In May of this year, my oldest nephew graduated from high school. It was one of those moments when I realized why all of my family still thinks of me as a 12 -year-old… because sometimes, no matter how much we grow up, people freeze in time in our minds. My nephew is still stuck in my memories as a little dude who would sing Blue Suede Shoes with me and make me read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at least 15 times in a row.
Even at 18, when I ask him if he knows how much I love him, he’ll respond with, “Around the world and back, Aunt Sara.” And he says it with the same certainty he did when he was three. Knowing how I love him, you can imagine how much I wanted to be there to celebrate his accomplishment.
But I couldn’t be. I was here. As always.
There was a community of people around him, but I wasn’t one of them.
When my family was taking photos at his party, my mom and sisters posed for this photo:
but it was so hard for them to do. My sister Laura wasn’t sure they should. My mom said it just didn’t feel right to have one missing. My sister Janette, who has way too much confidence in me, convinced them both that I could Photoshop myself into the picture so it would seem like I was there.
I, of course, couldn’t. But I also didn’t think I should. I think there comes a time when we need to make sure we aren’t longing instead of living.
The truth is, I wasn’t there. Photoshopping myself into the photo wouldn’t have been reality. And the reality is, even though I wasn’t physically there, physically in the photo, it doesn’t mean I’m not still a part of their community.
When I think of community, I think of Matthew 18:20 when Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” To me, the part that stands out is that they are gathered in His name.
The people I love, the people who are in the community of my heart, are those who are gathered with God in their hearts. Because we all share that common bond of love and belief, we are all tied together whether we are physically together or not.
I thought of that as I looked at the photo of my beautiful mom and sisters… and they are my community. I think of it as friends online, who I will most likely never meet, share their lives and hearts with me… and they are my community. I think of it as friends take me along in their everyday lives with video, or take photos during their vacations just so I can get a glimpse of what they see… and they are my community.
I thought of it as I was once again separate from my family as they gathered for my dad’s funeral, as I watched and loved them all from my computer screen here in my condo. I am always going to be physically separated from the rest of the world. I am always going to be isolated and homebound here in my condo.
But I don’t have to be without community. I don’t have to choose longing instead of living. Because we are gathered in His name, because we love and believe with hearts that love God more than ourselves, we are a community. A living, breathing community who has learned how to share our lives over any distance.
Jesus told us to do this life together, as a community. And because of Him, there are no boundaries.
There is only the common bond of belief and love.
By: Sara Frankl, Gitzen GirlLeave a Comment
Mela Kamin says
beautiful – love how you put that: “longing instead of living” … truly He knows how much we need relationship and where that need can’t physically be met, He gathers our hearts in different ways, linking us as believers to each other – especially through blessings like (in)courage where we can be houses, neighborhoods, cities, countries or continents apart and still feel a kinship.
Bravo Bravo Bravo!!!!! “Because we all share that common bond of love and belief, we are all tied together whether we are physically together or not.” How good to be reminded on! Thank you…
Charissa Steyn says
I am falling in love with the community that God has given me called His Church… it’s so beautiful!
When I think of community, I think of our church and how it has been there for people who were in need. After each of my children was born, someone showed up with a cooked meal for us and people share – whether it’s passing on clothes or lending a book that someone thought we might like – it’s so nice to know that there are people out there, thinking of you in love and ready to jump in and be the hands of God.
My community is my very loving and Godly family. My grandmother was one of the most loving, accepting, welcoming, non-judgmental people I’ve ever known. She taught my father, me, and the rest of my family how to be loving and gracious through all of our blunders and missteps. My family has shown me and taught me the importance of prayer and giving. I long for them daily but am separated by distance (distance only) – connected through the bond of love. I am also very blessed and fortunate to have colleagues that are my surrogate family. They have loved me, supported me, and taken me in at times of my most desperate need. I thank God in the quiet of this morning for all of these very beautiful, precious people and for the community He has built around me. What mercy!
Lisa H. says
When I first found my church I didnt feel I had any community. I fostered that though. I stayed to myself, even 2 years into going to my church home. I was involved in a couple of things, but I wasnt involved in people. No one knew me, I wouldnt let them know me, I was afraid of what they would think of me. God sent someone to walk beside me and help me through some really tough times-3 years later she is still walking with me, same tough times but things changes surrounding them. She has helped encourage me to reach out to others to grow my circle of friends. She said to me before I didnt have a circle, I was a straight line instead where everyone stood alone. I needed a circle, a few circles that all surround the inner circle—very foreign to me! But I have in the last 3 years through lots of encouragement from her-she is in my very inner circle but I have many women who I consider friends and I have a very different relationship with all of them. Varying degrees of trust and what I am willing to share with them, but they all love me and care about me and will help me and best of all will pray with me. Something so foreign to me in the past is such a wonderful thing to have now! And even though I still struggle with letting people in, even those in my circle of friends its getting better because God helped put these women into my life. I love my church and the people God put there and its an awesome feeling when I can call someone and say you know I just need you to pray with me because I am having a bad day!
Sooo greatful for my church family, and a Small Group of women who meet for study and prayer.
Grateful for you, too! 🙂
Jenn @ Beautiful Calling says
“longing instead of living”. WOW! I’m blessed to have my sister, mom and Gram living in the same city but my church family is 1/2 hour drive which I can’t always do with littles. Sometimes I miss out on the extra things everyone does but that’s ok.
Adoption Mama says
Our spiritual family was there for us through the last year of trials…they continue to be as well. I love our church family!
Nicky McCleery says
I know that the community I’ve found here has been encouraging me in my life as a SAHM. Wonderful post!
Erica Laramee says
I hosted a wonderful women’s Bible study this summer. After being a full time working mom for many years, and home over the summer, it was so nice to have community with these women. It is invaluable!
jodi @ back40life says
when we had our first child, we were in a relatively new Sunday School class, but so many of the members brought us meals, even though we didn’t know them well. We had probably 3 weeks of meals, 3 times a week…a beautiful picture of the church in action!
The community that I so desperately love and need are my girlfriends. They have been there for me during ups and downs of life and I so appreciate them!
Thank you for the story, it is beautiful!
My husband and I had supper last night with a couple who have been there for us forever. They were celebrating their 25th anniversary. None of us could believe that all of those years had passed. We’ve been there for each other through many of life’s greatest and hardest events. We are separated by miles at this time in our lives, but when we are together it’s always easy to share & laugh & be completely comfortable together. God is good!
Thank you, Sara, for sharing about community. How blessed we are to have community online through the common bond of faith in Jesus.
You are an encouragement to me as you live your life, faithful to Christ, for the world to see. I can’t wait to see the reward He has waiting for you in Heaven!
Community often looks different at the various stages of life. With little ones, if is filled with many (lite on the adult, heavy on the gigglers). As we launch our children, it allows us to wrap our arms around others. Always, community must encompass those with whom we worship, serve and pray. Each community God gives is a precious gift to enjoy and to serve.
Danielle M. says
Wow. I cannot imagine how hard it is to long and struggle for community whilst battling all the physical issues that cause you to be homebound. Kudos for having eyes to see the gifts that Jesus is giving, right where you’re at. Especially since he seems to be giving it in unique ways!
I learned invaluable lessons about community from my home group Bible study folks during a one and a half year season of unemployment. God chose that time to do some intense emotional healing as well, and it was rugged, rugged terrain. However, I will never quite be able to wrap words around what a healing balm those folks were as the tangible hands of feet of Jesus. They offered listening ears, arms in which to cry, lessons on couponing and frugality, the occasional lunch/dinner out, and even surprises like haircuts and such. Such care…and it made all the difference.
Thanks so much for your beautiful post on “community”. You are a wonderful example of witnessing at it’s finest. Looks like your Mom ans sisters could not be a better support system.
Have a wonderful day!
I am blessed to say I belong to an amazing Church community. God has really provided for me and my family by giving us friends and family that love the Lord more than anything.
Dori Cox says
I am blessed with a great church community. They have provided for anyone who needs help in any way. Our Thursday night ladies bible study is a great way to keep that community going, by sharing & learning with each other. My father died last September, and trying to keep the family “community” together has been a long, hard job, since two of my sisters are no longer talking to each other. Please pray for this situation. Thanks for sharing your heart!!
allison morrison says
my community would be my family then my church. they are always there to lend a hand and i know i can call anyone in my family or church anytime i need something and they will be there. no questions asked.
Missy June says
Community is so essential and often lacking in our culture. It takes really engaging with others to build that community – doing life together creates intimate bonds and the ability to be known, really known. I’m so grateful for distant, but involved and loving family. Friends who show up when I need it and don’t even realize that. Especially for my church community that circles around the hurting, fallen and even celebrating Christian. God knew we would need each other and I’m so thankful he provided flesh and bone people with whom to share our journey.
“longing instead of living” – that’s a lovely way to phrase it. This really spoke to me: I’ve been caught up with the longing instead of living, lately. Thank you for sharing your heart!
for me, community is facebook. I do not really know how to interact with people in “real life” so the visual-only hanging out with people on facebook really works for me. I love when the little green dot shows people are online on facebook. I don’t usually chat with them, but it makes the hang time seem more social to know someone else is there with me. One of my friends helped me realize this by asking who my closest friends were…and the people I listed were ones I had not seen off the computer screen in a long time.
You are beautiful. Inside and out. Thank you for sharing your gift – and helping us all realize about longing instead of living – that what we have, where we are, as long as we are with Him and in Him, we are never alone. We are connected. And that, is a beautiful gift. Thank you beautiful Child of God. Thank you!
My most recent thick-and-thin moment came when I got serious back trouble earlier this year. The inconveniences have gone from lying on the floor overnight unable to move, to being able to walk some if there was someone to lean on and even then on occasion fainting due to the pain. Apparently I hit my head on our hard wood floor quite a few times, which combined with the medicine cocktail I am still currently taking completely explains, as far as I am concerned, any and all unclear woolliness in my story (SMILE). At the moment I am able to move around, for which I am very grateful. I have even have been out of the house on my own twice now for 10 minute excursions! Whooo!
All my life I was the person you’ld call if you needed anything: “sure I’ll drive 2hrs out of my way to drop you off, no worries!”, and here I was having to ask. It was difficult and after four months I still mess up sometimes and try to do too much instead of asking for help. Yet God has been good to me!
It takes perseverence to choose to be joyful always; especially at times when fysical pain is staring you in the eye. It is at those times that I (try to) remember the people that God has placed around me and I know that He will do what is best and look after me every step of my walk towards Him.
– husband rearanged his jobs and responsibilities where possible to be there for me, and made video’s of our tiny banana palm so I could watch it slowly unfurl each new leaf.
– prayerbuddy came over to stay with me while my husband went and got the (first of many) medicine.
– muslim neighbourlady #1 came and sat with me, bringing tea for me and food for all of us; she is a very good cook, we both thank her for finding the time.
– church friend #1 spent her days off with me enabling my husband to go to his ‘after school daycare (4 to 7 year olds)’-job.
– church friend #2 brought her study books to our house and studied here at the kitchen table, on call to help me to the bathroom, enabling my husband to go out and buy groceries.
– church friend #3 sent a card; I love getting a card in the mail!!
– church friend #4 called to ask when would be a good time for her to come clean all the windows.
– church friend #5 emails me often to tell me about stuff that is happening at her place; being house bound as I was/am each mail felt like a breath of fresh air.
– muslim neighbourlady #2 came and sat with me, just sitting and talking, it was lovely.
– church friend #6 brought flowers, cleaned up the kitchen, and vacuumed the whole appartment.
– church friend #7 came to have tea and chat and pray.
– muslim neighbourfamily #3 always asked how I was doing, all of them.
etc. etc. etc.
Looking at each and everyone of these people I see God at work, at work through their lives, at work in my life.
Amy Rogers says
Wonderful post. Makes me think of my community, although sometimes I feel very alone. I tried to reach out to my church community with a mission that is near and dear to me, but was shut out. I do like my church but it is quite political at times, and apparently I hit a political group. I continue to search for a spiritual community, but for now I continue to lean on a great Christian friend I have and I pray for the missionaries in Haiti that are part of my personal community.
~Amy in WI
College was the first time I experienced a feeling of community. In my four years there, I made closer friends then I ever made before. Lately my heart has been aching for those friends, as thousands of miles separate us all. Thank you for the reminder that miles mean little when God is Lord of our hearts. We may not always be physically close, but we have God, binding our hearts together, and helping us through the lonely times. God blessed me with those beautiful friends, and I know the blessing of their friendship is far from being over.
Brooke K says
As a busy mom of 4, online community is so important. It’s a place to come together with other women and just sit over a virtual cup of joe and share the good things God has done for us. It’s truly amazing that as many bad things the internet is used for . . . God can spin it around and use it for His good, His glory and His purpose.
savanna cahill says
I live far from my earthly family…most of which are in Tennessee. I live in Canada with my husband and children. For years I have moarned being so far away…and then I came to realize that God has blessed me with amazing COMMUNITY….of church family and friends..people that concern themselves with helping others, help shovel snow, love to laugh over shared meals. He has blessed me and surrounded me with this communal family here, and I am still a part of my community in Tennessee, even if it is over the phone or the computer. We are all a community in spirit!
Jenni Carlisle says
Thank you for sharing, your story are so inspiring. I’m encouraged to dig deeper and be thankful for the community God has given me. Be blessed today Sara, as your words bless others!
The most beautiful example of community I have experienced has been when my mom died very unexpectedly 6 years ago. I was a sophomore in college, and 5 of my closest friends came home with me, 3 hours away, and spent every moment with me until the funeral a week later. Some of them woke up at 5am and drove 3 hours back to school for 8am classes, then turned around and came right back to be with me. I know my faith in Christ is what brought me through that time, but they were all truly a tangible expression of His love and comfort.
Amber Czapansky says
When I think of community, I think of my Aunt. She is a selfless, God-Fearing woman and always thinks of others first. She is currently helping a nearby community by building a million dollar retirement facility. This is truly inspired by God as she is of very modest means. It is awesome to have a place to go online to lift up these women and to inspire to search deeper within ourselves and listen to what God is commissioning us to do individually.
God has recently taken me to a new depth to experience community. A year ago I found out that I had a rare ovarian tumor and needed surgery and chemo. You can imagine my surprise as the drs just thought it was a harmless cyst. I had only been married and living in a new city for a little over a year, and didn’t feel very connected. Through cancer and chemo, friends from church and my neighbors–many of whom I didn’t know well– brought us meals, sent me cards, and prayed with me. I have never experienced the Body of Christ and community in such a rich way.
Thank you so much for your post! It is such an encouragement to me!
I have been blessed with so much community in my life. The community that has meant the most to me lately is the women in my accountability group. Most of them are older and wiser than me, which is one of the main reasons I love it so much. But it is such a blessing to be able to pour my heart out to them. They truly know me – and truly love me. 🙂
Very well put. As a Navy wife, I know plenty about not being with family at special times – and I know plenty about having my husband gone for special times and celebrating in my own with our son. It is hard, but like you I choose to see the bright side – distance doesn’t change love, it doesn’t change support or encouragement, and it certainly doesn’t make us less important to each other. With Christ in the middle, no two hearts are ever really far apart.
“Longing instead of living…” Just perfect. I hope I never cease to marvel at what you continue to teach me. Sweet Sara, so glad to have you as part of my “community.”
Also marveling and giving praise as your community continues to swell 🙂
I love how you have created community friend… you are such a beautiful reflection of Jesus with skin on to so many people who love you – like me!
Sara, You continually teach me how to reach out to others. Whether they are near or far. It’s not the physical distance, it is the closeness of heart. The heart of Jesus that draws us to others. Thank you for being such a powerful example to me….and to others. I love you girl. Blessings, SusanD
Erica Hale says
I have been blessed by amazing community! First I have my family. Then I have my “real live” community of Church Family, which is huge and supportive and lots of fun. And I have a blogging community that has been so helpful, loving and supportive with everything from writing to dinner plans. I have an online community that got me through my 13 year old son’s really tough year with GERD and health issues a few years ago, and we still talk on facebook and through email. It is amazing to me how you can love someone like a sister even though you’ve never met! Jesus is the thread that binds us together, closer than family. He erases all the boundries between us…time, distance, age, race, religion, language…I love that!
I’m learning contentment!
My friends are scattered all over the place. My faith has been strengthened by having to suck it up and deal with being far from people I love!
That’s why I really love the blogging world. Friends, family are a click away! 🙂
The Church of the Open Door helped me to hang on when I felt pretty hopeless. I joined the Singles Group (after a 24 year marriage, separation, and divorce). God used this group and this church to show His marvelous, incredible LOVE for me when I needed it most. All my thanks to Him!!
“Living and loving” — that says it all! My community includes so many people and memories, but at this stage of my life it is our church home and family. No one particular thing stands out other than that they do live and love. Status in society is not a marker, financial holdings doesn’t make a difference, lifestyle isn’t decided by the church family, and all are welcome with open arms. That’s what we love about the people there — their “living and loving” as Christ would have done.
Where two or more are gathered…
It doesn’t take a huge number of people to
make a gathering. I am able to feel peace alone, with my family and my closest friends!
God is there all of the time…
I especially keep this Bible verse in my heart~ “Be Still and Know That I am God.”
Many thanks, Cindi
That was beautifully written!!
Community to me is the fellowship of true genuine friends and the Church!!
I am 39 years old and as I sit here I can honestly say I have no real friends. The LORD has shown me in the past 3 months how many hurtful people are in my life.
As much as I give to everybody, encouragement,prayer, support and friendship it would be nice to have that back.
I praise the LORD every day and HE has shown me the roses among the the thorns.
Weeping comes for a night, but joy comes in the morning!!! AMEN!!!
Blessings to all 🙂
Beth Williams says
Community for me comes in many different ways. On-line Emmaus, e-mail buddies, church, Women’s Bible Study, etc. I truly enjoy being a part of each little community.
God directed us to be a part of community & not alone.
Deborah Mathias says
Remembering what a dear mother Mary Ellen has been in my life. She never had the chance to know her mother through a life-time as I have been fortunate to discover. She is the youngest of 4 kids and was in both of her older sister’s weddings as their flower girl as they were 19 and 21 years apart, respectively. Her own mom died at age 40 so I never knew my Grandma but I hear she was very kind–truly Swedish.
Dee W. says
I can relate to your story. My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last summer and I was unable to travel for it. I suffer with a unpredictable chronic illness. I was feeling left out but my sisters called me from the event and let me talk to my folks and everyone told me how much I was missed. With life so busy we may not have enough time for our “community of family and friends” but when it comes down to it They are always there for me when I truly need it most!
God has been redefining for me the meaning of the word, “community.” How you describe it here is beautiful. I don’t have a church home anymore and I spend a lot of time in silence. The quiet of my home and my roles as a wife and mother…these are my community right now. This season of life is about a different kind of fellowship.
There may come a day when God calls us back in the midst of real-life people, but until He does I want to learn everything I can, live in joy at where I am right now because it is in the quiet that I hear Him the loudest. No competing voices.
I have community in my dear friends, near and far, those who I can call in the middle of the night and those who I share so many precious memories with. Community is in us, when we are kind instead of harsh, warm instead of fearful, loving instead of selfish.
Beautiful post, Gitz! 🙂
I have a group of girls I meet with weekly that give me such a sense of community. Even if I miss a week here or there, I know I can come back and jump right in.
Crystal Kusick says
This is beautiful. Thank you so much. I also have to say that we have a stone by a bush in our yard that says I thank my God every time I think of you. We planted this bush when we lost our angel baby in May 2009 and every time I see this verse I remember that special baby.
I’ve found great community in my online friendships. I tend to be pretty introverted and keep to myself (and my online friends are always shocked to hear that), so “meeting” people online has allowed me to get close to some really awesome folks in a way that feels safe to me. I’m so thankful for it, every single day!
Truly one of the loveliest things I have read in a long time. I am so fixed on your words – making sure we aren’t longing instead of living- don’t we all do that at one time or another? Isn’t it the Word of God and the precious community of faith that brings us to our senses?
Thanks for sharing your beautiful heart today! I am blessed!
I am definitely finding more of a community in my church. I have always felt like I didn’t fit in. I have friends but, not friends I would tell my secrets too. I have 3 sisters but none I would honestly open up too. I guess I am afraid of the rejection…the odd look I may receive…the “you really think that?” that may come out of their mouth.
I am beginning to get to know more who believe what I believe and live their life they way I want to live mine. I am finding these people through my church. My life and my community is my husband and three children but it is expanding…it is exciting!
JULIE ALLSUP says
I am very thankful the community I have have here with me physically, but also for my on-line community.
Because of a family situation, I’m not able to be with them as much as I would like right now. Thank you so much for showing me that I’ve been “longing instead of living” lately. I have been looking for a church, and now it is my #1 priority.
Thanks for sharing with us!
Rachel @ the science of music says
I’m so glad you’re a part of the community here at (in)courage. Because everyone here has encouraged me in so many ways!
Thank you, Sara. I needed to hear this today.
Thanks so much – I needed to hear this today!
The cal-de-sac I live in is like a little community. We all watch out for each other, get each others mail when we go on vacation, feed the cats, just keep an eye on each other. It’s the reason I won’t move.
I have a wonderful community around me made up of old school friends, church friends, homeschool mom friends, and on-line friends. Every one of them is important to me. But the most important people in my community are my husband and my children. I am very blessed.
Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience says
This just choked me right up:
“I think there comes a time when we need to make sure we aren
Oh that is so hard, but I agree with you on the picture. That is the right thing for your family. And it’s a gorgeous picture and you are SO right, you ARE still a part of that community. And I love being part of your online community. Community is a beautiful thing. Mine really pulled around me today. I went to work determined that I had decided I would not talk about my Dad’s diagnosis. I cried almost all the way to work (25 minute commute). I got myself under control. I walked in the doors and didn’t make it halfway to my room before I burst into tears again. I walked straight in the open door of a friend and the support started there. My work community came out for me more than I could have imagined today. Feeling a part of that was beautiful.
I really relate to this, moreso this weekend because my nephew is getting married and it feels so odd to me to see it. Sometimes I feel like I’ve stood still and they’ve grown! It’s wonderful to see and frightening too. God has definitely blessed us all 🙂
Amanda Hostetler says
I would have to say mine would be at work. I have two ladies who are Christians that are very close to my heart. One in particular, has gone through si many trials with me. My family has gone though so much with two of us finding out we have type 2 diabetes (my friend has type 1), depression, sucicide attempts and all a great struggle for me. Not only has my friend given me hugs, cards, cried with me, made me laugh,but gone to a conference room with me and prayed. I feel I am truly blessed to have this friend at work (where many would not expect it).
We live overseas where my husband is a chaplain at a bi-lingual school. Our times at home with family are brief so I can relate. Thanks for the encouragement. So glad for the bond of Christ.