So I’m leading this thing I’m really excited about called (in) real life or (in)RL for snazzy short. And I’m loving it, and I’m feeling the love connected to all these awesome women from all over the world when God asks me in that whispery/naggy voice that shows up in the back of my head,

“who are your in real life people?”

Well, duh, I feel like saying –as I point at the Internet. Them God, check out how totally awesome they are and how we connect and isn’t our on line community just the coolest thing ever.

To which God replies, “your real life people – where are they?”

And I get uncomfortable goosebumps.

It occurs to me it’s been a while since I had some real life friends who lived, you know, in my zip code.

My Internet friends are wonderful and brilliant and encouraging and I love them so much I wish they lived next door. But they don’t. I try not to hold this against them.

And I ignore the God whisper/nag and go about my business.

Then my friend, Nester, writes about how to build an automatic friendship bench.

Then a Bible study leader’s kit shows up in my mailbox. It’s from Jennie Allen, it’s called STUCK, and it’s all about getting past our fake smiles to what’s aching underneath.

I ignore it.

I put it on the top shelf of the playroom toy rack.

I ignore it some more.

It falls down.

I use it to prop up my computer while I’m Skyping. Some days I alternate and use it as a footrest. {Sorry Jennie}

The God nagging gets louder.

The box stares at me.

Then a few Sundays later I find myself walking up to Laura after church. And I’m horrified to hear myself ask her if she’d be interested in a Bible study with me. She says yes.

I haven’t even opened the box yet. I have barely any idea what it’s about.

Other people want to join the study and advertise it. I want to hide and make sure only 4 people at the most show up. Thirteen arrive the first night. And it gets real right away.

Turns out I’m not the only one who was desperately unaware she was desperate for real life community.

So it’s great and awesome and I have long pep talks with myself about “keeping it real” and “leading from a place of honesty,” which is all good and well until the thing with the bratwursts happens.

Stupid bratwursts.

I’m getting ready for my Tuesday night Bible study of awesomeness, and I can see why God had been nagging at me for so long – because studying His word with people you actually get to hang with in person – well, it is powerful.

I’ve read the word, I’ve done the homework, I’ve prayed, and I’m ready to get my Bible study on.

But then Pete comes home for dinner with nothing but bratwursts. And for reasons that escape me this sets me grinding my teeth and muttering under my breath.

“Where are the mashed potatoes?” I ask. “Where are the sides or buns or anything else that would transform this into a meal?” Mutter mutter, grind grind, stomp stomp, hand slammed on counter, kids wide-eyed and confused.

He stays calm and sane.

I spiral into doom.

Because once I’m over the bratwurst crisis I’m faced with the “I’m-supposed-to-be-leading-Bible-study-in-this-foul-temper-tantrum” crisis.

Ugh. Woe is me. Woe-r is Pete.

Because he is calm and rational and his wife is a loon. But lucky for me he is also easy to make up with – we do. And next thing I’m driving the white minivan down 495 and feeling all kinds of relief that I dodged that bullet – I mean, how awkward would it have been if anyone had known what just went down.

Enter a chuckle from sources unknown.

And in my head I hear Jennie Allen again, “We all have our issues. Most of us just wear a cute bob or smile to cover them up. We’re never as sweet as we appear…Pretense and pretending have never really been God’s thing.”

I want to pound my head on the steering wheel. Really – this is real life community? I’m going to have to fess up to the battle of the bratwurst if I want to lead this group?


I did.

We were all able to laugh.

And then we were all able to share.

And then we were all able to cry.

It was a good start.

Because of Jennie Allen and friendship benches and God’s insistence that relationship is transformative when it happens in person.  And bratwursts, let’s not forget the bratwursts.

I don’t know when last you spent more than a Sunday morning with other women of faith. I don’t know when last you cried the ugly cry with someone sitting across the room from you rather than just on the other side of a screen or blog comment box.

But take it from someone who’s learning – they’re not the same.

Sweet, wonderful woman reading this, it’s so incredibly worth it to find your own zip code people. No matter how strange, awkward, backwards, or inconvenient the process is.


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