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Three Ways to Find Joy in Community

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A few weeks ago, late one night, I found myself missing my mom. The pain felt overwhelming all over again. I wanted to remember her. I wanted to remember what she looked like and how she smelled. This May will be 25 years since she left this earth to be with Jesus.

I went to my closet and got out the box that holds my only few precious mementos of her. In it was her journal from 1989. (Maybe this was the original T.S. album, ha!) It’s a thin, hard cover journal with an orangey-yellow and cornflower blue paint-pour type of design on the front and back. (Not exactly what I’d put on the cover of my Purpose Planner – but maybe I’ll use it as inspiration for this Spring’s collection!)

It’s so special to be able to read some of her most inward thoughts. I’m grateful to still glean some wisdom from her even now, after all this time. I put the journal on my nightstand and pick it up every now and then to read a few of her words. A reminder that life feels precious and short.

Recently, my husband and I watched the short docuseries on Netflix called “Live to 100” and the most interesting thing I took away from it was not the incredible diets these people had, or not even the fact that they all drank wine on a regular basis! (Can I get an amen?)

No, instead it was the common factor that people in their 80s, 90s and 100s were living in close-knit community with others! They cooked meals together, played games together, laughed and danced together. They loved one another, even to the point where they supported one another financially in hard times. This sense of belonging gave them friendship, love, companionship, and joy – and therefore longer, healthier lives!

How incredible is that?! I loved the whole series – and I highly recommend it. That’s just my own personal opinion. No endorsements here. 🙂

All of this has gotten me thinking about my own sense of belonging and the joy I find in my friendships. Fostering these relationships is so important to me. But what if you don’t have strong friendships, or a community you can count on?

When you’re a child, it seems like there are natural places to find friendships, all within your community: school, church, neighborhood, etc.

But I’ve found, as you get older, friendships are harder to come by. Or more so, you have to make friends on purpose. And like any relationship worth its salt – it takes time, energy and effort – like those who are living to 100. But it’s entirely worth it!

Maybe you’ve just moved to a new city, like my parents did with me and my sister back in 1989. When I read my mom’s notes in her journal from this time, one of the first things I noticed that she put high on her priority list as they settled into a new city was to get plugged into a church.

She knew it would be vital to her young family’s development. It would mean success or failure for my parents’ ministry and their business. It would mean building friendships that ultimately become family – which is crucial for when you don’t have family living nearby.

So today, if you find yourself struggling to get into community, or even have a hard time keeping up with the friendships you do have, I wanted to share three simple ways you can create community and discover the joy that comes with both old and new friendships:

  1. Start where you are: Consider your season in life. It’s likely going to be (slightly) easier to get together with moms who’s kids are on the same nap schedule. Has your child been begging you (like mine did this week) to get together with a friend from school? Make the first effort – send a note with your child to school to give to their friend (and ultimately the friend’s mom). Simply write out: “Hi! (Insert your child’s name) would like to play with (insert friend’s name) sometime. Please call or text if you’re ever free! Thanks, (insert your name and number). Then, when the mom hopefully responds with a text, plan a day and time to make it happen! Take a little time to get to know her when you meet up for the first time. You never know if this person might be your next best friend.
  2. Get plugged in: This option can take a little longer, but it has the potential to build deep relationships over time. Join a local organization, volunteer at your church, or offer to help out at your child’s school. In this day and age, the old adage “it takes a village” still applies! It really does take a community to help raise our kids in happy and healthy environments. And once again, you’ll likely find people who are in similar seasons of life as you. These relationships can go far beyond the places where they began. Find someone you seem to connect with and be the first to suggest that you meet up for coffee sometime – and then follow through!
  3. DIY it: At the beginning of the year, I realized I had been living under the assumption (read: lie) that I can’t have friends over (at least not easily) because of all these boys around. Ha – totally not true!! I need time with my friends! So I decided to host an easy-going monthly get together and invite women from all my different communities – work, school, church, neighborhood!

I’ve done many a girls’ nights out – and those are great – but I didn’t want to have to go out every time, worrying about getting a table big enough and hello! I see you $12 glass of wine when I could buy the whole bottle at Costco! I also wanted to plan a get-together more often – not just every now and then. That’s not really a good plan.

So in February, I created my first monthly Girls’ Night In at my place. A few bottles of wine, some charcuterie, Olive & June nail polish for those who wanted a little DIY activity, and a couple of board games later – and we had ourselves a great time!

Our February Girls’ Night In was a Galentine’s theme – I had fun breaking out my pink and red polishes – plus a couple of matching rosé wines!

You can create your own Girls’ Night In too! Pick a date and time that works best for you and your family, and text out cute invites (Here’s a fun free template in Canva to make creating your invite a breeze!)

Tell everyone to bring their favorite snack to share and then load up on some sparkling waters, and any of your favorite beverages you think your crowd will enjoy. It’s that simple! Don’t feel pressured to provide any kind of entertainment. Women love to just have a safe space to talk (and sometimes vent), and the kids running around in the background are more often entertainment enough.

I hope you found these three ways to create community simple enough that you’ll actually TRY one of them! Tell me in the comments if you do!

Or maybe you’re still on the fence and thinking – “Jess, I don’t feel like I have much to offer.” I’m here to say, YES, you do! Do you have time to share with someone else? Do you have a talent or skill you can use to help others? Do you have resources to share that would benefit people?

The place doesn’t really matter. What food and drink you serve, if any, doesn’t really matter. It’s the deep conversations that can be had. It’s the belly laughs over shared experiences. It’s the broadening of your perspective when you learn from someone else with a totally different background than you. It’s the friendships that can form in a moment.

That’s the good stuff. That’s the JOYful stuff!

Start small. Keep it simple. Use what you have right where you’re at and you’re golden, my friend!

Does all of this planning still sound a tad overwhelming? Don’t worry – I got your back!

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I can’t wait to hear how this resource will help you break free from the overwhelm, get rid of the mom-guilt, and experience more joy every day! Let me know in the comments which time saver was your favorite and why. I love hearing from you!

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