If you read this with any regularity, you know that many of my blogs are inspired by what the teaching was at church that week. This is yet another such entry.
On a side note, I’d like to inform my friend Eric that I still intend to re-listen to his teaching and blog about it. I know that is important to him 🙂
Tonight my brother taught about his favorite topic: Community. Not as in the neighborhood you live in, but as in the circles you travel in and the people who cross your path regularly. There is no one who tries harder or is better at intentionally involving himself into the lives of those around him than my brother (except maybe my parents). Sometimes I look at their friendliness, hospitality and sacrifice and I wonder how we are related. They strive to make people feel loved, needed and wanted just by their attitude. I am not sure anyone would say that about me!
Tonight I learned that to build community (with friends, neighbors, co-workers etc) we need to do three things: Open our hearts, open our wallets and open our homes.
The hardest part for me is (no, not opening my wallet) opening my heart. I am a pretty private person (despite blaring my thoughts in blog format). I only share my feelings and thoughts with the people who are closest to me. There are even people who I would consider close to me that only get the censored version of what I am always thinking and feeling. Furthermore, as much as I fancy myself a pseudo counselor type, I have a hard time reaching out to people when they are not in need. I know, when they are NOT in need. Most people are always striving to reach out to friends and family in their time of need. For someone reason I feel like that is the ONLY time I reach out to friends and co-workers.
I am really bad at actively maintaining my friendships. If I know you are hurting or in need of something, you jump up ten spots on my radar, but if you are happy, healthy and living the dream I seem to let you slide for a while.
I don’t want to love like that. What if I treated my marriage the same way? What if I only spoke to Derek when we were in trouble? I’ll tell you what would happen, we would be in trouble all the time. I work at my marriage. Every day, every hour, every conversation. Without that intense focus, we would not be where we are today (happy).
Friendships may not be as “needy” as marriage in that sense, but they deserve the same intentional respect and focus. Building community in the circles of influence that I have is just as important. I want to actively search out people who I can speak with, influence and help. You never know, I might actually find someone I like and want to spend time with!!
I can always be better at opening my wallet, although if you ask my husband I am already pretty good at this! I do love to treat friends to coffee, drinks or whatever. I love to bless people, but that doesn’t mean I have to do it financially. Sometimes time is the biggest blessing you can give. I think of my friend Lori (shout out). Lori lives in another town and I rarely see her. We text and Facebook regularly, but once every few weeks we make a point to pick up the phone and actually have a voice to voice conversation. It is an extra step that we take to show dedication and support to each other in our friendship, and it means a lot.
I love to have people into my home. Typically though, that is on my time and my terms. You are here because I invited you. What if someone stops by unannounced? Will I invite them in or keep them on the porch? We talked tonight about closing off your home because of the mess or the size or the chaos (if you have children). God forbid people see what you live like on a day-to-day basis. In my case, I have made it a habit, mostly under the influence of my husband, to keep my home “drop-by” ready. That doesn’t mean it is scrubbed top to bottom all the time, but I pick up any clutter before I leave for work or right when I get home. I always put my bathroom wares and dirty dishes away before I leave and I try to make the bed every morning.
Sure, it is an extra effort I put forth every day, but it allows me to feel ready. Ready to have a friend stop by or a surprise visit from my parents or in-laws to not be a crisis. It means I can plan an impromptu girls night at work during the day and know I won’t be worried about my house being a mess.
As my brother said, there is something very special about being with people in your own home. It is real and it is personal. God lives in your home and He lives through you and through your walls. People can feel it. Just like they feel sadness or tension in homes that are broken, they feel love and warmth when they walk into a home filled with Jesus.
I can only hope and pray that I make people feel loved, welcome and cared for when they are with me. I am pretty sure that isn’t the case now (at least not with everyone) but I want it to be. I will be working hard to change my perception on what creating community means. Meanwhile, I hope you will hold me accountable. Call me out if I am not making an extra effort to make you feel loved and appreciated!
Disclaimer: Derek and I still very much appreciate advance notice if you plan to swing by our house 🙂