We were newlyweds when we met them in a Sunday school classroom at church. Both just settled into our first little homes, still celebrating the honeymoon season of our marriages. The husbands clicked like college buddies from the start, and we connected in ways that could only be orchestrated by a kind and benevolent God.
Over the course of our 14 year friendship, they have moved multiple times to multiple states and we have done the same. Today we live on separate coasts, but still we are intimately connected like individual strands that wrap and weave together to form one sustaining cord.
And if one can overpower him who is alone,
two can resist him. A cord of three strands
is not quickly torn apart. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Today we are not two nor three - our combined families are now eleven strong. Twisting and weaving, clinging and binding, supporting and upholding one another in a beautiful multi-generational picture of fellowship.
Fellowship with likeminded families is absolutely from above. It is a thing living and growing, celebrating and sorrowing, gracious and grieving, and always a gift.
We knew that we were blessed to have the two husbands and two wives both get along so swimmingly, but last week we vacationed together for the first time, and found our children as simpatico as their parents. Fitting together like a perfectly ordained marriage. And it is. And I'm overcome with thanksgiving.
And yet it doesn't stop there... for though we are back on the left coast and they've remained all the way to the right, we are not on our own again. Our family is so graciously surrounded by other families nearby who love us and our children. How did we ever get to be so blessed? My husband and I aren't more deserving than the next couple in need of support and celebration. Everyone has the need to break bread then set off firecrackers in the middle of the street with kids running pell-mell. Everyone needs it. And we are in a season where the blessing of friendship is being liberally poured out upon us.
Tears. For this is not always the case.
There are seasons in our lives when loneliness hangs upon the heart like a wet towel over the backside of a door; always standing slightly ajar, awkwardly. I have sat there alone just outside the room, not ever getting the invitation. From where I sat I could see the party inside. Everyone else seemed to have a friend, a partner, like the wonder-twins that could put their rings together and "form of ice - form of wind" and suddenly become a winter-storm that covers the world in glistening snow. So they'd run outside, sailing past me, playing together in the powdering white stuff, sliding by on toboggans. And there I stood.
I know what loneliness feels like.
But lonely families are a bit more confusing because you're never really alone. You've always got a brother, a child, a sister, a spouse breathing the same air that you are. There's not a moment unconsumed, empty and alone, but still you're hungry for an invitation, because you're hungry to find another family to do this life with.
A camping family, laughing family, church-going, dinner-inviting, share-their-lives-with-us family. And maybe as you read this it's all suddenly so clear, why you're lonely though you're surrounded with the little people you love most of all. You're hungry for friendship - family friendship - friendships that feel more like family.
While I'd like to give you a handful of practical advice to find your own besties, there's really only one place where we've found ours... church. And I'm not talking about pew-sitting Sundays, I'm preaching fellowship groups that meet up the next hour after the preacher has laid it down. Sunday school classes where we unpack the message of the morning and go deeper in application. But first we congregate over plates of fruit and store bought boxes of donuts, carafes of coffee and pitchers of lemonade. Swapping stories about parenting as our husbands share war stories about work and hunting or movies and local restaurants.
That's where it begins. That's where it begins.
And the door is wide open for you to join us around the table. Nothing awkward about splitting those donuts down the middle so there's enough for everyone.
Still, maybe you feel too much courage is required and your family loves their slow Sundays at home. But my friend, this is the place where families grow together and grow deep and children grow up with other mothers and fathers, sister and brothers. Family friendships. Friendships that feel more like family.
If you are lonely for relationship for yourself and your family, let me be the first to invite you to church this Sunday. No matter the city or the denomination, join us for family and fellowship wrapped up in faith. And faith wrapped up in fellowship. And all of it intermingling like a gift from a above.
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(post script - A very sincere virtual hug to those of you who are active in church and community, but still have never known this sort of fellowship. I do not know why some long seasons hurt so much. But I do know that there is One who longs to satisfy every lonely place. Blessings on your heart today.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good (Psalm 73:25-26,28)