Six women in our mid to late 40s. Friends since the 1970s, bound together first by church and a common faith, then second by children and husbands. Interconnecting circles like a huge Venn diagram.
We came together out of a common need and crisis. Joan’s husband died in January; my family moved to a suburb north of Nashville — our church home as well.
Joan needed us: our prayers, our love, our encouragement. Our church had grown in numbers in recent years, and sometimes we didn’t even see each other, even in passing. I felt like I had moved to “a far country” and missed their friendships.
“that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12 This is the blessing we were missing.
This first sleepover in a hotel suite gave us time, uninterrupted time to share with each other the events in our lives, to catch up. But we easily moved deeper into our sorrows, our concerns, our joys. We talked late into the night, staying up until 4:00 A.M., as if we were teenagers. We laughed and cried.
Next morning we had breakfast and began a tradition that ended each sleepover: a prayer huddle. We now knew each other’s heart, the burdens we carried, so our prayers spoke to very personal needs. We prayed in turn for each other, and we were MUTUALLY ENCOURAGED BY EACH OTHER’S FAITH.
We parted with a picture of the group and a promise. Every year, perhaps spring, we would meet again to share an evening meal, sleep a little, laugh a lot, pour out our hearts’ pain and joy, and encourage each other’s faith.
I began a journal after that first gathering. I condensed each woman’s story and called it “The Way We Were”.
We have kept our promise. Sometimes one of us was unable to come; occasionally we missed a year of the sleepover and just had a meal together. One year all but one spent a week in New England, a Sister Trip, whooo hooo! See the Scrapbook on the Menu of my webpage for one of our adventures. Another year we drove to Rugby, Tennessee to stay with Carrie in her beautiful new home. We continue to see each other for lunch and sometimes at women’s retreats.
After ten years of meeting I read the whole journal aloud before we began our “serious” sharing time. It was a bit overwhelming. We all agreed: we were glad we did not know the future.
- divorce, remarriage, blended families
- illness and death of parents, retirement of spouses
- children behaving badly, children grieving, children off to college, children with learning disabilities, ADHD, and eating disorders, children married, children who are so far from the Father, children returning to live at home, death of a child, birth of grandchildren
- depression, brain tumor, earning doctorates, taking hormones and sweating through prayer huddle
- trip to Africa, Croatia, Jamaica, new jobs, changes in jobs, retirement
- as we get older, shorter nights of talking and more sleeping
March, 2003, from the Sisters’ Journal
This circle of friends were at my door as soon as they heard the news of Jennifer’s death. How comforting they have been! Joan and Belinda came to the house that Saturday night. Kathy, Carrie, and Lark were with me on Sunday. All year, phone calls, cards, gifts in the mail, and plans to go out together have been my support. This year at our sleepover I felt loved and cared for. Belinda paid for my dinner and they covered my part of the hotel bill. Belinda sent me spring flowers on Thursday, April 13. And most of all, I felt their prayers, especially when I could not pray.
I have no sisters, but I love my sister-in-laws who feel like sisters.
I also have these five spiritual sisters; we have shared with each other for 20 years!
We have this common language, “a common bond holding us to the Lord”. When I graduated with my Ed.D., they showed up. When one of us is speaking at a retreat or some other function, we show up to support each other.
March, 2012 Women’s Retreat, Woodmont Hills Church of Christ
This was to be our sleepover, only with a few more women. The unpredictable Tennessee spring weather changed those plans, but what a day we had at the church building on Saturday! We shared a table, shared Ann Voskamp’s book, began our journals of counting joy, and began a journey with a new perspective. Lark gave us all Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling, another way to connect with each other.
In the fall I spoke at a Ladies’ Luncheon about our friendship and the perspective that Ann’s book has given me. My gratitude journal, counting every day, reminds me of my sisters and the day we discovered together how powerful giving thanks can be. However, the counting is not magic; it’s a process. God tells us to do this over and over in Scripture; He knows what we need, and He tells us to give thanks ALWAYS. After all, He did create us!
“that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:12
The joys I’m counting today:
- “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you . . .” Romans 1:8
- five sisters who have walked with me through such a dark valley
- our friendship, shared wisdom, and powerful faith in our God
- memorizing scripture in the Romans Project, reminding me of small gems of blessings and promises
- opportunities through 20 years to hold each other up and rejoice together
Are you in the Romans project? Click here to get the free download at Ann Voskamp’s website. It’s such good discipline and good for an aging brain!