Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In Praise of the Courageous Venturer . . . and Those Who Welcome Her

Tentatively, you rap on the door.  It seems so ... well, imposing. 

It's always awkward venturing into an unfamiliar situation ... especially by yourself.  But before more doubts have time to gather and send you fleeing in the opposite direction, the door swings wide and the welcome offered is surprisingly gracious and warm.

People shove over so there's room for you on the sofa while someone fetches a cup of something warm and offers it to you with a smile that's not forced or phony.

Your radar goes up as you quickly survey the room, listening to the chatter and laughter, looking at the faces, sensing the body language.  Is there even a chance that a kindred spirit could be here?  It looks like there's genuine delight in each other's company and it feels ... well, safe.

There's nothing cliquey or exclusive or la-de-da going on.

It's not long til you're casually drawn into the conversation without anyone making a big deal about it.  Eyes meet and smile back.

These are just normal everyday people .... just like you with their baggage and their dreams and their yearning for acceptance.

Maybe, just maybe, this community could be a safe place to land.

The subject matter on the table isn't exactly profound, but it seems to somehow strike a chord, spark a bit of a flame.

And the sharing begins, a bit slowly at first, then picking up steam as iron sharpens iron.  You have a distinct impression that no one takes themselves too seriously, yet wisdom and insight flow like a river.

The facilitator quietly works the room, being sure that no one dominates the dialogue and that everyone's contributions are affirmed.  She leans forward just a bit when someone speaks, not wanting to miss a word ... and others do as well.  Heads nod in understanding and you get the distinct impression that this is a judgment free zone where truth and grace mingle well.

The Spirit is most certainly present ... enlightening, guiding into all truth, convicting, unifying.  You find yourself opening your heart to Him, to the prayers of those sitting by your side. 

And when the gathering concludes, the participants reluctantly head out the door feeling richer for having been there.  Each and every soul can't wait 'til next time.

Especially you.


62 comments:

  1. This often resembles my time spent with a couple of our counselors. They are welcoming, gracious and oh so gentle and wise. I'm blessed to have had a portion of what you beautiful describe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't help believing that this grace is what you offer the men you minister to day in, day out, Debby.

      And my heart always smiles when I hear that this kind of scenario has been the counseling experience for some yearning soul somewhere ... safe, warm, grace-laden, beneficial.

      Delete
  2. Sounds like a little slice of heaven, Linda.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. May we all get to repeatedly offer and receive this gift ...

      Delete
  3. "There's nothing cliquey or exclusive or la-de-da going on" ~ how delightfully refreshing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't you just hate cliques? I automatically get transported back to junior high school.

      Yuck.

      Delete
  4. Beautifully written Linda. I think many have found themselves in that situation of a new group meeting you describe, and sometimes have had to drag themselves to even go. And yet so richer for it at the end. Community with like-minded people that lift us (and we them) is so important for us to thrive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All us introverts out there find venturing into these new situations excruciating.

      But once we settle in, we're faithful participants for life.

      Delete
  5. This sounds like a lovely place to refresh and grow. I'd love to come. I've been in a couple such groups in my life. Miss it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, you're so right, Somer. Once we've experienced a taste of community, there's a missing link when it's gone.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for sharing this, Linda. It's an experience I've never had.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/01/your-dying-spouse-257-overwhelmed.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you, Andrew. Trust me, you're not the only one.

      But I hope you feel completely welcome when you arrive in this little online community. You are valued, your voice matters, you're a vital part of the dialogues that flow.

      Please know that I am grateful for your presence, for your perspective.

      Delete
  7. Hi Linda,
    How nice! Most of us experience those butterflies before meeting a new group but what delight rushes over us when we feel heard and accepted and discover we've found ourselves among friends! Love the door photo too! xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said, Valerie! It's a huge relief to experience open arms and hearts, especially if we've had the misfortune of bad experiences in the past.

      Which, I'm guessing, most of us have gone through ...

      Delete
  8. Hi Linda! Sounds like you found a winner of a group! As a group leader yourself, I know you appreciate the dynamics of a group and what it takes to lead effectively. Sometimes it's hard to make that swing into being the participant though.
    If we can only all treat each other with equality, and not find it necessary to vault ourselves to feel comfortable in a crowd, we'd all have these wonderful life-affirming groups in our lives.
    Enjoy!
    Ceil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you're here, Ceil ... welcome back from Christmas break!

      I've been in fabulous groups, I've been in lousy groups. I've sat on the sidelines, I've been front and center.

      Whatever.

      Groups can be a huge life-giving gift ... if we're courageous enough to put ourselves out there. My hat's off to everyone who pushes beyond their comfort zone to make them work well.

      Delete
  9. Thanks for giving us a peek into the new and tentative steps you take to connect in God-honoring community, Linda. I just know that once they get to know you, they will have the same warm impression of you that you've shared here of them. These are what some of my prayers for you are about--finding those godly friendship connections in your new community. I'm so glad to hear and see that my prayers are being answered. Oh, and LOVE that photo you took of the door. Makes me want to walk on through--or perhaps stand outside it and take in its beauty for just a time before rushing on in! But then I'm sure the inside is as beautiful as the outside--not unlike you! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh you're so generous with your words, friend.

      Actually, this post is kind of a combination of a bunch of stories. I've been the one at the door, on the sofa, and in the facilitator's chair. Two of those are very comfortable roles for me ... the one tentatively knocking is not my favorite!

      And the picture's from Unsplash https://unsplash.com/ where I make use of their free photos from time to time.

      ;-}

      Delete
  10. Wow! This sounds like a perfect group to be a part of. I can tell from what you have written here, Linda, that you have been roundly and soundly blessed by this welcoming community. Wonderful!
    Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, I am blessed in this season. Indeed.

      Delete
  11. Finding kindred spirits is always the motivation to finding a community. I'm so glad you share at The Loft community! We love having you here and your posts are always thought-provoking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's fun to drop in to the linkup from time to time ...

      Delete
  12. This is how I want people to feel in my house, welcome! We can all contribute and learn from each other.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, me, too. Welcoming people in has nothing to do with entertaining and everything to do with hospitality.

      Big difference, yes?!

      Delete
  13. I felt welcome just by the very nature of how you described the group. What a gift to find a place that is a judgment free zone. I pray that this community is one that you grow with as the year goes on. I sure would like to wake through those doors with you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you always always find that welcome here, Mary. Actually, the post started off as an ode to safe online community and it morphed into something completely different ... emphasis, photo, title.

      Don't you love being editor-in-chief of your own site?

      :-}

      Delete
    2. Yes I do and I meant walk through those doors with you! Oops! Hope your week is going well.

      Delete
  14. You have such a beautiful gift for reading people, whether in person or online, Linda. Also a way of nurturing this online community to be "a judgment free zone where truth and grace mingle well." Thank you so much! Love and hugs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just love the nurturing piece of blogging, Trudy! You've glimpsed my heart's desire ... and that's made my day.

      Delete
  15. Sometimes it does take courage to venture out, especially if you are more of an introvert (to which I can relate:). Appreciate your heart, and appreciate you sharing this with us. Thanks also for stopping by my blog for Ceil's interview. It's great to meet you! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, it's an introvert's post, isn't it, Karen. I'm so glad you came by ... I loved your interview with our friend Ceil.

      Isn't she terrific?

      And so good to meet you today, too!

      Delete
  16. Oh, my dear friend, I hope you are describing a place you have FOUND :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In so many words, yes.

      There have been places along the way where this has been the story ... and places along the way that have been the polar opposite.

      Delete
  17. That courageous venturer. :)
    A beautiful read, my friend.

    ReplyDelete
  18. So incredibly beautiful, Linda. Groups have always been a scary place for me in the past. God has graciously walked me out of my isolation over the past few years. I now have this exact loving, nonjudgemental group of women to meet with weekly that you speak of here. I also feel like we've built this type of community with our online friends through our blogs and comment sections, my friend :). It's truly a blessing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that God has given you this gift of in-person community, such a healing touch after scary experiences.

      And yes, the online community has been a lifeline for many of us, especially during times of transition when everything else was upside down and inside out.

      I'm grateful to do life with you, even from afar, Candace ... welcome back!

      Delete
  19. Sounds like a wonderful experience and community. I so appreciate the reminder that we need to be both welcoming and welcomed. Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you're here today, Joanne ...

      ;-}

      Delete
  20. What a lovely offering, Linda. And such a necessary reminder of how we can be Jesus with skin on to everyone who comes into our lives. I really enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing it. I'll be savoring a few of the thoughts for a while.
    Blessings,
    Dawn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I'm always grateful when I hear there's some cause for pause and consideration. I appreciate that encouragement today, Dawn ...

      Delete
  21. I love your description of this community- finding a safe place like this where we really feel welcome is such a blessing. It captures the spirit of this online community so well, and also makes me appreciate the fact that I have found a local community that is beginning to resemble this. It always takes me a while to open up but it is a good place to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right, Lesley ... it can take a while to open up {especially for us introverts} but I think that can be a very good thing. We need to be able to discern that we're in a safe place, surrounded by safe people, and that our words will be received in the spirit that they were intended.

      Sometimes that takes a bit of time to be sure of.

      And that's ok ...

      Delete
  22. wow I get to be your 40th comment! I've never had 40 comments! Well done. Virtual high ten to you blogging babe! I found you at the Loft. May your words continue to flow. I liked this part: " Is there even a chance that a kindred spirit could be here? " As an introverted forcing myself to be extroverted is fun as we do discover kindred spirits and/or Christ in nearly every place. Jenn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome from The Loft, Jennifer! And I celebrate your introverted you! Yep, it can be hard for us to venture out on a limb, but that's where the good fruit is, right?

      So glad you've joined us ...

      Delete
  23. I think I've been in smallish groups like this before, Linda, but I find that for me, this kind of connection mostly takes place one on one. Or maybe I just prefer it to be that way. Hmm... now you've got me thinking. :-) Whatever the case, I do know that the company of people who truly get me is a blessed gift from God! (And I agree with others that this is exactly the kind of feeling I get from the community you nurture here.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you, Lois. If I had to choose, I'd do the 1 - 1 thing. But there's a richness that comes with the right kind of group in the right season. And yes, that can be hard to find.

      Meanwhile, I'm glad you're finding this community here to be a very good place to land. That's such a blessing to me this morning. Thank you, thank you ...

      Delete
  24. Ah, yes, my friend! How delicious such times are and your words made it easy to envision myself exactly in that room. I wish they were not as rare as they can be in some or even many seasons, but when such a time is available it is to be savored and stored in the heart for lonely days when it may not be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pam, yes it seems like this level of group often seems to be a rare thing, and if we've been burned along the way {and who hasn't?} our antennae are really up if and when we decide to get courageous and step out on faith.

      Thankfully, God goes before us and with us and has our best interests at heart. He desires His children to meet together and is our best Guide as to what group is truly tailor made for us.

      I've found that the leader truly sets the tone. If we are blessed enough to meet that person, we're liable to be in very good hands.

      Delete
  25. Linda, what a lovely picture. Feels like a picture of what the Sisterhood should be. Love this sweet reminder to be hospitable to all -- for in giving the gift of time and acceptance, we're also receiving. :) Such a lovely post, Linda, thanks for sharing. And, thank you for linking up at #ChasingCommunity today, friend. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes and amen to the H word, Brenda! Hospitality is a huge factor here ... without that gracious warmth and wide open welcome, groups tend to go nowhere fast.

      And it has nothing to do with what kind of coffee being served or what the decor looks like, does it ...

      Delete
  26. Linda,
    I love it when the Spirit is present and where truth and grace mingle :-) So happy to read this :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It doesn't get much better than that ...

      Praise God.

      Delete
  27. A warm hello from a friend who thinks of you often even if I don't get by as often as I once did. A lovely picture you have given us of what community should look like/feel like. You give us that experience when we come here. Blessings to you. Happy new year.
    SimplyBeth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Beth, it really is wonderful to see you again. You were on my mind this week ...

      I hope you are well and will continue to wend your way here from time to time. Blessings to you, to yours ...

      Delete
  28. There's nothing lovelier than a true community of friends, Linda. Thanks for giving us a picture of this. (And I read your other post too. Jesus is DEFINITELY what is saving my life right now.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen! Where would we be without Jesus ...

      Delete
  29. Beautiful! Hope you are having a lovely weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's been lovely ... here's hoping yours has been sweet, too!

      ;-}

      Delete
  30. Beautifully written! I wondered as I read it if possibly you might be referring to the online blogging community, and I think as I scrolled through the comments that is a possibility. How wonderful this blogging community has become to me, so much joy and blessings have come into my life because of it. I appreciate you as a faithful reader and friend, Linda, and pray that the blessings of the Lord will be rich in your life this year :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, you got it ... originally this post was singing the praises of online community. But along the way it morphed from top to bottom.

      But it holds true for safe and healthy online interaction, for sure ... and for those of us who've worked hard to create it and interact with other kindred spirits who've done the same, it is a joyful blessing indeed.

      Delete

'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda