For most of our marriage we had a variety of friends spread out in a variety of places. I had lots of mom friends and Travis had his work friends and it was nice but also lonely. While we had friends we did not have a community, and it was a community that we were really craving.
At the time we were still living in The Dump and we knew we wanted to move. We had put our eldest in the parochial school one town over and the thirty minute, round trip drive twice a day over country roads was killing me. We lived in a town that didn't have a grocery store, a public library, a Catholic church, or even another young, Catholic family. We knew we needed to move closer to Travis' job, L's school, and all the other amenities we missed.
But really, my family moved to different a town so we could be more active in its parish and the parish school. We saw that the parish had good priests, solid ministries, orthodox faith, and a true love of Christ, despite its hideous mural behind the tabernacle.
Once there, I committed to the weekly moms' group - approximately 13 women who meet with all their non-school aged kids to work through a study.
Travis joined the Men's Group, which is basically the husbands of all the moms' group women. They sit in a workshop, drink beer, eat peanuts, and either build things or light things on fire.
I also became involved with a monthly Moms' Night group that attracted even more women - women I had noticed at Mass or school pick up or at other events and was so grateful to get to know.
And over the weeks and months and now years I began to really know and trust many of these people. Many of their kids are growing up with my kids and while we are all at slightly different places in our lives we are all walking together towards the same goal.
This was really great - a huge step towards what I had craved for so long. But I also noticed that I didn't know how to narrow down the large group to really intentionally foster a few good relationships. It felt rude to not always include everyone all the time but the sheer numbers were paralyzing. And then I saw something that was eye-opening for me.
At a friend's birthday party I was sitting at a table with various women, all of whom I knew to varying degrees and all of whom have children older than mine. They openly discussed their upcoming Super Bowl party, a party I was not invited to. It was just for that group of friends, who had raised their kids together, whose husbands were friends, who had known each other for years. I didn't feel left out, in fact I felt relieved! The community that I had so badly craved for so long was possible! Other people had formed and found their places in them and I could too! Our larger group of wonderful families had already broken down into smaller groups while still remaining part of that larger community.
These smaller groups were not cliques - they are not exclusive or elite - but they are the result of a natural growth towards people with similar interests, beliefs, and season of life.
With that new understanding I stood back and I looked at the women in my community and saw the friendships that existed already. I thought about Jesus and Peter and James and John - how they are often listed together, just the four of them, in a way that seems to say they were besties. I thought about the women I was most drawn to and realized we were already there. Our husbands were already good friends, as were our kids.
And so, unapologetically I have sought them out as individuals and as a group and in doing so the gestures were reciprocated. Little by little, but also not very slowly, my family has found its place. We have a niche where we are appreciated and cared for. We belong with a circle of friends and I look forward to many years of knowing, serving, and loving them better. I hope I am able to help them carry their crosses and celebrate their joys and successes. I hope that our friendships will bring us all closer to Christ, who I thank for answering my many prayers.
"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend."