Five years ago this last January I jumped into the Christian blogosphere, sending my little pieces of bread out on to the invisible waters of the internet. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, thank goodness! If I had, perhaps I would have never started. Of course then I would have missed the rich gift of community that I found in the process. Many of those pieces of bread have returned to me in remarkable ways in these five short years, not the least of which are you my dear readers.
Oh, You Too?!
One day shortly after I launched Three Way Light I was reading around the web and found a kindred soul, Kimberlee Conway Ireton, whose blog I liked very much. The header photo at the top of her page made me swoon–ooooh, a book lover. What I found resonated deeply with me on many levels—her writing about the need for quiet and solitude, contemplative practices and her penchant for classic literature. When I clicked on the ‘About’ tab on her blog (I was doing a lot of ‘About’ clicking then), I nearly jumped out of my chair when I discovered she lived in Seattle. So do I! (well, close-ish) She lived in Fresno, CA, for many years (so did I!).
After reading Kimberlee’s blogposts throughout that first year, leaving my weekly comments, I made up my mind to reach out and introduce myself. Because that’s what I do–connect with complete strangers to make my world a little smaller.
Kimberlee responded, inviting me to come to her house for tea and writing talk; I was overjoyed to do so, as you never know how people will respond when you’re extroverting all over the place. (And Kimberlee is (ahem) an introvert.) Her four children, including 2 year old twins, kept her home schooling days full—the older children were 7 and 9 at the time–but she didn’t mind letting me interrupt their flow for the day. We hit it off immediately and vowed to keep in touch. Our tea time visits turned into picnics in various Seattle parks, then visits to their Home School co op, she and the kids came to my house, and so on. Our age difference didn’t matter. We had found community.
Writing is lonely work. Writing in community, though, can make it easier.
Hatching a Dream
On one of those Seattle Saturday picnics, K and I hatched a dream of having a small Christian Writer’s Retreat here in the Pacific Northwest. Every conference or workshop or writing retreat we found for bloggers was somewhere else (usually across the country) and cost a bucket full of money.
What if we facilitated a Writer’s Retreat ourselves? Well, what if? It turns out she had been having the same dream.
In 2015 we held our first writer’s retreat, an intimate gathering centered around the theme of ‘Dwell’–in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. The following year, the theme was ‘Abide.’ The work we did writing poetry, playing with words and singing was life-changing for all of us—not the least of which were the Attendees. (You can read about our 2015 retreat here and 2016 here.)
After Abide happened those who came had a deep desire to stay in touch—some of the Retreatants were from as far away as Ohio, Colorado and Virginia. This is why God made the internet. I took that little spark, turned it into a plan and Glory Writers was born.
Glory Writers is a little community on Facebook (less than 40 of us) who share inspiration, encouragement, questions or information each week. There are opportunities to talk about our work, whether a blog post or a poem or a paragraph and let the rest of the group read along. Some of us share our works in progress, art journaling, art shows or writing books. We have also been known to talk about socks. (But you’d have to visit Glory Writers to find out more about that, so consider yourself invited. Look for Glory Writers on Facebook. The group says ‘closed’ but all you have to do is knock on the door.)
The Miracle Grows
As a result of my little jump into the internet five years ago, then reaching out to a stranger, pursuing the shared passion of leading writer’s retreats, starting a writer’s group online, well, here’s what God has done through connecting, encouraging and communicating:
One of the folks who came across the country to our Writer’s Retreat last year is my beautiful (now) in real life friend Denise. She is originally from Jamaica and currently lives in Virginia, by way of Kansas. You can’t get farther away from Jamaica than Kansas.
During a ‘happenstance’ conversation one day in our Glory Writer’s group, a new member from South Africa of all places, Aliyah, connected with Denise and found a kindred connection, too. A mini-community was born half way around the world.
Since that time Denise has done two podcast interviews with Aliyah and I have to tell you, hearing each of their lilting accents is reason alone to take time to listen. (Their first interview across the airwaves was ‘Culture and the Christian Writer–so good!) Denise posted this on our Glory Writers page the other day: “I don’t think I could have done that interview a year ago. Interacting with GW has done much to help me grow in some of my perspectives and in confidence; not always comfy but necessary, (and that’s not tiny, btw.)
That’s enough ‘bread’ for me right there to feed my soul. It began because I was looking for community and connection in my writing journey. Then I risked reaching out to a complete stranger, connecting the dots of the worldwide web, and God reached into my life in miraculous ways.
Where Have You Found Community?
Donald Miller says that we are all wired for connection and relationships with one another and with God. You know that, don’t you?
There are a number of wonderful communities on the web, groups gathered around a shared interest, who encourage and inspire each other, with this constant reminder–you are not alone. These are some of my favorites:
- For moms, there is the website Kindred Mom ‘Flourishing in Motherhood’
- For poetry lovers, there’s Tweetspeak Poetry ‘the best in poetry and poetic things’
- There’s the Consilium Blog hosted by Diane Bailey ‘A community of purpose and grace for wise women’
- And a cheerleader community for faith writers if there ever was one–Hope*Writers.
So tell me, where have you found community–in real life or on the web?
I would love to hear.