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Archive for the ‘joy’ Category

“Tears are words from the heart that can’t be spoken.”

I’ve spent extended time with two close girl friends from my childhood recently. We were in the preschool Sunday School class together.  E and J know me from when I was loud and bossy.  They made fun of me, I made fun of them, we made up.

After church, we spent Sunday afternoons together making movies and inventing new worlds. We graduated from high school at the same time, we got married and now have kids near the same age.

This last week I shared with both of them details about a terrible time in my past, when something happened to me that I cannot recover. I know it means growth in me that I can breach the subject out loud, with someone other than my therapist. I know it means I trust them and that they’re good friends.

In some ways it’s easier to write cryptically on blogs for thousands than to share privately with one friend.  Do you know the feeling of sharing something terrible and being heard?

The day I found the courage to share what I know with close, trusted friends was the day I found healing soaking further into my heart.

Both E and J responded as good, long-time friends now how, intuitively, naturally, with full-hearts.

They listened with their eyes growing wide, they asked few questions, they tried to understand and then, they wept.

I do still, sometimes, cry over this, but I’ve invested enough tears and thought, prayer and therapy to not feel teary-eyed as I watched them reach for some tissues.

I sat beside them watching them cry and knowing they were entering my pain and discovering that I felt like my heart was healing with their tears. It reminded me of Rapunzel’s tears in Tangled.

Tears from friends–I believe they have God-given magical power.

“Faithful friends are a shelter. Whoever has found one has found a treasure.  Faithful friends are beyond price.

No amount can match their worth.  Faithful friends are the elixir of life, and those who fear the Lord will find them”

(Ecc 6:14-17 paraphrased by Elaine Storkey).

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“Sustaining friendships over time keeps you honest.  They are reminders of mistakes you have made, excuses you have given yourself.   These real friends don’t mince words to get you back on track again.
There is always a degree of . . . electricity in friendship, whether it be with men or women.
People you choose to spend time with– there is something pleasing about their physicality to you.
It doesn’t mean you want to sleep with them.
It means you are drawn to them.”

Iris Krakow, The Secret Lives of Wives

There is a friend who I am drawn to, and not just to her, but to her whole family.

I became friends with A through her husband.  Her husband is my husband’s best friend.

“Reminders of mistakes you have made”

We were sort of thrown together one Fall when her husband invited my husband out to speak.  At this time no one was close or even best friends.

I tagged along, part of the husband-wife team that did not speak that weekend.

I shadowed the wife, A, and her three children.

A was huge with child.  As I observed her open-faced pleasure in being a mother, I could not relate. At the time I didn’t even want children.

All I wanted to do was talk about my book on womanhood, apologetics and my burgeoning but still veiled feminism.  She wanted to take pictures of her brood out on the lake.

I thought, again, of the sacrifices of marrying a man who did itinerant work with practical strangers you were supposed to like.

I spent a lot of time reading.

Don’t Mince Words

That summer my husband invited them out to visit Colorado. I still didn’t really anticipate a lot of heart-to-heart conversations, but I was agreeable. A was not going to bring all her children, just the new baby.

Moments stand out, like when A refused to get frazzled when her kid interrupted us, and the way she really listened to me. She even let me push her, challenge her thinking about her own beauty.

The week we introduced them to summer in the Rocky Mountains changed us all forever.

Choose to Spend Time 

We could not last a year without seeing each other, without being together again. Besides my family, theirs is the only other group of people who feel like home to me.

They would visit or we would visit and stay crammed into their three bedroom house with their four children.  They would sleep on a lumpy pull-out sofa and give us their bed so we could keep Finn in a bedroom with us.

All eight of us would take turns using one shower.

I would give their children watercolor lessons while the guys played Warhawk.  We explored Boston and the Art Gallery. A and I would take walks and knit together. We would savor those days, living rest together. We’d stay up much too late each night to have good conversation or compare Apple products.

A and me vacationing in Hawai'i

And we would feel like we had experienced the best vacation of the year, Ritz and Hilton hotels from speaking engagements notwithstanding.

Physicality

Our friendship has everything to do with the happiness of knowing they are near.

These are the friends that I miss in a way that I think most miss their family.

These are the friends that I repeatedly choose to spend time with. This summer during a week Dale attends a writer’s conference, we’re already strategizing how I can stay with them and add Finn to their brood.

And when we’re together A isn’t the only one snapping pictures of our kids at the beach.

As I look back over the five years of our friendship I can see how they’ve changed me and I’ve changed them.

I love how our closeness has made me different than I would have been.

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When I first moved to Virginia I knew I needed friends. It was easy to find girls like me.

Photo credit: pamsclipart.com

That’s a rock solid foundation for a friendship: similar interests.

I found a friend, call her Debbie, who loved French class and good tea, talking theology and breaking out of the box in loving Jesus. She cared about organization (have I mentioned that I’m really organized?) and was a true servant.

Seriously, she was always available for me. I cried in her dorm room when I found out some horrible news and I felt comfortable enough to ask for help with my laundry when I was in a pinch.

She was faithful, too. She’d stand up for me and stuck by me when a few other friends badmouthed me.

Sounds like a perfect friend, doesn’t it?

Just when everything seemed to be going peachy, when I would talk to others about how great and stable, faithful and true Debbie was to me, her younger sister came to UVA.

I met and befriended her because I felt a loyally to her, through my friendship to Debbie.

Surprisingly, this angered Debbie. You can hypothesize all you want, you can call it jealousy or possessiveness. You can say I was short-sighted to expect to be friends with both sisters.

Regardless, Debbie confronted and turned on me in a verbal attack I’m glad I’ve mostly forgotten. The words were searing, they took advantage of weaknesses I had revealed and cut me off.

When I prayed and thought and in the end asked for another audience with her, it was as if I was talking to another person. She even mocked me for asking for another chance.

Debbie used our closeness to be cruel. She finished our conversation with warning me away from her sister and set me up for months and months of coldness. Anytime I tried to be warm she cut me off with sarcasm or belittling remarks.

About this time I began analyzing what I thought we had as a friendship.

Was it all my fault?

Could I do something to make things better?

Photo credit: static.freepik.com

But years later I see what was wrong. As Virginia Woolf says, “Truth had run through my fingers.  Every drop had escaped.”

I didn’t realize the truth of two major things.

First, Debbie was quick to meet any need I had, but she couldn’t share a need of her own. She never let me help her. I can’t even imagine her crying on my shoulder or letting me do her laundry. She was needless. This was the first lie in our friendship. Now, I believe Debbie thought other people would judge her if she showed her needs. She, like all of us, believed everyone was judging her as much as she was judging them.  In looking back I can see that any time I let her help me, she ended up feeling superior, stronger, more “together”. There is nothing quite so poisonous to a friendship as taking the moral high road.

Every time.

Debbie could not admit to failing, to being wrong, to needing from me.  But, ironically she did need something, she needed me to need her.

Second, Debbie disagreed with the cardinal rule for all my relationships: there is never a good reason to be unkind.  Dale taught me that years later, but looking back I can see that it is a principle grounded in the heart of everything good about love.  Debbie believed my friendship with her younger sister warranted cruelty. To date she remains one of the most unkind women I’ve been so close to.

Her about-face in how she treated me scared me because I felt as if I was involved with someone who had two personalities.  It shocked and sent me on a looping road of what I had done to cause this.

But if there really is never a good reason to be unkind, then I can still ask and expect kindness even if I’ve made a mistake.

Looking back it would be easy to think of the years of being Debbie’s friend as a waste, as time lost with someone I am no longer close to.

But, I feel both sadness and gratitude. Sadness over Debbie and her current friendships (I know she continues to have trouble being close to anyone).  Gratitude to God, for working a deeper awareness of love and how to build friendships. Love rejoices in the truth, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13. And I didn’t let the truth about Debbie come into my belief in how great she was.

I know I need to find women who really rejoice in the truth . . . about themselves.  I need . . .

1- Friends who will let me help them as well as who will help me.

2- Friends who follow their unkindness with humility and apology.

3- Friends who don’t secretly believe they are better than me. Friends who I feel lucky to be close to and who count themselves lucky to hang out with me.

Good friendships will be natural in one way and hard work in another. But the naturalness will grow and the hard work will feel like a highway going somewhere, not a looping track.

Virginia Woolf described that naturalness well at a dinner party where she beautifully writes about the rich yellow flame of good conversation.  “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”

What poor foundations have you found in your friendships? Will you share with us so we can build stronger friends for the future?

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I have a friend that trades with me. It’s taken us four years to get to this point.

We have sons close in age so on Tuesdays we swap the boys.

Photo credit: Dale Fincher, December 2011

This week, my friend is super busy with work.  Still, she made it a point to take time to ask me to watch her son for 45 minutes so she could get some alone time. I was so glad to help, and 45 minutes? That’s nothing.

Dale and I loaded the one-year old boys up and took them to the park.

A rather packed and humdrum day began to glow as we watched F and S giggle over the heights of the swing.  We pushed them up into the last rays of the sun, warming them from the chilly playground.

We trotted them over the bridge to the library’s warmth where we played Dora on the computer and put books into the child’s book drop over and over.

Before I knew it, before we’d had a chance to really explore the millions of legos strewn in the playroom, my friend came back, nails sleek and shellac’d ready to claim her little one.

It was when I saw her smile I realized she had given to us.

She gave us the gift of receiving our gift, and receiving well, with grace and gratitude.

We gave her time, to be a mom who (in her words) is safe for one more day from mom jeans and a scrunchy.

In Sally’s recent post “Is Christmas All About Money?” she covers the many types of gifts. Notice, again, how wonderful gifts like these can’t be wrapped in paper and bows. Consider how difficult it really is to give things like:

  • my time
  • my attention
  • my questions
  • my thoughtfulness
  • my words
  • my health (if I am spiritually, mentally and relationally healthy I make for a much better friend!)

You could even title this list “the gifts of openness” for each of them require friendships with safety, peace, mercy, joy, hope–all the things Jesus was meant to bring into our lives.

The last few weeks, I had a S.O.S. need for close girlfriends. I realized that those I actually called for help, those closest to me, were women I can cry with and not fear judgment or quick-fix instruction.

They are friends who rarely misunderstand or offer, as Sal calls it “unsolicited advice. They are friends who encourage my instincts, validating my thoughts and feelings.”

We need to ask and receive to see how much friends can give.

Think about your friendships. Who can you be honest enough to cry with? Who can you cry with and not feel like you must apologize for your tears? Who can you share a need with so that they can fill?

This last one can be tricky because we don’t want to demand our friends meet all our needs.  Here are some ways you can give the gift of openness to your friends this Christmas.

  • My week is so crazy, I feel like I’m going to explode if I don’t get some time to myself. I was thinking of getting a manicure tomorrow. Are you available for me to drop (insert child/s names here) for 45 minutes?
  • I have company coming tomorrow and it would be a huge help if I didn’t have (insert child or dog’s name here) running around my legs. Any chance I could drop him by your place for two hours tomorrow?
  • I’ve missed cross-country skiing (insert hobby/art/sport) so much. I was thinking we could both go cross-county skiing if we took the kids in the chariots. I’m free Tuesday morning. Any chance you could join me at Catamount?
  • My friend/husband/family member just leveled me. I think I need someone to tell me if I’m going crazy. Do you have a moment for me to tell you what happened?
  • My husband and son are sick and I need to get to the store. I was wondering if I text you a list of groceries if you could pick them up for me? I can swing by this afternoon and get them.
I recommend practicing your request to yourself and then imagine hearing it. How would you respond? Would you feel free to say, “No”?  Prepare your response if your friend does say, “No.” Can you let your need remain exposed without feeling rejected or bitter? If so, this makes you a safe and open friend, it means you are neither passive aggressive, manipulative or demanding. All great gifts to those we love.

For me, it’s an honor to know a friend is close enough and open enough with me to ask.  It comes as a great compliment.  It means that I make them feel like they can be honest about that they need.

And Christmas, if anything, must begin with our acceptance of gifts bigger and better than we ever thought possible.

Photo Credit: http://angel119.wordpress.com

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I have this friend I used to always see on or near Christmas. She and I have been friends for our whole lives. Seriously, we were babies in the church nursery together.

Though we’re now married with children we aren’t in the same places anymore. She and I don’t always see eye-to-eye. Sometimes I’m not even sure I want to see her over those precious, packed days of holiday festivities. When we do get together we spend a lot more time reminiscing than diving deeper. I used to be afraid the time was misspent, but because there is an overlap of our common values, we still make time for each other.

I want to remain friends with the childhood girls who I sold brownies with on the roadside on endless Saturday mornings because I know the common experiences also carved similar shaped values in each of us. For a few of these friends I know we still cherish the same things, even if we express that in different ways. There are still authentic ways we can care for each other and enjoy each other’s friendship as adults.

But I also don’t want to feel so disappointed when it’s not “like it used to be.”

How can I be friends with those in my past with courage to be myself as I am now? How do we, as the old song goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold”?

Photo Credit: silversite.info

Take a moment and consider what makes old friends so valuable? What is gold and what is silver?

For me the gold is a friend who values much of the things I value. The silver is a friend who values some of the things I value.

All our values are different, but this doesn’t mean there’s only one set of values that count as good or godly or best. As a good friend of mine recently presented on life transitions at a Soulation Gathering, I learned precisely what values are. As she explained, transitions help us recognize what will stay the same and what must change through the transition. Values, she said, remain steady. Beliefs, she explained, often need updating.

For instance, if my friend moves away, I notice my belief that she would always be geographically close needs updating, but my value for authenticity in our friendship remains steady. It’s just expressed through email and phone calls instead of face-to-face time.

Realizing the distinction between beliefs and values helps me consider how to connect with those friends who are more than acquaintances but not best-ies. Let me break it down.

  1. Figure out what you value.
  2. Figure out what your old friends value.
  3. Take time to notice the overlap and spend time building up those conversations.

Let your values be part of your tool set of “holding onto yourself” as you re-engage with old friends this holiday season.

Here are a list of values (there are many more), use these to find three or four that are yours. Of course, you’ll be tempted to say you value all of them, but honestly, we all have a hierarchy of what we value. Can you find your top 3-4?

Values (in no particular order)

  • Security
  • Authenticity
  • Spontaneity
  • Preparation
  • Integrity
  • Fairness
  • Humility
  • Honesty
  • Simplicity
  • Dignity
  • Fidelity
  • Quality
  • Temperance
  • Service
  • Courage
  • Nurture
  • Justice
  • Potential
  • Patience
  • Encouragement
  • Work ethic / Industry
  • Freedom
  • Modesty
  • Responsibility
  • Kindness
  • Acceptance
  • Golden rule
  • Love

If my life’s values are Preparation and Justice I will find it difficult to simultaneously and equally value Spontaneity and Acceptance. Now let me be perfectly clear, this is not bad, this is actually good, for it means I’m an adult, knowing how to choose what God has put within me, to value the strengths I have and to act on them without constant apology.

Seeing old friends gives me a chance to take note of some values (still valuable, let’s call them the silver) that are not my values (also valuable, let’s call these the gold).

Photo Credit: goldalert.com

So you take the time, and you meet with an old friend or two. And after egg nog or hot apple cider and cookies we will find ourselves glad for the gold and grateful for the silver. And we will be also glad we’re adults, and no longer children. And we will be able to notice the sparkle and beauty that makes the holidays a time to thank God for his variety and purpose on this good earth.

Photo credit: designcrafters.com

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We were tired from a long day at the pool, errands, business meeting when M and I decided to make a late night grocery run.

Dale and I were visiting friends in Spokane, WA, reconnecting after years of no face-to-face time is no problem when you’re with old friends.  Is that a pre-requisite for real friends? You can reconnect without any ceremony, even after years?

They were full of love, ready to give us the biggest and best of their lives whether it was fresh mixed drinks from their Mad Men cocktail leftovers (did you know Dirty Martinis are YUMMY?!) or the run of their boys’ playroom for Finn.  The dad taught Finn how to shoot baskets, we hiked and found the best breakfast spots.

After a Soulation Board meeting (the reason for our visit) we were beat. The late night grocery store run made me feel spontaneous and un-mommified.

A nice feeling, even nicer to be sharing it with a friend I’ve always admired as being relevant, kind, sharp and deeply invested in loving Jesus better. We got to talk about our lives as M raced to the local enormous Target. She drives like she thinks: intensely.

I felt ten years younger, like we were two young girls in college.

She shared about her high school years, so different than mine. I found myself reflecting, again, how lucky I was to have friends who were honest with me, sharing their real selves. Mandy effortlessly drove us home and showed me how vulnerable women fuel change in this world.

Those last minute runs to the grocery store when I get to be with the women who are mothers, wives, daughters and, to me, friends, are gold.

An ode to friendship, late-night outings, coffee (or if you’re Sal and me tea) dates, hikes and long phone calls when you’re sure you’re cracking up:

Make new friends

But keep the old

One is silver

The other gold

Anne Lamott says that no problem is so dark or deep that a phone call can’t pull you out, as long as the voice on the other line is a friend.

 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.

For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.

But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Who lifts you up?

How do you reach out to them?

How do you treasure your golden friendships?

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