If we were having coffee

having coffee

One of my favorite things to do with friends is to chat over a cup of coffee. This was something my girlfriends and I started doing in high school, and it carried into college and beyond as well. I don’t get to do it nearly enough, anymore. Busy schedules, babies, budgets  and distant borders now make having coffee with a friend increasingly difficult. That’s why today I’m going to share with you what I’d tell you if we were having coffee.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about how terrible my work life is right now. On the surface, my work life seems ideal: I work from home, I have a robust amount of autonomy, I work almost entirely independently and I get to set my own schedule. However, all is not as it seems. Our board of directors have recently made broad institutional changes that are affecting top level leadership and impacting me directly. These changes have been abrupt and ill-planned. The morale among my team and the organization as a whole is low, and it’s not a great place to be. So, I’m updating my resume and brushing up on my interview skills.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about how Oklahoma’s schizophrenic weather is causing my allergies to go bat crazy. I can’t breathe, my throat itches and I’m hacking like a middle-aged chainsmoker named Barb. Ryan went out for some allergy meds tonight, and all of the major brands were sold out. It seems I’m not alone. Oklahoma’s extended forecasts have had more highs and lows than the Zingo at Bell’s. Go home, Oklahoma weather, you’re drunk.

If we were having coffeewe would inevitably talk politics. I’ve generally avoided these conversations since law school, but I believe our country is in a critical place and we need more engaged citizens. And while I don’t expect to win you to my side, I thrive on the exchange of ideas. I think we’re all better for it when we can dialogue with those of different worldviews.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about how Ryan’s starting a new ministry position in a local church that has us so excited. Since moving here last summer, we’ve really struggled to find a church home. However, a church just a few blocks from our house recently hired Ryan as their bivocational worship leader. This new faith family has made us feel incredibly welcome already, and I’m so thankful for new possibilities.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how my firstborn is turning four years old this week and I don’t even know what’s happening. Tonight after her bath, she asked me to blow-dry her hair, and I was struck by how much of a little girl she is now. All signs of my baby are gone and it’s exhilarating and devastating all at the same time. I’d also tell you that parenting her is the greatest challenge of my life so far (and I’ve had many). I’m daily forced to my knees in prayer for how to be the mom she needs, and it’s a humbling road to walk. Where all my mommas of strong-willed humans at?

Okay,. Your turn. If we were having coffee, what would you tell me?

Loneliness, friendship and faith

Loneliness, friendship, and faith

In case you didn’t know, we recently uprooted our lives and moved to a new town. (Again.) (For the 7th time in 5 years.) (You can read more about that here.) Since we’ve moved so many times, we often find ourselves displaced from our network of friends and having to start over in a new place. With these many transitions, I’ve observed that, in my adult life, it’s much harder to start over in a new place and establish quality friendships.

Now don’t get me wrong, acquaintances are easy to come by. But, real friendships, the kind that span the years and traverse the miles between you, are difficult to grow and maintain as adults. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. What is about adulthood that makes nurturing relationships with others so challenging?

I find this struggle all the more troubling because I’m a Christian. The church is supposed to be synonymous with community. Especially in the Southern Baptist world, we hold fellowship meals and talk about the importance of “not forsaking the fellowship of believers,” and yet church can be the loneliest place for many, myself included.

For example, since moving here last August, we’ve visited most of the churches within our denomination in town. We found ourselves gravitating to one in particular – it’s doctrine matches ours, the pastor preaches through the Bible expositionally (which is our preferred preaching method), and our daughter enjoys the children’s ministry activities on Wednesday nights. We have grown increasingly involved in the life of the church – we’ve joined the choir, and I’m playing bass for the worship team.

Yet, we can go through several Sunday and Wednesday services and nobody talks to us. This isn’t a large church, either – there are maybe 100 people there on a Sunday morning. You may think, perhaps the problem is that we haven’t connected to a small group. That isn’t the case. We’ve been regularly attending the small group class for our age/season of life since we started attending in September. People do talk to us in small group – but, if we are absent for several weeks in a row, nobody reaches out to us – not even the small group leader. 

You may also think this is an isolated incident – that this particular church might need to grow in their biblical understanding of community. However, in our many moves, we have found this situation occurring more often than not. I have often wondered if maybe there is something wrong with me/us because it happens so often. Yet,  the more I talk to other believers inside and outside of my denominational affiliation, I keep hearing this same story of loneliness and isolation among the people of God.

The weight of this problem struck me last week. I was at the gym with an old friend – someone I’ve known for over 15 years. We’ve known each other since high school, and though our lives have gone different ways at different times in adulthood, we have reconnected recently since I moved back to our hometown.

During our time at the gym (we call it “treadmill therapy”), she confided to me that she and her husband are starting marriage counseling. As she shared this deeply intimate struggle in her life, she said to me, “I’ve felt like I can’t talk to anyone about this. I can’t tell my parents, and I can’t talk to anyone at church about it.” She’s felt isolated and alone – navigating the murky waters of the sea of marital conflict on her own.

Her experience is just one of many similar to it. Bible-believing, faithful, church-going men and women who sit in pews every single week are battling unseen conflicts on their own, without a community to circle up around them and go to war with them.

Why? That’s the question I’ve not been able to answer, yet. I don’t understand why it’s been so hard for us to find a community of gospel friendships. I don’t understand why it’s easier to find camaraderie among coworkers than among co-laborers in the church. I think familiarity has something to do with it – the more you’re around someone, the more the relationship grows. Yet, if the gospel is anything, it should be the ultimate source of familiarity – our mutual need for grace in light of our shared weakness.

As you can see, I have more questions than answers. Have you had this struggle in your adult life? Have you ever had to start over and build new friendships? What was your experience like?