend.
It was 85 degrees in Nashville. But that wasn’t what I can’t stop thinking about. I keep picturing a chapel full of women. They’re wearing skinny jeans or bootcut or dresses or skirts but they’re all there because deep in their bones we have this same ache in common. We ache for community. For friendship. We ache in those places we don’t talk about, in those conversations that only happen in our own heads. The ones where we replay the throwaway sentences that have cut deep; the misunderstandings we can’t untangle, the confusion that refuses to get cleared up.
I stood in a chapel surrounded by women brave enough to take the conversations they were having in their heads and start to say them out loud, in real life.
It’s liberating you know.
It’s so wildly freeing to know that you’re not crazy to still find tears leaking down your cheeks when you remember that friendship that walked out of your life. Or the one that imploded. Or the one that hurt you and never said sorry.
We stood in our sneakers or boots or flip flops and we let the words of other women willing to admit how losing a friend can feel like a death — we let those words be our light guiding us out of the dark.
And then we raised our hands in worship and let the great Healer have our pain and of course we cried and we hugged and some of us left with a lighter load than when we arrived.
It’s a sacred space, being able to serve other women.
And after we walked out of that chapel and into the minivan for the short ride back to the hotel, four friends rode up the elevator and into a hotel room together. I was so tired. I needed out of my skinny jeans and into something comfortable, something that felt like home. I needed heels off and sneakers on. I needed chapstick and a hairbrush and mostly I needed to close my eyes and find a way to process everything from the day.
Sometimes friendship is a deep conversation. Sometimes it’s a shared ugly cry. But sometimes, friendship is the gift of not being afraid of silence. With only fifteen minutes before we needed to regroup, that group of women collectively laid down on the beds and tucked ourselves between soft comforters and a comforting layer of safe silence.
As I lay with my back pressed up against the rise and fall of a friend’s breathing I could feel with each inhale and exhale the God who breathed life into us lay Himself down between us. How when we are safe we don’t need to fill the spaces with small talk. We can simply give and receive the gift of shared presence. Our bodies tucked into beds for brief moments of finding rest between our friends and the pillows.
It was the moment from the weekend that sits like a cup of hot chocolate right there, warming the spot beneath my rib cage. This ability to let your guard down in a room full of women. To warm yourself in their silence. To believe you are known without saying a word. It is a very rare thing. A precious thing that if you think about it too much or too long, might find it’s dissolved right when you try to put your finger on it.
In seven years of serving the women here at (in)courage, I’ve been the recipient of too many hurt stories to ever take safe friendship for granted. I know it for the treasure it is.
So I lay back to back with Holley and with each breath, each rise and each fall of our bodies, I could hear the heartbeat of a long friendship. A friendship that lives comfortably now in the silent spaces because it’s walked through all the spaces in between. The hard and the sad and the heartbreaking. But always, always with the determined commitment to love, to love, to love.
This word sister of mine.
I am more because of her. More of a writer. More of a Jesus follower. More of a listener. More of a believer. More of a fighter.
And I am less because of her. Less afraid. Less worried. Less trapped in the cycles of comparison.
So I breathe in and out and I watch the late afternoon sunshine spilling through the soft, white, cotton curtains and in two minutes we will all go downstairs for what comes next. But I know, I know with each breath, that this sister will always have my back. And I will always have hers. And I smile at the small crack in the ceiling tiles and I put this gift into my pocket.
Instead of the slights and criticisms that I’ve been so quick to collect over the years, like pebbles, filling up my pockets and sometimes spilling out my mouth. No, today I put this moment, this gift of the safety of silence, the comfort of friendship. I put it into my pocket like a seashell. So that later, I can take it out again and hold it up to my ear where I can still hear the echo of what it sounds like to breathe in companionship with your friends. The breath of the beloved, the secure, the seen.
I hold it up to my ear so I can remember what it sounds like. So that I can know what it sounds like when it comes time to pass it on.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Beautiful that you ended your thoughts with the need to keep passing it on. There is so much need.
Thanks for this glimpse of a wonderful gathering and for the effort it took to make it happen.
This touched me deeply! Thank you!
Please pray for my dear daughter,(daughter-in-law), that God may bring her at least one sweet and Godly friend.
Thank you for this great reminder to be a Godly friend.
Have a blessed day!
Pearl Allard says
Sweet Maggie, may He who is able to do far beyond our imaginings gift your daughter (and mine, and all our children!) with true friends. And may He enable us to be that grace-filled breathing space for another.
Prayers for her today, Maggie.
Pearl Allard says
I’m silently absorbing and savoring this post. So much truth and beauty here. Thank you, Lisa-Jo.
Kim B Smith says
I believe we are a society of women yearning to connect, to be with one another in a crazy busy world. As I get older I truly long for this, however, I find that it is getting harder. “We” as a society attend retreats, events and get all warm, fuzzy and elated, but afterward I experience everyone goes back to their busy lives and the connection dies.
Yes, our friendships, connections and such can be of silence, like listening to the song of a seashell, and yes, our relationships must also be of courage to be brave to talk as well.
Thank you for this beautiful post!
For some reason I felt the need to respond to you – I don’t usually do that. 🙂 What you said about going home to busy lives after attending a conference etc, really resonated with me. I also find that true and I am much older than you. I have been 7 years in a different state and still don’t have a close friend to spend time with. I find that even after one coffee together with someone from church there is not another meeting together because people are busy with grandchildren etc. I am single, never married so no grandchildren. I am learning that perhaps Jesus is going to be the only ‘friend ‘I get to spend time and I am letting go of the dream of having a ‘BFF’. I’m not sharing this because I’m miserable but to encourage you that perhaps we have seasons in our lives where we need to live without really close friendships. Perhaps it is in the giving up of my dream that something will happen. I don’t know! I will be praying for you that God will bring you a good friend or give you joy where you find yourself now. By the way I am 69!
Kim B Smith says
Denise, thank you for reaching out. Yes, I believe there are solitude times where Jesus does become our BFF so we can be closer to God. Every day I begin just there and I know He has a plan for me, like this amazing conversation. 🙂
Denise, I think we need to do a cyber coffee chat! Let’s connect.
Jeanne Gabrielle Bowser says
Thank you Denise. I liked your post. I too am older, 63 to be exact. Sometimes it’s lonely and I don’t want to go to the women’s mtgs, because i’m always busy. I like the friendship of the Holy Spirit, my unconditional friend, who understands the season i’m in, when being alone is ok. I like to be still and know that He is God. I feel this is a safe place to share your soul.
It took me hours to reply and words still can’t describe how I truly feel. Thank you so much for sharing this post. None of us are perfect and I’ve come to realize that “true” friends” and “sisters” are rare indeed.
Now in my late 80’s I have had, in my lifetime, three friends with whom and to whom I could share my life stories, good, bad and indifferent…. including the deaths of my parents and the hurts and pain of rejections by other so called ‘friends’. Not long ago I was discarded and very badly hurt and humiliated by the rejection of a friend whom I had trusted, admired and respected for what I thought was their strength of character and spirituality. They have made me feel small and ridiculous in my old age and now my old trusted friends have passed from my life and I have nobody to share this with but God.
Please, anyone who reads this article, make sure that you never lose contact with the old friends in your life, new ones can wreck your spirit and without the trusted companions you have always relied on you can feel bereft, unhappy and isolated.
May–keeping you in prayer–that God will walk with you moment by moment through those hard times of loss and rejection and that He will fill you to overflowing with His love and presence. Also praying for friends to draw alongside you and walk those moments as well
Rebecca L Jones says
This looks like a good time for all of you. Lord, please give us a friend of your choosing, and bless May for her wisdom.
Beth Williams says
Beautiful as always! I agree with the women here. Lives are too busy. We have work, home, church, meetings, etc. I truly believe technology has played a role in our not having deep friendships. We simply text, email, Facebook a person & move on. What ever happened to sitting on your porch talking with neighbors? The good old days are missed in this hectic paced world. I treasure my friends. I still may text or Facebook them. I also call them or see them in church & talk with them. Why can’t women just talk with others at church, work or in public? We need each other & not just the cyber space friendships.
My heart cry exactly!
Jerilynn Bayi says
Thank you for sharing. I have two dear Minister Friends who have passed away recently. These two women were much more than Preachers of the Gospel, they were my teachers & mentors. I cherish the many memories of spending time with these women of great faith; for their love, kindnesses, comfort and just being encouraging when I needed it. Because they gave so much of themselves, they taught me to be more of a Giver. As women, we must pass on this precious gift of friendship, fellowship, & love, that others man see Christ is us. We are living in trying times. We must live our faith daily. Again, thanks for sharing Lisa-Jo. God Bless you. ❤️