Monday, May 19, 2014

Surrounded by Sisters and Friends



My grandmother's photo album is filled with crumbling pages of pictures of her family and friends. Part of a big Italian family, she always had someone around to share her life with. I never got to know her since she died long before I was born. But as I look at her photos, I know that she was surrounded by her sisters and friends.

I am too.

For the past few months, I've been meeting up with a friend who is wondering if she should leave her full-time job to start seeing clients at a counseling center. She’s been working diligently toward her God-sized dream of being a counselor and now she says she feels like she’s standing at a precipice, a little scared but excited. 

I tell her I think she should close her eyes and jump.

I tell her if God placed this dream in her heart, then she should follow where he’s leading, no matter how scary it is. 

I tell her that this opportunity may just be the next place of promise God has for her.



She tells me that my words have encouraged her. She tells me my friendship and acceptance have given her hope during this difficult season.  

But I realize these encouraging words I’ve shared with my friend aren’t really my own words. They are words that at many stops along the way, have encouraged me.

Because I’ve long been convinced that my personality quirks hinder my friendships, I'm continually read books that tell me how to work with my weirdness instead of against it. How to appreciate how amazing I already am. How to find the unique and beautiful purpose that God created in me. 




I've always attributed some of my quirks to the family of passionate, outspoken Italians I come from. I grew up listening to my dad's extended family tell dramatic stories and give a candid running commentary on everything around them. Even knowing where my mannerisms and characteristics come from, I haven't always appreciated them.

But now I think this is all a part of God's design for my life.

What if the very things I have so wished to change in myself have been the training ground for absorbing words of hope? 

What if the paths of disappointment and discouragement I’ve walked have given me insight and understanding to pave the way to encourage others? 

What if what I considered imperfections to banish from my life were the perfect way to connect with those who come into my life?




Sometimes opening my heart to share isn't the easiest thing for me to do since I worry what others will think about me. 

But I know God meant for us to encourage, connect and share our hearts with each other.


This summer, I'm co-leading a group on Facebook with the website (in)courage. My co-leader Sara and I met through an (in)couragers group last year. When the group needed new leaders, I wondered if I could do it. 

I think participating in groups on Facebook is the perfect irony for me since I have long resisted joining Facebook. But I felt that I should give it a try and noticed that Sara had posted the most recent update to the group. So I sent her a message, explaining that I was a Facebook novice but would she consider co-leading with me? 

To my amazement, she said she'd already been praying about it and was excited I had reached out to her. Together, we shared encouraging words and offered our friendship to the ladies in our group. 

It's risky but rewarding to open my heart but I realized that being an encourager with all of the friends in my life, both in real-life and online, is part of God's purpose for me. Sara was like a sweet sister God had connected me with just when I most needed her encouragement. 

Now Sara and I will again co-lead a group called (in)couraging Vocations and there are 70 more groups to choose from on a variety of topics if you want to check them out over at (in)courage

Registration is through (in)courage and open for this week only. We'd love to meet you there!

You just might find yourself surrounded by friends who could become like sisters.



16 comments:

  1. Absolutely everything in your life has happened for a reason. God works all things together for good - His eternal Kingdom good. I just finished a book that helps women sort through the purpose in their life. Restless by Jennie Allen. I'd highly recommend it!

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    1. Ali,
      Thanks for stopping by - -happy to have you here!

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  2. Thank you for opening up to us. I couldn't agree more when you say, "Sometimes opening my heart to share isn't the easiest thing for me to do since I worry what others will think about me." I often think the same thing, wondering if I shared too much. But true friends will laugh will you, cry with you and hope with you no matter what you share. I'm so glad I've made an amazing friend in you!

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    1. Bree,
      Your words brought tears! Sitting across from you every day is a joy, and of course, all of our extracurricular endeavors, too - -Hob Nobs included -- I wouldn't want to do them with anyone else but you!

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  3. How wonderful of God to open the doors at just the right time for you to be encouraged and to lead in encouraging others. So glad you are stepping out to lead during this session!!

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    1. Holly,
      Thank you for your very kind words! I love how God's timing is perfect. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I joined a group @incourage! Thank you for whispering to me this morning. I've been waking so early...it is for things like this that I'm thankful I have some hours of quiet before my day officially starts! I registered for a group of hopeful authors! I have ebooks, but I would like guidance on real publication! There was room in that group! So glad you are an incourager! We will get together soon to break bread! :)

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    1. Jenn,
      I'm so glad you registered for a group -- they are all great and I think that is a perfect fit for you! Can't wait to get together with you too!

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  5. Yep ... even us counselors need encouragement! I love that you are there for your friend in such rich ways that enable her to be present for those with wounded souls.

    Your attention to her life and her concerns surely will produce a ripple effect! And that is so cool ...

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    1. Linda,
      Thanks for your encouragement -- love that! Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Valerie, I love this story of how you are speaking life into your friend's dream. Oh if we could just get our eyes off of our own stuff enough to do this more often...it would change lives...theirs and ours. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement. So good to connect with you via incourage.

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    1. Jessica,
      Thank you for your encouraging words! And yes, fixing our eyes on others is exactly what we're called to do . . . thank your for stopping by and offering your kind words!

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  7. Beautiful post, Valerie!! What a heartfelt and thoughtful reflection on living to love and support our sisters in Christ. I am so blessed to co-(in)courage with you!!!

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    1. Sara,
      I love co-leading with you! I can't tell you how grateful I am to have you in my life!

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  8. I enjoyed this post so much! Thank You! I joined my first InCouragers group this week! I'm excited to get started!

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    1. Tara,
      Thank you so much for reading -- I hope you enjoy the incouragers group!

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