A Note From the World’s Worst Friend

friends2I have this theory: my friends are absolutely the best friends that a girl could encounter. No, really, they truly are. Of course the second part of my theory is that I am the worst friend a girl could ask for. My friends are the kind of friends who somehow sense that you’re down and show up at your house with ice cream on your birthday, totally lifting your spirits like angels sent from heaven. The kind of friends who drop the most thoughtful (and allergy friendly) treats on my side porch. My friends are the kind who img_4205seem to, despite loads of evidence to the contrary, think that I am somehow a sane-worthwhile-put-together-person. These are women to whom I texted a picture displaying the mismatched shoes I’d accidently worn to work and they come back with a list of plausible excuses as to why it isn’t my fault that I put my right foot into a shoe that clearly did not match the shoe into which I put my left foot before striding off to work for the day. Not only that, but none of them brought up the time that I forgot to even put on shoes at all before flying from Raleigh to Seattle. Changing terminals in Detroit, in the snow, was a bit chilly in my slippers and yet not one of them brought that up. I’m telling you, I have the most amazing friends.

I sometimes imagine my thoughts as dandelion seeds, blown by the wind to the North, South, East and West. Many of those thoughts are insignificant observations and are carried away by the wind of life without a second observation. Others find fertile ground, take root and over time grow into ‘something’. Some of the harvests of my thoughts are wonderful! Other thoughts, not so much. These thoughts remind me of the time that a friend, who happened by be an avid gardener, came over for dinner and stood in puzzlement wondering why we’d taken so much care to grow a giant weed in the middle of our garden. I had no idea what that plant was and truthfully, until his assessment, I was super proud of my gardening prowess – growing a plant was nearly as tall as I and as wide as the garden from which it has sprouted! Sure, it had pretty much ensured that no other plant had survived my gardening attempts, but I was certain that this giant plant was going to yield something fantastic. It did not. And it was horrible to try to dig out what should have been removed months earlier.

If you’re anything like me, it can be so easy to spend time watering and caring for those bitter harvests and neglecting the fruitful ones. Why is that? We’re so inclined to fuss about how much we believe someone doesn’t like us, but neglect sending a quick text to someone who has made every effort to show us how much we are valued. I harbor the memory of how she made me feel so devastated when she didn’t return the friendship I tried to extend and yet forget to pen a thank you note to the friend who brought ice cream on my birthday. Is it time to call in the professionals yet?

If this friendship were a plant, it would have died long ago.

A friend recently shared that the Holy Spirit had put on her heart that if a particular relationship in her life were a plant, it would have died long ago. Except it didn’t die – it jumped right up out of it’s pot and smacked me on the forehead. I am doing nothing to water my friendships! Nothing. Zip. Zlich. I show up to supper club, book club, potlucks and socials looking for friends to water me, and yet I come without a watering can in hand. It’s a wonder I have any friends at all, the way I neglect these relationship. I give myself the excuse that it’s hard: I am so busy, I have littles, I work (a lot, I such a hot mess that I NEED my Jesus time in the morning to ensure there is even a shred of sanity left in me by 10am. Not only that, but I am the Queen of Grand Gestures. When a simple card would do, I must organize an entire themed event. And when I’m too busy or too tired or too stressed or too homesick or just plain too empty to organize an entire gala to chat with a girlfriend, I do nothing at all.

Friends, let me tell you right now that while I seem to somehow be blessed by angels who continue to show up for me when I am unworthy of such friendship, it is only because they have watered the friendship that is has survived. An unwatered friendship will shrivel up and die. So now, I must take stock of my life: It is busy. I do have littles. I do work (a lot). I am a hot mess. Everyone else is in the same boat. It is time for me to see challenges not as tall building that must be gracefully leapt in order to pour into meaningful friendships, but rather as obstacles that are worth being navigated around.

Not only are the obstacles in my life worth being navigated around, they aren’t really that big when I reset my expectations. And let’s face it friends, who wants gala anymore? I shy away from galaesque friendships with every fiber of my being – give me yoga pant friendships any day! So if yoga pant friendships are what I crave, surely it isn’t too hard to find small bits of yoga pants friendship time throughout my month. Surely I can find time to have lunch with a friend who literally works across the street from my office. I really do mean literally. We park in the same parking garage and before this week had managed a single lunch together. In almost three years. I told you people: I am a pathetic friend. But, following my logic that this friendship is both worth making an effort for and that it needs to be watered to thrive, couldn’t I invest one lunch hour a month into this friendship? Can’t I find one evening a month to get together with another dear friend after our kids are in bed? We could even fold laundry together in our yoga pants and sweatshirts and talk about how glamorous our lives used to be. I can notice that the meal we’re making is too huge to be consumed by my family and I can try to find another family to share our table for the evening. All of the sudden, I begin to see the obstacles take a back seat to the opportunities to pour into relationships.

In our selfie-obsessed culture, it may be easy to wonder, ‘what’s in it for me’? Or even to be motivated to pour into relationships seeking to be poured back into by the other person. But is this what life is really about? Doing for another so that you will reap the benefits? I love the way Karen Ehman confronts this in her book, Listen, Love, Repeat:

If our perspective each day can be “I am in it for you” instead of “What is in it for me?” we will discover the joy of serving Jesus—without expecting anything in return and done only for an audience of One. We may show this kind of love to family or friends. Or we might demonstrate it in a random encounter with a stranger. Either way, the stage is set for us to showcase God’s love to a watching world.

For me, I think the moral of this story is that those who have what look like fun, effortless friendships are those who are willing to put forth the effort of prioritizing their relationships. This is my declaration to you, friends: I treasure you and I value our friendship. I vow to try harder to water our friendship. I want you to know that you have carried me through so much and I appreciate your every action. You are important and wanted in my life. I think you are amazing and I’m so glad God brought us together.

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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