So I've been thinking a lot lately about why we need friends. Seems elementary, I guess. There are a hundred easy answers. We need friends to have fun with, to help us, and to keep us company. We want people to go to concerts with or hang out at the beach with. We want people to help us in a pinch or give us a hand with a big chore. We want someone to call when we're on a long car ride or need a grown up conversation. Is that it? Fun, help, and companionship? Seems too simplistic.
Is that something we've done? Oversimplify friendship? Maybe we are trying to make something meant to be deeply powerful into something simple so we can control it. We keep people around us, but don't let them get too close. By keeping our distance, we keep our fears and insecurities from being exposed. We settle for surface level friendships because being really vulnerable is terrifying. Here's the thing, though. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. 1 Timothy 1:7. When we let fear define our friendships - fear of rejection, fear of loneliness, fear of judgment - we limit ourselves. And we limit our friends. When we don't let people in to the complicated parts of us, when we oversimplify our friendships, we lose something important. Something we are meant to do for one another. That's why our friendships can sometimes feel draining instead of fulfilling. We are missing each other. We are not even giving each other a chance to be what we need.
So what are we missing? What's the deep down craving we are trying to satisfy with every girls night, coffee date, phone call, and group text we engage in with our friends? Perhaps there is something Divine at work in us, pushing us to pursue friendship in service of a greater purpose. So what's the purpose? Why should we push fear aside and invite our friends to know us deeply?
As I've tossed these questions around in my head, I've done some reading and some praying around the subject. I actually did a Google search for "why do we need friends". Psychology says we need friendships for health, happiness and longevity. One study shows that good social relations is a necessity for happiness. Another indicates that people with a trusted confidant are less stressed and more optimistic. There is even evidence that our friendships can improve our overall health and actually make us live longer.
In civilization, our desire for friendships is rooted in survival. In early civilization, people needed real help to survive. They had no choice but to form trusting and loyal relationships. It was how they survived individually and as a society. Taking care of your neighbors is taking care of yourself. It is survival.
These two theories make a lot of sense. We want to be happy and healthy and we want to survive. Friends help us live richer, fuller, longer lives. But why? I'm like the child in your backseat that never relents, I know. How do our friends really feed our souls? Why do we long so deeply for belonging, deep connection, and affirmation? And why do we self sabotage by putting up a barrier between ourselves and the people around us? We busy ourselves with a million tasks and challenges, chores and obligations, leaving no time for connection. Why? We want it so badly; so why do we prevent ourselves from having it? As I researched, I was led to a Bible verse that settled into my spirit and brought an understanding of God's intention for our friendships.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another. Hebrews 10:24-25.
We stir up love and good works in each other. How lovely. I love the words stir up. They indicate that alone, we let our gifts settle and sink, becoming hidden from the world. But our friends stir up the love and good works in us. They dig in and find the good stuff we might not believe in anymore and they don't just bring it to the top. They stir up all the goodness in us, spreading it to every part of us, making it a part of us that can't settle or sink any more, changing us. It makes me think of mixing a cake. All the ingredients in a bowl, but nothing makes sense until you stir it up. When it's stirred, all the ingredients are in every part of the batter. After it's stirred, you can't separate it again. It's changed forever. That's what we do for each other. We feel like we are a random concoction of hopes and dreams and gifts and mistakes and fears and regrets. But every experience, every piece of us, is an ingredient. They work together to make us the beautiful creations God planned. Our friends' job is to stir it all up. Make everything make sense. Mix our gifts with our fears and combine everything mixed into us into something so very sweet. The end product is our love and good works. The knowledge that we are whole, that our dark parts play a role in us, but they can't overpower us. We are bigger than one ingredient; we are greater than our fears, and our gifts can become an essential part of us. It can be scary to let our friends stir us up. If we let them, they see what we're made of. All the pieces of us become exposed. Also, what will happen if we start mixing our fears and our dreams? Allowing everything to blend into something whole? Will we like the end product? It takes a lot of trust. Trust in God that He has, in fact, put everything we need into our make up. And trust in our friends, that they will stir us with love and acceptance into something beautiful. And trust in ourselves, that we can take it. That we can survive. That we can be better. We don't have to hide our fears or our gifts from our friends. They need to see what we're made of to stir us up.
I love taking it a step further too. We can apply this beyond the individual level and make each person an ingredient. Each person, with her light and her darkness, an important and vital ingredient. We are poured into this world separate, alone, hard to understand. But when we figure out how to combine, we each begin to change. When we're stirred up, our purpose becomes clear. Things begin to make sense, and we become something completely different, something whole and inseparable. Every person needed. Every heart vital. Every gift used. All part of the sweetness of the whole.
This is as God intended. Friends are important because together we make a whole. All we have to do is be who we are created to be. Just that. We don't have to be everything to everyone. When we learn how to use our own unique gifts, we contribute to the whole. But when we over exhaust ourselves trying to be more than we are, we can't be what we are intended to be. What a relief! Friends make us enough. We don't have to be everything because they are the rest. Together, we are a whole. I love this quote from Mother Teresa, "What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God."
So let's get bold and give each other a little credit. Let's move beyond small talk and get over gossip. Let's push through the fear, and embrace being seen. We can't be stirred up if we don't let our friends see what we're made of. We need friends for a beautifully Divine reason: They stir us into what we are meant to be, and together, with God, we are whole.
More verses on friends and human connection:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
The body is a unit. Though it is made of many parts; and though the parts are many, they form one body. 1 Corinthians 12:12
Selah St. Simons is new. It's fluid, evolving. Undefined, rough. When people ask me WHAT it is or WHAT I do, I fumble and ramble and struggle to articulate my answer. It's bothered me for a while. What's my two line description? How do I neatly and concisely explain WHAT I do? What do I put on LinkedIn? After months of struggling to define Selah St. Simons, finally, peace with the unknown. I don't know WHAT it is. Not exactly, not yet. But I do know WHY I do it. And I do know HOW to do it. And I believe that WHAT it is will be clear with a little time.
So, WHY Selah?
Because I believe we all need and deserve deep and meaningful human connection. We were created in the image of a relational God. We are intended for relationships with God and with human beings. We crave connection because God craves connection, and we are in His image. And yet, while we crave connection, we as women often have a hard time creating those connections because we guard ourselves so closely. We tend to put ourselves last, which leaves little time and energy to get beyond pleasantries and really connect. So HOW can I do something to help women let down their guards and really connect.
I believe people are meant to connect in deep and meaningful ways, but how do we do it without feeling really awkward? To try and figure it out, I asked. I dove head first into all the feels with lots of people. "Do you feel it too? Do you crave depth over breadth in your relationships? Are you sometimes drained by your connections instead of energized? How can we slow down together? How can we make it ok to be real? How can we embrace vulnerability and talk about what matters, what gives life, what our dreams are made of. How can we leave each other feeling appreciated and happy?"
I didn't get a lot of answers. I got some "oh my gosh you said everything I've been thinking but didn't think I could say out loud" and "this is making me uncomfortable but I get it and I'm interested" and some "let me know how to help. You can do this. This is important."
I also got some "that's nice" followed by polite moving in the opposite direction. Then there were some blank stares, some "not for me's" and just general distancing.
But I took the consensus as vital. Women need to have a space to connect and grow together. To encourage and empower one another towards becoming our best, most joyful selves. So really, how? I narrowed it to 3 super simple and surprisingly powerful elements of how we build our interactions:
1: Be together, face to face. Simple. It's the only way. Pause and be present. Take a breath.
2: Set an intention. This is key. We are what we intend. When we intend to be present, we will listen more carefully. When we intend to receive something during our time together, we are more likely to get it. Intention makes us aware, makes us ask "What do I want, need, think, feel?" and it also makes us aware of what those around us want, need, think and feel. Intention can be set individually or collectively. It can be private or shared. In Selah, we speak our intention to help learn the practice. It's weird at first; being singled out to say what you need from our time together. Putting it all out in the open. Saying it out loud. Get through the discomfort, though, and this practice can have a profound impact on all your interactions.
3: Practice gratitude. We cannot be grateful and angry at the same time, so learn how to make gratitude win every time. Gratitude makes us more content, more aware, and more resilient. It strengthens our relationships by helping us look for the good and speak words of love and encouragement.
These 3 elements are so simple, but I've found they make an enormous difference in how connected we feel after engaging with other people. When we come together with intention and gratitude, we leave feeling heard and appreciated.
This is where we are today. What is Selah?
We know WHY: Because we all deserve deep and meaningful human connection.
We know HOW: Be together with intention and gratitude.
But WHAT? What is the manifestation of the WHY and the HOW? Is it working out together? Eating together? Intensives? Retreats? I'm not sure; time will tell. I really believe, though, that our WHY and HOW will make WHATever it becomes pretty amazing.
Gratitude is the foundation of Selah St. Simons. It is why I founded a group called Selah, which actually means pause; praise. Gratitude is where I began to see my heart and mind transform and then my life transform. When I found myself constantly wishing and hoping - for more time, more money, more room, more answers, less stress, less fatigue, less hustle...and on and on - I begged God for another way of living, a simpler and more whole and more joyful way of living. My answer was gratitude.
See, while I was wishing and hoping for more this and less that, I was blind to all the glorious gifts already in my life. Gifts of people and creation and love and opportunity and sweetness and joy. My life changed when I let go of wishing and hoping. It was as if scales fell away from my eyes and a whole big beautiful new way of living shined brightly in front of me, there all along, just waiting to be seen.
When I committed to practicing gratitude intentionally and continuously, I changed my life. Gratitude practice brings forgiveness and contentment, presence and joy, and opportunity after opportunity. I want to share some of the specific practices I use to open my heart to gratitude and all its gifts.
1 - Gratitude Journal
Think of this as an ongoing list of gifts, a visible display of how beautiful life is. Simple listing. Not prosaic or eloquent, just a list. Just for you. Nothing is too big or small to be listed. When I'm having a hard day, I love flipping back through my list to remind myself what has been given to me. Here is a peek into my list from one day last year:
2 - Solitude
Solitude forces presence, awareness, mindfulness. When we go away alone, unplugged and undistracted, something beautiful happens. We wake up and we listen. The white noise of our busy lives fades until it stops. We open ourselves to inspiration and to divine intervention - not because those things can only happen in solitude, but because we are more able to receive when we are alone, quiet, listening, noticing.
Solitude is very uncomfortable for me. I'm fidgety, awkward and guilt ridden. I feel I should be doing something more productive, more helpful, less selfish. I have found, though, that when I lean into that discomfort is when I find guidance and respite. I let down my guard and allow myself to receive. And the receiving brings gratitude. Always.
3 - Love and Light
One of my new favorite phrases/ideas. I've even started using it as a signature on my emails. Love and Light. How beautiful. Just saying it makes me happy. As an action, it's sending love and light energy and prayers to someone or something specific. I visualize my love and light literally shining like a cartoon shooting star across the distance from myself to my intended recipient. In my head they actually feel it when it hits them, and it's warm and lovely and energizing. I choose one person who has been laid on my heart to send love and light to everyday. Sometimes it's someone I know and love, sometimes an acquaintance, sometimes it's someone who I'm struggling with. I write down their name and focus on projecting love and light, love and light, love and light. All day.
I think about the love and light of Christ shining from me to them. I cannot send love and light from a place of discontent. I have to be filled with it before I can send it, so it's a beautiful gift for both myself and the intended recipient. This practice has changed me. It counteracts bitterness and hostility and replaces it with something radiant and life giving. The love and light fills me, radiates from me, and illuminates all the glorious gifts in its path.
I believe that we find what we look for. When we intend to see gifts, we see gifts. When we intend to love, we love. When we intend to experience God, He will be revealed through all of Creation. You really can love your life right now if you intend to. Your life is a miracle. Marvel at yourself as you marvel at the moon, as you marvel at the ocean, as you marvel at your children breathing and existing where there was nothing. What a gift. This life. Decide to love it, and you will.
Thank you a thousand times:
Last week my home was filled with 9 women eating, laughing, learning, encouraging and empowering one another to live joyfully and with purpose. We were married women and singles, stay at home moms and career women, creatives and athletes and ministers and law enforcement. We were in our 20s and 30s and 40s. We were different in so many ways, and yet we came together in this magical way to learn and grow around the dinner table.
Today I'm on a high, just so immensely grateful for these beautiful women who are making my dreams come true. When the idea for Selah St. Simons began swirling in my head, I didn't even know what it was. The best way to describe it is a calling. All I knew was that I craved deeper more meaningful connection in my friendships and I wanted to create a space for women to come together and be real. To drop the comparison and perfection and to be safe to speak our truths and be supported. A place where it's totally fine to share our bad days and our non-instagram worthy moments, a place where it's ok to cry. I wanted a place to share our dreams and be cheered on for dreaming, to laugh deeply and explore the world together. Selah was my dream a year ago, and last week I had a former professional athlete in my home speaking to an amazing group of women about how to dream big. I am living my big dream. I am so grateful I could fly, and the best part is that this is just the beginning.
Thank you for joining in me in this journey. If you've ever read a blog, gotten an email, liked a post, worked out with me, joined an Intensive, come to Supper Club, or sent me a little love and light, I am just so grateful. Thank you.
Now an Invitation:
I want to invite you to join the Selah St. Simons 6 week Gratitude Intensive beginning in April. I believe finding gratitude is the first step to loving life. I will guide our small group through exercises, discussions and meditations centered on gratitude. Through our time together, my prayer is that you will begin to live joyfully in every moment. To celebrate the beauty and abundance you already have. To be so joyful in thanksgiving that fear melts away and opportunities abound.
The Intensive will begin in mid April and will run for 6 weeks. We meet for two hours once a week and then for a reunion dinner about 2 months after we wrap up. The cost is $99, and includes all materials. Previous Intensive alums have continued to work together organizing book studies, collaborating personally and professionally, and encouraging each other to live the Selah life of pause and praise. Space is limited to 8 participants. Enroll by March 15th and receive 20% off your tuition. See full details and register.
With Love and Gratitude,