I sat on the floor of the playroom our church had so mercifully created just upstairs from the coffee shop. As I built a foam castle with one child and made goofy faces at the baby, the mother of these sweet kiddos poured out her heart to me.
She needed encouragement…reassurance. She needed to hear someone say “You can do this!”
And as we talked I was struck by the fact that if someone were to peek through the window and take in the scene before them, it wouldn’t look anything like the image of community that is so often portrayed in our Instagram feeds.
You guys, there wasn’t an old barn in sight.
No long trestle table covered in mason jars overflowing with wildflowers, the soft glow of candlelight and impeccable place settings made to look effortless and casual…with a barn in the background.
We weren’t standing in a field, heads thrown back in laughter over a joke only we were privy to.
Instead, I juggled my coffee while board books were being piled up on my lap by the toddler and this precious mama attempted to keep the baby occupied with puff cereal so that she could maybe, just maybe, string enough sentences together to convey to me what was on her heart.
It was messy and hard. We were interrupted…a LOT. And yet there were beautiful things happening in that room.
I’m going to admit something to you…I’ve scrolled through my social media and seen those women standing against the side of a barn, clustered together in obvious kinship and felt the envy welling up inside of me. Why has no one ever asked me to wear a crown of flowers on my head and hold hands in a beautiful display of sisterhood?
Why have I never been invited to sit down at that trestle table with the chandeliers hanging from the trees above and the charcuterie boards covered in cheese and other delectable treats. I really like cheese.
And even if I could find a barn to stand in front of or a trestle table in a field, would I be welcomed in my yoga pants and ponytail?
If I were to be invited to that barn (and probably after hitting the publish button on this someone is going to email me about coming to a barn because God just has that kind of sense of humor), I would honestly think it was so much fun. I can frolic through a field with the best of them! I would be honored to stand with my tribe and celebrate the beauty of doing life together. So, please, please, please, hear my heart that I am not condemning these activities. I’m not saying that there isn’t significance and value in them. Because there is!
I just think that somewhere along the line, we’ve begun to hold up those images as an ideal, as the standard. But, the reality is that those are actually a one-off. Those are special moments in time. Like a holiday, a birthday, a weekend getaway or that time I spent less than $50 at Target. They’re not the norm. They’re not the everyday.
For me, the everydayness of community has looked less like an Anthroplogie ad and more like sitting on a couch crying with a friend as she shares about the hard season she is in. Or sitting in my car outside the school talking through a rolled down window to the mom sitting in her car next to me, commiserating over the painful years that are middle school.
It’s looked like taking a crying baby out of the arms of their weary mama at church and walking that little one around and around the lobby so that maybe mom can just sit and enjoy the sermon or even get a little shut-eye since everyone will just think she is deep in prayer.
The everydayness of community for me has looked like getting ready to board an airplane and realizing I had forgotten an important deadline and frantically texting friends begging to be covered in prayer and watching as the words of encouragement come flooding in.
I think that if our perception of what community is supposed to look like is based on what we see on social media, we might just miss it’s true beauty. And, in addition, if our perception of what community is supposed to look like is based on what we see on social media, we might be afraid to even make attempts to build it.
One of my favorite references to community in scripture is found in Hebrews 10:24-25.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
There is so much beauty to be found in gathering together, motivating each other, holding one another accountable, investing in someone’s life and having them invest in yours. There is beauty in trying to talk to a friend while pushing your kids on the swings or ugly crying together when life just doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. There is beauty in pizza boxes stacked on the counter because you wanted to have people over for dinner but didn’t have the time (or the desire!) to plan a fancy meal.
Community can look like so many different things and can happen in so many different places. And one of my greatest fears is that a woman will look at a beautifully staged (but made to look un-staged) photo and think that since nothing in her life even remotely resembles that image, that there isn’t a place for her.
Because there is. There is a place for every.last.one.of.us to be apart of a community.
And it can happen anywhere. On the floor of a playroom or in the pickup line at school, in a coffee shop or in a church. It can even happen in a beautiful old barn or around an elegantly decorated trestle table.
It’s not really about the place, after all. It’s about the heart. And the intention.
And MY intention is that you will always feel apart of a community here. That this would be a place where you are free to just ‘be’. Where I can share my heart and you can share yours and we can do this thing called life together.
So, let’s do it. Let’s have a conversation about what community means to you. Here are some questions to help us get started:
- Do you feel like you are apart of a community?
- What does community mean/look like to you?
- How does social media impact your perceptions of how others are doing community?
- How can I be praying for you in this area?
I look forward to hearing from you dear friends,
I wish we lived closer, so we could go find us a barn 🙂
At The Picket Fence says
Or run through a field together!! LOL!
I loved this post. I am blessed to be part of several communities and try never to take that for granted. What I did take away from this post was to challenge myself to invite others into those communities or to start/join additional ones when I meet new people. It is so easy to stay in my comfort zone with my peeps but then I will miss an opportunity to support or be supported.
So good, thank you!
Thank you, Vanessa, for being real and offering that safe place! It is so hard “to just be” – social media is hard – even if, in your heart, you know it is not always real life.
That was beautifully written. You are right, life just happens where ever we are. I’m a cashier at the grocery store and sometimes my customers say they feel like I’m their therapist. We have only a few moments together between important questions like, “paper or plastic?” When you meet someone you click with you give them your best thoughts. Hopefully you have planted a seed. When they are ready it will grow.
Lovely. I am a part of different communities…my church community supports me in faith, belief and family feelings. My writing community offers support in inspiration, creativity, and friendship. My blogging community gives ideas, wisdom, and encouragement. It is all important t round me out!
At The Picket Fence says
Rose that is such an incredible thing to be apart of different communities that each bring value to your life. Such a gift!
This post was so on point and really spoke to my soul. I feel a part of my community at church and so love working in the nursery and women’s ministry as I love to support and give to other women. I stopped social media for the most part because I didn’t like the feeling of “not good enough” it provoked and the time wasted when I could be doing other things that bring me joy. I would love to have prayers for continued guidance of where God is leading me to best serve and the courage to take a leap of faith when prompted. Thank you Vanessa for this beautiful community and the opportunity to share.
At The Picket Fence says
It really is so hard to be on social media and not have those feelings of not being good enough, isn’t it? And yes you are SO right that it really does suck up too much time. I will be praying for you Sandy as you seek wisdom from the Lord about next steps in your life and that even when you don’t feel like you have the courage you will be obedient as He is leading you. Much love! Vanessa
Cathy Baker says
Such a beautiful post, Vanessa. As an introvert, I find my community happens much like you describe (opposite of IG posts) and I’m learning that’s okay. Thank you for validating it once again. Blessings!
At The Picket Fence says
You are so right Cathy!! Thank you for coming by today and for your kind words. Blessings to you!
Mary Caliendo says
Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing this. I feel welcomed and warm with your site. I find community in my church, my writing groups and where ever I can extend my hand as well. Happy spring! 🍃🌷🌷🍃
At The Picket Fence says
Mary I am SO glad you feel welcomed here because we love having you part of our community! Happy Spring to you too!
Community happens in what my dear, little mother used to call ‘Divine appointments’ – in the grocery store, on the phone, beside the mailbox. Wherever God brings people into your life. I think we can just imagine those places are beside the barn. Community – those God moments – are a social media thing. They are all about how open we are for God to use us. Thank you for these beautiful words. So needed today.
Hi, sweet lady. What a delightful read this was! Coincidently, I just posted something much shorter yet with the same important message on Facebook. And when I ready your words about someone feeling as if there wasn’t a place for her, I remember something I read many years ago by Erma Bombeck (whose books are gifts to “imperfect” women!). She wrote about a mom who wrote to her from prison (yes, prison) with thanks and a word of wisdom gleaned from horrible experience. This mother was in prison for killing her children. (I’ll let that sink in.) Not out of evil intentions, she snapped. She was trying so hard to be the perfect wife, mother, housekeeper, etc. that she had a total breakdown and her precious children paid the price. Here’s the punch line though – she wrote to Erma that had she read her stories about not being any where close to perfect and yet being okay with that, perhaps her life, and her children’s lives, would have been so very different. So thank you, Vanessa, for pointing out a truth that is so blurred in today’s social media-driven world. You may have saved a life today. May God bless you.
I love your heart. The Lord shines through you, Thank you! My husband and I moved 3 hours away from where I had spent most of my life about 20 months ago. I’ve been trying to feel comfortable and I now realize what I’m missing. Thanks to your post – Community is my answer! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
At The Picket Fence says
Oh Jeanine! I know how very hard it is to move and start over so I completely understand what you are going through. You truly do need to feel part of a community so I’m very glad that this gave you a bit of encouragement to begin that journey. Much love, Vanessa
Harmony Moore says
I love the community that has happened at my kitchen table, living room, yard – but it’s never whimsical and flow-y. It’s never Adirondack chairs around fire pits but it’s often Mac and cheese sitting on the floor while a billion children crowd the table, it’s tears shared over folding laundry, it’s Voxer messages, it’s doing life. Building true community is hard, and it takes time. Community was much easier to find (and form) when we were a military family; now that we are out it is harder. But I’m so grateful for the people near and far that I can call my own.