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"Five ways to be a better friend" by Laura Range (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com (2015), CC0/PD[/caption] I usually know it's time to get together with some girlfriends when I start talking to my husband about home decor, my latest recipes, or how I want to try a new shampoo for my hair in the wintertime. He gives me a deer-in-the-headlights look and I realize that no matter how wonderful of a man he is -- and he's truly my best friend -- he's just not a replacement for the women-friends in my life. We women are made to connect with each other, aren't we? We love to share our minds, our hearts, and our time with others. Yet in this age of internet connection and social media, sometimes it seems we're not actually so connected. We have hundreds of online friends and followers, but how many of those ‘friends’ truly know us? We read the intimate details of others' daily lives in their statuses, but struggle with real intimacy in face-to-face friendships. We have friendship at the tips of our fingers on our devices, yet even the best emojis can't convey our emotions the same way sitting across from each other over coffee can. While online friendships and groups can be a blessing, nothing can replace the beauty and authenticity of "IRL" (in real life) friendships. God created us with both body and soul, and our hearts yearn for the kind of community that doesn't come from a screen. If you're feeling a little isolated this winter, here are five ways you can begin to cultivate deeper friendships in your community.
  1. Be brave. Seek out places for potential friends. This might be a local mothers group, story-time at the library, a volunteer committee at your child's school, or a small group at your parish. If there's not a group you are able or desire to join, start your own! A few years ago, I began a monthly book club in my home and provided "mugs and muffins" on a Saturday morning as well as a few questions to discuss on a book we read together. Four years later, we're still going strong and I'm amazed at the way God has led new women into our circle and deepened our relationships through our discussions of life and faith. Although groups are often the least intimidating way to get to know people, you can also invite someone one-on-one for a cup of tea or a play date. If you focus on being hospitable and getting to know the other person, you won't feel self-conscious.
  1. Be open-minded. Don't give up right away if someone declines an invitation or if you don't see any potential friends in a group you joined. Friendship takes time to blossom, and sometimes the best friendships are the ones we didn't see coming! Be open to friendships with women who are in a different season of life than you or who have a different personality than you. It can be tempting to pursue only those who have the same age of kids, who have a career or who stay at home, or who choose the same method of education for their children, yet we can miss out on the richness and beauty of the various ways God calls women to follow Him as well as what we can learn from each other. Don't forget our single sisters-in-Christ, too. I love a good chat with my single friends because they often unknowingly draw me out of my little bubble of diapers and naptime and animal crackers.
  1. Be vulnerable. Too often our friendships stay on the surface level because we're afraid to share our hearts, yet that is what creates deeper friendship. There are so many times when I've been brave enough to share a struggle, only to have a friend open up about the very same thing. It's amazing how universal our struggles are as women. Being real about both the good and bad in our lives with each other can be a door to intimacy in friendship. That being said, watch the negativity! Friendship shouldn't be a dumping ground for all our negative emotions under the labels of venting or "keeping it real." That can quickly turn into gossip, judgment, or even just a pity party.
  1. Be thoughtful. Just like marriage, friendships need care and attention in order to grow and thrive. Send a card in the mail. Text an encouraging Bible verse. Remember something specific they said in your last conversation and then check in with them about it. Ask them how they're doing and give them space to respond with more than just "fine." Schedule a morning coffee date with or without the kids. As mothers, we're often so busy caring for our husbands and children, but it's worth the time and effort to nurture our friendships with women as well.
  1. Be prayerful. If you are lonely, God will hear your prayer for friendship. He desires us to experience fellowship with one another. Ask Him for a friend (or two or three!). Ask Him for the grace to be more brave, open-minded, vulnerable, and thoughtful in seeking friends. And then pray for those friends, and for their needs and intentions, when He sends them to you. A few of my friends and I have a group text message and we often share prayer requests with each other through it. Ultimately, remember that God Himself calls you friend (John 15:15) and He goes before us in this journey of cultivating true friendships on earth that will last into eternity.

Which one of these ways to be a better friend resonates with you most?

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