The Grove: Connect

I don’t have vivid memories of many of the teachings and sermons I’ve heard over the years, but one talk from my first week of college stands out to this day.

I was at a get-to-know you campus ministry picnic and after the meal we gathered for a brief talk from one of the leaders. He shared from Luke 2:52, saying that his hope for us during college was to follow the overall guidelines and like Jesus grow physically, intellectually, and relationally with others and God.

I know, starting off with Jesus as the model is both the “right” answer and a bit discouraging because he is, you know, Jesus! Of course he grew and connected and flourished.

As I’ve been thinking and praying through this post, this talk popped into my soul right away and God smiled and say, that’s what I desire with connection too.  “I desire a holistic connecting where you connect physically, intellectually, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, for fun and for serious, in all areas of your being! I made you, in my image, for connection!”

So, I set off in my head to write this post and it was a good. Oh yes, it was. But then I sensed God say, “OK, now that you’ve got the basics, let’s go deeper because there will be women reading this who will want to roll their eyes at connection because they’ve been hurt so much and there will be others who will want to laugh or cry because every time they put themselves out there in some way, they get shot down and they are weary. They are weary of trying and if all you offer is rah-rah happy connection is great, they will be even more disconnected.”

If this describes you, know that God knows and he stopped me cold before adding to your pain. God sees you. He knows you long for connection and that when a part of you connects with someone else, that is a whisper of your true self.

One of the beautiful gifts of living overseas is that I learned to connect with a much larger range of people than I had connected with back home. When I either connect with you or have HOURS and HOURS that lead into DAYS and MONTHS and YEARS of loneliness, suddenly you look a lot better :)! And I’m all the richer for realizing someone doesn’t have to be my same marital status, age, or even like what I like, for me to find (and even make) connection points!

This summer my niece Emily went on her first cross-cultural trip to inner city Los Angeles. When she got back I asked how she got along with Grace, who is a year-older and rather quiet by personality. Her answer was one we could all learn from. “You know Aunt Amy, Grace asked if I’d talk with her about popular music (Grace’s interest) for 20 minutes and then she’d be willing to talk about whatever I wanted to talk about for 40 minutes, knowing that I’d talk about Emily Dickinson and poetry.”

“How’d that work,” I asked her. “Great, we both got to talk about what we wanted and was heard.”

It’s that brilliant? Ask for what you want and be willing to listen to someone else talk about what interests them.

Back in the day when TV was a rare thing overseas, my teammate and I lived for the packages of VCR taped TV shows. When all you have to watch is what shows up, and you like TV, you’ll watch whatever arrives! My teammate was into PBS Shows like

  • This Old House –Renovating old houses before it was cool and the hosts were your average carpenter men and it wasn’t SPECTAULAR and GORGEOUS, it was educational and functional. Norm taught me a lot!
  • Painting with Sister Wendy – A Catholic nun in her habit sat in front on an easel and, you guessed it, explained how to paint. She had a slight lisp and a heart of gold.
  • Master Piece Mystery – Not Downton Abbey, no, these were the long drawn out British Mysteries of the 80s and 90s.

Let’s just say I broadened her with ER, Friends, and Frasier. OK, so one of us high culture and one of us not. But by watching the shows the other person liked, we grew to like them too and created more connecting points.

Can we briefly circle back to those times though that we are not connecting? There might be three reasons we’re not connecting:

  1. I want to say this first one very lightly and in no way to blame you for not connecting! But I also feel invited by the Spirit to tell you the truth, so I’m going to. It’s possible you’re not connecting because there is some area of your life that is unhealthy and until that area is addressed, you will not connect in ways you l-o-n-g to. Often we know what that area is, but it is hard or embarrassing or you simply don’t know where to start. If this is you, pray about it asking the Holy Spirit who is one person you could talk to about this area of your life.
  1. Maybe others around you are not as healthy as you are emotionally or spiritually and though you can be friends, you won’t connect in deep ways with them. Unfortunately, we can often only go as deep as someone else is able.
  1. Maybe we’re not connecting because we have an ideal of what connecting looks like that unrealistically high or low, keeping us either perpetually disappointed or not willing to try and risk.

Well, now! I’ve said a mouthful. Let me end by returning to God’s desire for us – that we are women of connection. Connecting with ourselves, our teams, the cultures we live in, with Him, with others, with nature, with art and poetry and music. Doesn’t the mere idea resonate with your soul?!

What are some ways you have connected with others you wouldn’t have had the opportunity if you’d stayed home?

Come share with us on the prompt, “Connect”.  Here’s how:

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  1. Danielle Wheeler September 19, 2014

    #3 reminds me of Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together.”  I read it in my first year overseas and the line that has stayed with me ever since was something like this: “It’s only in letting go of our ideal of community that we can experience the gift of actual community.”  Really needed that message then, and have needed the reminder several times since.

    Love the sensitivity and care that you offer here along with truth and challenge.

    1. Amy Young September 19, 2014

      Thanks Danielle! Like you, I’ve found these are “once and done” lessons, are they? Almost every team (and even different seasons of the same team!) have let me come at these lessons from this angle and that. Some of the lessons have been easy to get (and fun in the getting!), others, not so much :). But even as I’m aging — as we all are in the process of changing day-by-day — I see how I still need connection and how the what I have to offer also changes with time. Love that though He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I am not :)!

    2. Malia September 19, 2014

      That’s a great quote by Bonhoeffer. Thanks for sharing it. 🙂

  2. Wendy Naine September 19, 2014

    We are currently on furlough in the US and here I am really struggling to connect.  We cross-cultural workers truly are hidden immigrants and that makes the cost of connection sometime very heavy.  Knowing we are only here for a short time, relatively speaking, it’s easy to just press on rather than pressing in. And at the same time, God is quickening me so clearly that I must “bloom where I am planted.”  I am here in the US for such a time as this – whatever that means. 🙂 We are here and we all have a choice to either forge ahead in connections with people or isolate ourselves further.  I long to be the one to dig in and live 100% today!  May He find me faithful to connect and forge ahead.

    1. Amy Young September 21, 2014

      Wendy, two phrases JUMPED out at me! The idea of being hidden immigrants. Profound. Thank you. I’m going to need to chew on that a bit.


      And the temptation to press on instead of pressing in. Again, this is an idea that will stick with me long after other comments (including many I write :)), float away. Thank you.

  3. Malia September 19, 2014

    Moving overseas with babies was different than when I’d previously been teaching abroad alongside my husband. Suddenly, I needed serious help but my family was an ocean away. It made me humble to ask near-strangers to be my family suddenly–to babysit for days when I went into labor, to make meals for me during recovery, to give me rides around the city before we bought a car, to grocery shop for me when I couldn’t get there with the kids.

    So the connections came quickly from other Christian expats in our community, but I still needed to go deep. It took me years to go beyond kid-, recipe-, and ministry-based conversations to talk about souls–mine and theirs. It’s interesting that without kids, I felt so independent but more apt to connect on a spiritual level. Then with kids, I was surrounded by willing help but more apt to withdraw. It might have something to do with mommy brain too–pregnancy, post-partum, and toddler life effects. Like you said, I’m sure expectations and health factored in. It’s taught me, though, that we can reach out to help someone acclimate to a new culture or to a new addition to the family without reaching her lonely soul. I need to be braver and ask questions like “How are you, really?” and not just “What can I do for you?”

    1. Amy Young September 21, 2014

      Malia, yes, yes, yes! I tend to forget that the ways of connecting will change based on so many factors: location, stage of life, assignment, language ability, gifting and interests! As I read this, I remember one summer team I was on in my mid-30s with a mostly college or recent college graduated team. I truly did enjoy most of my teammates, but I found the way they wanted to connect was what I called the “puppy pile” — they loved being together most of the time and wanted to lesson plan with all of us sprawled around one room. Let’s just say, I was slightly beyond the puppy pile phase of life for connecting :). So I split it with them, about half their hang out time I spent with them and half I was recharging and planning in my non-communal space :). Hadn’t thought of that in relation to connection! Thanks for calling forth that memory!

      1. Malia September 22, 2014

        What a fun “puppy pile” memory! I can see how you could’ve easily withdrawn completely but then isolated yourself. Nice compromise. ^^

        [By the way, you left a funny comment on my blog , but I didn’t publish it since it only tells me that your first comment didn’t come through. ^^ Thanks for stopping over there!]

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