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I'm a redeemed child of God and the momma to four vivacious daughters. I'm passionate about finding hidden blessings in the trials of life, living it out in an honest and open way, while encouraging those around me to believe in better.

8
Apr

community :: (in)RL

What is community? What does community mean to you? And what does community mean to me?

The women at (in)courage have asked us (in)couragers these questions and asked if we’d share our thoughts with our readers.

I struggled a little bit in putting my thoughts together for this post. So much so, I wasn’t going to post at all.

You see, I’ve been feeling a bit of loss in the friendship department lately, and that’s where my struggle came in. In my mind, community equals friendship, and if I don’t have friendship, I don’t have community, and therefore I’m unqualified to write about community.

See how quickly and easily the enemy can work? What a downward spiral of emotion!

But I wanted to dig deeper than that … and in the process, prove the enemy wrong.

To help me out, I did what any writer would do — consulted with the dictionary.

And I’m told a few things … community is:

  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
  2. the people … considered collectively, esp. in the context of social values and responsibilities.
  3. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

A feeling of fellowship. That resonates with me. I’ve come to believe in something I’ll call a “heart connection.” I picture God standing between two people. Coming out of these two people are large, cartoon-like cords with large outlet prongs on each end. I picture God holding the large electrical prong — one in each hand. I believe when a friendship has His blessing, He’ll allow these prongs to connect and will plug them together. But when He feels a friendship isn’t right for us, He stands in the middle of it not allowing that heart connection to happen.

What does that look like on our end? In community, we have heart connections. We know in our spirit — hearts have been connected. I’ve had relationships where I really like someone, enjoy spending time with them, yet didn’t feel a “connection,” and could never put my finger on why. It was then, I believe, God gave me the image I mentioned above.

My new definition of community? It’s what I call a Heart Connection.

Are heart connections reserved for in-real-life relationships only? Or can they happen online?

Heart connections — community — can happen right in your neighborhood or through the screen of your computer. Ooorrrr … if you’ve been blessed like I have, a screen connection becomes a heart connection, only to find out your friend lives in your neighborhood!

{Angela & I on vacation in Exuma, Bahamas}

Angela and I met through Instagram and I love this girl with all my heart! And she lives right in my neck of the woods!! Oh the joy!

We’ve been (in)RL friends for just five months! Crazy when I think of it, because it’s a heart connection that feels like we’ve known each other since birth. In our short friendship, we’ve already been through a few ups and downs that life threw our way and we’ve been there for each other. Our hearts hurt for the other.

I received some devastating news back in January and called Angela to let her know. She had a busy day, but dropped everything, brought me lunch, and we cried together.

Have you ever gone through something, big or small, and someone says to you, “Call me if you need anything.” How many of you actually call that person and let them know what you need?

Often times, we don’t even know what we need. But community? Community comes anyway. Community brings lunch. Community cries with you. With community — a heart connection — you figure out what you need together.

Angela girl … God blessed me good with you!

{Cyndi & I during one of her many visits to NC}

And then there’s this one! Cyndi. I met Cyndi online too. Back in the days when I was blogging for the store I owned, Cyndi followed and left comments.

And when I sold the store, she hopped over to my personal blog and our friendship began to grow. I started following her blog, we met up on Twitter and Facebook and finally brought our online friendship — and heart connection — to a real life relationship.

Cyndi lived in Louisiana when we first “met.” She’s since moved to Cleveland, and last fall moved to Mississippi. I’ve been in Wisconsin and now North Carolina, and our friendship continues to only get stronger.

Community lets me Vox, vent, share, encourage, and cry.

Cyndi – you are a treasure and I don’t know what I’d do without you in my “community.” I love you!!

{Dawn & I in front of the Billy Graham Library}

I’m not certain how long ago it was that I met Dawn … but what I know for sure is, ours is a kindred community. We were online friends. Her in Florida. Me … not in Florida. And yet prayers, whispers, tears, and encouragement we share.

I’ve had the awesome pleasure of meeting Dawn in person. Sometimes one worries it will be awkward, or not the same somehow that this kindred spirit we “know” through a screen will be the same when faced with each other.

But no. Not with Dawn. She’s as real in life as she is behind the screen.

Dawn – I’m so thankful we were able to meet for real and I pray we have many more “for real” encounters. You are a blessing to me and I love you!

{Wendy & I at the Ol’ Miss homecoming game}

And then there are those friends who just “happen.” And so it was with Wendy. This friend lives just down the street from me and is an “in real life” friend.

I prayed a literal prayer one morning, “Lord, please send godly women into my life.” No sooner had I said amen, and I received a call from this sweet woman! She’s the real deal and I love her inside and out!

Wendy – you’re a treasure to behold and I’m thankful to call you friend!

{Tracie & I playing Thelma and Louise in the convertible}

I have many friends. Community. Heart connections. Some have come. Some have gone. Some are sticking around. And some came back.

In many ways, I feel like Tracie falls in the “came back” category.

I consider Tracie the second BFF I’ve ever had. We met in our early twenties. Before children. Before our current husbands {I was married to my first at the time}. And really, before “life” happened.

We worked in the same building, but different floors. For one reason or another, she was often visiting the area where I worked. One day out of the blue, she walked past me, quickly flung the back of my skirt up, declared it “dress up day,” laughed hysterically, and we’ve been fast friends ever since!

We’ve seen each other through good times and difficult times, we even separated for a bit. But when the going got tough … “community” came calling.

Tracie was there when I brought my first babygirl home from the hospital almost 18 years ago. And sweetly, she was here this past weekend to see that same babygirl dress for prom and drive away in a limousine.

Tra, Fendi – We could write a book. Seriously. I have so many special memories of the community we’ve formed together. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being real.

#####

And noowwww {insert drumroll here} … the reason for my post! If anything I’ve said resonates with you here and you feel the need to strengthen your own communit, to sit and talk with women who are willing to be transparent and available, I’d like to encourage you to sign up for (in)courage’s (in)RL event. There are meetups literally, all over the world … whether you’re in Ireland, North Carolina, or anywhere in between, I know there’ll be women ready to welcome you with open arms. I’ve included links below on how to register and find a meetup in your area.

{if you’re reading via an RSS feed, please click here to view video}

Links with more information:

What does community mean to you?

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9 Responses to “community :: (in)RL”

  1. dawn says:

    i am so thankful to be a part of your community… and that you are part of mine. us? awkward? maybe only that we couldn’t seem to get our hug in quick enough at the airport and my feet were dancing as soon as i spotted you! i have loved to see your prayers (and the ones i have for you!) for friendship answered… it helps me to breathe…

    i so wish i could for your (in)RL event! but it just isn’t gonna happen this year… i’ll be packing up my girl (EEK!) but i’ll be praying for your party and the gathering of beautiful hearts xoxo
    dawn recently posted..yay five!

  2. It’s pretty amazing how true community can come through the internet, huh?!

  3. Amanda says:

    Thank you for pushing through on this post, Tracie. I’ve recently had some friendships fade, and it’s been painful to admit. I want to hold on but I know that God’s timing and ability to connect is beyond mine. I love how you’ve focused on the friendships that have been developing/remaining in your life, because those are the ones that God has plugged you into right now. It’s hard not to long for the past, but so good to walk in step with God right now. It’s a gift to (in)courage alongside you!
    Amanda recently posted..A God who sees, a people who see, & being “in”

  4. Oh Tracie…this post is just full of beauty and encouragement for everyone who longs for a heart connection. I have felt so blessed co-leading this group with you this past year and can’t help but know it was providential. I sure wish I lived close by so we could meet more in real life. Know I love you and appreciate you and am so thankful for you. What beauty you’ve shared here! With much love to you…xoxo
    Jacque Watkins recently posted..Won’t You Join Us for Community, In Real Life?

  5. Tiffany says:

    Beautiful!

  6. cyndi says:

    Oh my! I’m soooo far behind and just happened to see our picture in your FB feed. Needless to say I jumped right over and am now crying. Crying happy tears that I met you so many moons ago and because I feel so blessed for our “heart connection.” I still have a hard time believing how we met but, truly, God has a plan and I’m so thankful to Him for bringing us and our hearts together. I don’t know what I’d do without you in my life!!! So sorry that I’ve been MIA lately. Hoping to rectify that soon. Love you tons!!
    cyndi recently posted..emotional

  7. Sophia says:

    Beautifully written and heartfelt. Thank you!

  8. Tracie says:

    I finally found this! I’m so glad you found genuine friends. You don’t need a million friends, (the word acquaintance exists for this reason) just a few awesome ones! Meeting frienemies makes you appreciate true friendships even more.

  9. (in)courage says:

    This post is FULL of beauty, and full of community. Thank you so much for sharing, friend!

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