When my mom last came to visit, she asked if we could spend some time making jam together. She even brought jars and frozen berries she’d picked last season. Watching her work alongside my daughter, my mind flashed to moments over the years when memories have been made in the kitchen and around the table. Along with those memories came those of precious times spent with friends and family in various seasons of life, and of the blessings that came from those relationships. When my current stage in the journey is trying, I am amazed how often someone comes along at another life-point, from whom I can gain insight, help, or a good laugh, or with whom I can share those things myself! Connecting across life seasons is a gift worth pursuing.
Watching my girl work alongside her Mimi, their hands busy and their conversation flowing, I was in awe of how with casual conversation, she passes along wisdom and legacy. In turn, as her granddaughter shares of herself, she gives back gifts of laughter, of youthful passion, and of gentle wisdom that reminds us that it comes from One wiser than her. So much is to be gained from connecting with those who’ve walked the road before us… or those who, younger and braver, can challenge us to be more than we are, even though we may be “ahead” of them in life.
Here are a few thoughts I have on ideas to help us connect with others outside our season of life, building heart connections that gift both parties!
Time. Let’s be real; just like a time-honored recipe, relationship takes time. We can coin cute phrases like “quality time over quantity,” but the truth is, it’s going to take sharing some time, making some time, giving some time, to genuinely connect with others.
Mutual interests. While conversation can be awkward especially when we’re first getting to know someone new, when we both love craft beer or historical fiction, we’ve got an immediate connecting point, and it can lead us into deeper conversation with ease. So if you’re wanting to get to know another lady, look for something that sparks interest for you both. Even attending a free craft class at the local art supply store can start a conversation!
Share a skill. Teach or learn from a new friend. My daughter was asked by a mama-friend to teach her little girl some photography skills. For several weeks, we met at a local park and the girls meandered the paths with their cameras, chatting about F-stops and shutter speeds. It was a sweet way for one girl to encourage a younger one, and it developed a sweet acquaintance. It gave my daughter the opportunity to lead, and it required her to step outside her comfort zone. Imagine the incredible experience when, on their last day of class, the two girls ran into a group of sisters aging to their 90’s, who were all together for the first time in over a decade (and possibly for the last time). My Anna and her student were able to do a mini portrait session for these ladies and put their skills into practice, in the journey connecting with precious ladies way ahead of them in life. There was laughter and tears that day, and the gift of friendship and memory-making they both gave and received was invaluable.
It is the littlest thing, but making jam, my mom showed us how to use the printed package recipe to mark off our ingredients as we added them. This little tip will get used in other recipes we make, too, and we’ll think of her wisdom when we use it.
Share a meal. Of course, I’m going to advocate for this one! There’s something about sharing a meal together that paves the way for genuine connection. “Awaken the palate, nourish the soul” is the phrase I chose to define this blog. I believe wholeheartedly that when we share food and drink, a part of who we are softens, and opens for real connection to happen. When we feed someone physically, we give them something in their spirits as well. You don’t have to be a chef or make homemade bread. You can sit together at a sidewalk café over tea. You can nibble a bag of coconut-oil-baked chips. You can sip fresh juice on your front porch. But never underestimate the power of a shared “meal!”
Ask for help (or offer it!). I’ve shared this story before in a Facebook live broadcast. When I was a young mama with littles in diapers, I was offered help by a mom of teens. She volunteered her daughter and a friend to come be “mother’s helpers” in my home once a week. She asked if I’d be willing to lead them in a little Bible study and share my heart with them. Although I didn’t even think to ask for their help, those girls and I were all blessed with the friendship that grew into their adulthood, and the afternoons I had help with dishes, babies, and meals, was more a blessing than they knew. I’ve encouraged other young moms to ask a young person for help. Older ladies, ask a younger one to take you to an appointment, or hang a picture on your wall for you. The conversations and the real friendship that can grow from such small acts are incredible.
Ask questions. Everyone wants to share what’s important to them, and having the opportunity to be heard is a powerful one. Asking questions that lead to conversation (not just “yes or no” questions), is a wonderful way to invest in someone, and to discover what’s important to them. Sometimes asking questions can help us discover differences, and sometimes going deeper helps us resolve those differences, mutually benefitting us both! Often before guests would visit our home, we would talk with our kids about a few questions they could ask to show genuine interest in our visitors. Recently my friend who’s a single mom and came for dinner without her kiddos melted my heart when she asked our family questions about our move to a new state and what really mattered to us about our experience. I already love my friend, but her interest in my kiddos helped to cement, and broaden, our friendship. And she gave them a sweet blessing in giving them her attention, as well.
Enjoy the fruit! Once you’ve begun to build genuine relationship, enjoy the gifts it provides. Encouragement, accountability, and sweet memory-making are precious gifts that come from connecting with others, and especially others in different seasons of life.
Be you. Be real. Be vulnerable. When we open our hearts and our thoughts to another, it builds bridges to genuine connection. When we have conversation that gets to the heart of another, it gives us the gift of understanding. Connecting with and understanding someone in a different place in life teaches us, it blesses them, and it matters for not just us, but the generations to come. How do you connect with others in different seasons, and how can we encourage each other even more?
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