Topic: TRIBE…Talk amongst ya'selves!

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am a learner. I am also an observer of human nature. I work with my observations and I move forward into new territory...most of the time, bravely but at times, tentatively. Sometimes, it works and sometimes, it doesn’t. The following post is what I’ve found to be true in my own life. I am a 41-year-old woman who has crammed a lot of living into almost 42 years. Growing up as a minister’s kid and then, later as a minister’s wife, I’ve been called upon to create and recreate community over a lifetime of moving between and within Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi...and here I am, in Arkansas, again...shout out! I've both established community and grieved the loss of connection in many new, often intimidating places. It’s been a blessing to be a part of so many tribes of beautiful women…I(for real)LYSM.

The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His.
— Francis Chan
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On every corner of today’s culture, much positive and negative noise swirl around the concept of “tribe”, aka “community”. We can easily find it in our own homes and then (with no small act of intention) in our neighborhoods, book clubs, schools, online, at church, at the coffee shop…even at the gas stations we frequent on our work commutes. Community isn’t just a current phenomenon sweeping the nation…it’s been around literally since the beginning of time. The Holy Bible, in Genesis 1, says that God saw that it was not good for the man to be alone and he created (wait for it)…a WOMAN. A truly crowning achievement {ahem...in my humble opinion} on the part of our Creator! And that’s where we will jump off today…women in community. 

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Women put on and take off so many hats in our lifetimes. Some hats, we confidently choose or others, we settle on tentatively but at any rate, we own them and we wear them. Other proverbial headgear are chosen for us…and they may or may not coordinate with our outfit or the current weather conditions. It’s tough (sometimes, virtually impossible) to find, build and maintain our tribe…our girls…our “ride or dies"…our besties…whatever you choose to call community. But in all seriousness...Even my baby girl knows community and defines it as a group of people living life together. We get it! We know what it means…a working definition anyway. But how many of us actually have it? I would venture to say that women from the olden days to 2018 have craved community in ways that extend beyond casual friendship and networking to the deeper emotional connections as we "mature" (good word choice, eh?). 

Community is often seasonal. Our lives move in and out of seasons every few years. We are in school. We are single and have this new job. We are married. We are divorced. We are widowed. Thus, we are single…AGAIN. We have children. We have adult children. Like me, we move…at 40. The seasons are endless! Life can seem fragmented, often fractured and definitely disrupted by change. Our community is close in our hearts but separated by physical distance. The only feasible way to stay connected with our scattered community is through the occasional road trip and yep, you guessed it...technology.


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FACT:

 

Let’s just take a hot minute to acknowledge this FACT of all of our lives: Technology has forever changed the landscape of community. 

Yep.


It’s such a double-edged sword. Technology easily allows us to “stay in touch” with friends from each season. We “ooh and ahh” over pics from their ever evolving life stages, posted to keep everyone in the loop. You may even get a tag in an actual (if grainy and overexposed) photograph of a photograph from high school or college developed in a photo lab from a film canister. The 90s were a special time for me and my hair. Oh, you know…just posting so we can all relive the mems!! An actual, hold-it-in-your-hot-little-hand, attractive photo book can be compiled and printed from those mems and displayed tastefully on your coffee table! You can subscribe to the blogs of women you know personally to be encouraged and inspired. You can marvel at the home design and/or lifestyle guru accounts of those celebs you wish you were…I mean, knew. Technology is progressive and it is beautiful, and it’s not going away. We embrace it because it’s virtually impossible to live without it. 

On the flip side, technology also removes the responsibility of actually connecting face to face.

It’s no longer necessary to find community "in person". I mean, we can’t always show up and be our best selves when we are face to face with another human being. The outfit we are wearing may not be what’s appropriate for the occasion (remember the bunny suit in “Legally Blond”?). Any moms out there ever show up with your precious baby’s regurgitated lunch souring somewhere on your person? We may enter into a situation where we know no one and everyone else seems to be having a great time with one another. Our facial expressions are weird and it’s nothing that our carefully applied makeup can cover up. We approach another woman in the wild and awkwardly attempt to converse with the small talk. It is tough and isolating. The very opposite of what we expected. Then, before we ever knew we needed saving, TECHNOLOGY swoops in and removes all of the fear. We can meet and greet online with confidence…almost everyone feels more clever behind the keyboard, right? We can type and delete…or not delete (much to the dismay of those who may read what was posted in haste…wide eyed emoji). We can “follow" and “unfollow", willy nilly. 

Whew. Take a breath and consider: How can we get back to real, living, breathing, face to face community?  

1. Be the first to speak. In my humble opinion, true community takes much intention. Don’t wait for someone to speak to you. We've established the fact that most of us are usually seeking connection. We were created to connect…with our Creator and creation. How will we ever know anything about anyone if we don’t ask? Most people love to talk about themselves and those closest to them. It’s also a good time to crack up over our mutual awkwardness in social situations…those people are your people. Honest. Authentic. Fearless. In the span of a few minutes, we can all quickly deduce whether or not someone is shooting straight or putting up a front. Those who “front” can also be “tribe”. Sometimes, it just takes a little time to break through. If you are a patient person, keep at it! She’s in there! We have ALL fronted. Don’t even try to deny it. It’s just way harder for many of us to do after 40 (Yikes! emoji).

2. Seek quality over quantity. This too takes intention. And I admit it. I’m a busy lady and so are you. We do all the things…and then some more things. I don’t need to go into detail about all the things. So…knowing our crazy schedules, get with a friend or group of friends and schedule coffee. Write it down and then ATTEND. Show up. Be all in. Catch up and take notes. Spend quality time. We all know how to cut through the peripherals and get to what matters. Check in and don’t check out. Don’t check your phone. Leave it in your pocket or your bag. Make eye contact. Give a hug. Hold a hand. Pray for someone with someone. If you’re weird like me, make a mental (or physical…just don’t ever show anyone) bullet list of questions or things you want to talk about and then LISTEN. Abandon the list and just go with it. It’s whatever…just seek that quality time and don’t take “no” for an answer. Community is hard. Connection is harder. But are the things that are most “worth it” ever easy?? I say, “nay."

3. Don’t constantly look down. At your phone or your planner or people who are not like you. We get it. You’re busy. You’re addicted to organizational apps or online shopping or games…whatever. Keep your eyes up and open for opportunities to connect and establish community IRL (In Real Life). Often, some of your best friends may dress differently, earn differently, look or speak differently. This is 2018. The universal tribe of women have so much to offer their communities. Focus on connecting with women with whom your paths cross constantly, those people you do life with…job, school, church, neighborhood activities, etc. Again…intention. Retrain your brain to focus on real people in the real world.

4.Be a healthy person. Stab to the heart. Toxic people exist everywhere and the current climate of society enables and encourages it. Determine not to be one of these people. Find someone close to you to hold you accountable in this if you trend towards legalism, negativity, barbed sarcasm and fault finding. Judgmental, exclusive, negative women are mean. Plain and simple. Whether it’s false information or a misperception, something untrue or half true, the words they speak are hurtful. These women are difficult to be around for any length of time. Negativity can absolutely and strongly influence others in detrimental ways. It's contagious and destructive. By the grace of God (and only the grace of God), you can love negative people. It is possible. Pray for them but hold them at arm’s length. Currently, those people are not your people. However, choose not to talk about them to your close community of women. That is gossip and yields nothing but further hurt and isolation. Moving forward, if they have indeed done the work over time to be healthy, invite them to coffee and ask about their journey. Receive hers and share yours. There is hope for all people. Everyone walks through seasons where it is difficult to speak much less identify the good…the "too blessed to be stressed" mentality only makes you wanna ram your fist through a wall. No one is beyond redemption and God can change people to choose the good!

Why is it worth it? 

Oh my gracious, y’all…I have met so many amazing women through my role in Redeemed Home Goods. From paint parties to pop-ups to conferences and shows, my community is broad with broads! RHG provides a unique opportunity to meet and maintain an audience with clients and customers. Networking with other women business owners is also vital to success in community. Everyone is unique and brings such variety to the table in our field. When I view these ladies as community and not competition, the landscape changes. Good things happen. 

Personally, my community is made of women from all walks of life...younger, older, married, single, kids, no kids, etc. My husband marvels at the variety of people I spend time with. I love all of the women whom God has placed in my life. Some share my season of life and cherished beliefs. Others share neither my season nor my beliefs. Does that limit who I am created to be and my purpose in glorifying God? Absolutely not. It only encourages me to love others from the overflow of Christ's love for me and leave space for giving a reason for the hope that I have. My story of redemption speaks for itself in every circle and my job is not to convict anyone of their need for Christ. And in all honesty, isn't it better to be known for what we are "for" than what we are "against"? If you are a fellow follower of Christ, we are living under the His express, spoken commandment in John 13:34-35..."A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Knowing and loving are my jam and I wholeheartedly embrace my mission.

We ALL need community. No (wo)man is an island. To exist in isolation is to deny your place in the world. We crave the kind of community that includes real, actual, shiny faces to show up in our lives. To be present both in the everyday mundane and in the big events…good or otherwise. We need warm hands to hold ours and to push us to do and be better. To try scary new things and then, to cheer on our wins or help us up when we fall. We treasure the arms that embrace us, coming and going. We need actual voices to speak truth and joy into our lives and for us to return the favor. And we need open ears and hearts to receive it. We need the voices that laugh loudly and for a long time at our dumb jokes and cry real ugly tears (we can all agree…no beautiful criers) with us in our shared struggles. We need feet to walk confidently through our open garages and into our homes. We need bums (large or small) to sit around our tables and tell us what a good cook we are and how clean our house looks and then, fall out, because…nope. That’s what an actual, living, breathing community looks like. It’s not perfect and as long as we walk this planet, it never will be. There are many challenges to maintaining it but it’s always worth it to do the work. To #FindYourTribe. #LoveThemHard. (winky kiss emoji)

-Sarah