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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Confessions From the World’s Worst Huminatarian

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Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision once prayed, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”  Wow.  As the owner of an incredibly selfish and uncompassionate heart, I thought that the only way I’d ever really be able to be truly used by God was to follow this example.  Here’s a prayer that really needs some kind of consumer warning, folks, because believe me, He gave me a passion for helping hurting children around the world.  Day after day, He has broken my heart for kids starving in Africa, working under dangerous conditions in India and caught in trafficking in Bangladesh.

Stupidly, I thought that if given the opportunity to reach out and save a child, most people would jump at the chance.  I didn’t think that people could actually peer into the eyes of a first grader, starving to death, and say, “I’m good, thanks.”  I wanted to tell him that I kind of figured he was ‘good’ when I saw him pull up in his $70,000 car.  My super judgmental alter ego was furious at me for not sharing with her that with what she’d spent on her manicure, she could save a child from dying or from being sold into slavery or from being made a child bride or worse.

I’d meant to share this opportunity with the people of North Hills until 4pm that day, but at 3:30 I wasn’t hardly able to manage a smile, so I packed it in early.  I cried most of the way home to find M and C just getting ready to come see me and offer encouragement.  Immediately, both of them knew I was deeply sad and asked what had happened.  “I wasn’t able to find sponsors for a lot of these kids,” I said to my 4 1/2 year old in a shaky voice.  “Who are they?  Can you tell me their names?” She knew what this really meant – those kids, kids with names and faces and real stories would continue their struggle for survival.  My husband, always more pragmatic, began counting the remaining folders.  “You’ve made a huge difference in the lives of 13 kids in the last month,” he stated.  “Yeah, but that doesn’t help Ruth or Aimee or Benjamin or any of the others,” I’d said as the tear began flowing down my cheeks once again.

My heart was breaking for the hearts of the 20 kids I’d not found sponsors for.  Logically, I know that the problems in Africa had been festering for a very long time.  I also realized that this problem wasn’t just waiting around for me to come and solve through Child Sponsorship, but I really did think that I could make a difference for these kids at least.  Then, Pollyanna Salina found a table in the corner at which to sit, sulk and update her Facebook status to read: “Pollyanna needs a nap. And a hug. And a Xanax. Maybe not in that order.”  Seeing her opening, Selfish Salina joined the party and started talking about how stupid it was to have spent a day away from the family and a huge to-do list only to end up mentally, physically and emotionally too worn out to enjoy what was left of the Saturday.  Cynical Salina saw us sitting there and decided to add her two cents, “I don’t know why you even bother.  It isn’t like you’ll be able to change any part of this world.  What good can you do?”  Pollyanna Salina, though feeling quite defeated, answered in a small voice, “Isn’t it better to do something than nothing?  What if our child was the one who was hungry, lost or hurting?”  Snarky Salina quickly chimed in, “The one thing you’ll accomplish through all this is feeling like you’ve done nothing other than spending time away from your actual responsibilities and crying in front of your kid.  Are you ready for the award for that?”

And so Pollyanna Salina, who had had enough of these other voices, headed out to do the weekly grocery shopping with her family, her 4 year old remarking from her pink booster in the backseat that, “Mommy is still sad about the kids who don’t have sponsors”.  Once at Target, feelings of guilt for having ready access to an abundance of high-quality, healthy food wasn’t helping.  At the checkout, Pollyanna Salina listlessly checked her UrbanSpoon app for a nearby restaurant that would cater to a host of food intolerances, still mentally more sitting at her pity party than at Target.

Then, a beautiful French accent broke through the heavy haze of her commiseration, asking, “Do you work for World Vision?”
Somewhat startled, I look up and said, “I volunteer with World Vision,” realizing I was still wearing my bright orange World Vision t shirt.
“I know they do great work back home in Africa, but I didn’t know they were here in North Carolina,” she said excitedly.
“I spent my day trying to find sponsors for kids in Africa today,” I’d replied.
“Since I came here from Kenya, I’ve wanted to get involved with giving back through World Vision because of what they do for my people in Africa,” she said more as a question than a statement.

And right there, I saw the reason to keep letting my heart be broken, to keeping giving the time that I could use to finish my grocery shopping, to give the money that could be spent on a lunch date with a friend, to give my heart to real people with real problems in real places.  I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other because God tells me to, and I’ll pray that God will repair my faith in humanity and help me not to judge others by their reaction to something I’ve become passionate about over many years.

“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister  in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” 1 John 3:17-19

If you, like my family and I, have enough to live well and would like to show compassion for a child in need, click here to learn how you can save a child in dire need of your aid.

Why Doesn’t Anybody Like Me?

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Over the weekend, I spent time with a 14 year old girl who shared with me that nobody at her school likes her, no one in her small group at church likes her and her parents don’t really know her.  I don’t know about you, but this sounds just like I felt when I was 14: insecure, unsure, approval seeking.  I grew up in a one [flashing] stop light town, along with ~2,500 other souls.  Our town was smack dab in the middle of nowhere, Washington, about 3 hours from the closest city with a mall.  Everyone knew my story, my parents’ stories and the stories of my extended family.  If there was anything they didn’t know about me, they felt free to fill in the blanks with their very own opinions – sometimes kind, sometimes ugly.  When my parents bought my younger brother and I cars when we were 16 and 18 respectively, the mother of one of my best friends went around town telling other parents that I must be ‘bad news’ because my parents had bought a nicer car for my brother than for me.  The reality was that we’d both chosen the cars we’d been given and my dad had worked out a deal in that he would purchase several upgrades for my brother’s car, but that there wouldn’t be any argument when he took this more fuel efficient car on his monthly trips to dental meetings in Seattle.

In High School, I participated in volleyball, cheerleading, tennis, drama, Future Business Leaders of America, Future Homemakers of America, Student Government, choir, church youth group and was an exchange student to France during my Junior year.  If this were a movie or a YA novel, this list of activities would be used to demonstrate how athletic and talented I was.  But then, we get back to the fact that there were only 100 of us in my class and you realize that talented or not, we all got to participate as a reward for merely showing up in the correct uniform.  I was awarded Most Inspirational Player in Volleyball, which is the equivalent of ‘You Suck, but You Cheer Really Loud’; I was cheer captain, but couldn’t even do a cartwheel so I think this was more in recognition of my ability to organize events and make copies of our cheer books; I don’t think they even had a C-Squad in tennis until I showed up with my racquet.  Needless to say, you won’t hear my name memorialized in the hallways of my alma mater as the star of anything.  At graduation, I was surprised to be handed a gold cord to wear, symbolizing graduating with honors.  All those wearing these cords were lined in chairs by GPA – I was the last before the order was switched to alphabetical.  I remember the sting of feeling as though love was nothing but conditional: if you dressed and acted the right way, your school friends would accept you; if you were ‘good’ enough, your church friends would accept you; if your grades were high enough, your parents would accept you.  The problem with trying to measure your worth as compared to others is that there will always be someone who you think is ‘better’ than you in one of the categories you’ve decided to track.  Other girls might be skinnier or funnier or more athletic or better at math.

Not knowing what I wanted to so with my life when I grew up, and feeling enormous pressure to have my life figured out before leaving High School, I enlisted in the Army and found myself crawling through mud at basic training as my friends entered their Freshmen years at various colleges across Washington.  Once again, I found myself very average.  I was not the fastest, nor the strongest.  While practicing throwing grenades into bunkers, my head was almost taken off by the drill sergeant who’d had to reroute the heavy sphere I’d managed to toss directly into the doorframe, bouncing it back at the line of young soldiers awaiting their turn to practice this obscure skill.

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of volunteering to help with an after school club at a local girl’s school where we tackle topics like value, worth and strength.  Finally, after all these years, I can articulate the battle my average self had struggled with: Self Worth.  We used a $50 bill to demonstrate to the girls that no matter how much you crumple, dirty or abuse the bill, it will still have the same worth.  And so do we girls.  We abuse ourselves by saying our thighs are too skinny or too fat, that we are too smart or not smart enough, that we are too loud or too shy.  Enough.  We were all uniquely made – there is no one on this planet who was created like you!  Who else on this planet has your same fingerprints – no one.  You same corneas – no one.  You are the only one on this planet who posses the unique set of experiences, gifts and skills all packed us as YOU.  And guess what, you are no more or less valuable than any other human being on this planet.  It’s time to stop being our own biggest bullies.

One of our club’s leaders, a middle school girl, had an excellent suggestion to write encouraging notes to other girls in their school who had not participated in our club.  How brilliant of an idea is that?  Can you think of anyone in your life who could use an encouraging note?  What if we’re all still 14: insecure, unsure, approval seeking?  What if one small gesture on your part could help another see their worth?  I challenge you to touch someone’s life today and let them know they are valued.

For me, I’ve learned that my worth can only come from God.  After all, anything else you could imagine putting your worth in can be destroyed, lost or can change value.  When you put your worth in an unchanging God, you find real worth that lasts forever.

“But the lord  said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

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