A couple of days ago, if you'd peeked in my window you would have found me sitting on the couch in my living room weeping after reading a story, shared by Shauna Niequist in her book, Bread and Wine. Shauna had been struggling with infertility and it seemed that everyone around her was pregnant. She wanted to be happy for her pregnant friends , and most of the time she was, but somewhere inside her the desperation increased and the sorrow deepened with each new pregnancy announcement. Finally she felt like she couldn’t take it any more and she posted about her feelings on her blog in a moment of complete transparency. Soon after that she received a call from a friend, a newly pregnant friend, saying she was going to be in town and wanted to get together. Shauna cringed, hoping that her friend hadn’t read her blog post.
When they met at the restaurant, Shauna’s friend handed her a gift and told her that she had, indeed, read the blog post. *cringe* She said that she understood that this was the point in a friendship where many friends would have to walk away from each other for awhile, because the pain and the awkwardness would be too great. She explained, however, that she felt that the two of them could do better than that. Shauna opened the gift and found two pairs of safety goggles. In her blog post she had admitted telling her husband that if she didn’t get pregnant that very month, she was going to break something glass just to feel it shatter in her hands. That day in the restaurant, her friend told her, “If you feel like shattering something, I’ll be right there with you. We’ll put on our safety goggles. I’ll help you break something and then I’ll help you clean it up. You’ve been celebrating with me and I’ll be there to grieve with you. We can do this together.”
Even now, tears sting my eyes as I imagine that moment and as I picture the friends that God has brought into my life in the past who would do the same for me, who feel the same way about me.
Here’s the rub. With Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest, it is more common for people to compete with friends, to feel disconnected from another’s pain or joy, or to assume we know what is going on with someone without ever talking with them or looking in their eyes. Upper-division, safety-goggle-moment friendship is uncommon. It involves phone calls, coffee dates, walks, snail mail, impromptu texts, it involves sacrifice and awareness. It requires emotional commitment, not just an emotional attachment. I long to be that kind of friend, and I long for these kinds of friends in my life. I long for depth over breadth… to know and be known.
My go-to thought whenever I realize something is lacking in my life is to re-prioritize and then adjust my schedule. I’ve been known to put the most ridiculous things on the calendar just to make sure they happen. Is that the answer for making room in our lives for deep friendship? Can friendship be scheduled? Calendared? Itemized? Is it something that I commit to a certain number of hours per week, then check off the friendship box on my to-do list? That may be a springboard, but it certainly is not a way of life… at least not my way of life. Friendship, like a meal at the table needs freedom to take whatever shape is needed in each season to not only be the most nourishing, but to make room for celebration, for fasting when needed. That sounds a whole lot more like an art to me and not at all like an exact science, which, I must confess, makes me uncomfortable. Science leans toward the proven and exact. Art is subjective, open for interpretation. In other words, friendship involves risk. Risk of being rejected, risk of giving more than you receive and feeling vulnerable or foolish, risk of entering too far into the pain of another – making them dependent on you rather than encouraged by you, risk after risk after risk.
The question then becomes, “Is it worth it?”
John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." - Jesus
Proverbs 17:17 "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."
Proverbs 27:17 "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
It is absolutely worth it! But we'll have to come to grips with the transient, free-flowing nature of relationships without insisting that they conform to our idealistic definitions. Sometimes friendship may be the main course in our lives, sometimes a side dish or dessert, sometimes we may go through seasons of fasting altogether, but none of these is meant to be the ONLY way to approach friendship for the long haul. The longer I live, the more I believe in embracing the ebb and flow without constantly feeling the need to label it: success or failure, good or bad. We were created by a God who gave us a world of infinite variety and who expects us to delight in that variety and give Him glory in it, not get overwhelmed by a complex and multi-faceted world and, by reaction, sequester ourselves in a tiny corner of it, building protective walls of definitions and patterns of behavior that make us feel like we’ve got a handle on things. Safety-goggle-friendship happens outside those walls, and it is worth it.
For the past two days, I've been dealing with a sudden onset of lower back pain. A couple trips to the chiropractor and some x-rays to rule out anything serious, and I am now feeling 65% better. Any time an ache or pain slows me down, I HATE IT. I hate being sick. I hate injuries. I don't manage health related setbacks well. I'm not a fun patient. I just want it to "be over
Meanwhile, I have a friend in California, a mom of three elementary school-aged kids, who is being treated for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. RSD (as I understand it) is an unexplainable disease of the nervous system that is triggered by an injury. The nervous system and body "overreact" to the injury and go a little haywire, making the pain related to the injury disproportionately severe. Not only that, but the intense pain spreads to other body parts not affected by the injury, basically making life completely miserable, if not unbearable even after the injury heals.
Suddenly, perspective settles in. Why was I complaining again?
My friend is currently undergoing a Ketamine treatment that requires her to be at the hospital from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day. The side effects include nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, and hallucinations. She has had all of these.
From now on when my back twinges or pain wakes me up at night when I try to roll over in bed, I'm going to stop and pray for my friend instead of focusing on my own pain.
Would you do the same? You don't have to know her name or anything about her really... just pray for my friend... a fellow planet-wanderer who has been thrown a difficult curve ball. So how do you pray?
Maybe if in our own pain (whether it is emotional, spiritual, or physical), we can be reminded of the ache of another and lift her up in prayer, none of our pain will be in vain. And God will bring a kind of healing we never could have imagined. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- Pray for the hallucinations to cease.
- Pray for the vomiting to stop.
- Pray for her as she is away from her kids and misses them.
- Pray for her mental stability as this treatment will be long and she'll need more emotional and physical energy reserves than Wonder Woman.
- Pray for her spiritually, that God will be very sweet and tender with her and that she would see evidences of His work on her behalf and find ways to continue giving thanks (as she already has).
- Pray for her husband. No man is equipped to see his wife in pain without being able to alleviate it. Pray for his endurance and his sensitivity. Pray for his emotional and physical health.
- Pray for her kids. This is one strong mama, and it won't be easy for her kids to see her in a weakened state.
- Pray for her parents. No matter how old you are, your mom and dad will always see you as their baby. Pray for their peace of mind.
- Pray for a miracle of healing. God is capable of it.
Today I was adding new music to my iPod for my commute to work and I started exploring the songs of JJ Heller. I'd heard a few, but I wanted to hear more.
One song in particular struck me immediately. It is entitled, "Who You Are." It describes the lives of individuals who are going through trying times; life isn't looking the way they thought it would, and they are in pain. In their sorrow and confusion, they admit that they don't know what God is doing. I can still hear the chorus ringing in my ears, "I don't know, I don't know what You're doing. But I know who You are
We can get through a lot when we know who we are walking through it with. When we are sure. 100% certain. No doubts. We don't have to know everything in every situation, but we do have to know one thing for sure. Who is it that walks with me?
The most heart-wrenching time in any relationship comes when one offends the other to the point where the offendee begins to not only take offense at the wrong doing, but to go so far as to question whether or not he really knew this friend in the first place
. This sense of betrayal is a common theme in movies. We've all heard lines like, "I never even knew you." or "Who are you, anyway?
" It feeds into our innate fear of trust. Our fear of giving ourselves completely to another person. There is always the risk that the wool is being pulled over your eyes, that what you wanted to believe about your friend, or lover, or parent, or mentor isn't actually true. That's when the walls crumble down around you and the way out seems bleak.BUT, what if you knew? What if you never had to wonder? What if you were absolutely certain that the character & capacity of the one you put your trust in was ROCK SOLID?
How many more confusing times could you make your way through together? How many perceived offenses could you see past? How much deeper could the water get without you panicking? How much higher would the mountains be that you could climb with him beside you? It is almost impossible to fathom, if you have been repeatedly burned in your earthly relationships... that this kind of trust could exist.
When JJ Heller sings, "Who You Are," this is what she is singing about. She is reminding herself and all of us that we can
know God. His character is described vividly and consistently in the Bible and we can count on him to be who He says He is. Every. Single. Time.
Circumstances will change.
God will not.
*This is cheating, because it is really better when you open your own Bible and pray your very own prayers and let God show Himself to you PERSONALLY, but - if you need a jump-start, a crash course in the character of God - this is a good place to start
Not one moment that we spend reading the Bible, praying, listening to godly men and women teach and share, acting on what we learn, not one single moment is wasted. Over time, each of these acts becomes a building block in our relationship with Jesus Christ. His character IS rock solid. But in our fallen human state, having encountered unpredictable and untrustworthy people time and time again, we don't come to put our full weight on Him over night. It comes in time. It is built by experience. Give Him a chance. He will prove to be exactly who He says He is, and that knowledge can make the sun rise after even the darkest of nights.
Seriously, my friends and family have kicked it into high gear lately with their status updates and tweets. I am laughing daily at all the funny stories and clever quips. As always, I must share! Names and incriminating data have been scrubbed from these posts to protect those who may not have been TRYING to be funny. *wink
1. 5 Year Old: "This book is full of nothing but good news." (She was holding up a New Testament)
Her 6 Year Old Sister: "Umm... Jesus getting killed cause I was naughty is NOT good news."
2. "I love cats! I just can't eat a whole one by myself."
3. "Going running after work, if anyone would like to join me. Warning: I have not run for years, I will be going slow and whining the whole time."
4. Five Year Old Boy: "Girls are all scared of scary stuff. All they like is princesses and beautiful flowers. That's no way to be."
5. "Confession: When your kids show up trick-or-treating in broad daylight, hours before dusk, I secretly judge you as helicopter parents.
6. I once told a teacher I wouldn't participate in an embarrassing Folkloric dance in Spanish class because I was Baptist.
7. Watching my daughter try and open a child-proofed bottle. "I am a grown-up" she shouts at it. Then looks up at me guiltily. "I lied to it. I just wanted it to open."
8. "Crawlspace" is such a poorly named part of my house. It's the last space I want to crawl. It should be called "Spidertown Jamboree."
9. ENOUGH WITH THE HOME REPAIRS. All I can guess is that our house was built in 1973, and almost 40 years later, it is tired. Come to think of it, I know exactly how the house feels. I can relate to it on many, many levels. (this wasn't from FB or Twitter, but rather from boomama.net, but I couldn't help but include it.)
10. Dad: "Not sure what I'll be for Halloween this year. I've never been anything scary." Son: "You were Justin Bieber two years ago.....THAT was pretty scary."
My day started off with a problem yesterday. Don't you just love it when that happens? Yeah, me neither.
Our family car has been on its last legs for awhile and its latest malfunction finally forced me to call a mechanic yesterday morning. The key has been getting stuck in the ignition for quite some time (this is the original problem
), but we've always been able to eventually get it out, but lately getting it out hasn't been quite so easy. In fact, Monday night I couldn't get it to come out at all
, so "Old Yeller" sat outside with the key in the ignition all night. The next morning when I went out to start-er-up, the battery was dead as a door nail. That was the first problem
of the day. My son needed to get to school and the bus had already come by our house. That was problem number two
. I called a dear friend and neighbor and she came over at once to take Tim to school for me (problem two solved
). Then she came back with jumper cables and a can-do attitude. Only issue was - we couldn't get the hood latch to release on my car. You got it, problem numero three
. She called her husband and he walked us through the process and before we knew it problem three was history
and the hood was open! We got the car started in no time flat - and when I say WE, I mean SHE - (problem one alleviated
) and she left to begin her day. Problem four
reared its ugly head when I realized that I had less than an eighth of a tank of gas and I couldn't leave the car idling for very long to get the battery fully charged. I attached a battery charger to it and hoped for the best. The best was not in the cards and the car refused to start when I needed to take it to a mechanic (Problem #5 - which is basically a do-over of problem #1
). I called another good friend who came over with jumper cables and a "can you really do this?
" attitude. I assured her I was capable (I had after all just watched friend #1 jump-start the car and had quickly watched a youtube video on how to go about it right before she showed up. I was practically a pro!). Thankfully I got the car started without anything blowing up (problem five solved
) and my friend followed me to the mechanic's shop, because she's cool like that.
To continue making a long story longer - here is what happened after that:
So, what is the moral of this story? Take your pick:
- The mechanic showed me in less than five minutes how to get the key out without fail every time it gets stuck (original problem solved), and didn't charge me a nickel.
- Another friend pulled in to the mechanic's shop as we were wrapping up explaining that every time he turned on his windshield wipers, his horn would honk, and vice versa. Laughter ensued.
- My friend followed me to the gas station so I could fill up and she could be on hand in case the car wouldn't start up again (problem 4 alleviated).
- I drove home and thanked God that I am OBVIOUSLY, His favorite. No seriously, if you haven't heard - that is the word on the street.
1. It is good to have friends. It is VERY good
to have friends.
2. Problems aren't always solved in the same order in which they arise. Tackle one thing at a time, but don't get hung up
on the way
it all comes together.
3. Sometimes your problems might make other people laugh - go with it, we could all use a good laugh. Getting bent out of shape only robs you of your own shot at joy in the middle of junk
. (Shout-out to the windshield-wiper-horn-blowing friend, I do hope everything worked out!)
4. Don't assume the worst when a problem arises - you aren't God and you have no idea where your "stuck key" will lead you today
, perhaps at the end of the day you'll still have a key that sticks, but you could also have a way to deal with it, a comforting knowledge of how far your friends are willing to go to help you, and a small glimpse at how much God truly loves you.
Arguments happen. Sometimes they NEED to happen. Sometimes the resolution to a short-term or an ongoing problem will not come WITHOUT a healthy argument. I know, I know, all you anti-conflict people out there are not liking where this is going one little bit. I know because I am one of you. If there is a way to avoid a conflict, I typically find it and take it. Conflict is uncomfortable and sometimes scary, for one reason and one reason only - we don't know how it will end.
There are times, however, when "the known" becomes unacceptable and we must step foot into conflict, hoping that the unknown will eventually be better. Since conflict is inevitable, how do we walk into it with a mind-set that will have the best chance of making the most of the disagreement and help us reach common ground with the fewest battle wounds possible?
1. Guard your words as if you were guarding Fort Knox. Don't exaggerate! Don't think of the next thing you are going to say while the other person is speaking. Don't let your emotions surrounding the issue allow you to say hurtful or untrue things. James 1:26 NIV says, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." Words matter. Keep in mind that what you say and how you say it are the only things you have control over in an argument.
2. Expect the best possible outcome, but be at peace with the worst case scenario. Don't go into a disagreement expecting it to end badly. Many times, conflict HAS TO HAPPEN in order for things to change and move in a better direction, so we shouldn't fear it. Instead, we should pray for the ability to see how it could be used for good. At the same time, we have to make peace with the fact that: A. We cannot control the reactions of others, and B. We cannot control the amount of time it will take others to process what we have to say (aka: the disagreement may not be resolved in 5 minutes flat). With that in mind, we also need to pray for the ability to identify the worst case scenario accurately and have peace with it. Peace and happiness aren't the same thing. Isaiah 26:3 NIV says, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Happiness isn't always possible. Peace is.
3. Spend plenty of time searching your own heart and clearing your own conscience before and DURING your argument. I don't know who is reading this, but my guess is, You Ain't Perfect! Listen to what the other person is saying and take responsibility for the results of your own words, attitude and actions, even if you didn't intend for hurtful results. Your apology and admission of imperfection goes a long way toward leveling the playing field and helping bring about reconciliation and change. Don't let pride get in the way. Matthew 7:5 NIV puts it pretty bluntly: "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
4. Keep the purpose of the argument in mind. Don't get distracted by the argument itself. How many times have you started out arguing with someone about one thing and then ended up arguing about something else entirely before all was said and done? This is foolish! Don't let emotions or side comments derail you. Keep the goal of reconciliation and positive change in mind and flatly refuse to follow any rabbit trail that leads away from that or complicates matters. State the purpose of the conversation frequently, clearly and without holier-than-thou overtones to make sure that the person you are in disagreement with understands that you aren't just picking a fight... you WANT resolution.
5. Keep your heart soft toward the other person. At the end of the day, you are no better or worse than he or she is. You may be right, but it doesn't make you better. Don't mentally turn the other person into something in your mind that is beyond redemption or repair. There will come a day when you will be entirely in the wrong, and completely unaware of it. How do you desire to be treated on that day? In Matthew 19:8 (NIV), Jesus says, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning." Arguments don't end repairable relationships - hard hearts do.
I need to be reminded of these things today and every day.
The next two weeks will be filled with goodbyes for our family. As our move date rapidly approaches, each time we see someone now, we aren't sure whether we will see them again before we move, so we end up taking a bit more time and a bit more care when we say each goodbye. The students at Lock Haven University have a special place in our hearts. I first opened my own heart wide to them all when I arrived in Lock Haven several weeks before the rest of the family in 2009. I remember attending the first New Life Student Fellowship meeting of the school year and introducing myself as the wife of their soon-to-be Campus Minister. I remember telling this group of strangers to feel free to call me or Facebook or just stop by the house I was staying at any time. I invited the girls to come over for dinner one night and told them to be sure to RSVP so I'd know how many to cook for. Their unique way of responding is now a cherished memory documented in the picture below. To say I loved it would be the understatement of the century. I loved that I had opened my heart to them and they responded by showing me that they were so grateful that I had.
Whenever we open our hearts to others, we take a risk. We risk rejection. We risk being hurt. We risk learning things about ourselves or them that we didn't want to learn. Certainly, there are those who we initially open our hearts to that end up becoming people that we need to be careful with. Jim Cymbala, Pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, says it this way in his book, Fresh Faith:
"Don't you know how to say no? This is not your house! You don't have the right to let in everyone/thing that wants to enter."
Pastor Cymbala is refering to the fact that, as believers, our hearts are God's dwelling place, and that when He takes up residence, He also takes up ownership. We don't get to choose who we let in and who we keep out any more. He decides. "You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price..." 1 Corinthians 6:20 NLT. Sometimes we agree with Him. Other times we don't. The result should be the same: obedience. We can't keep people at arms-length any more just because they are different or difficult. Nor can we continue to allow others to remain close to us and sin in the way they treat us or interact with us (emotional/verbal/physical abuse, causing us to stumble,) without speaking up. We have to love them enough to set up boundaries that keep them at an appropriate distance to encourage their healing and repentance and not enable their sinful tendencies in our relationship.
Many more times, however, we will open our hearts and be rewarded as a result. Sometimes through finding a kindred spirit, other times by learning lessons we needed at just the time we needed them. Sometimes by finding a catalyst for our own maturity, other times by being able to help another along on his/her journey. We have found all of these things in our relationships with students and friends here in Lock Haven. As we prepare to move, we will once again, open our hearts wide to the people in our new church and city, and wait expectantly to see how God asks us to respond to each and every one.
Until then, we will spend the next two weeks, reassuring those who have a special place in our hearts just how precious they are to us and how very privileged we have been to walk with them these few years. We don't regret opening our hearts to any of you one bit!
Today I took Timmy and three of his buddies (ages 9-11) to an amusement park and water park for the day to celebrate Timmy's 11th birthday. We met up with another family (including 2 more of Tim's friends) when we arrived.
Someone at some point commented that I am brave. Someone may have been right, however, I am also BLESSED. I laughed so hard today... I had to have burned some serious calories, right? Preteen boys are nothing if not funny. I got a kick out of listening to all of their silly conversations and joining in, when it was cool to do so, and I vowed to remember as many funny moments as I could and write them down when I got home... here's what I can recall:
- Cameron (after going on a ride called the Crazy Mouse): "Miss Carla, My stomach feels turned over." I hear ya buddy!
- When it was time to sing Happy Birthday to Tim at lunch, somehow, they broke out into the hallelujah chorus instead. We put two candles in a watermelon and he blew them out. Nontraditional is kind of our thing. (pictures below)
At one point the boys were pretending to predict what each others' futures would be like. Here are some of their predictions:
1. Timmy will marry a very short woman and move to Europe where he will tend to Alpacas for a living. He will have seven children and all will be well until one of the Alpacas decides he doesn't care for him and he will kick him so hard he'll be sent into orbit. (What a way to become an astronaut!)
2. Daniel will join the circus and be a clown. He will not make people happy. He will make them anxious and sad. (I can't remember the rest of this one, but for whatever reason it made us laugh like the dickens, even Daniel.)
3. Cameron will be a lion tamer with a whip until the lion one day gets hungry and eats him. (So sad...Imagine the funeral! I think his little brother came up with this one.)
4. Morgan requested that his future include some sort of athletic prowess, so the boys decided that Morgan would be playing professional football one day and that during a game he will go up to catch a pass and somehow instead of catching the ball he would catch his sister and spike her in the endzone for a touchdown. He would do a jig to celebrate.
OVERHEARD ON THE WAY HOME:
Tim: "Can Morgan sleep over tonight?"
Me: "Nope. We already have company. Aaron Batdorf is staying over, remember?"
Morgan: "Aaron Bad Elf???"
Tim: "No! Aaron Bad-Orf. He's not an elf, he's like really really tall."
Morgan: "Maybe he is an elf, he just has a height impairment."
Cameron: "Let's sing a song! You guys start with 'Wimoweh, wimoweh' and I'll come in."
All the Guys: "Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh"
Cameron: "In the jungle, the quiet jungle, the lion sleeps tonight, In the jungle the quiet jungle the lion sleeps tonight."
Me (really loudly, out of no where, and high pitched): "Ahh Weeeeeeeee Weee Oh Mamba Weh"
Morgan: "What was THAT?!?!" (laughter all around)
Daniel: "Wait, let's do it again and I'll sing and then we can all come in on that part."
All the guys: "Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh, Wimoweh"
Daniel: "In the bathroom, the quiet bathroom, the lion goes tonight. In the bathroom, the quiet bathroom, the lion goes tonight."
All the boys (through giggles): "Ahh Weeeeeeeee Weee Oh Mamba Weh"
If you are ever in need of a good laugh and enough activity to make you sleep through the night - I highly recommend you round up a bunch of 9, 10 and 11 year old boys and take them out for a day of fun. These days are flying by. I am glad today was one for the memory books!
Last week, Jason and I made our first drive ever up to Niagara Falls, NY. The drive from Central PA up to the Falls passes through mostly rural areas with small towns and a few factories, and lots and lots of trees. One of our favorite pastimes as a couple has been going on factory tours, and we have been known to stop on the spur of the moment and tour a factory that we noticed a sign for on the highway. On this drive up to Niagara, we drove through Bradford, PA - Home of the Zippo Lighter. You better believe we pulled over immediately!!
There was no factory tour, but there was a museum with lots of really intriguing memorabilia. The item that captured my attention the most was in a section of the museum that was highlighting Zippo's "no questions asked" restore or replace guarantee. Under glass they had an original letter written by a Colonel in the U.S. Army during World War II. One of the men in his outfit had been killed in the line of duty. The soldier's body was badly disfigured and there was nothing left of his personal effects to be returned to his family other than a damaged Zippo lighter. The Colonel wanted to return the Zippo lighter to the soldier's widow as the only keepsake that he could offer her, but he didn't want her to have it in such a mangled state, fearing that it would remind her of her husband's suffering before his death. He wrote to Zippo and asked them to please repair or replace the lighter so he could return it to this young widow. They did so. I have tears in my eyes as I imagine the compassion of that Colonel, who certainly went above and beyond the call of duty in caring for the family of his fallen soldier.
This week, I taught the last in a series of Women's Bible studies in my church about "When Life is Hard." At the end of our lesson, I asked the ladies to write a letter to a non-specific friend experiencing trials, sharing with her what she had learned during the study and encouraging her in her time of hardship. After we had written these short letters, we read them aloud in small groups. Again, tears.
When we take the time to carefully write a letter, to reach out to another person, to go out of our way to notice them and connect with them, it is a beautiful thing. In this world of quickie emails, jotting things on facebook walls, and tweeting; let's not forget the impact a heartfelt, handwritten letter can make.