We are going to tackle a huge topic today and talk about connecting.
Connecting is a big subject because it incorporates connecting with other workers, staying connected with family at home, starting new connections with national friends, remaining in constant connection with Jesus and learning to connect yourself to all of those people around you.
Whether in real life or online, using technology or having a face-to-face sit down at your kitchen table, connecting takes a bit of creativity, purpose and intentionality.
It also takes a bit of courage to step outside your circumstances or struggles and put yourself out there again and again.
I had a long time friend recently ask me if I had good friends on the field. My answer was a quick, “YES!”
But, they are baby friendships. They are new relationships and the connections are fresh. Each new friendship starts at the basics of our lives and it takes a bit of work and valuable time to grow a friendship past that point.
Later in that same conversation, my friend asked if I stayed in touch with family back home.
Again, I said, “Yes, I do!”
But, staying connected with family carries its own realities, joys and tears that are precious reminders of deep friendship, history and family ties. Even though those connections hurt sometimes, they are worth so much during the loneliness of a term overseas.
For most of us, learning to stay connected with others and Jesus and ourselves during our crazy, tumultuous overseas life is challenging to say the least!
What are some ways you can stay connected?
1) Stay connected to Jesus. Every day. Even if it is messy or not instagrammable. He is a friend who sticks close to you through it all. Reach out and touch him. Keep connected to the peace, presence and power of Jesus. A simple journal, a short prayer, a daily devotional, the Proverb of the day… something to bring your focus back to your connection with Jesus.
2) Be courageous. Most connecting takes courage. It means extending friendship, being real and letting people into your life. Connecting beyond the basics takes talking, sharing and opening your heart. All of that means being brave, jumping in and walking through the door of friendship with others.
3) Learn how your friends like to communicate. Not everyone is social media savvy. Not everyone checks email. Not everyone likes to talk on the phone or do a video skype session. Do they text? Voxer? Snapchat? You might have to learn something new, or you might need to go back to something old to see a connection really happen in a friendship.
4) Teach others how you communicate. Supporters, churches, pastors, family, friends… there is a lot of communication that goes on in those connections. Educating them on what you can do, what you have available for connecting with them and ways they can keep connected to you is an important part of overseas living.
5) Don’t hide the real you. You might have been brave, gone out there and made a friend. But you might still be tempted to hide behind your position, your pretty outfit or your put-together home. You might be hiding behind a well-prepared, practiced version of what you are willing to share. But for real connection to happen, you need to step outside the filter and let others see you, know you and connect with you.
6) Take time to be healthy and whole. If you are going to allow others in and be courageous enough to make real connections, you will want to be healthy and ready for what those friendships, those connections can bring. Friendship can feel like middle school even though you are in your 30s or 40s. Friendships can be hard or hurtful because two imperfect people are trying to build a connection with each other, which means taking the time to be your best self can be a very beneficial part of connecting with others. Being rested, prayed up, and ready with words of life can be the difference between good connections and frustratingly hurtful ones. Get to know how you handle connections best. Learn what you can do to make sure you are building healthy friendships from healthy places in healthy ways.
7) Seek out mentoring connections. Connecting with others doesn’t always mean you need to be the one reaching out or that you need to be in a “perfect” place before you can connect. In fact, MOST of us will never be in a perfect place for connecting! If you are in a place of not feeling ready to stop hiding, or not sure how to connect in real ways, or friendship is difficult for you, find someone who is rocking those things! Find a mentor, someone to walk through the process of connecting with others with you. Read a book, join a class, ask Jesus to help you find that mentoring friend, join a connection group… there are resources out there for you. Yes… for YOU.
8) Invest the time. Real connections take time. It takes time spent with Jesus. Time evaluating where you are. Time to stop hiding. Time to move past baby friendships to deep relationships. Time. Time. Time. There is no fast track or quick fix. Invest the time for connecting. Find quality time. Make space in your calendar or busy schedule for people, for Jesus, for yourself. It all takes time.
Each moment spent investing in real connections is worth it. Completely worth it all.
The investment will pay off in amazing ways as you live out these real connections with the people God has placed in your life.
What are some ways that you connect with Jesus, with others or with yourself?
What are some things you can do to foster real connections in your season of life or area of work?
Do you need a boost of courage to step out and stop hiding from real connections?