“Should I be honest?” I wondered. “What if I start crying? What if she doesn’t really have time to listen? What if she is just asking to be nice? I could keep it simple and tell her I’m fine.”
There I was, standing in the lobby at church waiting for my husband, when an old friend walked up and asked how I was doing. Our then three-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with a severe speech disorder a few weeks earlier, and I was not “fine.”
I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I was afraid my little girl may never be able to talk.
Yet I felt like I shouldn’t be any of those things. I should have more faith, more stamina, more strength and courage to navigate the unknown path of special needs parenting.
Sometimes it’s hard to let people know how we’re really doing because we don’t want to be high maintenance, right? We don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us. Or we fear that if we’re honest, someone might perceive our struggle as a lack of faith.
Other times we don’t let people know how we’re really doing because we assume they’re only asking to be nice and don’t really have time to listen. And what if we’re honest but it gets awkward because they don’t know what to say?
Sometimes someone sincerely wants to know and we just don’t want to tell them. That is the place where things get tricky for me. I will tell people I’m fine even when I’m not, because I want to be.
I don’t want to be weak and broken. I want to be okay. I want to feel strong, resilient, and courageous.
And that is where I stood that day in the lobby at church. Everything in me wanted to keep my guard up, keep my heart sealed off and my lips sealed tight. But I was tired of hiding and pretending. So I took a risk and let my heart, my words, and my tears spill. I shared the hard parts of Aster’s countless assessments, unexpected diagnosis, and the heartache of not knowing her future.
Although Kelly probably had places to go, she stayed with me and listened. She grabbed some tissue when the tears started down my cheeks, and asked if there was anything she could do to help.
When I wanted to be strong, God showed me the powerful gift of being weak.
Paul describes what happens when God allows struggles that make us feel weak. And what God does in our weakness when we’re willing to rely on Christ. How God’s power comes and rests on us.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:7 NIV
Paul had been struggling and asking God to take away the pain. But somehow he realized and accepted that God allowed the hardship to continue to protect him from pride and the danger of becoming self-sufficient.
There’s nothing that can hinder community and friendships more than us not needing each other. Like Paul, I think God wants us to become more comfortable with our weaknesses because it keeps us dependent on Him and needing each other.
We don’t need to keep pretending we’re fine. What we need, to have and to be, is a friend who says “you don’t have to be strong all the time.” A friend who gives us permission to be weak and remind us of the truth we so easily forget: God’s power shows up in our weakness when we’re willing to be real about our struggles and our need for His strength.
Before we went our separate ways, Kelly asked if she could pray for me, right there in the lobby at church. Afterwards she thanked me for telling her what was really going on, and told me that knowing I didn’t have life all figured out made her feel normal.
God is able to work His grace and His strength in our weakness. When we’re willing to be weak, He gets to be strong for us. When we’re willing to be real, others get to see, pray for and get to know the “real” us and the real God we so desperately need and love.
One of our deepest God-given longings is to be known, by Him and each other. I’m so excited to celebrate the launch of Craving Connection, my new all time favorite book about the beautiful, vulnerable, hard and holy gift of friendship. Grateful to have my heart and my story tucked in these pages with thirty other friends from the inCourage community who took turns writing each chapter for you. If you want to invest in meaningful relationships right where God has you, become the friend you wish we had, and embrace the desire God has placed in you to connect with friends, you are going to LOVE this book!
BOOK GIVEAWAY: In partnership with DaySpring’s inCourage and Broadman & Holman publishers, we’re giving away 6 copies of Craving Connection!! Three of you will receive t books – one to keep and one to give a friend.
ENTER TO WIN:
- SHARE this post – on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram using the hashtag #CravingConnection and @ReneeSwope.
- SHARE your thoughts under this post, and let me know who you’d like to give a copy to.Winners will be randomly chosen next week and notified via email. If you are reading this via email, click here to leave a comment on my blog. All entries must be entered on my blog for participation in the drawing.
Today’s post is a partial excerpt of my chapter in Craving Connection, a new book written by 30 different women from the inCourage community,
Rachelle Craig says
I constantly wear the “I am fine” mask! I would love to share this book with my daughter. We are currently going through some very scary, stressful, and intense health issues with her, and this book would be an amazing book for us to read together as a reminder that it is okay to not be fine all the time. She is so strong, and takes after me when it comes to being “fine” all the time. I want to just hold her in my arms, and wipe the tears as she lets them go! She is headed for a journey of lengthy testing, possible major surgery, and worries of her children as she recuperates. My heart is breaking for her. No matter how old they get, they are still our babies. I feel so helpless, watching her walk through this storm. Of course, I walk beside her, but my momma heart is breaking!
I was just speaking to a friend today how I wanted to find a new church home in my new city so I could connect to a community. I’m thankful I moved to a place where I have a close cousin so I have a starting point knowing I’m not alone. I would like to share a book with her.
Mary Townsend says
Renee, I would share a copy of this book with my daughters. They are both going through some challenging times… with children and work… they need to know that even in their weakness, they are loved and never alone! I would love to read it as well!
Cathy Lentz says
Would love this book and would give copy to my sister who just lost her job, has been fighting cancer and has trouble walking #craving connections
Is it pride that keeps us from connection, which we need?
Is it pride that keeps us from connection, which we all need?
Leigh Ellen says
Oh, how we women sure do crave connection. I would love to use this book in my quiet times! If I won a copy I would like to use the additional book for a giveaway on my blog. Thanks so much for the opportunity to enter your drawing! Blessings
Susan G says
This is correct email address. I saw the error on the above email address (which is incorrect) after I had clicked the submit button…
Susan G says
Thanks for this Renee.
Can’t wait to read this book. We can all learn how to be a better friend.
I would read one book and then send it along to others to read, and the second book will go to my daughter in another state who will also read and share it as well I know!
“. If you want to invest in meaningful relationships right where God has you, become the friend you wish we had, and embrace the desire God has placed in you to connect with friends, you are going to LOVE this book!” These word SO spoke to me as I am embarking on living in a new home, new neighborhood, new state….making new friends while still investing in the meaning friendships from my other home.
Susan Noble says
Oh gosh I feel that way all the time that if I open up about how I feel no one really cares or would listen. The thoughts of not wanting to burden anyone with my problems because we all have our own problems. I get that way with GOD as well that if I burden him with my problem I’m taking away from him helping someone else who really needs. This really hit home for me Renee thank you for sharing about this book.
I work with special needs families and for them especially the Moms the struggle is real and I would love to give one of these books to them.
Elaine Segstro says
I identified with your devotional Renee! When I am asked HOW I am doing, do I really tell them? It makes me vulnerable and too often those who listen feel uncomfortable, unless they are a close friend. I would love to read the book and would share with my daughter-in-law to be. I am so wanting and praying that she will embrace the Christian faith.
NELLY HERRERA RAMIREZ says
tengo un dolor en mi corazón porque llevo varios años esperando la prosperidad que no llega, y a veces pienso
en qué será lo que sucede, pero si he comprendido que mis debilidades se perfeccionan en Dios.
Espero recibir esta copia por internet para descargarla y regalarsela a una amiga aunque son muchas las amigas que tienen dolores en el corazón.
Quiero poder descargarlos por internet
Gracias y Bendiciones
Sherry Smith says
I would give this book to my friend, Sandra. Sandra has moved from our little community to a different part of the state but we are still close and she is the one I know I can call on when I am in need of prayer.
Jen E. says
This was just what I needed! Dealing with pain and mental illness is hard and draining and I often fear being a burden or accused of being ungrateful or lacking faith. But that is not the case. I found real encouragement in this!
PS: Forgot to comment who I’d share with…my daughter, cause she’s like her Mama!
It takes a lot of courage to be honest & real. I’m working on it! It’s rare to find someone who listens & doesn’t try to fix it quickly but but truly cares. There is freedom in that.
Cindi Taylor says
It has been 5 years since my MS diagnosis, and I have tried to be strong and courageous by telling people I’m fine when asked. This blog not only gave me permission to not be ‘fine’, but showed me that sharing my weaknesses is being strong and courageous.
I feel this is a book that i could use. I am not sure who I would share the second book with, but would pray that God would lay that person on my heart.
Regina Vollmer says
I have a dear friend that lost her son days before his 19th birthday last year. She struggles daily to be strong for her other 4 children. I want her to know it is okay to be weak at times and let others listen while she cries. This is the friend the book would go to. Please keep her in your prayers while she celebrates his 1st birthday in heaven today.
I would share both books with my women’s group. This is a topic that we all seem to struggle with and have discussed in the past.
I would love to share this book with my long time neighbor but short time friend Joan. We connected with each other about 2years(?) ago and have been building a beautifully strong friendship since then. It’s not always easy when your friend is so different from you, but you each learn from each other how to be that better friend.
That was a much needed email devotional as I have a weakness that may leave me no longer here soon in the future. Praying for each and every of you who left your comments and opened your hearts!
Barbara Prince says
Renee, I think I need this book. I have been an “I’m fine” woman all my life. I’m afraid to let people get too close to me for fear of rejection. I would love to share a copy with my pastor’s wife. She and I are a lot alike. Plus, she chooses the book for our church Ladies’ Book Study. Either way, I have to have this book. I hope it is a great success.
This really spoke to me. I have a friend that we can be real with each other. I would love to share this with her, Patricia. Our friendship is growing as time goes on.
Debbie Walker says
This book speaks to many of us struggling and to others of us who needs to be more aware of the struggles of our families, friends and church fellowships. God speaks to all of us at different times. We need to open our hearts and minds. Can’t wait to soak up God’s grace as I read through this book.
Elaine G. says
I forgot to add to my previous post that I would give the book to my adult daughter, who recently lamented that she wished she had a close friend like I have.
Jen B says
This post was exactly what my husband and I were talking about this week. We put on that mask that everyone wears. You know the one, “the I am fine, nothing is bothering me” mask. I am just as guilty as this as the next person. I have been struggling with some health issues and some PTSD (I am an EMT). It is much easier to say, “I am fine” than to say, “this is my struggle…”
I look forward to reading this book!
Elaine G. says
What an exciting idea to have 30 women share their stories! I like the advice you gave about becoming the friend you wish you had, and will share that with others I know who wish they had close, Christian friends. It’s such a comfort to know that when we are weak, God is forever strong and is there for us.
This is beautiful! How many times have I felt the very same way, thank you for sharing. I would like a copy for my four dearest friends, so we can always be real with each other! Connection is so very important, first with God, then others!
Becky Allen says
I appreciate your sharing this book. My daughter is bipolar and 42 years old. She was diagnosed after a full mental breakdown when she was 14years old. From then and until now has been a continuing battle. She has tried to commit suicide three times almost successfully once. She has been married twice, once to a guy who wanted to go straight, but couldn’t pull it off and once to a man with mental problems. My prayer for her is that God will become real to her again. She was kicked out of our your group at age 15 and turned her back on God completely. I lost my best friend to cancer four years ago and it has been hard on me because she was my prayer partner and confidant. I need to find someone I can trust to be my prayer partner and assure me God is still in control.
I appreciate the reminder that sometimes all we need to do is listen and pray with someone — we don’t have to have an answer. Just stand with them. Just be there
I would love a copy of this book! I am an open book so everyone knows my situations. I would love to give a copy to my friend. I am praying for her to trust God and to KNOW Him. Maybe reading everyone’s chapter will help! Thank you!?
Bethany Miramonti says
I would share with my adult children, whom I love dearly and am still trying to get the parenting thing right with. Grateful for His Grace.
This is so timely for me because I made a commitment this year to connect more with other ladies to develop relationships as God directs. We truly do need one another. I would definitely give a copy to my sister because she really craves connection.
JOYCE K says
Just before I “LOOKED AND READ” about friends and responses…I noted this..#1 register with Kum & Go app., #2 Swipe your card, scan your phone on every purchase. #3 Track your points at kumandgo.com/rewards #4 Reward yourself with free drinks, free food and fuel discounts with every 250 points. And at the bottom of the instructions it stated..”GET THE APP THAT DOES IT ALL…IT DOESN’T GET ANY EASIER! What IF our friendships were set-up like this = 4 steps w/ rewards? I feel that our steps as genuine friends need our awesome God with us, listening skills, honesty, realness…I have my “ups and downs” as well as do my friends. This book could help me as well as .I am thinking of one of my particular Christian friends who seems to “BATTLE ONE PROBLEM AFTER ANOTHER. I wish for her to know she is a real, honest, strong, loving friend who has power to “GET TO THE POSITIVE REWARDS FOR HER AS WELL AS ME = GOD DOES IT ALL = IT DOESN’T GET ANY EASIER” AMEN AND AMEN!!
I recently let myself be vulnerable and shared with my small group that I really don’t have any close friends. I have put on that smiling face, but inside craved someone to be deeply honest with. My heart craves connection.
I have a friend who always asks how I am, but never will share her heart. I think this might help her.
Relationships have been a challenge for me. Sometimes sharing too much and then closing myself off. God is showing me that community is important-I am part of the Body of Christ-I need you and you need me and we both need Jesus. Being vulnerable is hard when there is a pile of past hurts stored up in my heart. Being vulnerable is hard when I’ve already judged myself that I should have more faith by this time in my life, I should be more mature, have things more together….
Donna Tyler says
I am so thankful that you open yourself up to us because it helps us to feel that we are not alone with our feelings or failures. I am always pretending I am fine with the big smile on my face and so many times it is not true. I am enjoying the study with you on A Confident Heart Devotional and I also just purchased the book. I think Craving Connection will help me and if I don’t win a copy, I will purchase one.
Janet D. says
I have a hard time admitting that I am not fine. That I have issues I struggle with. I don’t want to be perceived as needy or weak. I am trying to work on being connected to others to be able to do this. Thanks for sharing yourself in this area.
Jennifer Vore says
Thank you for being the vessel for which God reaches us deep in our hearts. I have your book Confident Heart and it helped me grow closer to God in so many ways. This post today has helped me so much in the midst of my pain. Right before Christmas my husband announced he no longer wanted to be married. It’s all happening too fast and there is so much pain. This devotional from Craving Connection is perfect for right where I am. It’s hard for me to open up to others and be vulnerable at a time like this but I know God has a greater plan. I’m resting in Him. Thank you. I’m praying for this book. I also have a sister who could really use the words this book has to touch her life as well.
Debbie Jackson says
Thank you for sharing the friends response! Often I am at a loss as to how to respond when I ask “How are you?” and the friend needs to peel back layers of “fine” honestly. Words to remember…. Pray with them then and there…. truly THANK them for sharing their heart…. and telling them , ” their honesty helps you feel normal … we all have a story, just some of us are blessed enough to get to hear others!
Karen C says
I pray that God will make me into the friend that can graciously say to my friends, “You don’t have to be strong all the time,” and will deal tenderly with their weaknesses, with acceptance and without judgment or fear.
Tracy Hensley says
I am currently in a study of 2 Corinthians and focusing on when I am weak then I am strong. Society today pounces on our weakness and exploits it to break us. I feel this book can help me to break downs walls and learn to open up and see that it’s ok when I do. I have 3 friends that I would love to see take this journey with me!
Alice Rea says
I have a real problem confiding in my friends. But just over a year ago, my husband of 50 years died, and I have many issues that keep me from being content. I would love to be able to share these thoughts with a friend, but haven’t had the courage! Thank you for telling me about your book.
Jill Kuiper says
I have a friend who is dealing with daily struggles of a child with aspergers. She struggles to find a connection with someone from her church. She is real and yet doesn’t feel the support you did from your friend. I’d love to encourage her through this book!
Tammy Trietch says
So often I feel so alone and no humans to connect with. I cry out my pain to God in the morning asking for His strength in dealing with my anger and frustration. I would share this with a friend who is currently incarcerated.
Kathleen Gardner says
This really spoke to me because I fake fine all the time. I think what I feel doesn’t matter and my struggle is not
Important; others have so much more going on than I do. Thank you for sharing and a definite book for me to read.
Anne Lipford says
Currently a friend and I am going through a lot separately feeling weak. Just this part of the book has encouraged me that it’s ok. I am going to share it with her too. Thank you for sharing your story and I cannot wait to read this book
Matthew Rogers says
I find it amazing how God worked in your mind in being vulnerable to others. I admired how you stated that we can allow ourselves to have friends that comfort us in tough times and how the true power is on God. There are always going to be tough times in life and it is important to understand that God will be by your side. If I had the privilege of receiving the copy, Craving Connection, I would give it to one of my closest friends who I go to church and school with. This is an uplifting blog that will encourage me when I find myself in this situation.