I thought I was fine. I had friends. I was married. We had two little kids. I felt settled living where I was, but incredibly lonesome as well. Our family had been at Bible College in Sydney, Australia for two years already and going into our third year, I was quietly confident that I would get through this year as I had done the last couple of years—gritting my teeth, pushing through, depending on friends a little—but mostly just enduring. My dearest friend had just left the college, leaving a huge void in my life, and as I mourned the loss of our close friendship, I knew the year was sure to be a different one.
At the start of a new school year, I was curious to meet the new families who would be joining us at the school. I recognized the nervousness on their faces. I was nervous too. Nervous that I might not make any new friends from this new crop of people.
On the day of the picnic to welcome incoming families, I scoped the scene. There were some people already chatting with new friends. Kids were running in every direction on the play equipment, and I thought my baby might like the swings. A beautiful mum was pushing her youngest girl on the swing as well. I introduced myself, clicking the little chain across the swing to secure my son. She smiled wide, and her lovely brown eyes sparkled as she told me the names of her kids, pointing out her older daughter who was running around the playground. I don’t remember the details of the conversation, but I do remember feeling like I didn’t want it to end. A little while later, we were pulled by our tired children and weary husbands back to our separate lives, and I remember thinking, ‘This will not be the last time I see her.’
Our firstborns were close in age, as were our second-borns—hers both a little bit older than mine. They seemed like great playdate material. We got together a few times, and it was fun. We talked and drank tea from lovely cups. A friendship was beginning to blossom, and it was beautiful.
This dear lady went on to bravely invite a few of the ladies that she had connected with and drew us into her life in a deep way. She told us how she wanted to intentionally create the community she was longing for herself. She wanted to encourage us to open up and share the raw messy reality of our lives with each other. Having been at a pretty tough place in my motherhood journey— sleepless and breastfeeding, no family nearby and two little people who needed me almost more than I could handle—it felt like this precious woman was holding out a life preserver to me.
I accepted the invitation wholeheartedly, all the while wondering why I had never done this before. She demonstrated for me how our hearts—that soft emotional bit of us—breathe better amongst friends. Changes start to happen slowly that open us to see the beauty and joy in our world, even on the hard days. We can intentionally make space for that to happen.
There was something in the way that she gave me permission to live my life, with my guard down, that seemed to unlock something deep in me. It was almost as though I’d been marching to the beat of someone else’s drum for a long time. Sitting quietly with this group of ladies, I started to hear my own beat once more. In this new community, I found the freedom to be more fully me again.
Shannon Anderson lives with her husband, who is the love of her life, and their two kids, in Sydney Australia. They are currently at Bible College while they are preparing for full-time cross-cultural ministry in a remote Aboriginal Community. But, in the meantime, Shannon is hitting up as many amazing Sydney coffee shops as possible and is kid wrangling full time and writing in the margins of life with a young family. You can catch her on Instagram occasionally.