A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence. A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him. — Sirach 6: 14-16
Last weekend I attended The Edel Gathering, a Catholic women’s gathering in Charleston, South Carolina. Supermoms Jennifer Fulwiler and Hallie Lord created and organized the event and over 300 women attended. We wore fun shoes, dressed up, put on lipstick and extra deodorant (it was hot!), enjoyed some fine libations, karaoked, danced to music by Flo Rida, and most importantly, connected with and supported one another. Edel has also been called: “The ladies with the babies conference,” “The pregnancy convention,” and “That cool Catholic women’s conference.” No matter the description, Edel, plain and simple, is full of Good Times!
This past weekend wasn’t my first Edel encounter. I attended the inaugural event last summer in Austin, Texas, and had a really good time. But as much fun as I had, on the flight back home, it felt like something was missing. As the plane departed from Austin to Des Moines, I tried to put a finger on what was nagging at my heart. As I pondered, an image from the Vigil Mass I attended during the gathering came to mind.
During Mass I sat behind a group of women. It was clear these women knew each very well, and I was envious of them — envious of their hugs, laughs, shared experiences, and spiritual friendships. I sat solo in my pew and longed to have my sisters, biological and spiritual, sitting next to me as well. The nagging feeling I couldn’t put my finger on was rooted in wanting my sisters there to enjoy all that fun with me. I really missed my friends.
I speak and write often about the power of spiritual friendships. My passion on this topic triggers from my struggle to find deep, quality friendships after I walked away from my career and experienced profound loneliness in my new at-home mom role. After a handful of years and countless prayers, God answered my pleas and placed some amazing women in my life. Not only are they are a phone call, text, or Facebook message away, they are also just a few minutes away. And that’s important because sometimes the best antidote for a bad day in the trenches of the domestic church is “incarnational time” with a good friend. Incarnational time, that’s what my friends and I call it, because friendships require spending time with another, in the flesh, sharing our gifts and who we are – our highs, lows, and mehs – with each another.
It took that nagging feeling on the flight back home from Edel to recognize I needed to become very intentional about setting aside time and energy to cultivate those holy friendships, otherwise those relationships could starve until they shrivel up and die. Even though I’ve become a low-energy introvert since having kids (meaning I would rather spend a quiet evening at home with a glass of wine in my hand while either chatting with the hubs or reading a book after the kids are in bed), my spiritual and emotional health receives a booster shot after forcing myself to spend quality time with these friends.
Since Edel14, that intentionality has paid off: occasional Saturday morning coffee chats at Smokey Row or Zanzibar’s, a Friday night outing to Crème Cupcake dessert lounge, walks/runs when they can be squeezed in, monthly Well-Read Mom book club gatherings, occasional dinners with fellow deacon wives, and then there was that crazy “turn-the-homeschool-room-into-a-bar” cocktail party. That was fun! I’m in a better place spiritually and emotionally today than I have been in a very long time. I credit a few key things, but the forming intentional friendships thing is a big player.
Bringing this back full circle to The 2015 Edel Gathering …
Edel is so unique, unlike any other Catholic women’s conference I’ve attended. I really wanted to go again this year, but I didn’t want to travel alone. So I walked the streets of Des Moines begging for someone to travel with me. I was like that baby bird who goes in search of his mother from the book, “Are You My Mother?” Instead, I went in search of a travel companion asking:
I am happy to report I didn’t have to walk the streets for very long! My favorite sister Sarah and dear friend Molly (both have guest blogged here before) traveled with me, and I’m so glad they did. My experience this year was even more enjoyable because of their presence. And I really enjoyed sitting next to them and a few other fine ladies during Mass!
I know several women who desperately wanted to attend Edel, but just couldn’t make it happen for a variety of valid reasons. I’m hoping my story illustrates that we all can work on forming intentional friendships and finding ways to bring the spirit of Edel right where we are. The road we travel is often rugged and slippery and we need sacred friendships to steady our way, to fill our tanks, to encourage and lead each other to goodness. As St. Francis de Sales once wrote, “…Perfection consists not in having no friendships, but in having only those which are good, holy, and sacred.”
One more thing. It’s scary to put this out there when I have more questions than answers, but I’m going for it. Local friends, I humbly ask for your prayers. A group of us “Des Moines-ers” have been praying and discussing ways to make an Edel-inspired gathering a reality here. We started the conversations last year, and for a variety of reasons, the pause button was pushed. I still feel highly called to do this, now more than ever. I’m confident the Holy Spirit will give us everything we need to accomplish our goals. After this past weekend, the call to get ‘er done has been sharpened and strengthened.