Sisterhood…Embrace

As I have learned in my own life, in order to create true unity with other women, we first have to be willing to truly embrace who God has made us individually to be….and then be willing to get real.

We left the States in 2005 to travel to Indonesia to serve as missionaries.  You might be able to guess at some of the things that were difficult to adjust to:

-Leaving family…..knowing that I was taking grandchildren away from grandparents

-Learning a new language and humbling myself enough to be laughed at when I got it wrong again and again

-Cooking everything from scratch when up to that point I thought that chicken automatically came into the world boneless and skinless

-Adjusting to being gawked at everywhere we went and having my kids cheeks pinched over and over again

-Or, perhaps the snakes….

I’ll admit the day we found this one right near our house was a bad day, one that found me on the bathroom floor crying out to God and telling Him I wasn’t cut out for mission life after all….because I really hate snakes!

But, surprisingly, these were not the things that were most difficult.  The hardest thing for me has been to learn to live in community with other women.  I had to learn to get real. I am truly thankful that the Lord, in His amazing grace, sent me to the mission field to heal me and force me to be real with other women….and build a sisterhood.

You see, I made a pact with myself at a young age to never trust a girl ever again.  I started school a year early and was an energetic 5 year old with a group of older sixes.  It was a small Christian school and once those girls decided I wasn’t “in”, I was forever “out”. They teased me ruthlessly and there was not a day that went by that I didn’t go home in tears.  They made up “days” like “braid day”, “pink day”, and “ribbon day” and they would all discuss it amongst each other.  And sure enough, the next day, everyone would come wearing the appropriate attire….everyone except me.  Finally I decided that I could not take it anymore and begged my parents to let me stay back with my original class, and they finally agreed.  It was when I joined the new class that I decided that I would never be unpopular again, I would be the perfect friend, and no one would EVER see the real me.

What’s more is that I was the daughter of a pastor of a large church with several pastors, among them being two well-known authors.  Growing up in the midst of these other, more “famous” pastor’s kids, I felt like I had to be extra perfect to prove that I was worthy. I wanted everyone to see me as perfect, never having a problem and never needing anything. So I spent my life having lots of friends, being popular, but when it came time to risk or get real with other girls, I would just quietly slip away and move on to other friendships.

More again tomorrow….

How about you? What is your story?

Past posts in the series: Sisterhood…The Call

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  • Thehomespunheart

    Oh, Joy – can I admit (I’m sorry that I need to) that I’ve felt left out of inner circles in the blog world? I know it is silly and God is doing a work in me on this – however, it still hurts sometimes and yes, I am being real here. I love you, friend!

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  • Shelly Miller

    I think anywhere we build community, whether in church, the blogoshpere, school we have to be aware of alienating people that are outside of the circle of friends where we find joy and contentment. Always being open to new relationships. I am a pastors wife, and as we move to new cities, my daughter and I both experience feeling on the outside of the “inner circles” of community. Like you express so wonderfully here, it takes stepping out and being real to find sisterhood. Your post gives me great compassion for my daughter.

  • http://twitter.com/moretobe Lisa

    My story. Almost too painful to write, still. In short, I had the greatest group of best friends a girl could ever want, and then we moved. I started in a new school in 5th grade and was the picked on new kid on the block. That following summer, I made a vow that I would never be left out and picked on again. I changed my hair, clothes, attitude, and arrived back at school as brand new me. Some of my classmates even thought I was a new student. Within days, I was asked out by all the popular boys. I was flying high. But when I didn’t want to kiss or hold hands with the Italian Stallion, I became the one he targeted with wounding words. Labels stick, don’t they, especially the ones we never wanted to have. Mr. Stallion inspired a reputation that followed me for the next six years — all based on my appearance. God was gracious and provided me with good friends, in spite of the social trauma, but I lived with a veil of fear of being made fun of, insecurity, and loneliness, even in my crowd.

    Looks like there’s some healing in my heart that still needs to be done. Thanks for the vantage point offered by your story. Lord, do your work in me.

    Lisa
    http://www.moretobe.com

  • Anastasia

    Most all of my girl- friendships have been only “so real”. I was picked on immensely at a young age, rarely asked to go places, and caught otheres talking behind my back…or worse where I could see them…frequently. So today it is a real struggle to have staying power in friendships. I long to want to grow closer – to be comfortable growing closer. Alas, it is His strength and love that is having to heal and remold a trembling leaf into a confident Child of God.

  • Anonymous

    From the list I thing that SNAKE would have brought me to tears too, I hate those things. Cooking from scratch (being raise in the country) wouldn’t have been much of a chance! Learning new languages, I find it exiting!!! Well I married my husband and barely could speak English, and 5 years later, 3 little one.. I think we manage to communicate :-)

    You story made me sad, female bullying breaks my heart.

    Growing up, with a brother 11 months younger then me, in a street where I was the only girl in a bunch of little lively boys, I did not have a real “girl” friend until I went to school. I had a hard time at first to relate to them, they did not want to wrestle, play ball or catch bugs!!!! So I was “one of the boys”

    Later, when in high school, their was the popularity contest, girls who would seek attention from boys in ways that I thought was degrading, boy were treating girls in ways that made me not like them so much any more. So I was seeking the “rejects” at the cafeteria , you know the ones, that no one wants to sit with, talk to or be seeing with. Each day was a different person, I sat there, be nice to them listen to them, not seeking friendship really, just be there for them for the time being.

    Being there but not being there at the same time!

    Then university, was busy with working hard to have “good grades” Working hard to make money to pay for it, not finding time to build friendships along the way.

    Being there for others, but not really being there.

    Then came work, me a nurse, a field of women. Working with women, being in the same building for 12 hours, with women. Yes, I was force to talk to them, to be nice to them… but I hated the “competition” the “gossip” the “comparasion” I did not “understand” womenhood.

    Got married and gained 6 sisters, then learn about sisterhood, learn about love, respect, loyalty… all the things I missed on.

    4 on them are now married, have children and moved away,

    Where we live now, women with children, send them to daycare as soon as possible, they have career, are barely home… I, a home-maker, am that they think is the “worst” job in the world, everything they don’t want to be. Making new friends here, not been easy. It’s like were are from 2 different planets!

    sorry about leaving such a long comment, your post touch my heart in many ways.

  • Jill

    Wow! Thank you for your transparency! I also became (am) a people pleaser. I became a Christian as a teen through a church with a very wealty congregation. I always looked perfect and did the right things. It is too tiring to keep up that charade and God has brought me a loooong way since then. I am thankful for the people I can just be myself with!

  • Sandy

    Just stumbled on your blog yesterday and now I’m a follower! I’ve been so inspired already by your words and all God is teaching you through the hard. Thanks for your honesty! Being a girl is tough. My oldest daughter is 15 so we are right in the middle of it the “girl thang”. :) Thankful for God’s Word that guides us, though we don’t always do things His way and then what a mess we have to clean up! Thankful for His grace and help in the midst of our failures. He is good.
    Look forward to hearing the rest of your story… :) Bless you, the snakes would be a big anxiety for me too!! His grace is sufficient!

  • http://www.onefunmom.com Christy

    Oh, Joy! I have learned a similar lesson in a similar way, except that after grade school, no matter how much I did fit in, I never felt like I truly measured up. (until my adulthood, where I am still learning about true “sisterhood”)

  • Anonymous

    Your spectacular keynote blew me away, girl. I scribbled notes like a crazy woman and your words have refreshed my soul several times since hearing them! I adore you!

    You are a strong, good woman, Joy. You shine His light and I praise Him that we’re in the sisterhood together! xo

  • Crystal

    I am really enjoying this series. Sisterhood is something I crave. I am extremely shy and struggle with anxiety issues. It’s really the thorn in my side. So, it’s very hard for me to connect with other women. I really have to push myself to attend ladies Bible studies, ect. And even then I feel disconnected. I so often feel like I don’t fit in, at 30! It seems childish to say that but I know I’m not alone in this, it just feels that way! In our church (and we have a GREAT church), I tend to be the one that no one remembers to call, no one remembers to invite, no one remembers that I’m even suppose to be there… And I know it’s largely my own fault.

    It’s something that I’m praying through and working out. So, thank you for this series. Hopefully I’ll find my place! :)

    • Anonymous

      Your words sound familiar, I am there with you Crystal. My family and I moved about 6 months ago and trying to find a church and become part of a new church family has been a struggle for me. I am a mother of four and in my 30′s as well and I am painfully shy when it comes to meeting new people. I work and work at it and I struggle with it, convincing myself that I am too busy and don’t feel as if I have enough energy, or emotional stability to try and get connected with new people. Yet I know how important it is for me to really have a relationship with other women of faith, to be encouragement to each other. I need that being alone in a new place and no friends or family near by. I love my husband and my kids but as a stay at home mother and educator I need some other adult conversations with sisters of faith!

      AND then I am convicted by the Holy Spirit that I am not enough but when I step up and out, holding on to the Master’s Hand, He will fill up that deficient cup of mine or send others to help fill up my cup. I am with you…praying and working it out too. :D
      HUGS to you Crystal!

      • Crystal

        Thank you so much, Amy for your words of encouragement!

  • Niki_guthrie

    I came across your blog the other day, I truly enjoyed it. Thank you. Not fitting in, I can relate. Not being one to speak up has been a hard one for me, but always thinking….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Debby-Sheldon/1303266697 Debby Sheldon

    Wow- thank you for sharing! As the wife of a pastor I find that I have the tendency to protect myself from potential hurt- not even real hurt, but the fear that someday this person I am serving and giving of myself to could reject me and stomp on my heart. My desire and prayer is to find my worth and identity anchored in God’s approval-to accept the fact that Christ gained all the acceptance I could ever need on the cross, and live free from fear, and free to love and give of myself freely!

  • Lisa Littlewood

    so sweet to hear this again (after listening to you speak it SO graciously this past weekend…)…Oi! could I count the ways I was hurt by girlfriends when I was younger…God has blessed me SOOOO sweetly with some wonderful friends today and I count them all as true, true gifts…I LOVE how you say that to create unity we must first figure out who WE are…That is so incredibly true and insightful…and God is so willing to help us in this process…thank you for sharing…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=673111206 Ann Morton Voskamp

    And you wrote days ago… “Sometimes saying yes to God is hard and uncomfortable. Sometimes saying yes to God leaves you open to be judged by others. Sometimes saying yes to God means that you will be misunderstood. Sometimes saying yes to what God has for you takes you WAY out of your comfort zone!” … and I am so grateful to Jesus that you said yes to our Jesus, Joy.

    Peace is a Person — not a place.

    And when you say yes to Him, say yes and tay in His will — there is peace wherever we are.

    Giving thanks to God for your willingness to be used, my sweet sister and friend…
    All’s grace,
    Ann

  • http://twitter.com/DanieAtDomestic Daniele

    Powerful words you spoke this weekend…
    thank you again — for allowing Christ to shine through!

    All for Him…

  • http://sprocketswife.blogspot.com/ rubberbacon

    I grew up in a church where everyone attended the same Christian school so we saw each other every day, Wednesday night church, Sat. night church and Sunday twice a day. I was never the popular one and didn’t realize that until middle school when there was not enough room on the out of town camping trip bus so after a vote, which obviously I was not included on, I was sent to the parent van with the little kids. There were other camping trips where one girl gouged my arm with her nails in a bid to push me out of the way to get the front seat of a car, my “best” friend lost interest in me and moved onto other friends. I finally lost interest in these girls and vowed to get out and make friends in the world that had nothing to do with the church I grew up in. And I did. I left home after high school, moved to Pittsburgh, then to Florida where I started a family. I may not have found life long friends in those girls, but we’ve managed to re-connect on Facebook and I honestly don’t think they meant any long lasting ill-will. In fact, I was even bold enough to challenge one girl who had been very cruel to me and she had completely forgotten and was horrified & apologetic as she now has a young boy who’s bullied in school. I guess I say all to say this. I understand what you mean by saying it’s hard to reconnect deeply with women after being deeply hurt as a child. I’ve just realized people need alot of grace and the only perfect person to have lived is Jesus.

  • http://thecormierfamily.org/Brandy Brandy C.

    Another beautiful post.

    It’s an emotional topic for me. I used to have no problems making friends. No problems trusting. About 6yrs ago, my husband and I had a very, very dear, close couple {mentors in the Lord} do us very, very, very wrong. It took us 4yrs to finally get over that. But even being over it … … it’s still very, very hard for me to open up to women. To trust.

    …. it’s something He’s definitely still working on.

  • Kristi

    Hey sweet friend….beautiful to meet you irl and read these words again. We are soul sisters, you know this, right? Thank you for pointing to Him. You reflect Him.

  • http://www.sixbrickshigh.com Jamie @ Six Bricks High

    I didn’t have the privilege of hearing you speak at Relevant, and it sounds like I missed out! This getting real thing is a tough gig. But this sisterhood is a blessing for sure.

  • http://thechuppies.blogspot.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

    Dear-new-friend…
    This makes me like you even more :)
    Love,
    K

    P.S. I’m a close-knit-friendship-girl…just a few close ones who I trust enough to be real with. But they are life-friends. And no day is “ribbon day” or “braid day” with me. Your story breaks my heart…it breaks my heart for our daughters who may face this down the road. Already praying for true, genuine, deep, God-gifted friendships in their lives. And that I will be that kind of friend.

  • http://www.lotsofwagners.blogspot.com Jennyrwagner

    I don’t know why I have such a hard time being vulnerable. But you’ve got me thinking. I need to figure it out. This I know. Thank you for sharing. Glad you’re back and can’t wait to hear the rest!

  • mark and jennifer dougan

    Thank you, Joy. Nice to meet you. I just learned about the Relevant conference and speakers this weekend, and already I am enjoying peeking around new blogs. Many of your settings ring true to me as a pastor’s kid, now pastor’s wife, former missionary kid to West Africa and France, and a woman now who is learning what it is to rest in who I am in Christ. I grinned at the huge snake, wow!

    Eager to get to know you more,
    Jennifer Dougan
    http://www.jenniferdougan.com

  • Anonymous

    Being military this post hits home all to well for me. I found it really hard to make friends because as soon as you meet someone they are about to leave. It is hard giving away myself to having friends… I have learned to embrace the friendships that the Lord has opened up for me whether it be for a day, week, month of a year so that I dont miss what God has in store for me. Thank you for sharing your words…. I also think that we can reach out to young women and get connected with them. Surrounding ourselves with strong Godly women is a plus however what about the young women who dont have that? When we step out of our comfort zone we will see God work in ways we didnt think He could… Hugs

  • Ann Franklin

    I knew it Joy – I just sensed something within my being that God would use you to speak into the lives of other women – at the conference and through your blog. It’s that heartfelt honesty and willingness to tell your story as it really happened. I would have loved to be at that conference because through blogging I have found women just like me – kindred spirits who share the same aspirations and I have found the friendships which I longed for. But it is friendship in the real ‘face to face’ that I miss the most. Hardest for me was realizing that some of the people who befriended me really only wanted me to be their homeschool adviser. I love to help and encourage others and willingly dedicated time and put in much effort with a number of women meeting with them in their homes, sharing ideas, loaning them books. When they were homeschooling they would ring me constantly for advice, invite me for coffee or come out to visit me because they wanted to see a homeschool family in action. I counted them as friends and shared openly about the joys and the challenges of being a homeschool parent. When they returned their children to school after a couple of years and no longer needed my advice I was dropped and they stopped inviting me to visit. I never judged them or told them to keep on homeschooling – just let them know that they had to seek the Lord and make the best decision for their family. It didn’t even occur to me that they wouldn’t need me anymore. Perhaps I was naive because some of these women already had big social circles. My husband understands why I need to blog. He is a mechanic and there are people who only ever get in touch with him or come to see us when they want mechanical advice. He is a giver too and spends the time advising them knowing we will not see them again until the next time their car breaks down. I know we are meant to love and give unconditionally but sometimes it is hard when all you long for is friendship.

  • Terri S

    Joy, I know the feeling of being on the outside and not popular. Sometimes I still feel that. I appreciate your openness and the sharing of your heart. It it so heartbreaking to know that there is so much of this still occurring in all ages in our society. We are currently studying how to love our neighbor and knowing everyone is our neighbor in God’s eyes is a tough thing. It is hard to love like I should. I keep praying that God will help me change. I reached out to another homeschooling mom today who is new in our community. I hope we will become friends. I will just keep reaching and praying God will create that community.

    Blessings,
    Terri S
    Madison WI

  • Godisgood

    What greater gift can we give each other than being real? It is what Christ did best and what gave Paul the authority to write God’s words to us.
    Thank you, God, that you are calling us, as women, to stand up and be who you have REALLY made us to be – by Your grace.
    Thanks for sharing from your depths,
    Kristen

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  • Dayna Guenther

    Wow, Joy, this sounds a bit like my life’s story!
    Thanks for “getting real” with us here and helping us.
    ~Dayna @ Pure Joy Journal
    http://www.daynaguenther.blogspot.com

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  • Ma

    Wow so powerful,i can totally relate.I didn’t make a pact but friendship wise i really struggled and still do attimes,once i connect with someone likeminded i doon’t anna know anyonelse .

    When i went to high school my best friend n i we drifted apart and it was hard for me connecting with others after that.I am now a pastors wife and God is still helping me be to be myself after all my years trying prove i was the finished article.

    Linking my heart with people and not to hold back is a challengd but life is short so i’m trying my best.Friendships change throughout life and being flexible is what im learning.Very goor blog by the way. :)

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