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The Power of Friendship

I told my daughter today that I needed to write. She said, “You should write about the power of friendship.”

IMG_0632That’s something she thinks about a lot, being just a couple of months shy of 15. This past year has been dominated by a group of friends she and her 18-year-old brother have that call themselves The Marathoners. It started as a small gathering from the youth group at church that got together weekly to watch movies (thus the name “Marathoners,” from movie marathons, not running marathons.)

It’s funny how just watching movies together can bond people so closely.

The group normally met at the home of a young husband and wife who were volunteer leaders with the group. We knew them fairly well, in fact I mentored the wife, getting together with her each week, so we felt comfortable with all the people involved.

Oh my, how this group loves each other. They formed a chat group and message each other numerous times during the day both to solidify plans and to share funny videos, songs, poetry, prayer, or whatever they desire. Many of them even camped together with a couple of the dads for one’s birthday in order to see a meteor shower.

While keeping tabs on the kinds of things they were sharing with each other, I also cautioned my kids to beware of becoming a clique and to be sure they were including FullSizeRender-3others, especially at youth group meetings where there could be those who felt left out. I told them there would be those who were envious of the kids in the “cool group.” They assured me, “Mom, we’re far from the ‘cool kids.'”

Maybe so, but the closeness and love the Marathoners show for each other would be obvious to those observing.

And then something catastrophic happened.

The young wife, whose secrets I had been aware of for quite some time, went public on Facebook that she and her husband were separating and the leadership of the church had told her that she was not allowed to have contact with any of the youth inside or outside of Wednesday night youth group.

FullSizeRenderTwo problems: #1 That statement wasn’t true

and #2 Without any context whatsoever, that announcement sent the Marathoners into a tailspin.

In a rush of texts and tears and frenzied phone calls, we pulled together the Marathoners and the leadership of the youth the very next day, knowing that we needed them to hear the truth of the matter and have a time to process it all together.

I will forever be grateful for the way the leaders handled that meeting, and for the maturity that my kids showed. As we processed together in the following days, my son showed a huge heart for these friends who meant so much to him. And my daughter, who had been very close to the young wife, cried over this situation more than any other in her life, but found solace in the group who leaned in and loved each other even more.

Just a couple of weeks later, both of my kids were asked to speak to upcoming middle school and high school students at a graduation event at church. My daughter, who hates being in front of people, bravely took the stage to address the rising 5th graders and spoke from her heart about how having the right friends and trusting the leaders of TheCity (the name of the youth group) were so very important for their middle school years. If it FullSizeRender 2weren’t for The Marathoners, she didn’t know how she would have survived struggles she had with long-time friends at school. They meant the world to her.

I can’t say that I have a lot of friends still from high school, and certainly not from junior high. Not only do I live on the other side of the country now, but that was almost 40 years ago. But those friendships I have maintained grew and blossomed in the soil of a solid youth group.

This summer, we’re enjoying having the group over to swim. It gets my 2 introvert cave dwellers out a lot more. I love hearing their laughter, watching their friendship and praying for them.

FullSizeRenderThe power of friendship. It can change everything. It’s what Jesus wants for us. Oneness with Him, and oneness with each other.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 ESV).

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Why I Write: A Blog Hop

hopscotchHopscotch was always a favorite game of mine when I was a kid. I can’t hop too much these days as years of bouncing babies trying to help them fall asleep has taken its toll on my knees. But there’s a new kind of hopping going on, and it’s called a Blog Hop. The purpose is to introduce you to other bloggers I think you might enjoy.

Fellow blogger, and someone I hope will be a new friend when she and her family move to Orlando soon, Julie Sanders included me in her Blog Hop last week. julie-sanders-2I’ve only met Julie once in person, in a ladies’ room during a conference we were both attending in Colorado of all places, but I’ve been impressed in her writing by her passions for life, God and her family.

Julie says about herself that she’s a “wife, mother, daughter, friend, and friend of Jesus.” She loves good food, a good book, and talking with good friends late into the night. She admits that she’s a huge fan of her husband and her three boys. Her house is filled with their music, Legos, books and artwork. You can get to know Julie through her blog Along The Way. It was cool for me to learn that Julie and a friend of mine from college know each other. It’s a small world, after all.

So, for this Blog Hop, each writer will answer 4 questions about their writing on their own blog in the near future. After I answer those questions, I will introduce you to these 3 other bloggers that I think you would enjoy. So, here goes.

1. What am I writing or working on?  At the moment, the only writing I’m doing is for my blogs; Compelled, which is what you’re reading right now, and then the one I just recently started, That Senior Year, chronicling my eldest’s journey through his last year of high school. Compelled is a mish mash of thoughts. Most of the time I use things I come across in everyday life to draw a spiritual parallel. Sometimes I talk about parenting; sometimes I talk about current events.

My tag line is “because some things just need to be said.” I’m not very controversial, but I do have strong feelings about some things, so I will talk about them sometimes. I have always wanted to write The Great American Novel, but I keep waiting for inspiration that hasn’t come. I take comfort whenever I read about a writer who wrote a best seller after they turned 60. I’ve still got time!

Actually, I’ve been pondering writing a book that I tentatively call “From Modesty to Marriage: A Former Virgin’s Guide to Being Physically Generous With Your Spouse.” Having grown up in a household where bodily functions were never talked about, and in a church where good girls were modest and nobody really understood what that meant, I entered marriage not understanding how to enjoy the physical relationship I had with my husband. We’re still working on it, and it’s been a battle, but I’m doing much better, thanks to counseling and the Lord. I would love to help other young women enter marriage a little more easily than I did.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Because I’m a unique person, the perspective I bring to my writing is unique. Nobody has the children I have, nobody speaks with my same voice. Has anyone else ever written about how their hermit crabs taught them about life? I didn’t think so. I speak with a touch of humor, and I try to always be respectful. That in itself is different these days!

3. Why do I write what I do? I really want my writing to influence others. Will what I say make a difference in someone’s life today? It always makes my day when someone tells me that my blog post made them think or challenged them or even made them laugh. The most fun emails I get are the ones from wordpress that say someone “liked” my post or started following me. Yay! But even if no one was reading, my desire would be to glorify God in the process. Does He like what I write? Then that’s all I need.

4. How does my writing process work? The last post I wrote, “A Fork in the Road,” came about because I actually kept seeing literal forks in the road as I rode my bike. My husband often says to me, “You ought to write a blog post about that.” Sometimes, things just occur to me. In a few days, I plan on writing a post about things that make me say, “Wait, what?” Sometimes I’ll watch a movie or read a book and want to talk about it, as I did with “Parental Supervision” and the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series. I tend to write quickly without a lot of editing, but if I think something is going to garner a lot of criticism, I give it a lot of thought and prayer. Sometimes I send it to my husband to preview before I post it. His input is invaluable. So there you have it. That’s all about me. Now, I want you to meet 3 friends.

The first is Dena Yohe. Dena has been on a purpose-filled adventure with Christ for 41 years. She and her husband, Tom, married 36 Denayears, are the co-founders of Hope for Hurting Parents, birthed out of their own pain with one of their daughters who struggled with addiction, self-injury, suicidal attempts and mental illness. She calls herself an accidental writer as her pain became her passion. What began as a way of processing the most difficult experiences of her life through journaling, turned into daily emails and then a blog to offer encouragement, resources, and hope to parents on their journey from pain to peace. She loves being mom to 3 wonderful children (31, 27 and 25) and Mimi to two precious granddaughters. Check out her blog,  Hope For Hurting Parents, and her website of the same name.

Next up is my sweet friend Becca Ramirez.

beccaBecca, a born and raised Floridian, has just recently moved to Texas with her husband and their two daughters.  She is a lover of good food, board games, traveling, books, and words.  While always an avid “journaler,” Becca only recently began seeking opportunities to expand (and publish) her writing.  Her blog, Simply Living the Life, serves as an outlet for the roller coaster of thoughts that pummel through her mind.  Her desire is to write and speak in a greater capacity, reaching the hearts and minds of youth (particularly teenage/college-aged girls). Becca is a sweet, smiling friend whom we all miss very much since her move to Texas. I think you will enjoy her thoughts.

Last, but not least, I want you to meet Rachel Knox, an almost-18-year-old that I have known since she was a small girl with wild,Rachel curly hair. She and my son Justin are just 2 days apart in age. As Rachel is also going into her senior year of high school, it’s fun to hear and read her perspective on the process. Rachel was born and raised in Orlando as her parents are missionaries with Cru. From an early age, her creativity was a dominant trait which is evident through her love of dance, sewing and anything DIY.

After attending a small Christian school from kindergarten through middle school, she enrolled in public high school, what she calls “an utterly different environment than before.” In an attempt to keep friends and family afar updated on her journey through high school, Rachel created this blog, Imperfectly Living|Perfectly Loved, to highlight the ups, the downs and the lessons learned in her everyday life.

I hope you have the time to go check out these 4 writers that you’ve been introduced to here. I think you’ll like them as much as I do!

 

What Modern Technology Does For Prayers

I have had the privilege more in the past couple of years, it seems, to pray for people I don’t know. I’m not just talking about general prayers for all the unsaved people in Asia or Africa, or all the people who were affected by the latest hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc. I’m talking about specific prayers for individuals who have names and stories, but whom I’ve never met.

One of these people is a man named Greg. He and his wife are on staff, as we are, with Cru. I’ve never met them, but their story caught my attention. Nearly two years ago, Greg was the recipient of a new heart. I began praying for him after reading his story on our Campus Crusade for Christ women’s resource web page. Now, I receive email updates whenever there is something to report. Two years later, he’s had a couple of setbacks with his transplant, but he and his wife–and I who have been praying for him–are praising God for his new lease on life.

Another person I pray for is Anna, the adult daughter of a friend of mine. Ten months ago, Anna had her 7th baby. What they thought was going to be a routine delivery ended up being a nearly life-ending tragedy for Anna. I prayed often throughout the days for Anna and her family, that God would spare her. He saw fit to do so when every doctor attending her thought there was no chance. I rejoice with her family at her survival. She still struggles with repercussions, so  I still pray for her as her mom sends updates.

Then, just recently, I prayed for another friend of a friend whose newborn son was born without a trachea. My heart ached for this family who should have been celebrating the birth of their twin sons, but instead held vigil over their one who had little hope of survival. And though this baby outlived all expectations, God took him home just a few short months after his birth.

Currently, I am praying for the 13-year-old daughter of another family I don’t know personally, but they work at Cru headquarters, and we have mutual friends. When this young girl woke up from a routine endoscopy, she couldn’t remember anything; her mind was a total blank. What a weird and scary circumstance. I pray for her everyday, and I am thankful for daily updates that give me specifics.

What all these scenarios have in common, beside the fact that they involve committed followers of Jesus, is that I heard about these needs either via email, Facebook or an internet website. People literally all over the world could be praying for these people within minutes of a posting, whereas previous to these electronic avenues, that would not have been so immediately possible.

Take my sister’s little dog, Luna, for instance. My niece posted on Facebook that Luna had gotten lost a good distance from her home in Kirkland,Washington, and would we please pray for her? Immediately we started praying. We checked for updates and prayed every day. Finally, nearly a week later, I got a text from my niece: Luna has been found! Literally the minute Luna jumped into my sister’s arms, I knew about and could rejoice with her, tears blurring my eyes. And I hadn’t even met this dog. But she is important to my sister and her family, thus she is to me.

Is God different now that there’s an internet? No. But we have always known that prayer changes things. The ability to rally the troops all over the world to petition God for the needs of His saints is powerful. It’s a privilege to pray for these needs, and I’m thankful for the technology that allows me to know about these needs.

Thankful today for:

619. windows open all day

620. a profusion of pink roses

621. the Raiders on TV in Orlando, win or lose

622. companies that stand by their products

623. technology

Clean Living

20120413-193628.jpgThis is my friend Carlton. He lives near where we’re working this week, so David and I visited him when we had some free time this afternoon. He turned 99 in February. He was married for 55 years until his wife died in 1994. He has followed Jesus for 35 years.

He worked as an accountant.
He never went to college.
He’s made a quilt.
He writes poetry.

He was diagnosed years ago with macular degeneration, but after praying with his pastor and others, Carlton experienced healing. He woke up one morning and said, “I can see! I can see!”

Carlton and his wife had three children. One son died at 14 days, another in his 40s from a brain tumor. He has a daughter and two granddaughters. He and his wife basically raised one of them.

Four years ago, that granddaughter asked Carlton to pay the interest on a loan, which was $250 a month. He couldn’t do it. It was too much for him financially. That granddaughter hasn’t talked to him since.

He says he forgave her. But she holds onto the grudge.

Carlton is a sweet, generous, humble servant of Jesus. This granddaughter has broken his heart.

Carlton prays for our family everyday. God has given him 99 years and a clear mind. Some might attribute his longevity to clean living: he would attribute it to a clean heart.

Thankful today for:
191. A short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
192. God’s Spirit moving around the world
193. My friend Carlton

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I really need to have a conversation with Jan. And Monique, I’ve hardly spoken to her since she had her baby–two years ago, was it? And Laura? I can’t even remember the last time I saw her. And Maureen. And Erin, And Shari. And Juanita. And Maria.

These are my neighbors. We live on a small Cul-de-sac. I know all their names. But, boy, have I been neglecting these relationships. We wave and say hi, but that’s been about it.

It’s not like the cold winter has kept us inside our houses. I think the average temperature this winter was 75, or something like that. I may be exaggerating, but you get the point. It’s not been the cold weather; it’s been my cold heart.

Most are older than I and don’t have kids the same age as mine. And they haven’t exactly made overtures to talk to me either. Why do I always have to be the one to do the initiating?

Maybe because I’m the one who supposedly walks with Jesus. I’m the one who knows the importance of community. I’m the one whose church is right across the street, for crying out loud!

My kids have sold them all coupon books in fundraisers over the years. They’ve knocked on their doors to ask them questions for a survey during their community unit in first grade. All three kids, the same questions, a few years apart. No one ever complained.

My dog has run through their yard.

The last time I spent any significant time with any neighbor was when three of us had to go to juvenile court to testify against a boy who had broken into one of the neighbor’s cars. It was me, and two of the husbands. I had to go because I took pictures of the perp, even though David saw him first.

But I spent a couple of hours talking to them while we waited for our case to come up on the docket. It was a great conversation where I learned a lot about them.

That was in August.

Seven months ago.

Who goes that long without talking to a neighbor?

I’m frustrated with myself. Things simply must change. Spring is right around the corner.

I’ve got some cleaning to do.

Thankful today for:
114. My neighbors
115. A waning fever
116. My bike, that hopefully I will get on and ride today

Thoughts on Turning 50

I’d been thinking and dreaming about my 50th birthday for a year. I knew it was coming (of course), but I really wasn’t too thrilled about it. I hang out with a lot of younger women. Sometimes, they make me feel really old. Most of the time, though, I just like hanging out with them.

50 just sounded so . . . old.

I’m the third one of my siblings to make that step, and they seemed to survive it. So, after tossing around the idea of just having a small group of close friends join me in celebrating this momentous occasion, I decided to blow it out. You only turn 50 once, after all. And I hadn’t had a birthday party in many years. My last one was a surprise for my 30th.

 My husband, David, took my guest list and emailed them all, hired my good friend Laura, cake maker extraordinaire, to make a lovely red-velvet cake with the words “50 is the new 30” on it, and we prayed for good weather.

Then the doubts crept in: Would anyone want to come? Seeing as how my birthday is 5 days after Christmas, would anyone be in town? Would they be bored? Please, God, don’t let them be bored.

Soon, the replies started coming in: if they were in town, they wanted to come.

Two days before the big day, we scrubbed the pool deck, cleaned the house, and hit Sam’s Club for the goodies. When the day finally arrived, the weather was perfect, we floated candles in the pool, set up a chocolate fountain, laid out the fare (smoked salmon, cheese logs, pigs in a blanket, mini-quiche and more) and waited for the first guests to arrive. I had made up a “Steph-trivia” quiz, posted around the house newsworthy facts of the year I was born and found a wonderful “Hits of the 60s and 70s” Pandora station that we kept on throughout the day. The songs made me smile.

But more so, the 50 guests (yes, if my counting was right, there were exactly 50 people there) who filled our home made me smile. Only downside was that I hadn’t appointed anyone as the photographer for the evening, so I have only a couple of shots of the event. But it’s there in my memory forever. And the thought that kept running through my head as the guests kept coming was this: “You like me. You really like me!”

Maybe turning 50 isn’t so bad after all. Not when you’re surrounded by such good friends.

Thankful today for:

111. a decaf skinny black and white iced mocha from Starbucks’

112. daylight savings time

113. a fun event to look forward to

Sisters From Other Mothers

I didn’t want to miss a day, but it’s late (and even later with the approaching time change), so this will be brief. We just got in from enjoying a birthday dinner at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse for my wonderful friend Alyson. The food was really, really good, but I would have gone to McDonald’s (and I hate McDonald’s) to celebrate her.

I live far away from my two sisters, so the daily blessing of being in their lives is missing (although better after the advent of Facebook). But with my friend Alyson, and a couple of others in my life, I have sister-like relationships that I depend on for that emotional connection.

We take care of each other’s kids, we plan vacations together, we text, we chat, we have fun, we share our hearts. We are sisters from other mothers. And they, along with my blood sisters, mean the world to me.

Thankful today for:

96. birthday celebrations

97. Alyson

98. my sisters