Friday, August 29, 2008

Sisters of the Heart

In three different states, from Alabama to Nebraska to Idaho, there live three "sisters" of mine. But these sisters are not sisters by any blood-ties; these sisters are sisters of the heart.

On February 1st, 2008, I sent out an email to three friends of mine, asking them if they wanted to form an accountability group through email. Miriam lived nearby, and she I had known in person since I was 5 years old, becoming fast friends; Jennifer lived in Nebraska, though she and I had visited each other 3 times, and were "twins" in many different ways; Gabrielle lived in Idaho, and although we had never met in person, we had been email and pen pals for almost 2 years, and I'd found a "kindred spirit" in her through writing.

For quite some time, I had been interested in forming an accountability group, for I knew that everyone, myself definitely included, needs accountability! Because all four of us knew each other pretty well, I thought that it would great if we could all be in it together. So, I sent out an email exploring the possibility, and the response was unanimous: yes!! Pretty quickly, we settled on a name, "Sisters of the Heart".

Typically, you think of accountability groups as those meeting in person. Although I think that in-person groups are probably ideal, with busy schedules and good friends so far away, ours was formed through email. Each Sunday or Monday, we send out an email to the others laying out the goals of what we want to accomplish for that week, and the prayer requests we'd like them to pray for. Throughout the week, we pray for each other, and send encouraging notes or letters to certain ones if the need is felt. Sometimes we'll send out emails throughout the week to all of them, if urgent needs arise. Then anywhere from Friday to the following Monday, we send out a follow-up email, honestly telling how we did in accomplishing our goals, praise for things God did or things still needing prayer, and something we learned from our personal devotions that week.

We're now finishing up our 30th week (where did the time go?), and it has been such a blessing and encouragement to know that my "sisters" are standing with me and praying for me each week. It's been a delight to hear updates from them twice a week, and I look forward to the emails, knowing they'll be coming! It's a way that we can stay updated on the lives of each other, and an easy way to let all three know things, while only having to write one email. We still keep up our individual correspondence, but it's nice to be able to let all of them know things quickly.

In the original email I sent out, I said that I hoped "it would strengthen our bonds of friendship and help us 'spur one another on to love and good deeds' (Hebrews 10:25)" I believe it has done just that and more. We have all grown closer together, and have been encouraged to go deeper in our walk with the Lord.

The goals and prayer requests often vary, from purposing to "get up and go to bed on time each night," to "finish this certain project," to "keep a cheerful attitude." We are honest in our response, yet not legalistic when things just don't go the way they were planned. However, knowing that we'll have to report to the others how we did helps us work extra hard and be diligent. Through it all, we are loving and supportive of each other.

We have been with each other through rough times, and helped each other go through the changes this year has brought. Especially as I've gone off to college, these "sisters" have stayed with me, because our friendship was not formed on the basis of close distance; it was formed through bonds of the heart. Each of us have had hard weeks, and the others of us have always been there, encouraging, praying, and standing with our "sisters," even though we're miles away.

Miriam, Jennifer, and Gabrielle, thank you so much. Thank you for the encouragement you have been to me, and the joy you have brought. Thank you for the little things you do, the emails, e-cards, letters, and even surprise phone calls or packages that let me know you're thinking of me. I look forward to continuing this accountability group for years to come! And, one day, I hope we can all meet together in person.

What about you? Do you have an accountability group whether in person or through email or letters? If not, I'd encourage you to pray about starting one. It is such a rewarding and challenging experience!

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." - Hebrews 3:13


Ella said...

Anna, our group has been such a blessing to me as well. It is like you said--to have the knowledge that I will be getting e-mails and that you are praying for me--is a wonderful thing.

Though we are states away, I feel our closeness so very greatly. And I pray that the Lord will only draw us closer together. And yes, that I would finally get to meet you all sometime!

Laura said...

I have never heard of a group like that. It sounds amazing.

Miriam Rebekah said...

I can't begin to tell how thankful I am for our group.

It's been wonderful to know that my "sisters" are praying for me all the time.

All of us have met, except Gabrielle. One of these days....

Anonymous said...

That sounds really neat, and it is so wonderful how God has blessed you. I have been corresponding with a girl who lives in China in a sort of accountability way and I have a wonderful friend in Missouri with whom I chat occasionally.

I definately encourage others to reach out and find their sisters in Christ. It is such a blessing.

Maria Pauline

Olivia Howard said...

How cool to know that others are doing this, too! My friends and I encourage one another by phone, e-mail, letters, and in person. It's not as formal or time consuming as yours, but we do pray for each other, feel very comfortable reproving each other (not getting nit-picky is something we've all learned), and continually speaking of wholesome things. It's a true blessing, and one that is really worth seeking out.

And spending time with them is the best! I'm leaving to go camping with all my best friends tomorrow! Can't wait! I know that it will be a very encouraging time!