Review of “Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships”

I’ve been given the incredible opportunity to participate in the First Look blog tour for Heartfelt by Dr. Joneal Kirby, a book about her women’s mentor ministry. Today I wanted to write a little bit about what I like about this book, who should read it, and how it has changed my perspective on the importance of having a female support system.

I was initially drawn to this book because of the subtitle “A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships.” As someone who has grown up with a lot of women in my life– from an all-girl household to being a leader in a sorority of 200 college women– I was interested in having a guide that would help me develop deeper relationships with them. I was surprised to find in Heartfelt a very simple answer: bring them home. Meet in small groups, share a meal, extend hospitality. It sounds too easy, right? As I was reading, I remember thinking, I would’ve done that ages ago if I had known that was the secret. But throughout the book, Kirby gives example after example of women whose mentoring experiences gave them the support and love they needed to thrive. The stories make you long to start one of these mentoring groups yourself so you can have the same kind of female network to grow you and catch you when you fall. Joneal Kirby herself is the kind of person you’d want to have in your life, too: her writing style is familiar and friendly. I feel like I’ve known her a long time, and I’ve taken to calling her “Jo.”

As I was reading, it was pretty obvious that I am right outside the age-range for the intended audience of this book, which appears to be young professionals/newlyweds/young mothers all the way to empty-nesters. Sometimes I felt like I was really out of place, like a kid at the grown-up table. Even so, I’m a thinker and a planner, and I’m always looking to the future, so I still got a lot out of reading Heartfelt, even if it was pre-mature. I think this book’s message is valuable in two different ways: there’s the direct interpretation of Jo’s church-based mentoring groups for, well, not students, and then there’s the indirect interpretation of how this same mentoring concept can be valuable outside of the church, too.

I grew up with a single mom who, for many years, didn’t take nights off, rarely went out with friends, and pretty much never did anything for herself. I still wonder how she did it, honestly. She would tell you now that her method was nothing to be proud of– that it was lonely and draining– and what she needed was Christian women her own age who could just be there for herI wish that my mom could have been a part of one of Jo’s mentoring groups during that season of her life. I know that this female support system that Jo’s describing in Heartfelt is exactly what she needed then, probably what she could use now. As Jo explains, the wonderful thing about these groups is that they function as safety nets during bad times, but during good times, they function as wings. Who wouldn’t want that for their mom? For themselves? I hope that I get the opportunity to be a part of a ministry like that someday.

But then I was thinking, I’ve got 200 sorority sisters who I could mentor or who could mentor me…Why wait? So the past few days, I’ve been trying to adapt Jo’s mentoring lessons to fit my sorority. With 200 members (and more coming in the fall), my sorority has really been struggling with how to really know each other. Sure, we have socials and Greek Sing rehearsals and weekly chapter meetings, but like many of the testimonials in Heartfelt explained, being a large church or a large group like a sorority can often make you feel so fake. There’s simply not enough time to have a good conversation with everyone, so we have many cheap conversations instead. I know that I speak for my sisters when I say that this is not what I wanted when I joined a sorority– I wanted meaningful relationships. Luckily, I’m in a position in my chapter where I can actually do something about this. I can develop the programming to make our own little mentoring groups within the sorority where upperclassmen can host a small group of underclassmen in their apartments or homes. And the girls that I’ve run this idea by already love it. Personally, I’m giddy about it. I love the idea of little Theta small groups lighting up around Nashville. It’s like a dream.

People get lost in big groups– at schools, at churches, even in sororities. It just goes to show that even if you’re not looking for a Bible study small group, you should still find a way to bring a small group together, share a meal, and share your lives. This is an essential quality of femininity– this need for connection– and we should always, always honor that.

(If you want to read more about Heartfelt Ministries, pick up a copy of Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships or visit http://heartfeltministries.org.)

What My Sorority Sister Taught Me About Being Single

IMG_2216

At the beginning of sophomore year, I was getting dinner with some sorority sisters. We were catching up after a long summer, and the conversation inevitably turned to boys: cute ones at church, in our new classes, seen around campus. Amongst my friends there was a general consensus that this was going to be the year that we made some progress on the dating front.

I say “we” because I don’t like to be left out of the group. In reality, when my best friends start talking strategy for Project Find a Boyfriend, I feel like I’m Tom Hanks floating away from Wilson into the vast ocean. Very much alone.

Too Single To Date

You have to understand here that I’ve never been the boy-crazy type. Sure, I can do the giggly girly thing, but after a few minutes I’m like, “So… seen any good movies lately?” Don’t get me wrong: I’m looking for The One as much as any other 20 year old, but I also really like being single.

Sometimes it makes me angry that I have to feel ashamed about my singleness. And yes, people have made me feel really bad about it. One friend really hurt me with his harsh words in high school. He told me that the fact that I enjoyed being single didn’t bode well for my future relationships. “You are too independent to be in a long-term relationship,” he told me gravely. “You would hate it. You’re just too single to date.”

And like a fool, I believed him. I believed there was something innately wrong with me, that my beloved independence and feminist spirit made me incompatible, and that ultimately I would have to give up these qualities in order to be loved. You can imagine how much I’ve disliked talking about finding a boyfriend when I’ve been hearing this voice in my head for years.

I Get Called Out

So the night I was out at dinner with my sorority sisters, I became more and more upset as dreams of beautiful formal dates interfered with what I wanted my sophomore year to look like. Unfortunately my face is an open book, so one of my sisters noticed my mood change.

She addressed me individually, “Are you ready to find a boyfriend, too?”

I shook my head. “I’m too single to date.”

“But do you want to?”

“Yes…”

“So do it.” She stared me down with authority, and I knew I’d have to explain myself.

“When I say I’m too single to date,” I sighed, “what I mean is that I don’t date a lot. And the longer I go without dating practice, the more independent I get. And I am afraid that I will go so long being so ferociously independent that I will never be able to let go of the reins and share my life with somebody else.”

“So you don’t want to date because…?”

“Because I’m afraid that I’ll end up alone regardless.”

She looked at me thoughtfully for a moment. “Can I ask you something? In your head, what does the rest of your life look like? Just give me a quick overview.”

“Well I’d like to graduate college first.”

“That’s a good start,” she laughed. “Then what?”

“Find a job I like and get really good at it.”

“And then?”

I sighed. I knew what she wanted me to say. “I also want to get married, have kids, travel the world, and live happily ever after.”

“Bingo!” she beamed. “And let me ask you this: how important is that last part to you? On a scale from one to ten?”

“Probably an eleven,” I told her.

“That’s what I thought. Here’s the deal, Ashley: if you have the desire to be loved in that way, God will provide someone. You have nothing to worry about. ”

What My Sorority Sister Taught Me

What my sorority sister taught me is that we live in a culture that shames us for our singleness. No, we are not the only women in history who have ever faced this problem, but that doesn’t make it any less hurtful. For single women who want to be in a relationship, the waiting is hard. The media doesn’t make it any easier to cope as it constantly throws couples together in movies, books, and TV shows.

My sister taught me that I don’t have to feel bad about myself while I’m waiting. Being single doesn’t mean that I’m broken, in fact, it doesn’t even mean that I’m unwanted. I just needed a friendly voice to replace the critical one in my head. And just like that, I felt this wave of peace come over me. For the first time in a long time, I feel secure in my singleness, trusting that it will end when the time is right.

-A

Image by Abby Weeden Photography & Design. Theta Formal 2014.

Being Auntie Em: Every Nanny’s Nightmare

tornado-june-7-2009-aurora-colorado-saddle-rock-neighborhood-smaller

In light of the severe weather we’re going to have in Dallas this week, here is a guest post from my friend Emily Barrett. She posted this story on Facebook a few days ago, and I asked if she would be willing to share it on my blog. Here’s to Emily for being my first guest post!

From May 21, 2014.

As a nanny, the scariest thing that could happen is that the baby could get severely hurt, kidnapped, or die. While those are all awful and terrible, nothing is as bad as finding yourself in a situation where both you and the baby could die at any moment, and no one— not even the police— could help you.

Today, a tornado touched down in Aurora, CO where I am nannying for my sister. I was alone with the sleeping baby and two dogs watching Game of Thrones like any good nanny when the TV went blank and sirens erupted from the speakers. Suddenly, the TV switched over to the news where a weatherman told me that a tornado had touched down approximately 2-4 miles from my sister’s house.

The house didn’t have a basement or a secure place to hide, so I grabbed my sleeping niece and took shelter in the garage. A now screaming baby and two barking dogs sat with me as I called my family members frantically. When I talked to my brother to say “I love you” one last time before I died, he responded jokingly, “The wicked witch is back!” We loved The Wizard of Oz as kids. He was teasing me because the beginning tornado scene was always traumatic for me. I often had nightmares of tornadoes sweeping away my family, and here I was, the nightmares melting into my real life.

Still worried about our safety, I moved us all to the stairwell with blankets and a cold bottle. We huddled down together and waited. One dog on my right, one dog on my left, and a baby on my lap: all four of us were crying and shaking. Then, the house decided to join in and began to shake and rumble. One dog peed on herself, and I did everything I could to keep everyone quiet, which did not work at all because we were all screaming by that point. I remember hysterically asking God to forgive us all and to not have us die so young. Outside the wind roared like a freight train— like the ambiguous “they” always say. The house was so loud from wind and buckets of hail pounding down that I swore the tornado was right on top of us. It sounded like a firing squad bearing down on the house. I prayed aloud through my tears and ragged breath, thinking I was going to die with my sister’s three treasures in my arms, knowing that I was completely helpless.

Twenty to thirty minutes (of panic and holding on to my life) later, the storm passed. The house was quiet again. The baby had stopped wailing and was asleep in my arms. The dogs were no longer whimpering. Peeking through the window, I looked outside to find about a half foot of peanut M&M sized hail shining in the sunshine.

By the grace of God, I survived my childhood nightmare. We are all alive, and there was no damage except to the newly planted vegetable garden. I learned today that God is real, and life should not be taken for granted.

Hopefully this Auntie Emily and her Dorothy (Piper) don’t have any more adventures to Oz this summer.

 

 

533969_10152383580423018_183857459_nEmily Barrett— amateur artist and writer from New Orleans who specializes in baked goods and binge watching Netflix. She also enjoys fashion, fangirling, being a complete nerd (in and out of school), and adventuring in her free time.

 

Tornado image from http://realestateyak.com/2009/06/08/homes-for-sale-tornado-not-included/