- There’s Abby, my resource, the friend I call on when I need advice–or a place to vent;
- There’s Sandi, my ministry colleague and voice of reason; the friend I laugh with and work alongside;
- There’s Lori who sets the example for me: hard-working, huge-hearted, and the friend with whom I have grown into mothering.
There are others, older and younger, who have offered life giving friendship to me. In a lonely world where isolation is the norm and competition is the default, the deep connection of friendship is a rare gift.
Author Sally Clarkson has leaned hard into connection–in spite of having moved seventeen times–and her daughters Sarah and Joy have learned well from her example. Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World is their collaboration in three voices. Part memoir and part road map, it offers “practices of holy rebellion” (22) that have helped the Clarkson women to resist isolation and chronic busy-ness (the enemies of friendship!) and to embrace self-examination, habits of holiness–and large mugs of strong, hot tea around a welcoming table.
While enjoying the pace of the Clarkson women’s stories, readers will be inspired and instructed in the art and science of cultivating deep and lasting friendships. From the harvest of their wisdom, I have winnowed five practices that I need to work on–and maybe you do, too?
1. Call out the strength in each other.
One Girls’ Club adventure happened on Prince Edward Island. The threesome had eaten their fill at a bed and breakfast where they got directions to the location that inspired the White Sands Hotel. Since it was supposedly within walking distance, they proceeded to walk off that big breakfast, but hours and kilometers later, there was still no sign of this Green Gables landmark. Joy was “hangry,” footsore, sunburned, and ready to give up, but her mum called her back to reason with these words:
“I think you have it in you to be brave.”
Adventurous Anne of Green Gables would have done it, so Joy decided she could, too, but the story would likely have ended very differently if Sally had not reached deeply into her daughter and pulled out the determination that was hidden there. Whether on a twelve-kilometer slog through unfamiliar territory, a family health crisis, or a deeply hurtful relationship challenge, women can call out bravery in one another with messages of strength and confidence.
2. Embrace the “Capaciousness of Womanhood”
In 2019, there is room for every kind of woman. When we give one another permission to lean into our callings without judgment, we put on display the beauty of “could.” I knew when my oldest son was born that I “could” have kept on working at a job I loved, but I also knew that I wanted to devote full time to my family.
The blessing of circumstances that worked together so that I “could” do that then have led me now to broaden my imagination for what’s next–and for what God “could” do in our lives when we embrace the wide open spaces created by His love. There is an abundance of work that needs doing in this world, and God has gifted and equipped His women in diverse ways to accomplish His plans.
3. Understand Friendship and Create Space in Your Life for It
If friendship is “something we both create and give,” if it is “a priority we choose amid the demands of life,” (70) it does not make sense for us to sit around and wait for friendship to strike like lightening in our lives. When my kids were all small, and I was housebound and homeschooling, I would lament the long stretches of time without what I would probably have called “meaningful conversation.”
One day it dawned on me that the women God had already placed in my life through play dates and church activities were the gift He was providing for friendship. We leaned into each other with a Bible study and playground appointments to the delight of our children and to the enrichment of all our lives.
“Usually friendship grows over time when planted in the soil of life, grown over seasons, and watered with love so it can flourish in the sunshine of life shared.” (115)
4. Fight for Balance
Boundaries rescue us from emotional depletion and sleep-deprived pity parties, but sometimes we need a little help from our friends in maintaining healthy priorities. Allowing them to speak truth into our lives takes humility, but it is an exercise in self-care that will make us more effective servants of God.
One dear couple expressed their concern–and then loaned us their house on the Atlantic Ocean for a weekend away, because they could see exhaustion from family and ministry was licking at our heels. Uninterrupted sleep and the delicious breakfast casserole they left for us spelled l-o-v-e, and we returned home with new energy and equilibrium.
5. Give and Receive the Gift of Love
When Henri Nouwen said, “The greatest gift we can give each other is the gift of our belovedness,” he was calling believers into an awareness of God’s great love that sings over us and celebrates our uniqueness. When we give and receive friendship, we are changed in ways that expand our capacity to love even more, and we experience the nature of God by opening our own hearts in imitation of His wide, long, deep, and towering love. By faith we learn that the gift of friendship is God’s great love flowing down and turning sideways as it runs its terrain-shaping course through wide-open hearts.
Many thanks to Tyndale for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Sally Clarkson has written extensively about home and family, and The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time is a resource I return to for inspiration. For more Clarkson wisdom, you can read my review here.
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