Earlier this month I joined 38 women from Newberg Friends at Twin Rocks Friends Camp for the NFC women’s retreat. I’m sure many things draw women to this gathering place year after year. Some seek rest, some seek community, some desire to connect with creation and the creator. I can identify with all of these but have been trying to be intentional about leaning into the Newberg Friends community. So I gathered my introverted self and a 7-month-old baby, packed a bag for the weekend, and drove out to the coast.
My family and I have existed on the periphery of the NFC community for the last few years; our attendance has ebbed and flowed. If there was a relationship status update for faith on Facebook, my status for the last five years would read “It’s complicated.” It’s complicated, and the nuances of this complication have been a large part of the ebb of our church attendance the last few years. There’s also this: Newberg Friends, it turns out, is a fairly large community, and that makes it quite easy to come and go discretely. We’ve gotten pretty good at this.
Despite the “it’s complicated” status, or maybe because of it, in this last year I’ve felt drawn to do life more deeply with the Newberg Friends community. I like the metaphor of leaning in, and for me this has meant a year of taking steps, little by little, to integrate into the NFC community. One step I’ve taken has been attending Women’s Bible Fellowship on Thursday mornings. Deciding to go on the retreat felt like an important step in the process of becoming more than time-to-time attendees of NFC. And I’m glad I took this step. It was a wonderful and warm weekend, in spite of near constant rainy weather, and it gave me a new perspective on how to move beyond merely leaning in.
The weekend was filled with fun, community, and warmth—the warmth that comes from laughing together, tinkering on puzzles, sharing good food, listening to wise words, joining together in moments of worship, and simply sitting alongside others while puttering away at a craft. Carol Sherwood blessed us with her wise and gracious reflections throughout the retreat. This year’s theme was “Write Your Story.” Carol guided us through taking a deeper look at how our stories are constructed. We looked at a triad of authors who write our stories: ourselves, others, and God. We play a part in writing our own stories, as do others, and ultimately God infuses our story with forgiveness, grace, and love.
Since the retreat, I’ve continued to return to this idea that Carol shared about the role others play in writing our story. I’ve been thinking through who I want to let be an influential author or coauthor of my story. I happen to be a mom with young children, so who will coauthor my children’s stories also weighs heavily on me. I’m convinced that this choice of whom I invite into this process is one of the most significant parenting decisions I will make. As I’ve sat with this the last few weeks, I have realized that I want to move beyond simply leaning into Newberg Friends. I need coauthors—for my family and for me. I need this community to help write my story and to help my children write theirs.
These women I met this month—I want them as coauthors of my story. In this last year, as I’ve opened myself up to the influence of NFC women through Women’s Bible Fellowship and especially through the women’s retreat, I’ve noticed something. As I invite coauthors from this community to join me in writing my story, I’m able to absorb the faith of others. Little by little, the “it’s complicated” status of my relationship with faith is feeling a little less complicated. There might be parts of my story that I am unable to write at this point in my life, but the beauty of doing life in community is that I can ask others to help author these portions. Where my faith falters, I can share in the faith of others. Where my conviction or beliefs wobble, I can ask others to help stabilize.
I went on the retreat this year desiring to lean into NFC, and what I learned was how important it is to go beyond leaning in and to allow others to coauthor my story.