This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
I have always struggled with friendships. Early on in life, I had siblings and cousins to spend time with, and being the third of seven kids, I was rarely (basically never) alone. However, as I got older and started school, I kept to myself – a lot. I excelled in academics and music, but socially, I felt awkward. I didn’t want to be a loner, but even in those tender early years, I felt like there was something about me that made people not want to be around. I felt inadequate, insecure, and unlovable. I felt very alone.
In high school, I dealt with my loneliness by being involved in just about every extracurricular activity I could handle. I also built a few close friendships, which were my lifeline during difficult times. Still, I would describe my overall experience over those years with one word: brokenness. I was hurting – badly – but I also did everything I could to hide behind a smile. I didn’t want anyone to see me as someone that didn’t have it all together.
Going away to college was an exciting fresh start. Living in a dorm was my first experience living away from home and I enjoyed the anonymity that allowed. No one there knew the life I had just left behind some 60 miles away. But I knew…and I would eventually learn that there was no way to escape what I was trying so hard to forget.
College did turn out to be a time of incredible growth for me, but I still struggled relationally. I began to see a pattern in my close friendships – they only lasted about a year before either trailing off or coming to an abrupt, painful end. I thought back to those scenarios and realized that I was always the one pulling away. I was the one keeping myself lonely and afraid of sincere connection. I was the one believing that being vulnerable would only lead to more rejection and heartache.
I wish I could say that this realization marked a turning point in my life and I corrected the self-sabotage of my relationships – but that’s not the truth. What is true is that, as life often does, my story took twists and turns for which I was not prepared.
In what should have been my fourth year of college (I ended up graduating 8 years later), I met my husband, Adam. We quickly fell in love, and he proposed to me on Christmas Eve. We married a few months later.
Later that summer, we moved to Brentwood, Tennessee, the first of about eleven moves we would make in twelve years of marriage, going everywhere from Brentwood, Tennessee to Las Vegas, Nevada to Seattle, Washington. At first, moving felt like an adventure, it was fun and exciting. However, as years went by, it became more and more painful to leave what was familiar and safe.
With each move, it became harder and harder to build friendships. I built up walls to protect myself from the hurt of eventually saying goodbye. I began feeling like everywhere we went was only temporary, so what was the point of getting to know people or getting established? I retreated deeper and deeper into isolation, to the point where I had no social interaction with people outside of work.
I knew that this way of life was not serving me well, but I didn’t know how to fix the problem. Fatigue, anxiety, and severe loneliness were my constant companions. I lacked the motivation to take proper care of myself – I didn’t believe I was worth the time or effort. My physical health was in decline right along with my emotional and spiritual health. Isolation was literally killing my soul.
However, it was in that isolation that God began a new work in me. Over a period of several years, a whisper turned into an idea, and then morphed into a dream.
That dream is SISTER, STRONGER.
SISTER, STRONGER is a safe place for women to learn how to live lives of COURAGE, CONNECTION, and PURPOSE. I’m learning, too.
SISTER, STRONGER was born out of my own personal greatest need – to be truly known and accepted. It is a place that values truth, faith, and authenticity. A place that breathes life and hope into women from all ages and backgrounds. A place of refuge in the storm. Where dreams are birthed and rebirthed. Where fear is cast off through perfect love.
This life was never intended to be lived alone.
My prayer is that we, as SISTERS, will begin to see ourselves as the precious women we are, and to support one another through both joy and sorrow.
So, here goes! I would love to have the privilege to walk this journey with you. Please feel free to share your story with me, and we will find COURAGE, CONNECTION, and PURPOSE – together!