This weekend I had an amazing opportunity to come together around a round table, in a small beach town on the coast of South Carolina with eight amazing women. When I was making the decision a few years ago to leave the Mormon church, one of my biggest fears was leaving the sense of community I had grown to know and love. There were friendships with women in that church that I had made over the years that I had come to cherish.
For all the fears I had, for all the moments of doubt and devastation I was feeling, the one constant was the tug of God on my heart that the time had come, the season for my association with the LDS way of life had come to pass and I heeded that revelation having no idea what my future held or what lay ahead.
The constant I have learned in my life is that no matter how rough the waters, no matter how uncertain the path, when God calls me to walk it He has my best interest in mind for sure. It’s by no means to say He makes that path smooth and flat. No…along the way there are sticks and hills and rough rocks…even boulders to navigate at times. But much like a difficult hike, when you arrive at the destination the views are often spectacular. I experienced a mesa like that this weekend.
When we arrived in South Carolina, I set out to find a church. We landed briefly at a small church on a day when they were hosting their intro/101 meeting that evening. A time to come and learn more about the church, its direction, its intention. When Frank and I walked in we looked for a place to sit and I noticed a friendly set of faces sitting at a table by themselves so we walked over and asked to join them. It didn’t take me long to recognize a new friend in Bea. She and her husband were warm and welcoming and before the evening was over she had invited me to her bible study the following Friday morning.
My husband and daughter thought I was a little crazy to just grab my bible and go meet a room full of ladies I did not know. But I did it. I walked in that small room at a local breakfast stop and was met with open arms. I was greeted, welcomed and embraced from moment one. We began with prayer, opened the Good Book and began to read from page one. And we have moved through the bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter from that time forward. Some weeks we manager a few chapters, sometimes only one because God’s word reveals so many things.
Things about life, about parenting, about friendship, about struggles and moving through the storms in life. By seeing God’s hand in the lives of His people through the generations it is easier to see His hand in our lives today.
My church did a study this last semester called “Letters to the Church,” by Francis Chan. In the introduction, Chan proposes a scenario. What if…what if you were stranded on an Island — just you and a bible. What would church look like? I can’t help picturing myself on the island without this group of women. They exude love for me in my struggles. They bolster me when my step feels unsteady. They call me out when I am not being honest with myself. They are my compass when I lose my way. And over time I am part of the sisterhood that does the same for the others in that room.
Last year they came together and spent a long weekend away, in Dallas visiting one of the ladies who Facetimes in every week having moved away. I wasn’t able to go on that trip, and I was bummed I missed out. This year we stayed “local” heading to the Myrtle Beach area of SC. You betcha I joined in this time, and I am so very thankful I did.
Each morning we have come together at the table. A big round table that has comfortably seated the nine of us, and one dial in from a dear woman who also lives a distance from us and was unable to attend. Together we prayed, shared, cried, laughed, and encouraged one another. In giving advice, in sharing scripture, in listening intently to what another was sharing I felt filled. Literally understanding the adage, “my cup runneth over.” I never imagined how full my heart could feel having given everything I had to others around me.
Our weekend is coming to an end. I leave knowing each of these women a little better, knowing God a little better as well. I met him through each of these sweet sisters these last few days; through their smiles, hugs, and tears. We bonded more and grew together and in these moments I found a great peace. I found the one thing I thought I had lost for sure. Through the fear I was feeling I stepped out in faith that God had a plan for me. I never imagined the sweet view He would provide me at the pinnacle of my climb. I am so very humbled at the gift He has provided me through these treasured friendships. I have found my tribe.