Sunday, January 23, 2011

Connecting With Women

The retreat was great. It was held at church. It was Friday evening and Saturday for about 6 hours. There was a theme and some singing and some praying. There were experiences that were moving. There was a lot- I mean, a lot- of laughter.

But there was something powerful that I came away with that I hadn't expected. I expected that there would be a sense of comfort and security with a group of women as we sought inspiration based in faith. I expected to feel refreshed when it was all over. That was true.

But there was more.

For myself and my own personal reflections, I found the resolve to be braver when I feel called to share something with someone. Sometimes, I feel like I won't come across as genuine or people will misunderstand my intentions. Sometimes, I feel like putting myself out there will make someone else uncomfortable. So I don't always listen or I brush it off. I know better. This was just a reminder to keep on with it.

The unexpected part... was the bonding.

The main thing was at a table with 4 other women. 2 have teenagers, 1 has 3 kids age 11 and younger, 1 has a toddler with another on the way, and I have my 2 kids. Some of the talk came around to the stresses of motherhood. It's hard work, being a mom. We have these images in our heads, taught to us, things we remember about our own mothers, what we see on TV, the pressure we think we feel or completely feel from our spouses, the societal pressure to stay home and raise kids or go out and have a career. If you stay home, there's this pressure to be Suzy Homemaker and keep the house clean, the kids tidy, the kitchen busy, the husband happy, the children behaved. If you have a career, there's this pressure to be perfectly balanced, to not let your home life impact your work performance, to divide yourself between boss, co-workers, kids, husband, and any other commitments you make. When the kids are little, they need you too much and they make it known. When the kids are older, they still need you but have no idea how much.

The younger mothers took wisdom given by the more experienced moms at the table. We all supported each other. We shared our stress, being overwhelmed, trying to find our way back to feeling like ourselves. I, of course, shared my "big secret" of not being a housekeeper in any sense of the word. And I shared it with pride. My house is messy- but it's how I get to spend time with my kids and husband. We talked about the difficulty of doing what we feel called to do for our church, for God, but feeling this responsibility to our children that doesn't always seem to mesh.

I got to share with someone that she'd had a bigger impact on my church involvement than she realized.
Do you ever hang on to compliments or encouragement? you know... something random or nice that someone has said to you? Maybe it was just a regular comment to them, but it really stayed with you and made a difference to you?

I had just recently joined Music Team and it was just my first or second Sunday singing with the group. I was still kind of unsure about my role and what Music Team is all about. (We aren't a "choir." We help lead worship and are part of the Praise Band.) Church was over and I was heading back to the classrooms to collect the kids. One of the women who was in my group on this weekend's retreat was back there. She and her husband stopped me and said, "It's really great to see you up there with Music Team!" I have to say- those words really defined my involvement for me. I suddenly understood what it meant to be up there and that I had made some sort of impact on someone.

I was able to share that experience and what it meant with that woman this weekend- through lots of tears for both of us.

So what I came out of this whole thing with was the lesson that you never know how, when, or why you've made a difference in someone's life. And that's why it's so important to listen to that gut instinct, those urges, that voice inside your head. For you, it might just be how your mind works that you think of someone or offer to help or approach a stranger. For me, when I hear that nudge to reach out, it's an opportunity that God is giving me to connect to someone. I don't know if it means I'm going to make a difference in their life or if it means they're going to make a difference in mine- and I suppose that part doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.

And now I have new friends. In church this morning, I was greeted with smiles and hugs from women who also participated in the retreat. The greetings were normal- but a bit more bold and intentional and warm. The connections made with women I hadn't known well were acknowledged with joy.

I've already signed up for my next experience- a much larger gathering called Women of Faith that will happen here in Indy in August. And I'm already making a list of projects that I'm making every effort not to ignore as my brain gets nudged around.

This weekend, I spent valuable time with my church family- my church sisters. I connected with women that I see at least once a week, sometimes more. I bonded, I cried, I laughed, I prayed, I sang, I ate really good food (homemade cinnamon rolls, chicken pot pie- all food made by our men's group).

I walked away with more than I expected. I connected with women that I can call my friends, my sisters. I affirmed the strength of some of the relationships I already felt good about. I've got a small group that I know I can turn to and that I hope they know they can turn to me when life gets tough or there's been a bad day.

I can't wait for next year!



noexcuses said...

Sounds like a wonderful weekend! So glad you were able to attend!

C. Beth said...

That sounds so fantastic! Those bonds are priceless. Good for you, for letting yourself be vulnerable and listening to the Spirit's leadings.

Alison said...

Sounds like everything you were hoping for, and more. Did anyone else turn out to have the same secret as you! :D

Anonymous said...

So glad you enjoyed the weekend, Liz.

Karen M. Peterson said...

I try to let people know when they've made a difference for me, but sometimes it's hard to remember to share that.

Sounds like you had a wonderful experience. There is always room for new friends!