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About Courtney Stanford

Courtney Stanford is a passionate follower of Jesus and the writer of her blog, Let Every Heart.  She is the wife of a worship pastor and the mommy of three little men. Courtney is an elementary school teacher on hiatus, while she is currently a stay-at-home Mommy and the keeper of a joyful (yet slightly noisy) home that she lovingly refers to as her "frat house."  Whether she is leading a Bible study for women, teaching her adult Sunday School class, or writing for her blog, Courtney is an enthusiastic encourager of Christ followers, especially women and children. You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!  

5 Ways to Find Community in Adulthood

Courtney Stanford
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Courtney Stanford is a passionate follower of Jesus and the writer of her blog, Let Every Heart.  She is the wife of a worship pastor and the mommy of three little men. Courtney is an elementary school teacher on hiatus, while she is currently a stay-at-home Mommy and the keeper of a joyful (yet slightly noisy) home that she lovingly refers to as her "frat house."  Whether she is leading a Bible study for women, teaching her adult Sunday School class, or writing for her blog, Courtney is an enthusiastic encourager of Christ followers, especially women and children. You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!  
#Christian women #friendship #community

There is this thing that happens shortly after I write a post about friendship.  The post is up and the messages, emails, and comments begin.  For the most part, the communication is a light-hearted sharing of happiness between friends or the kind affirmation of readers to say that they enjoyed the article…but there is another theme that always occurs.  

When I write about the community and authenticity among Christian women, the messages roll in from readers saying they desperately long for that kind of true friendship in their lives.  They tell me about the loneliness, the ache of feeling unknown, and I pray for words to encourage them and lift their spirits. 

Recently, I responded to a very sweet reader with a few suggestions for perhaps seeking real community right where she is.  She seeemed uplifted and excited by the ideas.  

Just yesterday, I wrote about the highs and lows of  loyal friendship that God has blessed me with.  This sisterhood has bridged the gap of numerous seasons and milestones in my life.  You can read about it here, if you’d like!  

Upon posting, I was immediately filled with concern for those who might read and feel a bit heartbroken for that community they long to know.  I have purposed it in my heart to encourage women, through writing, in their relationships with Jesus and in other meaningful relationships as He pours out of their lives and into the lives of those around them.  {I definitely do not want to leave readers with a sense of emptiness.} Nope, nope, nope.  Not.  The.  Goal.

 Thus, I am following yesterday’s post about friendship with a few suggestions for seeking community wherever you are geographically and wherever you might find yourself in your journey of womanhood. 

 Here are a few ideas that I pray will build avenues for authentic connections and God-honoring friendships in the life that God has given you.  He never intended for us to be lonely.  He intends for us to love one another and to share in one another’s highs and lows.  You ready?  Deep breath in.  Here we go!

1) Attend or join: That’s right!  Sometimes you have to take the first step.  Is there a woman’s group in your area?  For moms, this may look like a playgroup, Mommy and Me class, and some churches host a MOPS (mothers of preschoolers.) Go in your exercise clothes and tennis shoes.  Just grab your diaper bag (and your tot) and go, go, go!  She’s a mom, too!  She isn’t looking for perfection in you.  She is looking for an adult to speak to.  Amen?  You can do this, precious friend.  Not a Mama?  Not a problemo.  All women can benefit from time with other adults in groups of shared interests: look for Bible study or book club.  This may be in your church or maybe these even exist in your workplace after hours.  Ask around!  About that church thing…does your church have some sort of small group, Sunday School class, missional community, or community group that might be waiting to welcome you with open arms?  Some churches organize these by life stages which can take away the guesswork of finding the one that is right for you.  Other churches organize these by certain studies, missional focuses, or even have a staff member that will automatically point you in the right direction.  Don’t be afraid to ask others around you if they know of any in place in your church.  These groups are perfect for weekly discussions and frequently host fellowships that you will enjoy being a part of.  Take my word for it.  Okey doke?  Here is another fun thought!  What about meeting new people in places that host classes based on an interest you already have?  Culinary gurus might enjoy connecting with other kitchen-lovin’ folks in a cooking class!  Athletic, sporty, healthy friends among us: what about a women’s only fitness class or gym.  Artsy craftsy types, have you ever considered enrolling in a class to learn a new skill?  I’m here to tell you: friendships begin at these places of common interests but you have to work up the courage and the enthusiasm to go.  Go, go, go!  Can you promise me you will try?  First, you need to see yourself as God sees you.  You are HIS creation, created for HIS purpose, and your identity is in HIM.  You are a wonderful person to know.  God has written a beautiful plan for you.  Allow someone else to be a part of your story.  Don’t be intimidated by the lies of the enemy.  You are treasured by your Heavenly Father.  Above all, seek Him and allow Him to lead you in the direction of the friend or friends who will cherish your company and will see you as His beautiful handiwork.  You are His treasure.  He knows your name.  Allow someone else to learn your name.

2)  Invite or Host: If you have read number one and you are painfully aware that those opportunities are not within your reach, first…do a double-take.  Are you sure?  Could you be overlooking these communities for fear of being a part of them?  If you are certain that this doesn’t exist within a 25 minute radius of your nest, never fear!  I have a plan for such a time as this.   You see, I became a stay-at-home mom three years ago.  Playgroups did not exist in my circle…or perhaps I was unaware.  Nonetheless, I decided it was time to form one.  Women needed to gather for an occasional cup of coffee and for encouragement that led them back to Jesus.  Children needed to play with other children.  My house isn’t gigantic by any means.  It’s a pretty humble little home and that is quite alright!  I don’t offer fancy snacks on a regular basis.  I typically just open the pantry to the hungry toddler and share whatever I’ve purchased for my own littles.  I don’t stress over a perfectly immaculate home.  They are moms too.  I tidy it a bit when it is needed and when my home feels like an absolute tornado…well, playgroup is terrific motivation to tidy with a bit more elbow-grease.  It has worked out beautifully.  I throw on a pot of coffee. Sometimes, I make a pitcher of sweet tea.  Occasionally, another mom offers to bring goodies to share.  Our purpose is to come together and to encourage one another.  We do this.  We have deep conversations often disrupted by toddler tantrums and it is messy, loud, and happy.  It is real.  We’ve learned so much from one another.  Remember: this was not a thing that I joined.  This was a thing that I made up.  How hard was that?  It was as simple as sending a few text and Facwbook messages to women in my same life stage.  I didn’t know them all well.  Some were from my church.  Others were aquaintences or old friends from high school. A few were simply friends of friends that I was pointed toward.  It has been beautiful!  You can do this!  It’s true what they say: Sometimes the best way to have a friend is to be a friend.  Be the friend.  The outcome may pleasantly suprise you!  Not a hostess?  Not a problem.  Invite friends to meet weekly or monthly at a local park, playground, or gym to chat while you run after children, side by side!  You don’t need a fancy location to bond with other women.  The playgroup moms and I sometimes meet at a play place inside a fast food establishment. Sure…it’s germy.  Just pack some socks, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer and invite the other girls along!  The same is true for women in any stage of life.  If you can’t find a book study, host a book study in your home or a Bible study in your church!  The same is true for hobbies.  My mom is part of a group of women (mostly empty-nesters) that meet once a week to knit together.  They call themselves (drum rolls, please…) “The Knitwits.”  Precious, don’t you think?!  I am pretty sure the goal isn’t to be an extravagant  knitter!  {My mom makes lovely dish cloths and some scarves but hasn’t felt the pressure to knit a parka or anything of that sort.} Women just love community.  Someone has to start the community.  Maybe you will be the founder of the next “Knitwits,” eh?  With a little creativity, you will surely find that there are rich friendships around you, just waiting for the seed to be planted.  Be the planter.

3) Connect and Communicate: You have completed step one or perhaps took the plunge of step two, instead!  Hooray!  You are braver than you thought!  Did you feel nervous or excited?  Were you shy or chatty?  You haven’t messed up.  Remember.  God created YOU to be you.  He doesn’t make mistakes.  Just be yourself and enjoy the community you have found. Shy is just fine!  Every group needs listeners.  Chatty is just fine!  Every group needs conversation.  Nervous is acceptable, as well.  You won’t be as nervous at the next meeting time.  Stick with it.  You will be enjoying these gatherings before you know it!  What is next?  I’m glad you asked.  Step three is crucial.  Once you meet women with a common bond: lifestage, hobby, or skill, and hopefully the love of Jesus–you are on your way!  Don’t stop there.  It is time to connect. This is where the relationship blossoms from a seed that was planted (think of an acquaintance as a seed for this analogy) into a beautiful friendship.  You have to water it.  Nurture the seed (we’re talking about acquaintances here, remember?) How do you do that?  Well, you need to communicate and plan to meet again. This is the part where you can make plans for lunch, coffee, a shopping trip, a trip to the movies.  This could mean inviting one lady over for a cup of coffee or inviting the whole group to go to dinner on a Thursday night. Don’t worry if your art class or Bible study is coming to an end.  This is the perfect opportunity to transplant those friendships into new places.  (I can’t stop with the gardening.  I’m a tad bit stoked about spring!  Can you tell?) Anyway, what began as a cooking class can become a Thursday night Supper Club.  What started as a book study at church can blossom into a Bible study in your home or a weekly prayer group at the coffee shop.  Run with this!  Even easier?  Nurture these friendships by simply communicating. Call her.  Text her.  Send a card on her birthday.  See step four for more ideas!

4) See a Need, Meet a Need: You are building a friendship and women need each other.  Cheer her on in all areas of life.  A family member passed away?  Take her a meal or send her a card with a gift card.  This might even be a gift card for pizza or it could mean sticking her cabinets with enough paper products: toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, disposable utensils, plastic cups, etc for her to avoid the supermarket or washing dishes for a week or two.  She just needs you to carry her burden in some small way, any small way will be welcomed and appreciated.   Did she have a baby?  Same ideas as above apply well!  If you have really gotten to know her family well, you might even offer to watch her other children for a few hours so she can nap, shower, or spend time with just the baby.  When she has a bad day?  Everyone loves ice cream or perhaps Oreos?  Just be there.  One of my precious friends once came to my doorstep with a 2Liter of Sprite, a container of Popsicles, and a redbox movie when one of my kiddos was sick.  Another sweet friend once showed up to give me a pedicure right before the birth of my third baby.  Another lady in my Sunday School class recently stayed up late to talk on the phone to our friend (also in our Sunday School class) while she drove a long route home late at night from the hospital, where her sick family member was staying.  Another friend and I used to trade care for our small children while the other one ran errands.  (Disclaimer:  It is so important that we only leave our littles in the home of someone we know well and trust.  I can’t say enough about this.)  I have other friends whooccasionally stop by just to drink morning coffee together, early in the morning, before the day begins.  It isn’t a desperate need, no.  It is, however,  the same act of showing up to someone else’s life.  When I was teaching, several of us would pile in the same classroom and enjoy our trays of canned veggies and meat suprise (just kidding…I actually enjoy school lunches for the most part) side by side at the Guided Reading table.  It was a beautiful 15 minutes to share stories of the weekend and laugh together.  Show up to someone’s life.  See a need.  Meet a need.

5) Form the habit of encouragement:  Send her a card, a text, or surprise her with her favorite beverage (my friends are the coffee and sweet tea kind of crew.) I like to send my pals an occasional scripture or song to encourage them and to focus their hearts on truth.  Your job as her friend?  To encourage.  Cheer her on!  Champion her!!  Gone are the days of Mommy wars and competitive women for you, my friend.  You don’t have time for that.  Because you?  You are an encourager!  Shine brightly!!!  

From my heart to yours,