They came from all over the nation.
Some drove. Many flew. Some carpooled. When the arrived, we started our Come With Me journey together.
I was surprised when I met some in person. All I had to go on was the small picture beside their name on Facebook or in some other online community. One woman was supposed to be short, or at least that’s how I imagined her. When she stepped out of the car I was surprised to see that she towered over me.
She was beautiful!
What I loved best about this weekend retreat is how real we all were. Moms. Single women. Grandmas. Wives. Working women. Writers. Speakers. Teachers. It was all over the map.
I taught, wearing jeans and Sketchers, as we sat beside a lake. We sat in the grass. We listened to the Word. We prayed and laughed and grew together.
We roasted marshmallows and ate S’mores. We rode horses. We kayaked. We even zip lined! It was glorious.
I wonder if the disciples felt the way we did that weekend. Seeking Jesus. Listening for His direction. Encouraging each other. Sometimes holding hands and weeping over the hard parts of life, and cheering each other on in the good.
By the end of the weekend, pretty deep friendship were formed that continue on today.
In Chapter Eight of Come With Me it seems like we are exploring what it means to be the “chair guy” in ministry (unseen, behind-the scenes), but can I share something with you?
It’s not about that at all.
It’s discovering the power of standing shoulder to shoulder with each other and changing the world. It’s understanding that when we go out two by two, or in a crowd, we become a massive, powerful movement of women that leaves an impact.
Maybe you’ve struggled with trying to do this by yourself.
Maybe you think that there’s no one like you — and that’s true.
We all play a part in this thing called ministry.
Maybe today is the day that you allow the Holy Spirit to open your heart to other women. It won’t be perfect. There’ll be messy moments. Yet, as one of my pastors said this past week, “There is no Plan B. Community is the only plan.”
[ctt template=”4″ link=”b643m” via=”yes” ]There’s no plan B. Community is messy because it involves people, but it’s the only plan. It’s a great plan. #ComeWithMe @suzanneeller[/ctt]
Maybe that community will be online.
Maybe it’s a Bible study.
Maybe it’s praying for your church or a ministry, and stepping in as an encourager.
I don’t know what it will look like, but this once-loner has discovered a little later in life that friendships and a band of brave girls can conquer the world, one small act of faith at a time.
If you struggle with this, may I pray with you today?
Lord, community can be scary. It’s made up of ordinary people with all kinds of quirks and flaws, but Lord may I admit that I also have quirks and flaws? Let us look for the good in others. If someone has hurt one of the women reading this today, may she open her heart one more time. Take her into the deep of community, with a heart open to connection. Lord, these people will not meet our needs, because only you can do that. Yet we know that you work with us, two by two, in crowds and in gatherings, and behind-the-scenes as we love and encourage each other to follow you.
Thank you for that. In Jesus’ name, amen.
We gave away swag boxes at the April event and one of the giveaways was a candle from 4Fosters Candle Company.
It smelled so good!
Check out 4Fosters Candle.
Lorri Foster and her family work behind the scenes in this faith-based company to reach people in a unique way with candles and the Gospel.
Years ago I was walking in some complicated, dark times. I found myself, by the grace of God, in the midst of a women’s group at my church. It was the older women’s group, at the time. Together we ministered to each other for the next 5 years. With their love and support, I led them on a spiritual journey of faith, rich in the Word and faith building. It was an amazing time that I treasure 35 years later.
We need each other. Your story says it all. <3
Wow! I am so in that place of struggle. I SO know that I need community with other women, yet I find it so hard. My husband and I have built our life for our family differently than most (he was a stay at home dad, while I have a career as an engineer) and we have too often felt looked down upon for our choices. We have both suffered a lack of community by the judgement and criticism that has been shown to us over the years. We are working hard with the Lord to change this now and today’s blog was such a confirmation that we are looking in the right direction and that we have to be brave and open to where God is leading us. I’m reading and loving “Come With Me”. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
I’m cheering you on, Linda. I love that you’ve found what works for your family and how you’ve chosen to raise your kiddos in such a fun way. Sounds super supportive to me on all fronts.
I’m so glad you are here in this community. That’s a blessing for this girl.
So thankful for the community of women I have around me at church, and the mentors that continue to disciple me. I don’t know what I’d do without them! The keep me going and growing. We are powerful together 🙂
I have been blessed in this life with a community of women. My main community is found in my sisters. My SIBLINGS. I came from a large family of 3 boys and 7 girls. My 6 sisters introduced me at an early age to the “community of women”. I am very blessed to have been given this opportunity.
Family is a huge part of my community as well, Charlotte. Not just my own children or grandchildren, or siblings, but I married into a large family with cousins as close as siblings. It took adjustment on my part in the beginning (it was just us growing up as a family), but I love it and have for years.
The Lord is speaking to me this morning. I’ve struggled with this for a long time. Thank you Suzie!
You are so welcome!
For years I was part of that Community, teaching and encouraging women and finding great joy when the scales fell away from just one pair of eyes. Lately I seem to have lost my voice, and I am longing to get back to the place where I rely on Christ alone for my words and thoughts. Thank you so much for this book!
Lord, help Pam rediscover her voice. Show her where she fits, which is always in your presence, but also in a community of believers. Thank you for wrapping her close today in your love.
Through brokenness in the family as a child and teen, I have always struggled with community and group settings. As I began to receive healing, I sought out opportunities in church to serve & this opened the beauty of community to me to a degree, and then my chronic illness & pain bloomed to control my life and I became more isolated & home bound. Only recently, the Lord opened up an opportunity to become a part of a group of ladies online who support one another through their illness and study online together. We are studying ‘Come With Me’ now and getting so much about opening our hearts to Jesus and community.. Thank you so much for this gift…
Charlotte, isn’t the online community a blessing? It’s opened doors previously closed for so many. Praying today that your community is such a blessing to you in every way, but also that you bring so much to others in this same community.
I was there three years ago when we moved to be closer to take care of my mom. I just retired and needed to meet women of faith. I asked God to lead us to a church and put me with women who love Jesus. Well he did just that and it is expanding outside of church as more women come together. I am so thankful that we serve a loving God and how he answers our prayers. He tells us to ask. Trust him with all things. He will lead you if you let him.
Thank you, Jody, for sharing this. Transition is one of those times when we need each other the most.
Community is hard for me. I prefer to be alone. And yet when I force myself to go, I always enjoy it. I always receive some kind of encouragement whether it is a kind word given to me or an opportunity to encourage some one else. My heart always comes away lifted up. So why do I fight so hard against what God has said is good and what He has established to be His way of reaching the world one person encouraging another. One moment at a time, one person at a time. Pray that I will give up my desire for solitude and eagerly seek those moments when God gives me opportunities to be an encourager either one on one or in the midst of a group.
That’s the battle Paul talked about in scripture — knowing what we need, and yet struggling to do it. It’s a spiritual battle, Dolores, but every time you go you experience what God is trying to give you. Cheering you on as you go against feelings to gain all that God has for you.
Thank you for sharing this today. I have been kind of on the fence about starting up a single mom’s ministry at my church, and have spoken with my church off and on, but decided this week to really get the ball rolling. This is exactly what I needed to read and I am so excited to get it started, now.
I have felt inadequate, like I am not spiritually mature enough, like I’m nowhere near ready to teach a class… the enemy has been putting all kinds of lies in my head. I know though, that there will never really be a time when I am “ready” … it’s just about jumping in and listening to God to direct me.
Oh Courtney, we have all experienced those same fears. Don’t you know that the disciples felt the same way. All we are called to do is to follow Jesus. Stay connected with him as you seek God and love people. You can do this!
Thank you! I’m sure the disciples felt the same way. I really appreciate your kind words!
Some replies came through from this thread, that was started two years ago today, and I just wanted to share a little bit about what stepping out in faith has done.
I had really been struggling with starting up a small group at my church, and I’m so glad that I took that step.
I have been leading a small group for two years now. It started as a single mom’s small group, and as they saw my bible journaling.. it has grown into a bible journaling small group. I have not only led a small group, I’ve hosted a women’s retreat, taught at the Chickasaw Nation Dynamic Women’s conference, will be teaching bible journaling at a ladies event at my church this fall, and am gearing up for another semester of small groups. I can’t even begin to explain the amazing outcome of stepping out in faith two years ago. God has used me in ways I didn’t feel capable, and I know he isn’t finished yet. <3
Community is something I’m working on. It does not come easily for me, but I desire to be a part of it. I long to be an encouragement to other women dealing with the same or similar struggles I’ve known. I will begin praying today that God will help me find this community.
I still struggle with community…I am very quiet and find it hard to become a part of a group. One community that I have found myself in – kind of by accident – is our church choir. The people, the music, the prayer, the involvement in mass…these things have become a part of my heart!!
Praying for you. Thankful you’ve found your “voice” — literally. I love it!
I cannot even begin to fully express my gratitude for my church community. I’m not basing this on some recent experience or some particular instance that sticks out in mind, but on lots of little (and some big) ones over the years that have compounded themselves into the sweetest love and appreciation for deep, authentic community. I have been held, covered, cheered, loved and lead well. It’s not perfect, but it’s full of love.
Community is something that never used to be hard for me. Then I was deeply betrayed by my very closest friend when she walked out of my life without any word of explanation. It has been several years now, but I still struggle to find my place in the world, to make new friends. I long for the closeness that she and I had, but it is hard to trust again. That experience changed me to the very core of who I am. I so very much want to open up and share life with others, but I’m terrified to be that vulnerable, as I’m not sure I could survive something like that again.
Oh Tammy, there’s such a real fear that I hear in this. My prayer is that God will be your safe place as you step back into community. This past week someone in one of my communities hurt my heart. She said something unjust and untrue, and it came back to me. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t mine to embrace either. She was in a hurting place and I received the brunt of her hurt. I can pray for her. I can also take my focus off of her words and actions and find my safe place in God, as I continue to live vulnerable and fully.
I never want to live in isolation. It’s not where God wants any of us to be.
That’s my prayer for you too. It will be messy at times. It can make you feel vulnerable, but you are strong and a faith-filled woman. I’m cheering you on today as you take this step of faith.
Community, I have always longed for it deep inside since I was young. I was a socially awkward girl with a hearing impairment and so different form those around me. The message I always heard from people through their words and their actions was that I was not good enough and I had nothing to offer this world because I was damaged goods. Even the church we went to was not one where people really got together outside of the day you went to church. I longed for so much more, something that went deeper and people to share life with.
I began praying for God to bring us somewhere else and in God’s incredible way of doing things He did. We began going to a church 45 min from us. I only make that point because here in RI that is unheard of really. People don’t want to drive that far. My husband actually got a job there. I went to as much as I could to get to know people. That was nice years ago. God has used this Community to grow me, love me, and give me boldness and freedom to use the gifts He has given me, I have found deep friendships, those who cover me in prayer regularly and those who allow me to pray for them, I have been able to overcome some fears and work through my socially awkwardness in many ways. My cup overflows with such an appreciation for my Community there and also the Community on-line that I have become a part of through stepping out to begin my writing. I am a testament of what God can do through Community and I try to help others experience a little of that too.
What a beautiful story, Desiree! You are an overcomer. Brave and courageous.
Chronic illnesses have become more and more the way the enemy is keeping us at home, myself going on 3 years. Or so he thinks. My friendships and faith has increased by meeting women through online Bible Studies and Women prayer Warriors that have chronic illnesses. This place can be hard as depression and other negative thoughts through the pain comes in to defeat us your love for uniting women shoulder to shoulder keeps me lifting my hands higher in praise and worship. And asking God, what else Lord is there for me to do today for you? My days were getting dark but I’m out of the boat and now have my eyes on Him and His next step for me. Thank you for your loving obedient heart for Him!
I often step into community, but I struggle with staying in community. I guess I often feel like the odd one out and don’t mind going it alone … for awhile. I’m learning and growing in this area. I love Lorrie’s candle from the retreat; it would be awesome to win another. Can a girl ever have too many candles? Blessings, Suzie.
Community started for me with Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies. I have become very close with so many ladies from all over the US. We met at The Cove for a retreat a couple of years ago, and then there are many who live in my area or some hours away that I love meeting with for coffee or lunch.
This is a close community for sharing, loving, and growing in His Word and also how I found Suzie.
Debbie, I loved being a part of The Mended Heart study last year. It was so incredible to meet the P31 OBS family. I’m so thankful you’ve remained connected!
I loved being a part of our April retreat and spending time on the water with you Suzie. Right now I’m going through a very hard time realizing how very small my community of face to face women is. It’s been a time of tears, drawing closer to Jesus and confirming what I already knew, that my husband is an incredible gift from God and a true helpmate. I’ve grown a deep appreciation for the few who have stepped up to help during this time when I’m extremely limited in what I can do. It’s also taught me a lot. I don’t want to ever forget this feeling, I don’t want another to feel this way-being a silent partner in ministry is one thing but feeling like you are forgeotten when you need others to help is quite a humbling experience.
ps I love that you use my picture of you by the lake-I smile every time I see it knowing I got to capture you,with my camera, in a way that reflects you in life-full of Jesus joy!!
Community has shifted for me over the past year and a half as I’ve been dealing with chronic illness. I am so thankful for the ways that this Digital Community of Believers has opened my heart to a whole new way of sharing God’s Love! And I’ve appreciated this online study so much! These thoughts and questions have been perfectly timed by God for this season in my life.
Community has become so very hard for me Suzie. I use to be in ministry through the local church I attended but life changed my ministry to be a stay at home caregiver for my 88 year old Mom. Now husband has just retired and wants to travel. The community of relationships for me has become on line. Very rewarding but sometimes lonely. My goal from reading your thought provoking books is to share His Word as we travel in our RV from campground to campground. You have given me so much thoughts to share with others. Thanks so much for your ministry Suzie.
Lord, thank you for Nancy as she cares for her mom. What a beautiful image of a servant-hearted daughter. May she never feel lonely as you minister to her as she ministers to her mom. <3
The online community through these studies have been a wonderful experience for me. The interactiveness has been amazing. Seeing everyone’s comments helps put my thinking into perspective; it opens up to a new way of understanding and communality too. I also love my church community. There are 2 ladies especially there who I refer to as my Titus 2 ladies. I can go to them for advice and concerns about anything. I can’t tell explain how comforting it is to know they are praying for me and my children. It is so important and peaceful to know you are not alone.
We have a prayer shawl ministry and meet at my home, We pray for each other, share our trials. I always feel so joyful to have my sisters here to share and to work the gifts God has given us to bless other women In our church.
I love candles😉😉😉
I am blessed with an incredible work community. It is not a publicly claimed Christian organization but in every way the actions are Christ like. I feel loved for who I am and encouraged to grow into the best version of myself. Prior though I would always look at others and see their gifts or talents while feeling like I had very little to offer which made me feel awkward. I doubt anyone knew how I really felt as I didn’t recognize it myself. I appreciate this online community for the flexibility. I find pockets of time that I read a few pages and then check the group for recent posts. Thank you. What a great concept!!
I am involved in several Online Prayer/Bible Study communities …
Keeps me grounded to some point to be held accountable by other ladies …
Some of whom are also house-bound by disabilities …
These kinds of ‘Communities’ give us a place to gather and share …
What you have written is so true. I would love to be part of such a community, but I just haven’t found one. My budget just doesn’t allow for retreats, much as I would enjoy one. I pray that God will show a path to something.
We don’t have an intergenerational women’s ministry at my church. The Holy Spirit continues to put on my heart to gather women together at my house for monthly “Friendship Teas” where we would gather to share munchies, fellowship, and messages of the “Good News”. I am a retired teacher but not a trained Bible study or ministry leader . I am a COMPEL writer, and just returned from the SHE Speaks conference with new ideas and enthusiasm for sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ . Diving headfirst into your new book “Come With Me”, is opening my heart to the possibility of beginning the ministry. My fears and perceived inadequacies just need to be thrown out the door . It was a blessing to meet you at the conference .😘
Priscilla, you could host the gatherings and have someone else facilitate the teaching until you are comfortable with it. God seems to have placed this on your heart. Don’t let your fears chase away a wonderful ministry. ❤️
What a great idea!
About 2 years ago I felt my spiritual life just so in need, and I was lacking something. I ended up joining a Proverbs 31 study and a Facebook group, but I had no clue of what God was about to lead me to. What I found was an amazing online community, filled with women who just wanted to share the love of Jesus! I was a little intimidated at first, thinking, how in the world do complete strangers care about me like they claim? I loved the community, and the more I participated, the closer I became to some of these women. I started joining more online studies, and I can tell you now, that I have grown to love these women like they are my own flesh and blood! I am actually closer to some of them than my own family. They are the first ones I think of when I want to rejoice, when I have a praise, or need prayer, they are always there. I have still not been honored to meet them face to face, but I am confident that I will one day soon.
I could go on and on with this subject, but I may end up writing a book, so I will stop here for now! 🙂 (Maybe an idea for a blog post?) 🙂
Community is difficult. Our lives change and thus our community needs to a bit. I’ve struggled to find that these past several years. However, we all need someone. One thing I’ve learned is if there’s no one to go to, there’s always God. Regrettably, I sometimes forget He’s always there for me.
My community has been those who rallied around us in our darkest time. They loved on us, prayed for us and have been the hands and feet of Jesus. <3
Love all the pictures, btw!
You are the winner of today’s giveaway! Send me your mailing address and we’ll get this to you in the mail!
Thanks for the prayer! I have been spiritually abused by people who I thought were Christians. I didn’t feel good enough to them and they tried doing some sort of exorcism on me . . . which isn’t biblical. I haven’t been in community for years now. This was encouraging!
Community, love what was written. My community has become PWOC at the small military base my husband works at in Italy. We have chosen your book Come to Me for one of our studies. So excited to see what happens with the group of ladies that will bond over studying your book.
When I was transferred across the state … Code for I would have to leave my kids, I was distraught. On one particularly bad day I called one of my small group friends. I told her I couldn’t even quiet my heart enough to pray. Her response, “That’s okay. We are praying for you.” Priceless.
My family as been struggling lately with community. We are a pastor’s family and we have not felt so connected lately. It’s not a very comfortable feeling. My husband just crossed the 25 year milestone as pastor of this church. My daughter says that she is so emotionally invested that she is not sure she can stay at this church. Ironically, we have recently lost a member of our church. My children have verbalized how the older parishioners are like aunts/uncles or grandparents to them. They are grieving over the loss. It’s amazing how you can experience so much love and so much unloving behavior in the same community.
I’m not involved in my local church community; I’m too embarrassed or afraid. I don’t feel ready or good enough. I do the P31 online and am much more comfortable behind “technology! “
Christianne, technology cannot replace human contact. I pray that you will become involved in your local church. Just take a baby step. I too was there at one point in my journey and when my church asked for a volunteer to help out in the children’s ministry I stepped in. At first I felt inadequate and intimidated at times but I never regretted my decision. It lead me to many different positions in the church and to close fiends I may have never met.
I happen to be with a group of people last evening that are so different from my husband and I. Even though we were uncomfortable at times I know God placed us there to show our faith life. When we are involved in our community of believers it strengthens us for times like this. I prayed last night for those people knowing God can move mountains and change lives.
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