Two big bags of red potatoes, sliced, tossed in butter, herbs and cream cheese and placed in a pan with grated cheese atop, seemed like enough for 30 people! Piling into the car, bringing flowers for saying thank you, and our family was once again celebrating life with friends who had become family.
Greetings, skewers or shrimp, beef and chicken, luscious chocolate and lemon deserts, a rousing volleyball game of all ages and a moon light walk added to the fun of the evening—and the potatoes were gone in 10 minutes.
All of these made for a great summer evening party last week, but the treasure wasn’t in what we did or what we ate, but in the sharing of hearts, memories, friendships and souls.
Sitting in the company of friends who had cried with me at my mom’s death; prayed with me through teenage years, evacuated together during the fires, celebrated birthdays, gathered for our Christmas progressive dinner, worked side by side at countless mom’s conferences, helped one another through surgeries, car wrecks---
Investing countless hours treasuring our friendships is what made the evening a celebration. It was the love shared and the history made through months, days and years of doing life together that made our evening so deeply meaningful to us, and especially to our children.
Our family history had been a lonely one. After moving 17 times, I realized that loneliness had been a plague of my heart for our family for many years. We longed for a community and for equal soul mates that held our values, but trying to find kindred spirits who shared our lives and values seemed impossible. We had many friends who were scattered all over the United States, had never had the support systems of family, and so we found ourselves alone and empty hearted many seasons of life.
So, ten years ago, I made a plan. I prayed about those in our circles who were the closest or we seemed to have the most in common with—and began to invite them over. We cast our invitations broadly and invited many people into our home, and not everyone lasted as friends. But eventually, as we stayed generous with our hospitality and faithful to our goal of finding friends and building them intentionally, we have come out with the treasure of those who have become like family, who also had a Clarkson shaped vacuum in their hearts.
But we had to initiate and make a plan and then invest our time and serve needs of their own families to build bridges of intimacy and love.
Monthly dinners became a fixture on our calendar. Birthday lunches for the moms became an anticipated celebration. Potlucks, playing games, celebrating loud and noisy new years crafted our friendships into something more than just a passing relationship into one that felt more like family.
Loneliness is epidemic and people feel invisible all over the world, wherever I travel.
And yet, for us to build those invisible threads from our hearts to the hearts of others, we must be intentional. It requires us to reach out, to invite, to make time for sharing life and all covered with love and grace.
The biggest blessing of building our own inner circle is that our children have a sense of history with several other families who have become family to them.
They don’t feel alone in their lives, but supported by a circle of people who invest in them personally, but it all started with our family being willing to make a ten year goal of investing purposefully so that we would reap a harvest of love.
It all started with a phone call and an invitation.
Sally Clarkson, www.itakejoy.com