{Psst! Registration for (in)RL opens today!}

Photo by Nate Embrey

It was like I was peeking through a slat in the fence, watching these would-be friends with boards and nails and hammers in the yard, their words building up a space for women to belong.

I read their stories on the (in)courage site and whispered my comments down below, like a little knock at the gate. I clicked over to each of the writers’ personal blogs linked from the site and took it all in, a stockpile of exquisite material uncovered. But there was something biting at me like little mosquitos hovering over summer grass.

I had prayed for a long time that the Lord would give me a sisterhood. It had been years since my college besties and study abroad friends had met to pray and study together. We were a mini diaspora. And at this time in my life, I was praying for a specific kind of sisterhood, a group of believers living out their creative call, preferably in writing.

The (in)courage team had that. I saw the pictures posted from their getaway at the beach, all of these unique writers in one place. I wanted in. I wanted to write with them, talk with them, be one of them, to be more than the comment at the bottom of the post. They had something good. I was happy for them. But I found myself wanting.

Later, one of them took the thoughts from my head and wrote them right on the page: “We want to matter to the people we think matter…. We want them to want to read what we wrote. We want them to want to share bits of themselves with us that they don’t share with anyone else. We want them to invite us in. Into the shared secrets and secret Facebook groups. Into the late night conversations and group blogging communities. Into the vacation, beach house getaways and photos of sunsets on the beach. Into the conferences and ad campaigns, into the Skype calls and moms’ groups, into the planning committees and vacation plans. We want in.”

In that post, Lisa-Jo Baker shared C.S. Lewis’ unforgettable speech about the inner circle and how we trick ourselves into thinking we’ve been left out, and how in Lisa-Jo’s words “we are all on the inside of something, often without even realizing it.”

A few months earlier, that very team of women had launched an innovative extension of their community and made it our community.

At (in)RL, I met my people, the faithful ones right here at home, including Sheila who now co-leads the Story Circle (in)couragers writing group with me. At that meetup, I felt a tiny bit like Elijah, the way he had once said, “I alone am left” right before God turned his head toward the seven thousand faithful ones left in Israel.

“We can keep looking for a seat at a more popular table or we can pass the bread basket and an introduction to the women sitting right where we already are,” Lisa-Jo said.


I thought about the local writing conference I’d attended by myself a few months earlier, and all of the familiar faces God surprised me with there, and how they became an answer to my prayer, writers and friends altogether, a natural gathering.

C.S. Lewis assured that friendship is the only kind that doesn’t ring hollow: “…you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like.”

A lot of us avoid the work of coordinating face-to-face get-togethers these days, leaving even our close friendships to function mostly in the virtual world. But I know what happens to me when I’m here behind my computer. I start to feel like I’m on the outside looking in, that the world is passing me by (and a lot of other cliches that earn their keep in this context). I get overwhelmed by the flurry of activity and the limited heart-to-heart connection. Sometimes, I just need my sisterhood in real life.

Last night on an (in)couragers webcast, Lisa-Jo said she often feels the same thing when she gets on her computer. The only way she’s found to silence the self-talk about being left out is to encourage someone else. She may only know me from a distance, but she has indeed encouraged and shown generosity to me and so many others by reaching out and sharing her model of community.

Maybe you’re too timid or tired to initiate the kind of in-person friendships that will nourish your soul, but thankfully the women at (in)courage are making it easy: opening the gate, saying, “come on in,” and giving us the resources we need to build our own little retreat…(in)RL.


This April, I’ll be taking part in my local (in)RL Meetup for the third year in a row. If you’re in Central Indiana, I’d love to have you join in. It’s free! We’ll all watch the webcast on our own on Friday night, April 25, where “more than 30 women in different stages of life will share their personal testimonies and stories of community, the messy and the beautiful and the beautifully messy.” Then we’ll meet locally on Saturday, April 26 (time and location TBA), to share our own stories and some good food. Registration goes live TODAY, and if you get your name in now, you’ll be entered to win some amazing gifts.

I pray you’ll come share your story and let yourself be more than a comment at the bottom of a post. Show up with me and join the sisterhood.


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