Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

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Today I want to talk about the importance of community and how stinkin’ hard it is to get!

You’ve seen it all over the internet. Community is important. We need community. We see this all the time on Catholic blogs and in Catholic Facebook groups. And yet, as a deeply extraverted person, who is very unbusy and extra friendly… I can say… it’s really hard to find community. Real community, the deep kind that fills that longing you have deep in your soul.

Sure I’ve been to some church playgroups where the kids played games and ate snacks that I hated. The moms were super nice but we barely had time to build deep friendships above the noise and chaos of tons of little kids.

I tried starting a Little Flowers group, which also had some amazing families in it but the way it was setup, all the moms stood around while one mom led the group. The girls did some cute crafts but I bet my daughters couldn’t tell you the names of the other girls. Community is not just being in a room together.

So I understand when moms attend a few of these organized events, don’t find what they’re looking for and then decide that it’s not worth dressing the kids, trying desperately to brush their hair, coercing everyone into the car and probably blowing someone’s nap time to attend.

I also attended a fabulous Endow group, which again, had superb Catholic women. Let me say this in case you can’t tell, there is no problem with the actual people I’ve encountered in any of these groups. In fact, I’d say it’s because the people are so fabulous, I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to get to know them on a deep level.

So here’s what I think we need. We need less structure and more deep conversations. We need to talk about what we’re struggling with. We need to connect on a real level and then here’s the kicker… we need to pray for each other. I don’t’ want to see clubs dedicated to complaining. We can do that sure enough but that has more of a rambling, woe-is-me, let me spew out all my problems and let’s compete for worst husband, worst in-laws, worst kid problems, etc. feel to it.

I want real sharing but also real suggestions. I want to see spaces created where we can actually talk about what we’re grappling with and then pray for each other. Prayer is so powerful and I miss my Protestant days when I never left a room without someone praying, out loud, for what I was going through.

To that end, I’ve created a study. It’s completely free and it’s not fluffy at all. In fact, if you’re not ready to find deep friendships and be vulnerable about your stuff, this study isn’t for you. That’s okay. I don’t make things that appeal to everyone. I make things that appeal to me and I like doing deep work together with my friends, and preferably a mimosa.

Speaking of mimosas, I went to a play date the other day and since a friend had given me a bottle of champagne to celebrate the birth of Blaise (which was the coolest gift by the way and something I think I will now give moms who have just had babies), we ended up having mimosas as this play date. It was a super simple thing but it felt awesome. I felt like an adult. I felt like I was there to see my friends instead of just chasing the children. I had some real conversations with those ladies.

I’m not saying alcohol is necessary by any means, but the right atmosphere is. I think when we gather in a living room that has been expertly cleaned, hoping the kids won’t make any noise and we pull out programs that take 1-2 hours to read and discuss, things go awry and we feel like the stress wasn’t worth the often watered-down questions that appear.

This study doesn’t have watered down questions. It has tough love questions. Real life questions. It beckons you to share your struggles and own your screw ups. If you can’t admit to your friends that your Netflix problem is dragging you down, no wonder you feel lonely and as if you don’t have real community. If you can’t say that your Starbucks or Target habit is getting out of control because your marriage is really painful right now, then it’s likely you’re carrying that heavy cross on your own.

God didn’t intend for you to carry crosses on your own. Christianity is a community faith. We are to live out our faith together. And I’m a little tired of us thinking that it has to be prim and proper at a Martha Stewart like gathering.

We need a few more “grab some store-bought muffins and have a mimosa in my tidied but not clean house” type of gatherings. We need to feel comfortable seeing each other without makeup or showering. And we need to talk about real issues we’re struggling with. We need to share things that have worked for us in the past but to that means we have to admit needing help in the past.

So here’s my study. It’s called James and Avila because it uses awesome quotes from St. Teresa of Avila and verses from my favorite book of the Bible, the Book of James. This study is about detaching yourself from the world and trusting in God. It’s about getting hard on yourself about where you are sinning and finding peace in the power of prayer.

It has eight lessons so you can either do it as a four-week study two at a time or as an eight-week study. You can do it alone or, as my long ranting episode suggests, in a group. You can do it in person or you can start a private Facebook group and do it online.

At the end of each lesson, it challenges you to be brave. To reach deep inside and ask yourself some hard questions. It challenges you to speak the answers out loud and to ask for prayer.

And most of all, it’s free. Because we need more free resources to meet us where we’re at. Community shouldn’t have the high bar of perfectly cleaned houses, Pinterest snacks, quiet children, or big financial investments.

I hope you love this study and if you do, I’ll make some more, maybe with some different themes. I don’t know. I’ll see what y’all say!