October 30, 2010

Secret gifts

Cute, eh?

I love my sweet black and white Bible bag. But what they represent is even more sweet.

I have some secret friends that these bags represent. Their identities have been hidden to protect their secret-ness. ;)

Last spring I got a written invitation from a friend of mine who is a pastor's wife in our same area. She and another pw were starting a small group with other pastors' wives in our area of town. One of them made these cute bags to make us feel welcome and honored. I was intrigued and excited, and more than a little bit nervous. There is  an online group of pastors' wives that I've been a part of for support and friendship for years now and it has become an invaluable group of very close knit friends. I've met some of them, others I do not even know what they look like, just their name,  because they choose to be anonymous. We share our lives in a way that we can't do publicly. Our husbands' ministries are very public. And though I feel like I can be myself in any of the churches we've been in, a lot of pastors' wives feel under special scrutiny and judgment.  So we talk about our feelings, about our weaknesses, our children, our husbands,  we say things that we would never dare to say in public, but we can be ourselves there with each other and know that it will never go beyond that group. We also pray for each other with empathy and care that I have rarely felt in human friendship.

This is why the small group with real live, in person ladies was a little bit intimidating to me. Would it ever be the same as what I have with my semi-anonymous group of friends? I was willing to find out, so I went. At first it was like any group of women who are almost strangers. Awkward! It was 'on your best manners' and polite. We shared prayer requests that were not too personal, not too dangerous.....testing the waters I think. But God only let us be aloof for so long, He has been guiding us to a deeper level and I am finding some really dear friends, kindred spirits. Even with our differences and wide range of personalities, He is bringing us together.

It's a gift. I say that a lot on here, but I have to give credit where it is due! I want to chronicle in some way the good things only God brings into my life to show His love and care. His fingerprints are all over this group, because we've grown to need human comfort and understanding even more lately.

One of the ladies wanted to do some kind of get away, spend some more time together, so I asked my sister and we went up to her cabin together in late June for a retreat. You cannot get away from getting to know each other better than on a weekend trip to the mountains. Riding up with each other, sharing beds, cooking for each other, eating together, walking, hanging out on the porch in a peaceful setting started to form a bond, letting down our safe boundaries so that we could really share and pray together.

When we got back there was a greater trust level and openness among us. This was a good thing because heck started breaking through in some of our lives and we needed a place to be real, to cry and be totally accepted, not judged or scrutinized.....and prayed for. We have really started to bring each other to the Throne and have already seen God working, bringing peace in the middle of what seemed like chaos, at least inside our heads and hearts.

In August my daughter Beth was at a denominational conference. She was hanging around while helping at the conference and one of my pw friends came up to her, read her name tag and told her, "I know your mother! You are Bethany!" Then it dawned on Beth that this was one of my small group friends and out of her mouth came, "Oh! You are one of my mom's secret friends!" She said this because she didn't know the ladies I was going to meet with several times a month. But I would come home sometimes and if she asked me where I'd been, I would tell her I had been with my friends.

"You have friends? Who?"

"Oh, you don't know them."

So, they aren't really a secret,  just unknown to my kids.

When my friend heard her say secret friends, she thought that was delightful and we are known as secret friends now to each other.

I feel like I've been needing to take a deep breath of cool, fresh air and it finally happened. I've got some people who understand ministry life and how so much of it is confidential or makes you feel so vulnerable, how you can't share the pain you have sometimes or that you shoulder burdens for your husband alone.

I don't know why I was surprised. God gives good gifts..... and from the beginning, even though it was company manners at first, I knew it was something God brought into my life because I had longed for it. Each time we meet together, I see these cute Bible bags lined up together or stashed on a table or chair and am thankful for our group.

So....to my online sisters and my secret Bible bag sisters, thank you for being in my life, for sharing yours with me and for taking the risk to join together on this path.

You are a breath of fresh air, a gift from God, my bag ladies, my secret sister chicks, my own prayer warriors and friends.


gillian said...

What a beautiful post! Yay for secret friends!!

Sally D said...

This was very moving and so refreshing at the same time. I remember our talks we used to have and I miss them.
You will always be very special to me.

SaraMeg said...

I love reading your stories. <3

joannmski said...

This is so good. And I love those bags!