Tag: friends

conference this

God is preparing youI admit, I am a bit of an eye-roller about the conference circuit. After running around the southern gospel convention circuit for 5 years like it was my job (oh wait! it was! we even had our own for three of those years…), I was over it. The crazy schedules. The inevitable disappointment. The exhaustion. The drama. The competition. The inspiration that would burn like a candle until… 3 days later… when you’re home and real life squelches it all.

So when two friends from Chicago included me on an invitation to a WRITERS conference… for WOMEN… CHRISTIAN women, I sort of rolled my eyes. It was expensive. It looked very pretty and perfect, so I figured I would not fit in. And after all this time – 3 decades, y’all! – writing, getting published here and there, I wasn’t sure what I had to gain.

But it would be with girlfriends, who get that ambitious and artistic side of me, who I rarely get to see, and once we decided to get there the day before and have our own “pre-conference,” I was in.

I’m not going to list all the details of the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference. If you know anything about this 22-year-old ministry (that started as a newsletter! Just sayin’!), you know it was first class… thoughtful, thorough, lovely. If you don’t know about it, you should definitely check it out.

What I want to reflect on for just a moment is that right there on the first day, when I went to a myriad of informational workshops and one fairly successful meeting, the bookend general sessions grabbed my heart, my thoughts, and my spirit and would not let go.

It was the story Proverbs 31 President Lysa Terkeurst shared about having Monday night dinners at their house, and in particular, instead of turning to Facebook to discuss and judge issues that affect people’s lives, having those people into their home and loving them.

It was every single thing that came out of the mouth of Christine Caine, founder of A21, who called all of us to take time in the dark room, being developed, before we lunge for the spotlight. In particular, it was when she said:

Looking at all the things we’re not invited to only fuels our selfish ambition. If GOD has assigned you, HE will FIND you!

I’ve spent so much of the past three years wringing my hands and wiping my tears, trying to figure out where I fit in, what is next, why this or that fell apart, why I’m not a part of this group or that gathering. So Christine’s words struck me straight to my core. I was listening to her fervently but also speed-texting my husband her words and my thoughts on them, because…

WHAT? What am I waiting for? What are we doing? God has assigned us. We’re not hamsters on a wheel nor are we sitting ducks. Maybe we aren’t doing what we used to do, and maybe we aren’t doing what we WILL be doing, but, the next piece of Christine’s statement was:

God is preparing you for the things He has prepared FOR you.

We have a promise of an assignment, a purpose, an opportunity to make a difference. Apparently, it isn’t in music industry, in family friendly entertainment, in a theatre, or on a bus. OK. Cool. Done. It might not be on any stage or published page or viral blog or huge platform. OK. Cool. Whatever.

But it will be loving people and serving people. It already is.

pre-conference with Deanna & Lisa: sushi dinner!

This past weekend included time with one of my besties and a dear friend I didn’t get to know so well before moving away. It included a bonus visit with my bonus daughter Paige. It included precious moments with ladies who shared their visions, hearts, stories, smiles, prayers, and hugs. It included valuable learning from women who have paved a way in writing and publishing words of life.

But as with all the messages I have heard in the past few years that resound strongly in my spirit, the idea of simplifying, working with what is in my hand, seeing, loving and serving the people around us – including our family first – was what struck. There is nothing to wait for, no spinning wheel, no box to wait in.

It’s time to simply be who I am called to be. What greater adventure?
To learn more:
Proverbs 31
She Speaks
Lisa Terkeurst
Christine Caine

from a heart who doesn’t know but tries to understand

“from a heart who doesn’t know but tries to understand”

It was a Facebook comment I read this morning, by someone whom I don’t know, but through Facebook orchestration, I am united with through mutual love and support of another.

I have a friend I have not seen since 10th grade. We were buddies. We mostly hung out at school or football games. She lived a few towns away, and before drivers’ licenses, that might as well have been states away. {It’s a lovely bonus sidenote to this story that I am going to see her TODAY!}

Paula and her daughter CarmynNow, she does live states away. But we are close. Facebook, that little tool that can be used for good or evil, has been so fruitful in bringing this woman, her family, her perspective into my life… and it is one I have come to count on.

We love a lot of the same things… family life, cooking and food, Jesus, our husbands, fun TV. But our lives are different. She has 4 littles. I have a unconventional blend. She is a stay-at-home-mom who homeschools. I have a few part-time gigs and am happy with public school for now. She gardens. I edit a teen magazine. She churches at home. I practically live at my church.

And the one factor that our American Society of Modern Moms seems to say should divide us, does not.

She has a child with special needs. I do not.

I have read countless articles about being a friend to parents of special needs children (I hate them, mostly… what to say, what not to say…). I am often flabbergasted at the challenges faced by the families in my circle, from juvenile diabetes to epidermolysis bullosa, Downs syndrome to spina bifida, food allergies to Angelman syndrome. The range of lifestyles and decisions and emotions and lessons and stress experienced by these mamas often leaves me feeling breathless and absolutely helpless. How many times can I say “Sending love and prayers?” How many times can I ask God “WHY” do some children have to struggle and suffer this way? How long before my lack of these challenges becomes an obstacle in my compassion and my ability to be the kind of friend these women need?

The truth is, though, that in the big ways, mamas are the same. We stress over how to Do This Thing that is raising our children in a safe, loving, educational environment, teaching them to be good people, advocating for them and empowering them all at once. We do our best but often feel inadequate, criticized, or judged. We want to feed them healthy foods and take advantage of teachable moments and expose them to a well-rounded cultural experience, but sometimes, we just want to sit on the couch and watch Netflix in peace for 5 minutes, even if it means we’re having PB&J for dinner.

And we all want to know we are not alone in this.

A few nights ago, I was talking to another friend. She, too, has friends facing the struggle of children with severe medical issues or special needs. We talked exhaustively about this subject, about how to best reach out, encourage, minister.

As we talked, the thought rang in my head that we were, indeed, advocating for these mamas, just amongst ourselves. We are saying to them, to you,

“Hey! We don’t get it. We likely never can and never will. But we get you. We see you and your struggle. We are here praying for you and cheering you on. We are loving your babies and making donations and telling your stories. It’s not much… it might not change a thing, but we are in this together.”

American mamahood is fully of petty competition and sometimes foolish worry. If we are not careful, we become products of marketing and media, rather than the organic fruit of one of creation’s most sacred and rewarding callings: motherhood. It doesn’t matter if we arrive at the same conclusions (breast vs. bottle, public vs. private vs. home, organic vs. processed, vaccines vs. not…). It matters that we value the walk we are all taking. It matters that when I turn my head and see another mama next to me, struggling, I do my best to give her a hand up and not to judge her. It matters that when I see a mama who is facing more, doing more, or “doing it better,” I don’t judge myself, because my lot is the lot given to me, and I have to do my own best on my own path.

It doesn’t matter that we don’t know each other’s hearts, because maybe we never can. It matters that we try to understand, that we respect each other, that we cheer for each other’s children. Let’s stop being afraid of having the wrong kind of compassion and instead just make sure we are not without it.

To learn more about Angelman Syndrome, please click here.

 

day 20: our neighborhood

It has beautifully colored houses of many shades…blues, greens, browns, red, orange, yellow…and then there is ours, which is… butter? cream? I don’t know. It’s plain, but that’s okay, because we can see all the others.

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We have neighbors up and down the streets who say “hi,” who walk their dogs while smiling, who are nice to our girls, who give away bikes and herbs. But more, most importantly… we have neighbors who have become part of our lives.

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Their kids play with our kids.
Their dogs play with our dogs.
They help with bus stop emergencies, couch delivery emergencies, pool pass emergencies, and homework.
They let us hold their babies!
They offer help when they see “we’ve” locked the keys in the van again.
They dawdle with us outside to talk in the backyard and in the front yard.
They smile politely when “we’re” letting our 5 year old “drive” home from the bus stop.
They come to our stuff and invite us to their stuff.
They know our names.
They let us inside.

The struggle of home and roots continues for me, because my perspective has shifted so much from moving and losing stability. But this “haven” in which we’ve lived since June 2012 feels homey and comfortable, looks beautiful, and has embraced us and our girls. So I will exhale, sitting in the rocking chair on my front porch, enjoy the rainbow and the waves, and settle in.

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new, old, silver, gold

Disclaimer: I did my best with pix. I could have spent 20 years on those… ;)

It’s no surprise that I have a heart after friendship, so much that even celebs I’ve never met feel like part of my circle… like, I just know that Johnny Cash and I are going to be BFFs in Heaven…

cashBFF

I fall for people hard, and I protect my friendships ferociously. And because of our travels for a few years, and the miracle (yes, miracle) of the Internets, I have friends I have 1) Never met in person, 2) Might never see again, 3) ‘Talk’ to nearly every day but rarely hear their voices or see them.

And you know what? That’s not always enough.

Looking back now, I realize that when I moved away from my very, very comfortable, in-person circle, even though I said I wanted to make new friends, I had a wall up.

And then it came down.

And then, I spent months being disappointed, disillusioned, left out, rejected, etc, because …

well, because I expected for my new friends to be just like my old friends.

Last week, my sweet hubs posted this song for me. It’s by 2 celebs who would probably be my friends <smile>. I have loved their duets since I was a child (c’mon, ’80s children… you know you belted “Islands in the Stream” in the backseat of your mom’s car and the front seat of your own…No? Just me?).

The song is called, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” and it’s sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

The message to me: you can’t rush intimacy. You can’t rush history.

But you know what else? You can’t erase it either.

My old friends? They’re still my friends. We can pick up where we left off. We can celebrate and share burdens across miles. We can reminisce just like always, and on special occasions, we can still have nights to remember.

My new friends? We are creating history. Today we share the laughs that will be next year’s inside jokes. Today we meet each other’s kids and parents and learn each other’s stories so that 10 years from now, we can recall them and say, “Remember?”

To the old friends who remain,
…the ones from kindergarten, the ones from college,the ones from teaching, the ones from the mommy-ing, the ones from the gospel years…
I cherish you. I always will.

 oldfriends

To the new friends who are along for the ride…
…the ones who have gathered around our table or shared your own, the ones who have loved my kids, the ones who visited the hospital, the ones who stand barefoot in the backyard, the sisters and brothers who’ve seen me laugh, cry, sweat, squirm, and flourish in these last 2.5(!!) years,

newfriends
I cherish you.  And I sure hope some of you are fixin’ to be my old friends.

To my best friend, who has added brother, sister, girlfriend, shopping partner, mommy date, and so many other roles to his Husband, Love, Best Friend, Partner In All Things status during various times since May 2011~

bffs_2013

you’re still the best.

 

invite / accept

invitedThere is no greater gift to me than an invitation.

I love being invited to come, to share, to participate, to dine, to join, to stay.

I love it when my children are extended any of the same.

I love to open up and invite others in… sit, take off your shoes, open my refrigerator, pet my dog, hug my girls.

Be in my life. Save me a seat for yours…

~

The past weeks have involved some serious inner growth. I have been looking at relationships in a new way. It is all due to some disciplined study of how God loves {without expectation}, how leaders approach people {with something to give rather than something to gain}, and understanding compassion {others’ needs over my wants}. Something in all of this mix has blended together and filled my cup. Along with this is a realization: nothing will ever be like it was. Nothing will ever be like it is in my best-case scenario. People can never fill the gaps we have in our own hearts. But God… He can. And then ~

– it becomes rewarding to hug someone because she needs it, and let it go, and be ok.

– it becomes just fine to hang out at home all day on a Saturday, with my family, doing chores and doing nothing, because they’re my people first.

– it becomes acceptable that some people are only in our lives for a season, because we learned, we loved, we grew, and maybe we do the same for others in our seasons, too.

– it becomes a step of maturity to let intensity and need fade into peace and security, knowing that people who love us are “here” for us even when they aren’t always active spectators in our everyday.

– it becomes more important to be available and open for others than it is to worry about dry spells and empty spots on our agendas. In fact, it becomes freeing not to have an agenda at all!

I think I have spent a good portion of life waiting on an invitation to the in crowd, the cool lunch table, the front row, the VIP room… and now as I find myself in a new phase of life (we will call it settled in), the most important – most invitinginvitation in my eyes is the one to someone’s home, someone’s heart, someone’s life. Let me in, even though you have some piles of paper in the counter. Let me in, even though we’re both disheveled and gun-shy. Let me in, even though it’s risky to trust someone, even though friendship is hard, even though….

I’m grateful tonight for the invitations I’ve sent, even the ones rejected. They mean my heart is open.

I’m grateful tonight for the invitations offered, especially those I thought would never come. They are always worth the wait.