As a young married woman at twenty-one, I was considered the baby of our neighborhood book club. We lived in an apartment complex with a healthy mix of young adults, young families, and urban professionals. From home decorating parties, to ladies’ nights out, to book clubs, there were so many opportunities for me to make new friends and build community.

Growing into Myself

As I sit in my home many years later, with eight children entrusted to my care, I marvel at the woman I am now and how she came to be.

As I begin to launch young adults into the world, I find myself revisiting and reminding myself of lessons learned over these years. I feel as if I am just now shedding the masks and walls of comparison, and beginning to walk in the fullness of who God created me to be—and that wisdom, excitement, and joy is what I am striving to impart to my children.

We Want to Belong

No matter what age we are, we all crave a sense of belonging. We seek out groups and try them on like shoes, deciding which one is a good fit for where we are right now. What if instead, we asked ourselves, “Is this who the Lord is asking me to journey with?”

“To whom shall I go? You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Like Peter, we must have our eyes fixed on the Lord and go where He is calling us. So many times, to my spiritual detriment, did I try to “fit in,” and like a stepsister who tried to force her foot into the glass slipper, the shoe never fit, until I asked myself that vital question.

If we allow ourselves to journey with whom the Lord has placed us, then we must also challenge ourselves to be vulnerable with them. That is always a heart-risk but we keep our trust that the Lord will help us heal when others disappoint or hurt us, humbly recognizing that we, too, can disappoint and hurt others unintentionally.

Community is a Commitment

While it is true that we are created for relationship, we must also realize that relationships go both ways. Just as when we allow Mass to feel rote and mechanical when we just go through the motions, we must stop and ask ourselves what we can bring to this relationship.

Do my gifts line up with this particular group? Can I both give and receive, and is what I am giving and receiving worthy of the dignity of who I am?

It’s important to ask, and also important to know who you are. When you root your identity from the beginning as a beloved daughter of Christ, then your words, thoughts, and actions will flow from that well. If my early years of marriage and mothering had known this, many destructive years of comparison could have been saved.

Using Our Gifts Wisely

Once we discern that we are being called to be a part of a particular friend group or opportunity, we must use our gifts wisely. I remember attending a Catholic moms’ night out and being among a group of women who began to gossip and be negative. One brave woman who was striving for holiness raised her hand and said, “Let’s raise this conversation to the dignity of the women gathered here.” Her bold declaration both reminded us of who we are and brought the conversation back on track.

A true friend, a true disciple, takes courage to speak truth out of love for the other person. These are the women we need to strive both to be and to surround ourselves with.

Community like this enlivens us and helps us thrive on our journey. Throughout the years, opportunities will arise that pique our interest. These are opportunities to challenge ourselves and perhaps try new things. Maybe we join a Rosary group? Maybe a walking group that prays the Rosary! As a busy mom, I’m always one to multitask, and this builds community, helps me be healthy, and includes prayer!

Women friends hiking together

Where to Begin

There is one caveat here, which is to again bring it all to the Lord and ask Him where He wants us to go. Each yes is a no to something else and that is a good thing, as conversely each no is a yes to a new possibility.

The key to stepping into community is both asking the Lord if this is where He is sending you and also bringing the authentic version of yourself where you can both give and be gifted.

This article first appeared on Blessed is She.

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