The Friend-Finding Game-Changer
Every other Tuesday night we open our front door, and grown-ups, kids, and the most eclectic collection of potluck dishes you’ve ever seen stream in. Some weeks I look forward to it. Some weeks I’m exhausted at the thought of it. But we just keep opening the door no matter how we feel. And three years into living in Maryland and opening our blue front door and wiping down the bathrooms and sweeping up the crumbs under the dining room table and vacuuming the rugs, I know in my homesick, aching heart that this is the single-most game-changing decision we’ve made when it comes to finding local friends.
It started because our church was looking for folks willing to host a home group (in other words, a regular chance to connect with friends from church outside of church). Being total newbies to the area and to the church where we signed up, we stood awkwardly in the church lobby, wondering who else might sign up to join us. Maybe three couples did. And they invited other people. And the grapevine has continued to extend invitations and the group has multiplied and now we have more kids than adults and they run wild like in Lord of the Flies until the food is served.
All Hands On Deck
Our two boys help look out for the littles, which mainly means policing the trampoline and intervening when someone gets too enthusiastic about feeding the koi fish and comes really close to tripping herself and her dress and sparkly shoes into the water. Sometimes the boys offer everyone rides around the lawn in the wheelbarrow, sometimes they hide in their bedroom when the girlie shrieks of excitement get particularly shrill, but inevitably they’re pulled off their iPads by their enthusiastic fan club.
Everyone troops in for dinner, although some nights the parents are lucky enough to feed themselves before the children remember that they’re hungry and show up for their helpings. And when our youth pastor sits down on the window seat next to the mom of two of the girls in our group and they get out their guitars, everyone settles down in the lounge on sofas or the floor or laps and we do our best to sing (and sometimes we’re even in tune!). But it all sounds like heaven to me. The tiny daughters lip-synch when they don’t know or can’t read the words, and my giant sons squish in on either side of their dad, singing with their eyes if they aren’t singing with their words.
Seeing Faith through Each Other's Eyes
Recently, we started inviting folks to share a story about how or where they saw Jesus that week. We call them testimonies, but really they’re just chances to tell us more about themselves and where they spotted God in their ordinary lives. We lean in and love to listen to these stories because no one ever gets too old for amazement. Getting to see faith through someone else’s eyes is real-time encouragement and our kids love this part of the evening. And last week my little daughter, who still wonders out loud if this Jesus is something tangible or not, told me on Tuesday afternoon that she wanted to share a testimony. Then she practiced. And then later, after playtime and the potluck, she sat on her chair at the edge of the circle and quietly, seriously, shared about the God who cares about seven-year-old girls who struggle with that mean girl in their class who used to be one of their best friends. She shared how when we tell Jesus our fears and ask Him to help us, He actually does.
And then of course all the other kids had to share too. The adults watched and listened as their kids bore witness to a God who didn’t just come to earth once but has made His home here among us. Who has befriended our children, who are learning how to spot Him by listening in on the lives of their parents.
Before long, a few hours on Tuesday nights every other week wasn’t enough; we all wanted more. We had started our third year together by hosting a “state of the home group” night, which meant we ate more than usual because we’d brought in even more than usual and then we sat and chatted about what we’d loved about the past two years, what we wanted more of, and what we thought might be good new additions. We all agreed we wanted what happened on Tuesday nights to grow legs and walk out into the rest of the week with us. What still kind of catches me off guard is how naturally that happened.
First there was a group text and then a group chat and then before we knew it, the guys were getting together for “man time” to connect and we gals were hosting a women’s event at church and gathering for our own weekend lunches and antiquing if we had the extra time. This grew into weekday dates and stolen conversations after church and dropping off meals at each other’s houses and helping move boxes while always planning more playdates and sleepovers for our daughters.
Opening the Door to Beauty and Discomfort
The thing about building friendships means at some point someone will be standing in your kitchen on a day you wish you’d had time to brush your hair or wash the dishes. It means at some point when you ask someone how she is, she will actually tell you. She’ll tell you the unpretty truth and there will come a moment when you cross a line in the sand of politeness into a land where your conversations become real and not just conversational. This is both a good thing and an uncomfortable thing, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Opening the front door is a revolutionary, boundary-breaking act these days. Welcoming people into your unfiltered life will be good for you. We keep doing it and are constantly surprised by how richly it multiplies anything we may have hoped for in the beginning.
Adapted from The Middle Matters by Lisa-Jo Baker Copyright © 2019 by Lisa-Jo Baker. To be published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, on July 23, 2019.
Lisa-Jo Baker, a former attorney and longtime Community Manager at (in)courage, is the bestselling author of The Middle Matters, Never Unfriended and Surprised by Motherhood. Her writings have resonated with thousands and been featured on Huffington Post Parents, Bible Gateway, Fox News, Christianity Today, IF Table, and more. She is the co-host of the Out of the Ordinary Podcast and a sought-after national speaker who considers connecting with women in real life the best part of her job. She and her husband of over 20 years live just outside Washington, DC, with their three very loud children.
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