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Springtime is my favorite time for outdoor meals and entertaining. The days are a bit longer, the evenings a bit warmer, and mealtime conversation tends to linger. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I’ve been thinking on ways to celebrate this beautiful and empowering journey, not just with my family, but also with the friends––the women who surround and support me in motherhood.

I have a kindred relationship with my mother, one that has greatly shaped and encouraged me, and if she lived closer, I would celebrate her in this spot, too, along with my sisters and long-time friends. Motherhood was never intended to be a solo role, and I am forever grateful to have a local tribe of women who support me with wisdom, encouragement, laughter, and practical help. It is cliché to say they make me a better mother, but they do.

In the Long-Legged House, Wendell Berry writes, “A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” This community doesn’t require any us to be the same, or even occupy the same roles or routines. Many of us are in different stages of life, with or without children. It doesn’t matter. They are a part of my tribe. And enjoying an elegant tapas style picnic on the lawn is one way I want to celebrate their shared place in my life.

But Spring and early Summer are a wonderful time for celebrations of any sort. Here, I wanted to create an elegant tapas-style picnic, relaxed a bit with playful colors and mismatched plates, candles, wildflowers, and blankets on the lawn. A thoughtfully planned evening, with a playful and casual vibe. I shared more tips and details for pulling together a similar meal last week over on Anthropologie’s blog

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Few things make my heart swell more with gratitude than when people I love gather around our table, especially when it is glowing with beeswax candles rolled by our children and smothered with fresh greenery and a collective of friends’ savory and sweet dishes. I do often wonder what our children will remember about our holidays, about our table. Although I have no way of knowing right now, I hope they will remember this: simple, thoughtful preparation; heaps of accumulated story and laughter; and of course, that a warm, cozy meal with others always contrasts beautifully against the cold, wet night.

Images by Tim Douglass.

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Finding friendship as a mother can be challenging.  Our time is so often filled with taking care of our homes and children and work that we can simply forget to reach out to our existing friends, let alone form new ones. Some friendships are for specific seasons, connections to help us through a specific time or transition. Others, often the most surprising ones, linger longer and move with us through all stages of life. During my decade of motherhood, I’m so grateful for all of the women who have trickled in and out of my life, knowing even the briefest connections have left lasting impressions and impact.

This weekend, I spent time with a few friends who I began homeschooling alongside so many years ago. Due to our growing families and life circumstances, our paths do not always cross in the same consistent ways they once did, but the sporadic meet-ups where we hear and share the hard and sweet spots of our journey with one another are still so sweet for my soul. As I shared an image and thought of these women through social medias last night, I realized these sentiments might be hurtful for women who aren’t experiencing connection, women who long for at least one friend with whom to share the journey.  I am a fairly introverted person who also homeschools and works mostly from home, too, so I know this season can feel isolating. It is easy to see images on the internet and hear stories from other people and feel like we’re missing out, that somehow we are the only ones who are lonely or are caught up in the rote path of motherhood or home-education. It is simply not true.

Occasionally in life, we are fortunate enough to stumble into an already existing community of friendship, and other times, we have to go out and discover it ourselves. Either way, friendship and community always require work and initiative, but as most anyone will tell you, the reward is worth the effort. For any of you feeling isolated or struggling to find relationships, here’s a few different ways I’ve made friends over the years. They are simple thoughts, but I hope at least one will resonate with you and encourage you to keep searching for community.

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take a look around, right where you are / Is there someone casually in your life who you want to spend more time with? Have you noticed a mother at your library, park, gym, or church who you naturally gravitate toward? If your children are in school or take dance, music, or art lessons, play on a sport team or participate in a nature club–look around at the other mothers. Are there any you might connect with? Who do your children naturally gravitate toward? Be bold: ask for a play date or meet-up.

initiate the invite / Don’t wait for someone else to invite you. For various reasons ranging from moving to a new town or country to the fact that we are deeply introverted, it can be difficult for anyone to work up the courage to initiate friendship. Be courageous.  If you’re wanting friendship or needing community, reach out to another mom, even if it’s just one and invite her over for coffee and/or for her kids to play. If you live in a small home or apartment, find a public place to meet: park, local children’s museum, or local eatery with a play space for kids.

search for local play groups / Sometimes larger homeschool or play groups post meeting times and places on websites and blogs. A simple online search with keywords, such as play group, homeschool group, nature club, with your city and state, can turn up several options for you to try. Like anything, if you’re wanting to connect with smaller, more specific niches, use more specific key words, such as waldorf, unschool, montessori, classical, charlotte mason, instead of simply searching homeschool group. Although these groups don’t necessarily mean you’ll find your best friend, you just might, and at the very least, you’ve begun your journey for community.

find online community / Sometimes our life circumstances or locale make it more difficult to connect with mothers in person. Everyday beautiful online communities of women are forming and growing. Instagram has been one of my favorite (and easiest) places to connect or be inspired by other mothers regularly. If you’re needing a place to start, Wild+ Free and Childhood Unplugged are my favorite collaborative accounts for encouragement, inspiration, and laughter as a mother and home-educator.  They always tag the mothers who capture the moments, so don’t be afraid to follow bunny trails or send an email or direct message to one of the mothers who resonates with you.

“We have nothing if not belief.” -Reepicheep, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (film)

Mark walked in the room and found me watching an epic/adventure film. Again. This time it’s some part of The Lord of the Rings series. He just laughs, “Needing inspiration again?” “Always.” I muttered, but I think he had already sauntered away. It’s true; I have been absorbing these types of films lately (mostly while folding endless mountains of laundry), somehow relieved by the concrete and tidy nature they bring to such large-scaled abstractions as loss, suffering, war, perseverance, and hope. These films bring perspective. Perspective that smacks of my human fragility and need. Perspective of conflict and war. And of course what I’ve need most of all, the reminder that we’re never alone, that we all at some point need the (wo)men on horseback with painted faces yelling, recounting our hope and requiring us to hold the line; we need those people around us to whisper belief into our ears when our face is planted in the weedy field of despair; and we need that cloud of witnesses to encourage us to finish the “race,” even if we’re crawling to get there.

Here’s an appropriate (not epic) video of just that.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/34046413 w=400&h=225]

The Finish Line 2 – Short Feature from Evolve Digital Cinema / IMG on Vimeo.