Tag Archive | friends

We Are Family

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a 1-word prompt without heavy editing, and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “hospitality.”

Once upon a time I took a spiritual gifts test which determined that I had the gifts of administration and hospitality. Being fairly young in my journey with Jesus, I didn’t completely know what that meant, but I did know that I was pretty organized and good at keeping things going, and that I liked to be with people.

Is that all there was to it?

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As the years have gone by, my home has become one in which people like to gather. It’s not huge, it’s not fancy, it’s not even all that clean (I had a friend describe it as clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy), but people are welcome and they know it.

Every Christmas we have a huge gathering of friends for Christmas dinner. At last count we were at 50-something, I think. I have people call and say, “We don’t have plans, can we come to your place?” Even when the number seems overwhelming, nobody is turned away. Most of us have moved far from our family of origin, so our friends have become that family to us.

Every time that I think about maybe scaling back and tightening our circle, I look around at the faces and there’s not a one I would consider losing. How do you purposefully cut off a hand or a foot?

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And so we continue setting tables on the back porch, thankful for the mild December weather in Florida, and rejoice in the bounty of our friendships.

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What Do You Mean It’s Not All About Me?

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. I write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt with no heavy editing. Today’s word is “convenient.”

It’s very rarely “convenient.”

I’m very selfish with my time.

p1000653But I made the commitment to say “yes” more often to the things my kids want to do. Of course, I only have one kid still at home full time, but there are many other daily decisions that poke at that idol of convenience that I wrestle with every day.

I watch my 1-year-old grandson for his parents when they go to work in the evenings 5 days a week. It’s not convenient to have my days interrupted, but there’s no higher use of my time than helping to raise this tiny image bearer of God.

nqlflrg5to+idg0qntanygMy daughter does not yet have her drivers license, so if she desires to go clothes shopping or anywhere else that isn’t within reasonable walking distance, I am on the hook for taking her there. Her timing isn’t always convenient for what I want to do, but I know that I won’t always have the responsibility and I treasure the time we can spend together.

Sometimes I have friends that need a favor which could look like picking up one of her children at school if she’s running behind or is with another child on the other side of town. Or maybe it’s the use of a car if hers is in the shop. Or maybe it’s visiting her in the hospital. The list goes on and on.

True, these things are rarely “convenient,” but, honestly, it’s not all about me.

Shocking, I know.

Each daily interruption is a chance to affect the lives of those around me. And that’s what really matters in the end.

 

Sweet Surprise

secret_surprise_2For my 30th birthday, my husband threw me a surprise party. We went out to dinner and were just planning on going home and hanging out. This was before we had kids, just 9 months after we had gotten married and 4 months after we had moved to Florida from my home state of California. Needless to say, my stress level was very high, even though some of those events were good ones. Like the getting married part.

When we got to our apartment, I was met with a sweet group of friends all gathered to celebrate my day. It was truly a surprise, which is often hard to pull off, and a lovely reminder of how much I am loved.

Those kinds of surprises are great. Others, not so much. Like when your favored team loses to a major underdog in the surprise performance of the century (looking at you Virginia). I don’t like those kinds of surprises.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book back in 1955 titled Surprised by Joy, which tells the story of his conversion to Christianity. Although he says it’s much less a chronology of events than it is a look at his life as only C.S. Lewis can tell it.

Surprise. Something unexpected.

I remember when my kids were little and I wanted them to keep a secret about secretsomething, like a gift for someone, I would tell them it was going to be a surprise rather than a secret, because I wanted to ensure that they didn’t keep secrets. I knew the stories of abuse that have happened with a relative who would tell a vulnerable child that this behavior would be their secret. They weren’t ever to keep secrets from us.

But surprises are meant to be fun. I like to think of them as good. I think that’s what Lewis found as he came up with the name for his book. He was an atheist. He didn’t know what he would find when he turned back to God. Joy was unexpected.

In some cases, we may wonder why we are surprised at the things God does. We ask Him joyto provide, and He does it. Sometimes it’s not in the way we expect, so we can call that a surprise, but not the fact that He does it.

It’s not the same as being startled.

It’s different than being shocked.

Some people don’t like surprises, and if I had to guess, I would say that it’s because it takes a modicum of control away from them. Just tell me what’s going to happen already. I want to know what to expect.

But that’s where trust comes in.

I’m not in charge, and if I allow myself to be surprised, I might just be blessed by a God who wants to give me all good things.

Like C.S. Lewis and joy.

 

images from tonnerdoll.com; nameberry.com; crosswalk.com

A Neat and Orderly Life

I’m a list maker. I love having things written out clearly so that I can follow guidelines and get things done. It makes me happy to check things off. Lists are lifesavers sometimes when there’s a lot to do and remember.

Too bad life isn’t like that.

I’d love to have the checklist for a good marriage, happy and successful children who are following Jesus, a personal ministry that encourages people to walk with God in truth and grace.

IMG_4473Fact of the matter is, life is messy and grace is a big, borderless blob that ebbs and flows and doesn’t look the same for any two people.

One married couple might find the key to a happy marriage is weekly date nights and nightly prayer. Another might work split shifts and barely get to see each other, but love and support and cheer each other on in a rocky season. Is one marriage more successful or godly than the other?

One family may put their children in the best private schools money can buy, serve only organic, non-gmo, whole foods and have weekly family game nights to build a happy, healthy family. A single parent might struggle to get the kids out the door to public school every morning with a couple of bucks for cafeteria food. Game nights? That’s a joke. Unless sleeping on the couch while the kids play video games counts. Are the first family’s kids guaranteed to be following Jesus and the other’s guaranteed to fail?

It’s not that easy. A popular evangelistic booklet has illustrations of what life looks like with Jesus on the outside of a person’s life and then with Jesus inside a person’s life.

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I can understand the concept, I really can. But the reality is that, even with Jesus directing our life, even when we are completely submitted to Him, all our little circles aren’t going to be neatly lined up and orderly.

Life will still be messy.IMG_4361

The difference is that we don’t have to figure it out for ourselves. We have a Savior who knows our suffering and invites us to lean into Him and let Him carry our burdens. Our sight isn’t short, looking only at the problems that confront us. We keep our gaze fixed on the face of Jesus. We see the love and compassion in His eyes. We know we’re not alone.

There’s much talk these days about being authentic and real and transparent. That scares me a little bit, thinking that people will spill details of family troubles that rightly should be shared with only a few safe people they know will pray for them and support and encourage them in the process. That doesn’t mean you paste on a smile and say everything is hunky dory, but a simple, “It is well with my soul,” can speak to waves crashing over us and leaving us broken, but hopeful.

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9, NIV).

IMG_3902We don’t do any good for anybody if we put on a mask and tell everyone that we’re doing great if we’re not doing great. Our trials aren’t just for us. Chances are, something we’re going through will be experienced by someone else down the road, and they will be encouraged to know that they are not alone, and that someone actually survived the trial and found themselves closer to Jesus because of it.

And another thing. This may come as a surprise to some people. Ready?

Everyone sins. That’s right. Everybody. Jesus was the only person who never sinned. We are all in need of that wonderful, gooey grace that has no borders and no rules. So why pretend like we don’t suffer or have hard times or messy lives?

The next person who says to me, “I’m doing great!” in response to my question, “How are you?” I’m going to look them in the eye and say, “Really? Nothing you need prayer for? Nothing that’s worrying you or stressing you out or causing you to lose sleep?”

I don’t expect strangers to reveal all their deep dark secrets, but darn it, my friends better be honest with me when I ask them.

Because I know better. I know they’re human.

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Just Who Do I Think I Am, Anyway?

I’m think I’m lost.

fullsizeoutput_7d81And I’m trying to figure out how to find myself again.

I knew months ago that there would be a lot of change for me this summer, but since it was (supposedly) all good, I hoped it wouldn’t cause grief. But grief has creeped up on me, causing me to doubt the decisions I made that brought about some of this change.

Some changes were just part of life happening. Positions in which I had served for many, years ended or were taken away. 2 of my 3 kids have moved or are moving out of my house. And then I made the decision to leave the organization of which I had been a part for 32 years.

As I see multitudes of friends posting pictures on social media of their summer travels that will end in the Cru staff conference in Ft. Collins, Colo., and I anticipate my husband leaving tomorrow to attend without me for the first time in more than 26 years, I find myself grieving more than I thought I would.

Yes, I made the decision to leave and pursue a writing career. I could have stayed. But the discontent that had been bubbling on the back burner would still have been there. Still a big part of me wants to be in Colorado with my closest friends.IMG_4361

It was time, though. At the point of my decision, I didn’t doubt that this was what God was leading me to do.

Yet I grieve. And I fear. And I doubt that I have what it takes to make a go of this full-time writing thing.

Where is this that I have found myself? Did I hear God correctly? Maybe I made a big mistake.

My writing muscles have atrophied. I don’t even know what it’s like anymore to pitch articles and do research. And what topics do I even care about? What am I learned enough in to even consider writing for others?

Just who do I think I am, anyway?

And so the tears come.

Soon, summer will be over and my daughter will get into the swing of school. And I will figure out what God wants me to say and to whom He wants me to say it. Are there likely to be rejections? Of course. I’ve already received my first. But after not using my brain for anything more than teaching 6th graders language arts and Latin for the past 5 years, my muscles may hurt for awhile. I may want to quit because it’s too hard.

IMG_4473And at unexpected times the grief of what is left behind might crawl out of the corner in which I’ve placed it. Some days I might let it come out and sit in my lap, and I will embrace it for awhile. Then I will point it back to the corner, hoping it will stay there longer than the time before.

And the joy of the Lord will be my strength.

Who do I think I am? I’m just a girl, sitting in front of a computer, trying to write from my heart, asking people to love what I have to say.

 

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).