Rest, Breathe, and Receive

Registration for Spring Connection Groups will open in two days.

A year ago, I hit the point where I was done. The kind of done that says, “I have nothing left to give, so I think I will crawl into the nearest hole and sleep for a year.” Since I am not a bear and hibernation was not a viable option, I sat and ugly-cried for hours as I told God I couldn’t do it any more. I was empty. In my brokenness, I asked what more He was expecting of me.

The word He breathed into my soul was “receive.” He wasn’t demanding that I give more of what I did not have. I simply needed to rest, breathe, and wait as He brought my soul back to life.

I couldn’t continue in the situation I was in. The next months called for some dramatic change and transition. Through this entire season, I can not even begin to list everything I received from God physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He was restoring my soul.

Last Fall, I decided to sign up for one of the connection groups. I opted for the Facebook group mostly because I couldn’t commit to a set weekly meeting time, but I knew I wanted consistent connection. Having only a vague idea of what to expect, I jumped in with both feet.

I received a gift bigger than anything I would have asked from God. This group became the catalyst for a profound change in me. I was given a group of women to whom I could be authentic and accountable. Simply having to write a response to the question “How are you doing?” made me slow down enough to think of a genuine answer. The reflections and responses to the weekly themes and posts helped me articulate ways I was wanting to change as well as patterns I wanted to continue.

I was given a group of women who could celebrate with me as I hit new milestones. It was a season where I had been forced to scale back my commitments and was taking drastic measures in regards to self-care. My exercise routine went from non-existent to training for a half marathon. I started cooking regular meals that included vegetables. My laughter, joyfully authentic laughter, came back after over a year’s absence. The connection group didn’t provide the setting to make these changes. I had to do that on my own. The gift these women gave me was encouragement.

Somewhere during those weeks, the gift of friendship snuck up on me. I was provided with uplifting conversations with other women living all around the world. I had been feeling more isolated than I realized. Through community and connection, I gained friendship. Relationships where I can breathe deeply and receive life.

Receive has also been my One Word for 2016. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to receive. It is not passive or sitting back and doing nothing. I have needed to actively receive what God is wanting to give me. It takes vulnerability and honesty. It takes humbling myself and sharing real parts of my story. It means admitting I have needs.

I could have closed myself off. I could have chosen to hold back my heart, my mistakes, and even my joy. The connection group was not a magic pill or the solution to my problems. If I had looked at it that way, I surely would have walked away disappointed. It was not about some members giving and some members receiving. Rather, it was about all of us authentically showing up and letting God pour into us out of His abundance.

I want to challenge those of you planning to join one of the groups this spring. Come as you are and ask God to show you what you need. Ask him to meet that need and to give you the courage to receive it. This is the beauty of being a part of a connection group. It is not a solution. It is a catalyst. It provides a space for God to function within relationships and fulfill a wider variety of needs than we could imagine. We simply need to show up and receive.

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Is God calling you to deeper community with other sojourners on this path called life?

Will you commit to praying this week about joining a connection group?

14 Comments

  1. Sarah H March 6, 2016

    Thank you for sharing your story, Emily! We serve such a faithful God who knows how to bring healing to those broken-down places in us. I’m praying that He will use the connection groups this spring to bring the encouragement and connection to many women the way He did in your life!

    1. Emily Smith March 7, 2016

      I am thankful for the opportunity to share. He is faithful. I asked for so little in comparison to what He has given (and continues to give). I’m excited for this next cycle of groups.

      Getting a tiny glimpse of the behind the scenes work it takes to put all of this together, one thing stands out to me. God is already orchestrating so much. He already knows what each woman involved needs and He is arranging things to meet those needs.

  2. Brittany March 7, 2016

    Emily, this was a great post that really resonated with me!  I’m desperate for connection and I’m not sure if I can carve out a consistent time for a Skype group (3 kids 5 and under leaves little room for a consistent schedule) and I’ve wondered if a Facebook group can really provide community.  I’m glad you found success with it!

    1. Emily Smith March 7, 2016

      I wondered the same, but it works. I think the combination of fun/lighthearted questions and more serious questions gave a window into the lives of other women. I forget sometimes that I have never heard the voices of anyone in my group.

      I’m so glad this could be an encouragement to you. The women who have stepped up to be mentors this year are wonderful and these groups are being covered in prayer. I hope you are able to  find the same life giving friendships that I did. ?

  3. Brittany March 7, 2016

    By the way, I just saw you were a TCK in Romania!  That is where I’m raising my 3 TCKs.  🙂

    1. Emily Smith March 7, 2016

      It is a good place to live. I enjoyed my time there and it still is very much home.

  4. Ellie March 7, 2016

    Beautiful, Emily! And so encouraging. Thank you.

    “My exercise routine went from non-existent to training for a half marathon. I started cooking regular meals that included vegetables. My laughter, joyfully authentic laughter, came back after over a year’s absence.” So, so glad!

    “Come as you are and ask God to show you what you need.” Amen!!! Praying for bravery for those of us that so need to do that! Hugs.x

     

    1. Emily Smith March 7, 2016

      Bravery. That is exactly what it takes. If I could sit down with every woman who is uncertain if connection is worth it, I would. Whether it be in these groups or reaching out to people around them, connecting with others is so vital and worth the risk.

      Thank you for commenting. Knowing others were encouraged by my story is a huge encouragement to me.

      I will also say, there is a pretty amazing group of mentors waiting and praying for the women who will join these groups.

  5. Amy Young March 7, 2016

    Emily, I love how you both shared your experience, cast a vision, and showed how God it nightly at work :). Yes, yes, yes! And per the behind the scenes, thank YOU for all of your work. Many may never know all you have done, but I do and God does and I’m grateful for you!!!!! This is the garden you are helping to grow 🙂

    1. Emily Smith March 7, 2016

      Amy, you have no idea what seeing those tulips means. I am not a gardener. Combine that with an inability to read Chinese characters and you have a story where I planted a large number of tulips upside down. ?

      Yet God designed them to come up anyway. Every time I passed them it was a reminder to me. God takes the backward, sideways, upside down and mistakes. That doesn’t stop Him from making beautiful things grow.

      Thank you!

  6. Leigha March 7, 2016

    Thank you for this post, Emily! I really identified with where you were a year ago and I too have been finding restoration for my soul this past year. I was part of a skype connection group in the fall for women in transition, and that group was a wonderful part of that healing process for me.

    I have a question maybe one of the editors can answer – I see the groups begin the week of March 13, but when do they end? I’ll be in two different countries this spring so I want to make sure the group I join has a time that’s workable from both ends of the globe. 🙂

    1. Emily Smith March 7, 2016

      I never hope to hear anyone was where I was a year ago BUT I am so happy to hear you have felt the same restoration. It is wonderful!

      The groups end the week of May 8th. I hear you on the moving and trying to figure that out. I move at the half way point of these groups.

      I hope you can find one where the time works on both corners of the globe, but if not consider the Facebook group. Having connections to carry you through a transition could be pretty special.

      Thank you for sharing a bit of your story too! You are another voice adding to the testimony of what community and connection bring.

  7. Kim March 7, 2016

    Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your story Emily! I did a connection group last year, but it was during such a stressful time in my life I don’t think I was able to really connect in the ways I wanted to. After reading this post I’m considering trying again as we go through  a season of transition and I’m longing for connection with other ladies who have similar stories.

    1. Emily Smith March 8, 2016

      There are a couple of the groups specifically for women in transition to or from a “home” country.

      As I move in five weeks, I am amazed at how helpful it has been to have people who are walking beside me in the journey. This has miraculously been the least anxiety producing move I have ever done.

      I’ll be praying you will find the connection you need for this season of life.

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