(Note: This post is sponsored by B&H Publishing Group. Read our disclosure policy here.)
Lisa-Jo and I met online soon after I began blogging (maybe in 2008 0r 2009?). We had mutual friends, we read some of the same blogs, and we started to get to know one another a little bit from the internet.
We met briefly in person at the Relevant Conference in 2010. Little did I know at the time that this was a woman who was going to profoundly impact my life.
I actually arrived at that conference wounded and hurting from a recent internet friendship break-up. I remember distinctly feeling so jaded by internet friendships that I told myself, “I will never be close friends with another blogger again.”
So, I wanted to put up pretty strong walls at that conference just to be safe. But there was such warmth and authenticity and kindness oozing from the women at this conference that I just couldn’t keep those walls there for long!
Lisa-Jo was one such woman who I almost instantly fell in love with. She was honest and funny, but most of all, when you were talking with her, you could tell that she really, really, really cared about you and your soul.
Over the next few years, we saw each other at multiple conferences and got to know one another a little better. And each time, I fell more in love with her. I was still leery of internet friendships, but I couldn’t get enough of her warm personality, so more and more, I let my thick walls down and let myself begin trusting her.
In 2013, Lisa-Jo asked me to read a pre-release copy of her new book, Surprised By Motherhood. Now you have to know this: I get asked to read pre-release copies of books a lot. I usually say no because, well, you know there are things like laundry and dishes and kids to care for… and if I said yes to every request, I’d probably never get a chance to sleep! 🙂
But I said yes to Lisa-Jo because she’d been such a cheerleader of me and I was excited about the opportunity to support her. Little did I dream what God had in store for the future through that pre-release copy of her book!
I loved Surprised By Motherhood so very much that I wrote her and — uncharacteristically — asked her if there was any way I could help her promote it. I look back and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was God who prompted me to ask that!
Well, the email she sent back just blew me away. She shared with me about this huge vision she has to impact the culture in South Africa — where she grew up, where three of her siblings are adopted from, and where her parents still live and minister.
As she shared about this massive dream she had to encourage women around the globe to come together to change a community of kids in South Africa, I knew I had to tell my readers about it.
Lisa-Jo didn’t know I was going to blog about it. We hadn’t talked ahead of time about the best strategy or post time or anything like that.
She just put her post up, I followed up with a post encouraging you all to Fall in Love With the World Next Door, and then dozens upon dozens of our readers and blog friends shared those posts with their friends.
We were absolutely humbled and stunned and overwhelmed by the donations and emails that came in — from all over the world. Hundreds of you gave.
It was one of the most beautiful Valentine’s Days I’ve ever celebrated. Because of your giving hearts, a community center, veggie garden, and playground was funded for the Maubane community in South Africa.
It still gives me goosebumps to think about.
But I had this nagging feeling that this wasn’t the end of the road for my involvement in South Africa. My heart kept feeling a pull that we were supposed to do something more.
I didn’t know what that more looked like, but I just felt like we weren’t done there yet. Lisa-Jo felt the same way.
And then one day, she asked me, “Would you like to GO with me to South Africa?”
Even though it scared me so much, even though I’d never really traveled outside the US before, even though I have a huge fear of the unknown, and even though it meant an 18-hour plane ride there and back, I said yes!
As my long-time readers well know, that trip changed my life.
I went to South Africa with Lisa-Jo to investigate the work there. I thought I was going so that I could see the playground, the water point, and the community garden that our blogs had fundraised for.
I had no idea that I was going to fall madly in love with this country and come back home with a longterm dream and vision of how our business and family could come alongside and support the work of Take Action Ministry.
But that’s what happened. And it was pretty overwhelming and exciting all at once.
When I got back home, I proposed to Jesse that we would fund the operational expenses of the ministry out of our personal budget.
Even though he hadn’t traveled to South Africa with me (yet!), even though he hadn’t met the wonderful folks from Take Action Ministry (yet!), and even though he hadn’t experienced any of the amazing experiences I had or seen anything firsthand, he didn’t bat an eye.
He did the math, rearranged our budget, and said, “I’m all in!”
Jesse has supported me in this crazy dream that God has given me ever since then. However, this is no longer just my dream and my thing. South Africa has become our family’s calling.
Getting to go with my family and having Jesse and the kids fall in love, too, was one of the greatest experiences of my life. My friends in South Africa became their friends. My love for South Africa became their love. My strong and burning passion to make a difference in this country became their passion, too.
We’ve gotten to help build buildings and classrooms there, come alongside and encourage and support the locals, see amazing progress and change in the different Centres there in just a short few years, be a part of helping hundreds of kids have food and care and education every single day, and even take a group of readers to South Africa with us and have them fall in love with the country and the work there, too.
None of this would have happened if it weren’t for what started as an internet friendship with a woman named Lisa-Jo.
Lisa-Jo has shown me through her life what guilt-free, authentic relationship looks like. She’s walked it out as my friend.
And she’s the absolute perfect person to have written the brand-new book, Never Unfriended. This book is packed with encouragement and much-needed advice and encouragement for building and keeping lasting relationships with other women.
Deep, authentic relationships with other women is not something that is just reserved for a few, special, extroverted people. It’s something we all can experience.
And as someone who has struggled to build relationships, who has made many mistakes, and who has been hurt and burned in the past by other women, I can tell you that — for most of us — it takes work. It won’t just happen.
It takes being willing to step out of our comfort zones, show up, and not try to pretend we have it all together. It takes being uncomfortable, being honest, and being forgiving.
If you’ve struggled to develop meaningful relationships, if you’ve wished you could go deeper in your current relationships, if you’ve ever wondered whether authentic friendship was even possible, if you’ve felt lonely and left out, if you’ve been hurt or wounded in the past, Never Unfriended is for you.
Not sure if the book is for you? Get a sampler of the book that allows you to read the first two chapters for FREE. Just go here, enter you name and e-mail address, and the PDF of the sampler will be e-mailed to you!
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