You asked some killer questions in the last few days.
Frankly, I don’t have answers for them.
But I know some good ladies.
As I said I would, I asked women whom I trust to share their thoughts in response to your questions. (One said she felt like Dear Abby.) I chose to ask only for the input of women who live locally in my community. I chose people who have been significant in my own life, women in a wide range of ages and stages. If it looks like we have a lot of pastor’s wives around here, it’s because we do – I pulled from neighboring churches as well.
(If you live in my community and I didn’t ask you, and you are wondering what that says about you, the answer is Nothing. I still love you and think the world of you.)
To you blog readers: I tried to hear what you were really asking. Some of your questions I reworded or combined, and some I left nearly verbatim. Please rest assured that you are not the only one who ponders them. One or two extra questions I threw in for good measure, because I wanted to know the answers myself.
Please bear two things in mind during this Q&A.
First, the perspectives offered here are just that: Perspectives. My friends are fallible, like me, and in some ways they too feel unqualified to stand forth and give answers. (Especially after I gave them a very tight word limit, and a three-day deadline.) But also, do not take them lightly. The words below represent the accumulated wisdom of my community, a deeper wisdom than my own. In the answers below, these women are making themselves frighteningly vulnerable, and sharing with you what Jesus has taught them through the painful process of walking with Him.
I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
FINDING A PLACE
How do I start new friendships?
“First of all, do not put an age limit on friendship. Some of the most meaningful friendships in my life have been with those younger and older than myself. Initiate the conversations. Really listen. Take mental notes about the other person’s hobbies or interests. Use these to randomly bless them in the future.”
Are there practical ways to plug into a new community?
“Serve and give. I have lived in six very different communities and one of the fastest ways to connect is to give of your time and energy. In a new community you may need to be especially proactive and intentional in finding those opportunities. Ask questions and make your availability known.”
By Rosetta Swarey
Transplant to the community, Practicer of what she preaches
Is it possible to hold too high a standard in forming friendships?
“Absolutely, especially if the standard is always being applied to the other person. When I try to force a friendship into a mold that meets my ‘perfect friendship’ model, I’m assuming that I know what I need (I don’t always) and that other people should provide it. Wholesome, healthy friendships are formed, I think, when we purpose to enjoy the people in our lives for who they are rather for who we think they should be (to us).”
How do I know if I am?
“If I’m running a continual litany in my head about how inadequate someone is in a friendship, then it’s time to recalibrate.”
By Piper Burdge
How do I find time for friendships?
I create space for friends because I realize:
- I can’t be a healthy, whole woman if I do solitary
- I need shared laughter, shared tears, shared coffee
- I will be a better spouse/mother after I have ‘spilled my guts’ to a female human
SOMEtimes it’s fear that keeps us from deep connections so SOMEtimes it’s just easier to use children, ministry, busyness as excuses to stay safely tucked away.
I must lay aside a self-protective mentality in order to:
- offer myself
- be real!!!
- speak truth
- accept advice”
By Barb Coblentz
Shari’s mother, Pastor’s wife
What if my friends are always too busy to spend time together?
“Best of luck. If it’s jobs that make your friends busy, do your friends ever take time off to eat? Or if it’s family responsibilities, do their kids eventually go to bed? Can you spend that time together?”
What if I’m not drawn in?
“There may be seasons in our lives when we’re around people whose personalities, interests, values, or responsibilities do not align with ours and it’s difficult to find common ground. Transitional seasons can also be lonely. The first years in a new community is just one example of a transitional season. True friendships sometimes take years of investment, seasons in which friendliness, patience, and open-handedness are virtues to be cultivated, but there isn’t much payback in my social life. Dear reader, if you’re in that situation, I hope for you that it’s just a season.
“Rather than evaluating why I’m not feeling drawn in and a part of the social circles in my community, I think the more helpful questions are questions that help me evaluate myself:
- Am I a drawer-inner?
- Am I participating fully in church life? Am I present whenever possible and sometimes when it feels impossible? Do I sign up to volunteer food and time?
- Am I looking for opportunities? Do I invite others into my home or along on my daily exercise routine or my weekly shopping trip? Do I notice and walk with people who are feeling lonely, stressed, or sad?
- What kind of friendships am I looking for? Am I flexible with and accepting of the friendships offered to me? Am I willing to enjoy and become adept at both one-on-one conversations and more casual group conversations?
- Do I communicate interest in others’ lives? Am I able to crack a smile when somebody else cracks a joke?
- Am I striking a comfortable balance between listening and asking questions about the lives of others, and sharing about my life?”
By Anna Zehr
How is trust built?
How do I trust again after being hurt?
“Trust is built little by little, through multiple interactions with people who give us freedom to be vulnerable and take risks. In our relationships with other Christian women, trust allows that our friends cannot be perfect, always leaving us open to being disappointed or let down. Our adult patterns of trust have developed from what we learned with parents and peers in our childhood. Those of us who experienced rejection as children have a much harder time building trusting relationships.
Being able to rebuild a broken relationship is possible, but it always involves both individuals being able to do something called perspective-taking: seeing from the perspective of the other. After betrayal of trust happens, there are times when trust in that individual is no longer a healthy or responsible option. But many times, broken trust is an opportunity to adjust our expectations of perfect friendships to the reality of human failings, and begin to work again, one small step at a time to be vulnerable and take risks.”
By Janelle Glick
Newcomer, Graduate student in spiritual care and biblical studies
How do my husband and I find couple friends?
“#1. Very simply: do a lot with one or two couples. The planned and the spontaneous; the light and the serious. Attend a seminar, plan a date night together, do lots of backyard campfires, etc.
#2. Interact well across genders. You won’t develop couple friends if the women are sequestered away in the kitchen while the men ‘shoot the breeze’ in the living room. Nor will they happen if conversation is segregated even if presence is not. Finding common ground and asking good questions are key in couple conversations.”
By Jean Nisley
Shari’s sister, City dweller, Smart cookie
How do you balance maintaining connection with family (mom, sisters, extended relations) and inviting non-family members into your relationships and activities?
“I don’t do so well in mixing family/ non-family in the same event. I have often thought how I could do better in that area. I enjoy time spent with family especially when I am feeling stretched in other areas. It seems I can just chill without being expected to give much. It helps me rejuvenate. However when I am feeling energized, I enjoy coffee shops, shopping trips, and just chatting with friends.
We joined our current church family seven years into married life. Sometimes I have felt a disconnect between my childhood and adulthood because of my current church not having “grown up” with me. I think that is why it tends to be hard for me to entertain family/ non-family at the same time. I enjoy my friends, as well as my family. I am eager to hear more on how to bridge the gap.”
By Joanna Schlabach
Deacon’s wife, Adoptive mom
How do I navigate friendships well when I disagree with someone?
“Disagreements often tend to be a negative. It’s quite the opposite, it shows you what you care about. To always agree with a friend only allows your friendship to go to certain level. How dull. Keep the disagreement as a disagreement. Don’t let the disagreement define your friendship. Tell her you love her often (if you really do). Life is more about loving than being right.”
By Marie Mullet
To be continued tomorrow.
Meanwhile, what connected with you in this post?