Saturday, October 31, 2015

National Novel Writing Month 2015

And now...fiction. I'll be working on a novel during the month of November. We'll see if I actually finish this year!

In Conclusion: 31 Days of Friendship

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even though I've written about friendship for an entire month, I feel as if there is more to say. It's interesting that on September 30, I wondered if I'd have enough for 31 full days--and now that it's October 31 I still have several other stories and topics I haven't even touched.

As I conclude my series, I'd like to offer a list the characteristics of a good friendship.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Day 30: What does the Bible say? Part 5 {31 Days of Friendship}

For this last entry into the "What does the Bible Say about Friendship" miniseries in my #31daysoffriendship series for the Write 31 Days challenge, I would like to talk about Jesus.

When I was a child growing up in a Christian home and going to church, we sang many songs about Jesus being our friend. I'm not really sure I knew what it meant until I felt Him in a more real sense, in college and in sad times, when I was going through some of the situations I've described in this series with friendships, and during my parents' divorce.

The Gospels tell us about Jesus's disciples (there were 12), his closest friends or the "inner circle" of best friends (there were 3), Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, and of course the group that traveled with Him and His disciples as he preached and taught about His Father (unnumbered and many were unnamed, but we know they were present).

There are many analyses out there about the friendship model Jesus set for us: have a circle of friends, a tighter circle of confidantes, an adopted family of friends. The list could go on and on. But I wonder sometimes if it isn't supposed to be that complicated.

Here is what Jesus says in John 15:

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Love first. Love God first, then love each other, and joy will abound. Pretty simple.

This is my last Bible-related post, and it's going to be online late after a busy week. So maybe as I write this with a tired brain and a full heart, I'm feeling a bit sentimental about ending this series on my blog about friendship. I wonder if we worry about friendships too much. Maybe we need to spend more of our time cultivating our friendship with Jesus, with His Father, more than with others first. If we let the friends be our primary focus, maybe that is missing the point. Let's put our focus on Jesus, and on learning God's Word, and cultivating that relationship first, before we worry about whether or not Jane* likes us or if we should invite her for coffee, or whatever. I know that the Lord will lead me where He wants me, and He has often placed people in my path (oh who am I kidding, every day I exit my house I talk to people outside my social circle!). He has provided me with friends before, and He will do so again. He already has for me here.

Tomorrow will be my wrap-up post about my friendship series. I hope you'll join me, and if you've enjoyed my musings on friendship, I hope you'll let me know - or better yet, share with one of your friends.

*Jane Austen nicknames are used in this series, and all month I never used Jane. So here she is!

Mini-series on What does the Bible Say about Friendship?
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Day 29: Being a Good Friend {31 Days of Friendship}

It might seem weird that I am concluding with this topic, but for me it feels as if I'm coming full-circle after a long journey through the memories I've sorted through this month.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 27: Sandpaper Friends {31 Days of Friendship}

As iron sharpens iron,
    so a friend sharpens a friend.

We need people in our lives who challenge us, test us, and spur us on to action. To be better than we are alone. To be smoother.

There are a few people I meet and with whom I interact who are irritating. They rub me the wrong way, if you will. You know the kind I mean. They get the smartphone upgrade a year before you're eligible. Their kids are smarter and more talented than yours--and you know because they are great at the humble brag. Their hair never looks grey. They get to go on vacation to exotic locations, while your "vacation," such as it is, is more of a staycation. Or, they might even score one more point than you on the ACT. I call them "sandpaper friends."

So the ACT reference might seem out of place, but this really happened to me. My friend Lucy* was a high school friend. We bonded through our shared love of youth choir and boys. She was a very good friend to me, don't get me wrong. She never broke a confidence or gossiped, or meant to hurt me. But without any effort at all, she one-upped me every time I turned around. (Or at least it felt that way.) The last straw that made me truly cry in my room for awhile was her ACT score one point higher than mine. I thought I was doomed to mediocrity because I couldn't get a higher score. (Later years would prove that I had a pretty dang good score on my own, but when my point of reference was this friend, I had a hard time seeing myself objectively.)

Sandpaper friends are in our lives for a reason. They are there to sharpen us and to smooth out our splinters--all by rubbing the rough parts away. I have had several sandpaper friends: in church, at the dance studio, even online. I used to get really upset about these women and their irritating ways--but now I call them my spiritual sandpaper. If we believe God plans our lives and places us together with others for specific reasons, then perhaps I need to be open to the possibility that the reason may very well be my own spiritual growth and edification. I have learned to try to look at the positive side of having sandpaper friends, looking toward how I can encourage them, perhaps help them, and learn from them.

So what about my friend Lucy Steele? Well, she continued to beat me at everything; her class rank was 12, mine was 13; she got something in front of her cum laude at college graduation, while I got a plain old cum laude; I went on to earn a master's, she got an MD. I became a teacher, and she became a doctor. But you know what? We're still friends 30 years later. We are both serving Christ and we're both happy in our own situations. Who could ask for anything more, really?

Oh yeah, smooth edges. I have those now.

* Name has been changed. I'm using Austenian pseudonyms for this series. Lucy Steele was a sandpaper friend to Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Not that this particular friend has tried to lay prior claim to the man I loved, as Lucy did to Elinor with Edward...but you get the idea. Plus this friend's real-life name has two syllables too.

To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Day 26: Imbalance in Friendship {31 Days of Friendship}

Yesterday in my Friendship Quotation Sunday post, I included this gem from Jane Austen:
 "There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature." - Jane Austen
This quotation describes me to a T.
With my friends, I am loyal and giving. Always have been, always will be. And most of the time, my friends are the same with me. Here's an example:

Pictured is my friend Emma* whom I've written about before. This photo is from a mall on one of our "meet ya halfway" trips to see each other one of the summers I lived on the other side of the state while my husband began his new job, wherever he was at the time. She is probably my very best friend, and whenever we can we meet each other halfway. It's been that way since college days.

Having a friend who always gives to us can be great. Having a friend who gives, and to whom we can give, is even better. But having to be the one who gives all the time, over and over again, can be so very tiring. It's exhausting emotionally and spiritually, isn't it? In my own best and longest-lasting friendships, it's been a lot of give and take. Sometimes, though, it feels imbalanced. And that's when I check my feelings for the truth.

On my very first introductory post, someone wrote a comment that she felt imbalance in her friendships. I can identify. Emma and I have this joke that we both can't be going through a rough patch at the same time, or else we're in trouble! When we were a threesome (and we have been in with different other ladies over the past 30-plus years we've known each other), we say that we hope if she and I are both having difficult days, that our third person is able to be positive for the two of us!

This brings to mind the verses from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Amen, amen.

So what do you do if you're the one constantly giving, giving, giving--or you feel that way? First, pray about it. Then, I would suggest that you stop and think about it as objectively as you can. (This can be difficult if you're feeling hurt or emotional.) Is it true that you're always the one giving, or does it just feel like it? Sometimes our feelings are deceiving--and that is saying a lot from someone who really does go with her gut quite often. Try and keep track in your journal, or make a note in your planner, each time you contact your friend. This will give you a visual to see if it really is one-sided. If so, I'd suggest pulling back a bit from that friendship and again, keep track of it. Not that you're keeping evidence against the person; you're merely tracking if your emotions are an accurate assessment of the situation. If you indeed are the only one keeping the friendship going, you could talk to the friend. If the friendship isn't healthy, I suggest pulling back and see what happens. Sometimes, the friendship will revive. Sometimes, it will fade away. Only time will tell.

And sometimes, life throws some wild pitches. During those really hard times, there will indeed be an imbalance. But if it's a true friendship, it will even out eventually. I firmly believe that.

* Name has been changed. I'm using Austenian pseudonyms for this series. Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma is one of my favorites. Not that this particular friend has tried to regulate my life as Emma did with Harriet, but you know, favorite friends get favorite Austen names.

To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day 25: Friendship Quotations Part 4 {31 Days of Friendship}

"There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature." - Jane Austen

"The only thing to do is to hug one's friends tight and do one's job." - Edith Wharton

"Real friends are those who, when you've made a fool of yourself, don't feel that you've done a permanent job." - Erwin T. Randall


To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Day 24: I Want to Be Your Friend {31 Days of Friendship}

Our family moves around quite a bit. With each move I must consciously make the choice to be openhearted, to be friends with women I don’t yet know, and to allow myself to know the sweet peace of safe community among sisters in Christ.

One of my most precious friendship experiences came to me at a time when I least expected it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Day 23: What does the Bible say? Part 4 {31 Days of Friendship}

The Bible has much to say to us about relationships and friendship. That's why today is the fourth part of what has become a series-within-a-series this month.

Parts 2 and 3 were a bit the same--we need to watch what we say, and encourage each other. But what about trustworthiness? That is a great topic when referring to friends, because determining whether or not a person is trustworthy will ultimately determine whether or not you'll become friends and/or remain friends in the long run.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Day 22: Forgiveness {31 Days of Friendship}

“[H]urting people hurt others,” author and speaker John Maxwell said. It is true. When others lash out at us, it can be excruciatingly painful, and it's often hard to see that the pain being inflicted has a source--and very often it has nothing to do with us.

I've described some pretty painful situations this month in my blog series on friendship, but today I want to write about where to go when you're in pain and the friendship is fractured. Can you heal? Can the relationship heal? Will it ever be the way it was?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Day 21: When a Friendship Feels Like an Attack {31 Days of Friendship}

When I was a young mom, my husband was shepherding a church. I had a job and friends at church. I felt blessed indeed. One gal* in particular was a good friend of mine. She was friendly and had children and sang in the choir. Her husband was the mayor of our town, so she had prestige and position. Everyone knew her and it seemed like everyone was her friend. She even loaned me maternity clothes when I got a teaching job while expecting, and she and her friends would invite me to scrapbook with them a couple times a month. Everything was great--until it wasn't.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Day 20: Junior High Hurts {31 Days of Friendship}

Did you know there was a #write31days giveaway? You can find the Rafflecopter entry form here for a $500 Dayspring here to enter.

Junior high is hard.

It really is.

I tried so hard to fit in, especially at church. Feathered hair, Lee Jeans (Jordache and Calvin Klein were not in my budget), blouses with grosgrain ribbon ties.

I was friends with all the seventh grade popular girls. We were in the same Sunday school class, and we hung out together on Sunday evenings for youth group. I felt like I was a part of the group, most of the time, even though I was a step or two behind in the fashion department, and in pop culture (no Atari or MTV at our house). I was also a year younger, thanks to starting school in another state.

My best friend at the time was Kitty.* We had met in sixth grade Sunday school and had been to each others' houses to play. I wanted to be like her: taller, with curly hair in the style of the time (feathered back but not as feathery as my straight fine hair was--more like sausage curls brushed to perfection) and naturally straight teeth and clear skin.

One night, after choir but before Bible study, she pulled me aside from the group and said these painful words to me:

I don't want to be your friend anymore. You're holding me back.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Day 19: Hospitality {31 Days of Friendship}

Did you know there was a #write31days giveaway? You can find the Rafflecopter entry form here for a $500 Dayspring here to enter.


I began this week with watching Lysa TerKeurst's videos about the writing life. One thing she said was that great writers are wrestlers with their own struggles. That is what this month has been about for me: trying to find a good balance with writing about what I struggle with and have had painful experiences with--friendship--while also encouraging all of us to keep going and keep making friends.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, don't we? As a person with a perfectionist personality, I am painfully aware of each of my flaws and weaknesses. I have not always been a good friend to my friends. Sometimes I'm the one who is selfish. Sometimes I forget to call or check in on an important day. So when I point out flaws in my friendships, I do so knowing full well that I'm not perfect--and I will disclose my errors in upcoming days, I promise.

One of the weaknesses I see in myself is this: Hospitality is rarely easy for me. It's not in my nature to open my home and invite people over on a whim, or even on a plan. I was raised by parents who didn't often entertain, so I didn't really have a model for hospitality. Over and over again throughout my ministry marriage, I've been stretched in this area. For me, the book Bread & Wine was an experience not only in cooking, another weakness I see in myself, but also in challenging me to open my home. That's why you saw it in this book pile the other day:
Do you see Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist? Middle right pile.

More than any other book I've ever read, this book challenged me to be authentic in opening my home to others. Community happens around the table--or open contained outdoor flame.

Yesterday we practiced hospitality: my husband and daughter and I opened our home (well, the backyard and fire pit) to another chapel family. Their two boys enjoy throwing sticks in the fire (remember that we have PLENTY of firewood now!) and watching marshmallows burn, so we had them over for hot dogs and hamburgers and s'mores around the fire. It was awesome. We lingered over melting marshmallows and conversation while the boys threw sticks in and played with an ancient football we found in my in-laws' boxes in the garage.

It was fun.

I highly recommend it.


You can go to the first day's post and find links to the rest of my #write31days #31daysoffriendship series by clicking here.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Day 18: Friendship Quotations Part 3 {31 Days of Friendship}

"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

"There is an intimate laughter to be found only among friends."
Maya Angelou

"Friends . . . they cherish one another's hopes. They are kind to one another's dreams."
Henry David Thoreau

"A faithful friend is an image of God."
French Proverb

To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.