The Value of Christian Friends

Christian friendships are well worth the time and effort.

I love the writing life, but it can get lonely. Time with my friends must be scheduled or it doesn’t happen. This weekend, I was happy to spend time with new friends at the Come With Me retreat, hosted by my friend Suzie Eller. The retreat taught me many valuable lessons, especially the value of Christian friends.

The value of Christian friendships on a retreat!
Left to right: Rebecca, Claudia, me, Cheryl

I had not met any of these lovely ladies before the retreat. Rebecca and I have been blogging friends for a while, and it’s always such fun to meet in real life. Claudia and Cheryl were our bunkmates, and we hung around all weekend. Rebecca and Cheryl are bloggers, and Claudia’s story is featured in Suzie’s book, Come With Me.

We are from four different parts of the United States. We have different backgrounds, personalities, weaknesses and strengths. Our hours of conversation were like iron sharpening iron at times, and at other times like warm, comforting blankets. What unites us is a love for Jesus and faith in his promises.

A special joy comes from my time with Christian friends. I felt comfortable and safe with them, in just moments of our meeting. I felt honored when they shared their struggles with me. My time with them taught me four main lessons, which I’m happy to share with you along with several book reviews.

Lesson 1. I need Christian friends who are a lot like me.

Review: Fiercehearted by Holley Gerth

Fiercehearted by Holley Gerth

Holley is one of my favorite Christian women writers. She has a gentle spirit, a poet’s heart, and an encouraging voice. She reminds me of myself when I’m at my very best. Even though I haven’t met Holley (yet), I think we would be fast friends.

I have loved Holley’s other books, like Coffee for Your Heart (see my review here) and Opening the Door to Your God-Sized Dream. Holley writes with rich, beautiful word pictures like this one:

Yesterday afternoon the sky cracked wide and white thunderhead clouds spilled rain until miniature rivers ran down the streets…I noticed two little girls, one in bright pink and the other in lemonade yellow, jumping in puddles with looks of bliss on their faces.

This is just one example of why her writing is so engaging. Her chapters feel like soundbites from a conversation with your most creative, thoughtful, and quietly beautiful friend.

Holley shares her struggles with introversion, body image, unmet longings, fears, and deep hurts. In each brief chapter, she tells the truth: We can be brave and fiercehearted in each of our struggles, because The Lord God Almighty is on our side.

How this book is changing me:
  • Others will “get” me if I reach out to them in community.
  • I can choose security in the identity God gives me, not in the labels I place on myself.
  • Choosing to live fully and love bravely is giving me greater confidence.

I received a free review copy of Fiercehearted from Holley Gerth. Thank you, Holley!

Lesson 2. I need Christian friends who are wildly different from me.

Review: Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

We all need a Christian friend who is different from us. Jen is lively; I am quiet. She is bold; I am reserved. She is wild; I am placid. Yet I love her writing, because it gives me fresh and funny glimpses into a life of faith, along with a huge dose of affirmation.

Jen’s book is an anthem of faith for women of different ages. She writes for the twenty-somethings up through the sixty-somethings and beyond. Jen is transparent and hilarious in her anecdotes; she is powerful and kind in her exhortation. Jen says she has grown through the process of writing several books; I can see that progression from her earlier books, and it is lovely and free.

I am in the middle stage of life, the full-court press where everyone wants a piece of me. I’m trying to pursue my dreams and juggle a million responsibilities. Jen’s book gives me wise perspective, helps me laugh over the brevity and moments of ridiculousness, and even offers a few delicious-looking recipes to give me a hand. Her fun and inspiring book is helping me enjoy these busy, beautiful days.

Jen is like the friend who would invite me over to her slightly messy house and have me laughing and crying before the night was through. I can feel myself in the presence of a friend like her.

How this book is changing me:
  • I’m learning to accept that this life stage won’t last forever, and I need to enjoy it more.
  • I need to make time for creativity without guilt.
  • I’m taking a few risks and not beating myself up for my mistakes.

I received a free review copy of Of Mess and Moxie from the BookLook Bloggers program. You will love it!

Lesson 3. I need Christian friends who are willing to share their stories.


Review: Stolen Jesus by Jami Amerine

 

Stolen Jesus by Jami Amerine

Jami is a very funny lady. I laughed out loud several times when I read her travails in Target, her favorite store. She is a brave and beautiful writer who is not afraid to show the gritty truth about the church and still choose Jesus after everything goes wrong.

Stolen Jesus is written in a memoir format, with each chapter a different description of what Jami believed to be true at the time. She writes about how Jesus looked different to her as a teen, a newlywed, a mama of littles, and a mature Christian. It took Jami a long time to find the Jesus who granted her grace, no matter what, even though he was waiting for her all along.

Jami is a talented comedienne. She hooks you with her brave, self-deprecating funny stories, then punches you in the gut with sometimes difficult truths. But you’re willing to receive the punches, because Jami is like a friend you admire because they aren’t afraid to tell it like it is.

My heart broke for her when she shared the rejection of her teen years, at the hands of other Christians. I ached for her in her struggles as a foster mom. My heart rejoiced with her when she finally accepted that God loves her unconditionally, without any effort on her part.

How this book is changing me:
  • I’m thinking about how Jesus looked to me in the past.
  • I am recognizing the lies that I’ve told myself.
  • I’m considering how the church has both hurt and healed me at different times.

I received a free review copy of Stolen Jesus from Netgalley. Highly recommended read!

Lesson 4. I need Christian friends who teach me about Jesus.

Review: Come With Me Devotional by Suzie Eller

Come With Me Devotional: A Yearlong Adventure in Following Jesus by Suzie Eller

Suzie is one of the most generous people I know, as a writer, teacher, and real-life friend. Her heart loves to minister to women and encourage them in their faith. I am honored to have spent the weekend at her retreat in Oklahoma.

Christian friendships deepen on retreats.
Left to right: Me, Cheryl, Suzie Eller, Claudia, and Rebecca

Currently I am leading both a live and an online study of Suzie’s book, Come With Me. Her devotional is a perfect supplement for this powerful book about following Jesus.

The Come With Me Devotional has 260 brief, beautiful devotions about following Jesus more closely. You could read one day at a time, or read a few at a time, which is my preference. The entire book is based on the gospel of Luke. It will take you into a deep, rewarding study of those scriptures, one verse at a time.

Suzie is skilled at sharing new scriptural insight along with powerful personal application. That’s why I am a fan of her blog and of her other books, like The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places. I learn something new about Jesus and myself every time I read Suzie’s writing.

Here’s an excerpt of the devotional Suzie spoke on this weekend (142 in the book):

Jesus calls us to live a salty life, not one that blends in. May we live so salty that it pours generously over our home and those who abide within its walls. May it bring savor and restorative properties to our relationships.

How this book is changing me:
  • I’m seeing a familiar gospel in brand-new ways.
  • I am learning that Jesus loves me more than I ever really understood.
  • I’m focusing on praying just to Jesus more frequently, to deepen our relationship.

I received a free, autographed copy of Come With Me Devotional as a participant of the Come With Me Retreat–thank you Suzie! This book will bless you just as much as it is blessing me!

Christian friendships are well worth the time and effort.

Questions for you:
  • How do your Christian friendships help you give and receive blessings?
  • Which books have taught you how to be a better friend?
  • Which book in this list looks most interesting to you, and why?

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  • Kristi Woods

    How wonderful you were able to enjoy Suzie’s retreat. It’s truly a retreat, isn’t it? Hopefully your week started in a rested, fine fashion, continuing the weekend thread. It’s always good to peruse a list of books as well. Thanks for posting them, Sarah. #raralinkup

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Kristi! Yes, this retreat both emptied my busy heart and filled my restless soul. I LOVED every minute! Thanks for your visit…heading to your site now.

  • I loved this post! You did such a beautiful job weaving these books together and sharing your heart while encouraging my own! Thank you for being you!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you, sweet friend. I always see the real you at your wonderful site, and it’s a blessing every time. 🙂

  • I have to stop reading your posts! You always inspire me to buy more books. And I already have a giant stack, yet unopened!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Ha ha! If you could see my literal unread shelf plus my virtual unread shelf, you would TRULY be overwhelmed, friend! Probably 100 titles combined. But–I hardly watch TV, and I’m always reading when exercising or eating alone. That’s how I log so much reading time. Reading is truly like breathing for me!

  • I’m SO glad you got to go to the Live Free retreat, Sarah. I went last year and found it to be life-changing! Suzie’s the real deal! And I’m so curious about the Jen Hatmaker book. I LOVED For the Love.

    • Sarah Geringer

      The New Life Ranch is such a peaceful place. Glad you got to enjoy it last year. For the Love is one of my favorites too!

  • I love this two pronged post: friends and books. What a great combination!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you, Michele! I am sure your friends are enjoying your online book study!

  • Hi Sarah! I just read through your tea on Tuesday email and it led me over here. I’m so glad it did! Firstly, I loved having tea with you and I so agree with everything you shared on the importance of face time with friends. Now I’m off to to order Of Mess and Moxie and Stolen Jesus. I love transparency and I love to laugh so I’m really looking forward to reading these two books. Thank you for the reviews. Blessings to you!

    • Sarah Geringer

      I love having virtual tea with all my readers, Tiffiney! You are in for a treat with both of those books. I am still laughing about Jen’s grocery store tale and Jami’s skirt story. Let me know what you think, friend!

  • I love this ode to kindred spirit relationships … and meaningful page turners, Sarah!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Linda! I love kindred spirit friendships too! Thanks for commenting.

  • I loved “Come With Me”. It was truly a powerful and life changing book, one that I reread. How fun when books and friends collide!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Joanne! Yes, I am really loving the book right now. It is giving me fresh insights into the disciples’ world.

  • Amy Jung

    Sweet! I hope you were refreshed and inspired! All of these books are on my radar! How I long for more time to read!!!!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Amy! Yes, I was refreshed. I love reading, and I do it every single day instead of watching TV…and I try to walk while reading too! Need to read more on my Kindle so I can get more treadmill time in. 🙂

  • Wow! So many great thoughts, Sarah and so many great books to read! I feel overwhelmed by all the reading I need and want to do, but you seem to do it effortlessly like Michele Morin does as well. I am grateful that you provide the reviews for us, so we know which books to start with first. And yes, friendships are so important, especially to bloggers who can feel isolated at times. No one in my inner circle really gets the challenges of being a blogger, so it’s always great to connect with people like you and Amy Jung, that I see below, as well. I’d love for you to add this to the linkup back at my place! Great post, my friend!

    • Whoops! Didn’t see your link at my linkup but now I do! I expected to see your pretty face in the pic! Thanks for sharing it, my friend!

      • Sarah Geringer

        Thank you, sweet Beth! Michele and I are the swooning book lovers in our blogger circles–I agree! Thanks for your kind words, about my face. My friend Rebecca mentioned in this post says she ALWAYS uses her avatar when linking up so people can find her…I may start doing the same. Your linkup is one of my favorites, friend! I especially love your timely series for October too.

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  • Oh Sarah – I can’t tell you how BLESSED I am to have spent the weekend with you. Our long talks are something my soul has needed for so long. Thank you. You are brave and beautiful. I can’t wait to see the plans the Lord has for you – and the ones already unfolding are wonderful to watch. Keep your eyes fixed on Him and on His purposes for you. I love you, friend. xoxoxo

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thanks so much! I was super blessed by our time together too. I’ve been reflecting over and over about all our conversations. Thanks for your kind comments here, and love to you too!

  • HeatherHetchler

    Thank you Sarah for writing this and sharing from your heart. It was great to meet you at the retreat. It was truly a special time to connect with God and with other women in Christ. Like you, I hadn’t met anyone before I attended. I am grateful to call my bunkmates dear friends. Look forward to growing our friendship. God breathes light and love into our souls through the gift of friendship.Thanks again for sharing today.

    • Sarah Geringer

      You are a true sweetheart, Heather! I was glad to meet you too. I could have been there for a whole week and still not have enough time for all the conversations. It was a heart-weaving-together event for me! Indeed, God is breathing life, light, and love into my heart through both live and online friendships, like you said! Blessings to you!

  • This is great, Sarah! I just finished reading Of Mess and Moxie— and I absolutely loved it! I was challenged one minute and laughing out loud the next. I so appreicate Jen’s writing. And I agree, we need a variety of friends in our lives… like a mixed bouquet of beautiful flowers! Stopping by from ##TellHisStory

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Laura! Me too…I was reading it some more this week, and tears were pouring out with my belly laugh. I love the “How To” sections–they have me rolling! A mixed bouquet–I love that mental picture of friendship 🙂

  • Gretchen

    So glad to get the inside scoop on each of these books. Loved the way you shared about them and the way you are learning from each. I agree about the need for friends with the isolating tendency of writing ministry. So true! Great job Sarah👍

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hello Gretchen! You are a talented writer, and I appreciate your kind comment!

      • Gretchen

        Awww thank you Sarah for your encouragement 💕 What a blessing to start my Monday ☺️

  • Sarah, the retreat sounds like it was awesome and so do all these books. Thanks so much for this post. My favorite, “I need Christian friends who teach me about Jesus.” 🙂

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Karen! As I think about all of my friends over the years that I called “best” friends, the main things they have in common is faith. So important, and I feel blessed to have so many Christian friends!

  • Your post brought back sweet memories from last week and meeting like-minded Christian women at a writing conference. It was refreshing to meet other women writers who understood a part of me most my friends don’t. I have found friends so valuable in my life and walk with God. When I was younger I spent less effort developing friendships and didn’t feel like I needed them so much. Now for the past several years, I am focusing a lot more time on friendships and seeing the value in them. I just cannot imagine life without fiends.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Theresa. I am truly enjoying your gorgeous nature photography on your blog, and I’ve been sharing your posts because they are so lovely. I agree completely…it’s a blessing to meet with others who “get” you without a lot of explanation. I meet once per month with a local writers’ guild, and that helps me feel less isolated as a writer. I’m glad you found refreshment in your recent conference!

  • I so agree Sarah! It is such a joy to spend time with my sisters-in-Christ. I’m also looking forward to reading Holley’s book and several others! Thank you for sharing!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Robin! Holley’s book is amazing, and she’s even holding a Facebook study for it right now. I hope you love it as much as I do!

  • Right now all my friends are virtual. I know I need more local friends. At times I feel like a hermit. I am visiting a new church and hope I find opportunity there. I love the types of friends you shared and the books featured. Thanks for linking up with us at the #LMMLinkup this week.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Mary, I am praying that God will lead you to a real-life friendship very soon. I’m praying courage for you as you visit a new church. Blessings to you!