Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: A Crowd of Witnesses in Real Life

(in) Real Life: (back row): Lelia, Marge, Karna, Sarah, MJ, Erin;
(front row): me, Deidra, Stacy, Amy, Libby, Frances, Amanda
Yesterday was confirmation Sunday at church, and I cried my way through most of the service without a shred of Kleenex in my purse. The young people kneeled straight and tall, white gowns cascading onto altar steps, scarlet carnations pinned to their chests, and as our pastors prayed over them while their parents crowded behind with bowed heads, hands on their shoulders, one word rang in my head: community.

In her sermon, Pastor Sara talked how each of us is surrounded by a “huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith” (Hebrews 12:1) – those who run the race of faith with us, paving the way before us, carrying us along as we grow weary.
“The people who have gone before us and who we spend our time with now help us tell our story,” Sara acknowledged. “The spirit of people both past and present cheer us on in our faith.”
As I listened to Sara I thought about the community of women Deidra, Erin and I hosted in my home on Saturday. Some of these women I know well – friends, colleagues and neighbors – and some I just met for the first time Saturday.

Truthfully, I’d been nervous about hosting this event. In fact, I’d awakened the night before at 3:30 a.m. in a panic.  Should I buy flavored creamer? Did I have enough chairs? Should we wear name tags? Would I have to pray out loud? Would we stand around with our arms folded over our chests in awkward silence? Would people notice how sprongy my couch is with the broken springs?

How is this going to work with such a disparate group of women – women who don’t even know each other, who aren’t even in the same place in life, I wondered as I tossed and turned, sleepless and sweaty.

I worried about the fact that we were probably all at different spots on the spiritual spectrum. “What if it’s too Jesus-ey?” I worried. “What if it’s not Jesus-ey enough?” I fretted.

You know what?

It worked. It worked beautifully.

Sure, some of us had never met before. And it’s true, we were different, all of us at various life stages – married, single, divorced, empty nester, grandmother, young mother, working, stay-at-home, retired. And yeah, we were undoubtedly at various points on the spiritual spectrum, too. But despite all that, we laughed. We shared stories. We ate scones.

We connected.

And when I dashed out the door to head to work before the meet-up had even officially ended, and I saw Deidra up to her elbows in a sink full of soapy water, and Frances with a dish towel in her hand and Amanda clearing my table (two women, by the way, I’d only just met two hours before), I knew I was witnessing something beautiful.
As I stopped for a second to glimpse those three women cleaning my kitchen, I witnessed in-real-life community unfold right before my harried eyes.
Where have you found unexpected community?
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Hazel Moon –   – (April 30, 2012 at 1:01 AM)  

We fret too much and God knows in advance that it will be just fine!
What a wonderful week end community and  confirmation too!

kendalprivette –   – (April 30, 2012 at 4:57 AM)  

this in real life? invigorating!

Patsy Paterno  – (April 30, 2012 at 5:48 AM)  

God meant us to have community because he knows we need it! When my sister and I got married (we had a double wedding, marrying two men from our community), we had so much help and prayers. I remember the sisters bringing the rings, pillow, flowers, etc. even had a back up car, just in case. I made a task list and time table and assigned so many brothers and sisters to help. They would say, "This is all I'm supposed to do? Give me more work!" Community was and is still a blessing! :^) patsy

Nancy Franson  – (April 30, 2012 at 6:22 AM)  

I would have been awake in the middle of the night with all the same questions. So very thankful for that crowd of witnesses, the ones who believe for me when my faith is weak; the ones who pray when my words won't come. Don't know what I'd do without them.

Lisagburgess  – (April 30, 2012 at 7:02 AM)  

Oh my. This.is.community.
All the way around. Love it.
 

Gaby  – (April 30, 2012 at 7:07 AM)  

I had one as well, Michelle! With Amy Sullivan and I think I'm hooked. Now when I read their words I read them differently. Know what I mean?

JoAnne Potter  – (April 30, 2012 at 7:26 AM)  

Oh Michelle--the wonderful communion that God has made possible for believers so often comes as a surprise.  We are so used to conflict because of the world's fallen nature.  When we connect through our faith just exactly as He intended, such a gift!

June –   – (April 30, 2012 at 7:52 AM)  

What a great experience, Michelle! Don't you love it when God reveals that He has gone before us?! and opened doors, and made everything right!? Thanks for sharing!

DeborahJoy –   – (April 30, 2012 at 7:59 AM)  

Aw, just look at you all!  
I KNEW it would all be fine, because that's what we women are like - we just roll up our sleeves and get on with it.
We can't live the Christian life alone, we need other people in community, cheering us on, paving the way.
Sending blessings to you all  X

Connie@raise your eyes  – (April 30, 2012 at 8:14 AM)  

Those are exactly the kinds of questions my brain wakens me with in the night! So glad you took a chance, walked in obedience, and look what happened! 

Deanna  – (April 30, 2012 at 8:57 AM)  

Isn't it something how the Lord brings women of all kinds of backgrounds together! I love it:)

Blessings, Deanna
PS- I so know about those anxiety jitters when trying to prepare for a special gathering

Megan Willome  – (April 30, 2012 at 9:05 AM)  

Oh, I wish I could have been there to eat scones with you guys!

And where have I found unexpected community? With you, of course!

dukeslee  – (April 30, 2012 at 9:32 AM)  

I'm so delighted to hear about your gathering, Michelle. And my answer is the same as Megan's ... with you! Your phone call last week was a life preserver. 

Shelly Faust  – (April 30, 2012 at 11:49 AM)  

This feeling of community, this gathering, I am thankful...

it000016 –   – (April 30, 2012 at 12:07 PM)  

Thanks for the wonderful post -- this truly sounds like a God-event! I am blessed to teach a weekly ladies' Bible study, and at times we have had 3 generations of women from the same family in our class! But God's Word speaks to everyone, and we can connect through it no matter what our differences in age and background.
Love in Him,
Laurie


http://savedbygracebiblestudy.blogspot.com/
 

Libby –   – (April 30, 2012 at 12:20 PM)  

SO glad you did it! I needed it and was deeply affected by getting to join together with all the women there. I've been going around with tears in my eyes ever since just thinking about it.

Joe Pote –   – (April 30, 2012 at 12:54 PM)  

I'm a tad jealous. Not spitefully jealous, just wistfully jealous...

Glad you all had a great time!

thegypsymama  – (April 30, 2012 at 1:07 PM)  

Oh man - these posts are like soul food - I can't get enough of 'em. And we felt many of those same things - worrying about how women would connect and trusting that the Jesus who made us would know just who to connect with who. Boy did He ever know exactly what He was doing. Thank you so so much Michelle for stepping out into (in)RL with us!

~Lisa-Jo

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 1:17 PM)  

Me, too, Libby, me too! I tell you, I welled up like 4 different times yesterday!

And thank YOU for being brave and coming to an event where you knew no one - I'm not sure I would have done that. You are amazing!

lbmoreland –   – (April 30, 2012 at 1:22 PM)  

Michelle,
I've just returned from a lovely group of Bible studying women gathering in faith for fellowship. There is always a reflection of our Lord's example of love and serving in these uniquely feminine gatherings. I warmed right up to the account of your Saturday event; its a familiar full heart thing!

Courtney Buxton  – (April 30, 2012 at 2:54 PM)  

I love that it went so well and that the women cleaned up for you - that is a solid sign of friendship! I spent the weekend with some good girlfriends at the beach, and there is nothing like women from various walks coming together. Lovely.

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:06 PM)  

Oh the beach...now THAT sounds like a wonderful place to be right now...and even lovelier that the time was spent with good friends.

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:06 PM)  

The full-heart thing, yes! What a beautiful feeling it is indeed!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:09 PM)  

Why do I always forget that Jesus ALWAYS shows up?! I get myself worked into a frenzy, when really, all I need to do is remember that HE will be here and all will be well.

A big thank you to YOU and the (in)Courage community, Lisa-Jo for all the planning and details and many, many months of work that went into this event. It was SO well-done -- I especially loved the hostess planner (and all the technology tips, which helped this luddite girl figure out how to hook the laptop to the TV!).

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:10 PM)  

Maybe you should spearhead a men's meet-up, Joe? I think you'd be the perfect person for that!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:11 PM)  

Wow, 3 generations - I love it. And you are so right...God is not inhibited by age differences, race differences, professions, status in life, etc.

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:11 PM)  

Always thankful for you here, too, Shelly!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:11 PM)  

Those phone calls help me just as much - you know that, right?!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:12 PM)  

One of these days I'm going to make my way down to Texas, and when I do, I'll have my hub bake up a batch of scones that I will bring with me!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:12 PM)  

It is truly amazing indeed! I had no reason to worry at all.

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:13 PM)  

I can give Deidra the credit for coaxing me out of my shell - she suggested we co-host the meet-up, and well, I just can't say no to the Deidra Enthusiasm!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:14 PM)  

You are SO right - women do roll up their sleeves and get right to it - I love how you put that, Deborah!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:14 PM)  

So true, so true. I need to remember this the next time I'm laying awake, fretting and staring at the ceiling. God always goes before us.

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:15 PM)  

I just love this comment, JoAnne - you always offer such a rich and refreshing perspective here.

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:16 PM)  

I popped over to Amy's place and read her post and saw the super cute picture (and you!) - so, so glad it was a fruitful experience for you, too, Gaby. And yeah, I totally know what you mean about reading posts differently after having connected in person -- it's so cool!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:16 PM)  

And love you, too, Lisa - you are so a part of my community - I hope you know that!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:17 PM)  

Oh yes, yes, this, Nancy: the ones who pray for me when my faith is weak. What an incredible blessing that is.

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:17 PM)  

I LOVE that you and your sister had a double wedding!! That must have been an incredible community experience!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:18 PM)  

Would have been even more fabulous if you had been here, sister.

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:18 PM)  

I saw you in the picture at Amy Sullivan's place -- too fun!

Michelle DeRusha  – (April 30, 2012 at 3:19 PM)  

I know, I know...trust, trust, trust that He is in control of all things. One of these days I just *might* learn that, Hazel!

Sheila Dailie –   – (April 30, 2012 at 3:21 PM)  

The joy of unexpected community is just that: it is unexpected!  So much heart-pain in my past resulted from expecting anything from anyone.  Now that I have learned on a foundation-al, if not continuous, level that God is the only one that does not disappoint, I value community whenever it shows up, and count my blessings.

Ann Kroeker  – (April 30, 2012 at 6:52 PM)  

Love that final tableau, the ladies at the sink, serving. That's beautiful, as is the scene in your church. 

Theresa@Heavenly Glimpses  – (April 30, 2012 at 6:53 PM)  

Oh, your community of women Saturday sounds wonderful and just confirmation of how important it is to this in real life, too! I'm so glad the experiences I'm reading about have been completely life-giving!

Shelly Miller  – (April 30, 2012 at 7:44 PM)  

that final scene in the story of hands in soapy dishwater as you leave for work, it just says it all. And of course it was Deidra doing the dishes, the epitome of community. Love it. So glad it all came together.

Michelle Eichner  – (April 30, 2012 at 8:53 PM)  

What a neat weekend! Like so many others, I love the last picture you had as you walked out the door - people serving together, some you had just met. Isn't the body of Christ amazing?! I love that connection we have even if we have only known each other a few minutes. Thanks for sharing!
Michelle

Dianna Kennedy  – (April 30, 2012 at 11:02 PM)  

That reminds me of when I went to college --- it was an all girls school, and had a large population of women going back to college. Us girls right out of high school learned so much from those amazing women, juggling family life, while trying to go to school. We need to remember to learn from those older than ourselves, and be an example to younger women. 

Urailak @LivingforGod  – (May 1, 2012 at 1:30 PM)  

I love the Body of Christ :)! Christ's love unites us and bonds us. I've found community in our LJ Fellowship (LJ stands for Loving Jesus or Love in Jesus or Love and J.O.Y. [Jesus..Others..You]). We host a weekly dinner/Bible study at our home for international students who attend a local university.

Laura Boggess  – (May 1, 2012 at 8:17 PM)  

This just about brought me to tears. There is nothing more beautiful than women when they come together in the name of Jesus. Just gorgeous.

Stephani  – (May 1, 2012 at 11:15 PM)  

This is my first time linking up.  I am so glad to be here!

Janmary, N Ireland  – (May 3, 2012 at 4:41 PM)  

I too had that "what have  I done - offering to host" panic moment before our (in)RL meetup. I send a prayer text request to some of my friends who weren't coming, asking them to pray that the right people would be there and that God would speak.

I love the "too Jesus-y or not Jesus-y enough" - that was me!

So glad it went well. I loved following it around the world through twitter and instagram, after our event was over.

PS I have a wee red head too!

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