As Sherri said at our last meeting, “Women need women!”
A multi-generational group of women, most of them followers of Jesus, gathers in my kitchen every other Saturday morning at 10 am. We sip coffee and orange juice; heap our plates high with sinfully- fattening-but-oh-so-delicious donuts, strawberries, and fat, juicy grapes. Laughter fills this light-filled space, making it shine even brighter. Giggles, greetings, and hugs erupt each time another woman enters through the screened porch door, until the kitchen overflows. Eventually we move to the family room.
This room is darker than the kitchen. But the light of shared stories burns brightly here, augmented by lamplight. I think of the words of a favorite Julie True song: “Release the stories of our lives…”
Our group—we go by the name “She’s Got Something to Say”—was born of a dream given a Miami student, Emma, who felt God calling her beyond the hectic hustle-and-bustle of the everyday into a more balanced life. What might that look like for someone going to school full-time and involved in ministry as well?
Finding a mentor in Amy, a 40-something woman in the community, Emma’s longing for a place to recharge her batteries and draw on the wisdom of other women began to clarify. She began to dream of bringing together young women from Miami University who longed for a safe place to simply “be” with women from the surrounding community. Older women who had been learning to balance family, work and faith for a number of years. Women who knew how to rest in the Lord as well as lead ministries, raise kids, hold down careers, and just-plain-have-fun.
A place to go after rolling out of bed on Saturday morning—no makeup, no fancy clothes, no agenda notes. A place to chill-out, eat donuts, drink coffee, and hear stories—battle stories, love stories, redemption stories—from women who’ve been there. A place for students to share their own stories of struggle and joy. A place where questions are welcomed, and prayer is freely given and received. A place of unconditional acceptance. A place called family (without the baggage that sometimes comes with our families of origin).
Emma’s dream came true in my kitchen and family room over the course of the past year. It’s been a gift to this place we call Cloudland, a place whose mission is to “Bring glory to God by creating space in a beautiful farm setting for believers and seekers alike to experience God’s presence and to learn the unforced rhythms of grace modeled by Jesus in the Scriptures.”
The unforced rhythms of grace make it possible for a college junior to share her story of struggling with anorexia, and how the Lord led her back to health. Grace makes it possible for a woman who has been married for 30-plus years to share her struggles with sexual choices in the early years of dating, and how God redeemed those choices. Grace makes it possible for another student to ask for prayer for depression; another to share a song she loves on the piano (accompanied by her fabulous voice).
There are several definitions of grace. Here are two of them:
(In Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God
Elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action
As I sit with this group of women, ages 17 to 70, I find myself swimming in a sea of grace. It is elegant and beautiful. At the same time, it is raw and vulnerable. It is free, and it is unmerited.
This is the Body of Christ, and I am so thankful to be a part of it.