Growing up my community consisted of family. We lived in the rugged mountains of Virginia and neighbors included grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Lots of cousins. My dad is one of 10 kids, and we all lived within throwing distance of each other. That fact didn’t become burdensome until I wanted to venture into teenage mischievousness only to find parental-like eyes watching what seemed like my every move. Grateful for that care now... not so much then.
Long summer days were never boring with the multitude of family around. Planting, tending and harvesting large gardens was a summer staple. Each sub-family had their own garden filled with corn, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips, collard greens, potatoes – sweet and arsh – and anything else that would take root and multiply in the hills. When the time came to tend to the gardens, the community came together.
I cannot count the hours I have spent playing with cousins while my mother and aunts cooked and canned summer crops. There would be two or three women sitting with dish towels over the laps, a bucket of … let’s say beans … on one side of their feet, and an empty bucket on the other side. A handful of beans would land on their covered laps, strings would be pulled with a knife to cut out bad spots balanced delicately between the thumbs and pointer fingers, beans snapped and thrown into the after bucket. Meanwhile the other women prepped the cans, and gathered the beans that were ready to be cooked. This is where the memories of canning gets fuzzy since I never actually canned anything. I do remember hot cans being covered by thick towels. Not really sure why but mom always said to keep them covered until they sealed, so we did. Hearing each little lid pop gave the women a since of achievement – like they were surprised that the tradition of canning still worked. Finally each can was marked with the year it was created and divided amongst the families.
The community of women my mother had was a gift. I have dear friends who I love dearly. But having friends does not always equal living in community. My mom and aunts lived life together. They cooked Christmas candy together, quilted, cared for each other’s children, tended to each other during illness, cried for each other during marital troubles, and loved each other fiercely.
"Isn’t this the type of community we’re all seeking? Don’t we want a group – a tribe – to know us? Don’t we want to know our tribe? Don’t we yearn for relationships with women that build us up instead of making us feel inferior or subpar?"
My family and I don’t live near blood family anymore. Make no mistake, my spiritual family is just as beautiful and complex. Jesus unites His followers in such a glorious unfathomable way that sometimes I just have to catch my breath at the wonder of it all. Still, I feel lonely at times. I long for community. I’m crazy about my husband and nutty for my kids, but where are my sisters? Where’s my tribe to walk and talk with me when Jesus seems to be only words on a page?
I need my sisters. I need them more than just on a Sunday morning. I need them to know me and I need to know them.
This fall SHANDON Women is launching Community Groups. Please pray about hosting or facilitating a group. SHANDON Women is so honored to help navigate this endeavor of sharing the gospel. This is not just for women who attend Shandon. Community Groups are for all women who are wanting to invest their lives in their sisters, and in turn, be loved back.
Jesus is at the center of each Community Group.
Jesus reigns. Don’t we want to share Him with our friends and neighbors? Don’t we want to know what it’s like to be in a community of women who love the Lord and know that He is the family tie that binds us together on this earth and for all eternity?
I don’t think my mom and aunts set out to model Godly community for me. But they did. They loved – sometimes from a place of commitment instead of emotions. They just lived life. Together. I want to live life like that. Will you join me?