We threw stones first.
I mean — after we’ve all been bloodied by stones, why not just start there?
Effie Bryce sat near Nan Marlin.
And Greta Vanderhoef and Darlene Finch, and 75 year-old Mrs. Margaret van Veen who led me to Jesus when I was a kid and the elderly Mrs. King who lives on the farm behind us and has brought Easter gifts to our kids for the last 16 years, we all sat in one room.
Us meeting for our own (in)RL gather –– all us and about 150 other women clutching their purses like fashionable armor.
And us with all our scars and bruises hidden, all our smiles big and bluffing, that’s where we began — we reached for stones first.
And this is what we did: we wrote on those stones one word, that which was really keeping us from friendship with women, and we named the stones that we were hauling around to build arrow-barriers around our heart.
Because it’s time women wrote it down and slipped it like a note through each others’ walls: The stones you stack to keep you safe – are the prisons that keep you alone.
And then just wait — and help each other tear down the walls.
There was a scratching of markers.
I have no idea what word Mrs. Margaret wrote. Or Mrs. King. But I saw words on stones afterward in the basket, words like Fear. And Trust. And Vulnerability. And Time.
And Not Enough.
I had whispered those two words — how the lie of Not Enough can keep you from the More than enough God has for you. The lie that no one wants you because you aren’t good enough. Smart enough, pretty enough, trendy enough, accomplished enough.
And that’s exactly what somebody had written on their stone: Not Enough. Never doubt that there are words that can cut right through stone.
I don’t know what filled her eyes when she wrote those two torched words.
Don’t know her name or if her chin trembled or if she felt ashamed or relieved or scared.
I picked up that stone, that Not Enough stone and her not enough heart, and I rolled it around in my hand. I may not know which woman in the room had written those words — but her and I have twin, twined hearts echoing one another, this beating, thrumming ache in the hollowing empty places and she is not alone.
There are sisters who will carry you and sisters who will bend with you and pray with you and sisters who help heave the stones off.
What if we lifted a burden off a woman, what she was carrying around only because she thought the bulk of it was part of her?
The first tactic of the enemy is always to distort your identity.
And it’s only when a woman knows her real identity that she can really defeat the enemy.
What if we carried away a sister’s lying stones so she could be carried away by loving Grace?
I whipped that Not Enough stone into the middle of the church pond.
Sometimes the way you get baptized into a new life is to drown the old lies.
And I ask if Greta can take a stone from the basket and Nan and Mrs. King and us each take one of our sisters’ stones and carry it right out to the edge of the church pond.
And we will help each other throw away the lies and the burdens and the weights that make us a heart of stone and alone.
And I had told Mrs. King and Mrs. Margaret and all 150 of them of the old lies and how Jody Miller called me butt ugly back in grade school and Lissa Turscott had laughed and threw a baseball at the back of my head.
And how I’ve made wide berths around women and skirted friendship because I didn’t trust and your heart can stay blue bruised for years.
But how it came like a gentle touch— that distrust costs you the very richest life.
And the price for being safe can be too expensive.
And how one woman just untied the millstone of “Not Good Enough” from around my aching neck and just said it right out loud and– I offer you the gift of friendship.
By His grace alone,
I offer you the gift of my friendship:
To accept you and affirm you.
To believe in you and be there for you.
To support your dreams and support your arms.
To give you the gift of knees in prayer
To give you the gift of hands in help
To give you the gift of heart in friendship.
I offer you the gift of being your Jonathan, your Barnabas, your Ruth,
by the grace of Jesus alone.
And I said it, what I didn’t think possible — that your bruised heart can start to rise and believe and reach out.
And I said how I’d whispered it back — my commitment for the hard times:
We will offer each other the gift of
forgiveness when we fail
grace when we fall down
mercy when we’re messy
because we’re the ones forgiven of much
lavished with His grace
freed into whole skies of mercy.
And I choked it how awkward, how there’s a certain tribe in Africa tribe, a tribe called the Himba, and when a woman of the Himba tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they wait till they hear the song of the child to come.
Because they know that every heart has its own unique beat… it own wild purpose. And when the women attune to the song of the coming child, they sing it out loud.
Then they return to the tribe and teach this child’s unique song to everyone else.
And when the child is born, the Himba tribe gathers and sings the child’s song to him or her. Later, when the child begins school, the village gathers and chants the child’s song. And when the child passes through the initiation to adulthood, the Himba again come together and sing. And at the time of marriage, the person again hears the notes of her song.
To the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits sins, falls short, or loses her way, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.
They sing their song to them because the Himba believe that change most happens when we remember who we are — remember our identity — Whose we are…
And I told Darlene Finch and Mrs. King and Mrs. Margaret and all of them, they they were brave to come and sit in a circle of women.
And before they were born — there was a song sung over every single one of them — could you hear it?
“Body and soul, I am marvelously made…
You know me inside and out,you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.”
And I had looked into the eyes of Effie Bryce and Nan Marlin and said it slow to all us wounded women —
That is the song, your song, sang over you in the beginning — but maybe of late — maybe your heart of late seems more wall than warm, your arms seem crossed more into a shield than open like a shelter.
Maybe you heart has thickened into this long, scared callous — and you’ve numbed yourself to getting hurt ever again by the friendship of women. And you’ll smile and you’ll laugh and you’ll nod — but you haven’t been letting anyone get too close.
Maybe you haven’t really been trusting and maybe you haven’t really been sharing and maybe you haven’t really let anyone in — not really in.
Maybe you’ve let your heart go a bit deaf to what it really needs — because you don’t want to know how alone you really feel?
But your sisters, us your sisters — we won’t let you lose your way — we all know your song.
Your sisters they know the beat of your heart when you have forgotten how to be.
Your sisters know the rhythm of your return when you don’t know the road back.
Your sisters know the lyrics of why you are loved — when you can’t remember quite how to live….
Your sisters will sing your song — God’s song for you — when you have long forgotten the words to His Word — to yourself.
When you feel like you are losing your way, that is what your sisters are here for — to sing your Father’s song to you, all of us singing it soft and strong and certain —
We your sisters, will sing your beauty when you see yourself ugly.
We your sisters, will sing you wanted when you see yourself broken.
We your sisters, will sing you hope when you only feel hurt.
We your sisters, will sing you Beloved — when you just can’t believe.
And we will sing who you are until you find your way, the Way again, you voice warbling like a rising, your voice singing like a brave winging, until you remember the notes of your song — That songs that says:
I am God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
I am forgiven (Eph. 1:7).
I am a new creature (II Cor. 5:17).
I am strong in the Lord (Eph. 6:10).
I am accepted in Christ (Eph. 1:6).
I am loved with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).
I am overtaken with blessings (Deut. 28:2).
And I looked into the eyes of women rejected and women betrayed, women wounded and women forgotten and women feeling unnoticed and unloved and unwanted and I cup each face with truth: This is your song, your inheritance if you are in Christ!
That is who you are in Christ and your sisters will sing Who you are and Whose you are until you remember, until you run like you are made to fly.
This is what the friendship of women could be:
Sisters will just keep singing your song
Till it perches in your lost places,
Tuning you to what grace is
and the lovesong of your Father
who never stops singing at all.
Your Father who says of you in Zephaniah 3:17:
I rejoice over her with gladness;
quieting her fears with My love
And we sang it all together, The Father’s Song, and you could hear it in the space between Mrs. Margaret and Mrs. King and Effie Bryce and Nan Marlin and me and all of us — the stones falling away, falling down.
And all this loud singing echoing in the chambers of a thousand women’s hearts.
How to Make The Ultimate Girlfriend Gift:
3. Print out Card Box Template: I used an Exacto knife and a cutting board to cut out the slots. Assemble. I had to fold over the corner of the pieces that go through the slot in order for them to fit. Just fold them back over afterwards. (Visual Tutorial for folding box)
4. Print out the The Ultimate Girlfriend Gift Cards
Cut out each card — and on the back of the I am so thankful for you cards — write encouragements, memories, blessings, that which you are grateful for in your friend… wrap up all the Friendship cards, including When Hard Times Come, Your Song, and Your Father’s Song, all with a bow — and slip into the folded box. Tag with a note.
Then tuck The Ultimate Girlfriend Gift into a bag with a treat (maybe even One Thousand Gifts? One gift that is actually 1000 gifts — a Father’s love song over His daughters) — and give The Ultimate Girlfriend Gift one woman this week who may be hurting, who needs encouragement, who needs to hear her Father’s song again… just. one. woman.
Just hit Print. Don’t let this Mother’s Day week go by — without letting one woman who really needs to know it — hear her Father’s Song again.
Check out the amazing (in)RL 2013 DVD – The Challenge to Stay in Community & Friendship and the (in)courage Postcards that my mama and sister hung on our (in)RL banner and each woman took one to encourage just one another sister… (all 25% off through Friday May 10 using code INRL2013)
This is what the friendship of women could be:
Sisters will just keep singing your song…Till it perches in your lost places,
Tuning you to what grace is… and the lovesong of your Father
who never stops singing at all.