One big, happy framily

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This past week, my godson took note that since my husband and I are his godparents, he is part of our family.  Since he is also part of his immediate family, he observed that it’s like we are all one big family. How awesome is that?

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about just how “extended” our family has become over the years – those we served with, whom my former Marine husband stills calls “brother”, the college friends we cared for through sickness and through health, the small group friends who preserved my sanity while I agonized through months of bed rest with my first pregnancy and the handful of others who at some point in my life moved past the traditional definition of “friend”.

After a decade of friendship, I confessed to my dear friend, and mother of my darling godson, that when we’d first met, I’d been able to immediately see what good friends our husbands would become. I had not, however, thought our friendship would become one I cherished so deeply. I, a Finance major, thought I would have little in common with the liberal social worker standing before me. One afternoon, she even invited me to something called “The Vagina Monologue”. Gulp. Now that was an experience for this sheltered conservative!

Over the years, one of my more defining characteristics seems to be that without a conscious effort, I am quite soft spoken. This becomes ironic in contrast with one of my most treasured friends, who also happens to be one of the loudest people I know. I am Christian, she is an atheist. She is liberal, I am conservative. I indulge my girls in their princess phase, she teaches her daughter to look past gender stereotypes. We naturally gravitate to opposing views on almost any issue.

So what glues together such opposites? How does one have a great big, happy framily: friends who have gone beyond the traditional definition of friend and have become like family? The concept of adopting dissimilar people into a family isn’t a new concept, after all, our Heavenly Father adopts us as His sons and daughters when we choose to trust Jesus.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5

Of course we cannot offer eternal salvation, or even give someone an identity as a son or daughter of The King, so how can we imperfect creatures foster a framily? I think this type of unity is born from love, loyalty and respect. A crisis will teach you who truly loves you – when others are busy or overcome by apathy, framily will not only show up, but also do what it takes to make the situation better. When your life is touched by someone who loves you enough to show up for you, invest in them. And should you have a difference of opinion, respect the other person enough to love them for their opinion.  Our job on this earth is to love, not judge one another.  Let’s all stop looking for “perfect” friends and start allowing those around us to bless us, just how they are.  After all, true friendship isn’t jealous, it doesn’t boast and isn’t proud.  You never know, you may receive the greatest blessing from those you wouldn’t expect to have a strong connection.  Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if we starting truly loving and embracing one another in friendship and encouragement, rather than discouraging each other?  What would each day look like if we actually followed Jesus’ command to us: “Love each other the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12

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The Ice Bucket I Will Not Be Dumping On My Head

I absolutely adore the dear friend who nominated my daughter and I to join her and her daughter in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but despite my deep respect for this wonderful woman, you’ll not be seeing a video of ice water raining over my head.  I know, I know.  I’m one of thosepeople.  You’re probably thinking, boy she is such a hypocrite.  Didn’t she just invite us all to a virtual lunch on World Humanitarian Day – donating the amount you would have spent for lunch to World Vision?  Wasn’t she the one who asked my to help her buy a goat for a family in India?  Where do I get off advocating for one charity and refusing to help raise awareness for another after all?

Alice
The reason I’m abstaining from this challenge is named Alice.  She is three years old and lives in Burundi, Africa.  She is an only child, living with her parents who are farmers in a poor area of Burundi.  Each week or so, I try to send a note to Alice and update her on what’s been going on in our lives.  I cannot wrap my head around explaining my decision to dump on my head, what her mom would consider a precious resource.  You can see it in her eyes, can’t you – what is wrong with you, you crazy white lady?  What would I say it was for, after all, what would the ALS Association do with my donation?  They haven’t said.  After 30 years of research, are we any closer to cracking the code on ALS?  Will this donation get them closer to solving this mystery?  I don’t know.

Donations have skyrocketed and are track to reach $100M, up from $1.9M last year

I love that people have so generously donated to help the 6,000 people who are diagnosed with ALS each year.  I get that it’s an awful disease.  I would be devastated if someone close to me were diagnosed with this disease.  However, whether any of us want to admit it or not, money is a finite resource and as much as I would LOVE to increase my donations to help others, my salary just doesn’t seem to grow each time I choose to donate to another worthy cause.  So the question is, is ALS research the most worthy cause I can choose?  Do I know that my donation will make a difference?  Do I know that my donation will change a life?  I don’t feel that I can answer yes to those questions.

Women in Alice’s community gathering water for their households

The hard reality is: my choice to help girls like Alice survive to see their 5th birthdays means that I don’t have money to give to other charities.  Research shows that of the $100M likely to be raised through the ice bucket challenge, $50 million will be coming out of the pockets of other charities.  Ouch.  Folks, we are all in the same boat – limited funds and unlimited causes vying for our attention.  I am passionate about supporting Alice, and other children like her, who without help will never get the opportunity to eat protein, or won’t be able to attend school, or will eat mud just to not feel so hungry every day.  At the end of the day, we all get to choose how and where we spend our money and I hope you will find something to passionately support by opening your hearts and your wallets, as we have all been called to do.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others

The Me I Never Wanted You to See, but Always Wanted You to Know

Recently, a new acquaintance told me that she had given up Facebook because it always made it seem as though others lives are so perfect and happy. As I reflect on this statement, and what it means related to my own posts and outward appearance, I have to wonder why we aren’t more honest about how we are really doing. Certainly, I don’t advocate that we only voice our fears, frustrations and struggles, but could we allow others, our friends, to uplift and encourage us more? At the end of the day, aren’t we all in the same boat – trying desperately to stay afloat?

She intends to read these books and send these packages.  One day.

Of course there is a side of me too that I never want you to see.  She is filled to the brim with insecurity and uncertainty.  Others act as though she has her act together, but this only shows her how little they actually know about her.  If they truly knew her, they would know that she has her act together Never.  Ever.  After hours of research, she’s that super mom who pulls onto the highway without buckling her children into their top-of-the-line car seats.  She posts a darling picture of her children on the beach, but she doesn’t tell you that this is a picture of an exasperated family who’ve been dressed in these same outfits and paraded to this same spot three days in a row so she could get just the right shot.  She looks super creative when you see the pictures of her children’s birthday parties, but don’t let her fool you – she’s spent hours on Pinterest to glean these ideas and didn’t start getting ready until the night before the party so she’s too tired and cranky to enjoy her daughter’s big day.  Others take her advice, but they don’t seem to know they are taking advice from the girl who once enlisted in the Army on a whim.  In her cheerleading uniform!  They call her poised and professional, but do they know that she enjoys reading YA books?  She has it together Never.

Don’t get me wrong, she tries everyday to be the best Christ-follower, wife, mom, worker, friend, woman she can be.  She asks God to help her overcome her short-comings and she puts on her brave, confident face when she meets you.  She’ll let you see her tidy kitchen, but don’t open the door upstairs and reveal the piles of laundry.  If you stop by unannounced, you will see dishes in the sink and dirt on the floor.  Don’t let her fool you if she ever looks like her life is always happy: there are moments of complete sadness, moments of utter loneliness, times when she knows she must be the world’s biggest failure as a wife, mother, friend.  But then, she allows her creator to speak truth into her life and He whispers into her despair,

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)  

She never wanted you to see her kitchen like this
She hoped you’d never see her kitchen like this

So she makes the choice to get back up when life knocks her down and she takes one more step towards the life she was called for.  Granted, she sometimes needs to set a timer and throw herself a fabulous little pity party, but she always makes the choice to get get back up on that horse.  And no, she isn’t perfect, but she knows that’s okay because God isn’t done with her yet, so she opens her heart to Him and asks Him to continue His work in her.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6