Do you remember the (potentially traumatic) day you had to transition from elementary school to middle school?
It sends chills down my spine just thinking about it.
Gone were the days of read–alouds and recess. (Weren’t those the best?!) Now you’re on your own trying to navigate the combination lock on your very first locker in time to find your homeroom. You make it in time and you’re feeling great in your Limited Too jeans, but then you glance around with shocking awareness realizing you hardly know a soul…and you have to figure out how to make friends.
Things don’t go extremely well during those years of discovering Noxema, how it feels to get broken up with on your parent’s answering machine and dumpster dives to find missing retainers. But you make it through just in time to enter high school.
Same song second verse. How on earth do you make friends when you don’t even have a driver’s license?!?
And then they expect you to go off to college? Well, at least there you have CRU, the Baptist Student Union and the Spanish Club hounding you to join their groups. But even for your average extrovert, it’s still fairly terrifying.
But what NO ONE prepares you for is life.after.college…your family is hours away and there are no mandatory dorm floor meetings. All you’re left with is a sterile apartment painted in contractor beige and the shocking awareness that you have to figure out how to make big girl friendships…yet again.
What’s a girl to do when she is supposed to be adulting and all she wants are familiar, safe, meaningful connections?
In every season of life-from that middle school girl to being a new mom-I’ve had to face the question marks and fears of finding community. And every time I have asked the Lord to provide friends, He has heard my prayer and answered with a resounding YES.
I remember being a newlywed in a brand new town, my husband and I were desperate to find “couple friends”. We were married in August and by October were semi-needing other people to talk to so we started praying nightly and asking the Lord to provide us with community. We shamelessly invited any couple we met from church and work into our home to eat Hamburger Helper. Lots of Cheesy Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper to be more exact. And you know, by the time Christmas rolled around, we had enough new friends to throw the tackiest Christmas sweater party you’ve ever seen. (Note: we were throwing tacky christmas sweater parties before tacky Christmas sweater parties were an overdone thing.)
Now as a mom of two, it takes serious creativity to have some semblance of a social life. I know that adding anything to the family calendar will likely run me a pretty penny per hour for babysitting or a frazzled husband doing bath time solo. And often I’m so tired that by 8 pm, I’d rather be in my bed than glazed over in someone else’s living room. It takes hard work and intentionality to find authentic friendship in your 30’s (okay, really ever), but it is completely worth it…and here’s a magical silver bullet that has made it possible for me…
For some people it’s Bunco or The Bachelor, but for me and my group of 15-20 friends, gathering once every 6-8 weeks has been the key to having a social life while trying to raise a family. Book Club for me feels like Bible study group meets coffee date with friends. So intentional and so fun.
Here’s how our group does it:
- Pick a book you’ve been wanting to read and a date about a month out that works for you. (I promise this is the most challenging part. If you can do this, you are guaranteed a social life.)
- Invite a few co-workers, church friends and neighbors to join you for a book club–no commitment, just come, hang and discuss. Pajamas welcome, make-up discouraged. People will come, I promise.
- Ask any of the eager beavers who are all in to bring their favorite appetizer or dessert.
- Read the book and text a quote or two the week before you meet.
- Google and see if there are provided discussion questions for your book, chances are there will be! Print those out or make up your own, cut them in strips and put into a bowl to pass around and have people ask the group and/or answer.
- Make your favorite appetizer and dessert and set out some cozy drinks.
- Show people genuine hospitality vs. entertainment. You have nothing to prove, only an atmosphere of meaningful connection to extend.
- Hang out, enjoy getting to know each other over good food, then transition to discussion. Start by painting a picture of what it could look like to share life together over a few good books every 6-8 weeks and how being transparent and vulnerable could profoundly enrich your lives and the lives of others. If people latch on to this idea, they can host and lead discussion next time!
- Discuss the book and see how God knits your hearts together.
- Set up a GroupMe (literally my favorite app on the planet) where you can communicate with the group during the weeks you’re not meeting. On our “Not Your Momma’s Book Club” GroupMe we share everything from family recipes and favorite podcasts to serious prayer requests and funny cat videos.
That’s it! I’m telling you. Being a part of a book club has been the constant in my crazy and the meaningful, intentional time with other women who have made me a better wife, mom and friend.
Here are some of the books our group has enjoyed reading and discussing:
- Bread and Wine (great recipes to make for book club!)
- The Hiding Place (we all want to name our next children Corrie and Betsy!)
- Redeeming Love (do not start if your family needs to be fed in the next 24 hours!)
- Through the Gates of Splendor (this pierced our hearts in the best way!)
- Desperate (so needed!)
- The Insanity of God (there are no words!)
- The LifeGiving Home (great perspective from an older, wiser woman!)
- A Severe Mercy (we bawled like babies thru this one!)
- Present Over Perfect (my personal therapy session in a book!)
There are so many other great ones, but these have given us incredible food for thought and have mentored our friend group toward greater Christ-likeness. I am so thankful for the other women in my life who prioritize our Book Club and who take me back to that blissful feeling of read–alouds and recess. Because weren’t those just the best?!