Believing, Loving, Thoughts

The Wet and Smelly Side of Friendship

Friendship doesn’t always mean thoughtfulness or gifts or making plans to spend time together.  Sometimes being a friend involves nothing more than water and deodorant.

I was driving home yesterday with the prospect of having unexpected free time on my hands, and I was thinking of all the things I would do with my time.  I COVET free time, probably because I don’t have much of it.  I daydreamed things like: I have photos from two trips I took this summer that are still sitting on my camera’s memory card that I could finally get off and edit and blog about, I have a book project that I need to work on, I have a dirty house that I could clean, and OH MY GOSH A NAP SOUNDS AWESOME.

I wasn’t able to do any of those things yesterday because as I was thinking about all the wonderful things *I* could do with *MY* time, I felt a tugging on my heart that brought to mind a friend that I hadn’t talked to in a couple of weeks.  So I called her just to say hi, which turned into asking her to lunch because I could tell by her voice that she was having a bad day.

Long story short, she was having an EPICALLY bad day.  She was at work, but she needed to cry and talk, so I picked her up and drove her to the bank so she could make a deposit for work.  Then we parked in the shade (big YAY! since it was in the 90’s) and just sat in the car and…cried and talked.

One of the things she was lamenting was that her back was hurting her too bad to carry bottled water up three flights of stairs to her apartment.  STOP RIGHT THERE.  Some of you may scoff at bottled water being something to cry over, but living in the DFW metroplex, I assure you that bottled (or filtered) water is a necessity of life.  If you want to drink water, that is.  DFW water tastes bad in the winter months, but in the summery, HOT DROUGHT-Y months it tastes like wet soil. Literal dirt.  It’s awful. ANYWAY – another thing she was upset about was being too depressed to take good care of herself and she was out of deodorant, and sorry if she was stinky.  (She wasn’t. Nor was her house as dirty as she felt like it was.)

My friend has a touch of OCD, coupled with not-so-ideal life circumstances, financial stresses, and PMS – she was a hurricane of emotions.  I didn’t know what to do for her or how to help her, so I didn’t do anything.  Turns out, she just needed someone to talk to, who would listen without judgment or without telling her to “stop having a pity party” (like another “friend” had done to her earlier).  ((eye-roll))  She just needed to BE with me.

So that is what I did.  I listened, I hugged her, I cried with her, and I prayed for her.  And even though she didn’t ask me to, I bought deodorant and water (and took it up to her third floor apartment) for her.  Sometimes the things we think are no big deal can mean the world to someone else.

I was glad I was able to respond to what I believe was God’s nudging on my heart.  Turns out, that ‘nudge” happened at the exact time she was taking the trash out for work, in the back of her building, where she had taken the opportunity to cry and pray and ask God for something, anything to let her know she was cared for.

I was honored that God chose to use me in that way.  I hope that you can be as blessed by friendship as I was yesterday.  Don’t ever disregard opportunities that come your way to be a friend to someone in need.  Don’t ignore the quiet urgings or gentle nudgings in your heart that are trying to move you this way or that – just do it.  You never know what effect your seemingly insignificant action can have on the world around you.

Go be someone’s blessing today!

Loving, Thoughts

Friendship is Unnecessary

friendshipquote
Carmel Mission, July 2013

I have been through a tough year.  If I’m honest, it was more like 18 months.  Deaths, surgeries, injuries, more surgeries, other various health problems plagued not just my own life, but also those of my loved ones.  During that time, I knew I wasn’t “myself” but I kept blaming life circumstances.  About a year into feeling just flat-out “empty”, I told my doctor, who’s known me for years, about how I was feeling.  She recognized that I wasn’t depressed, but rather, dysthymic.  I guess the biggest clue was that my daily life was not being disrupted by my mood – I’m sure to an outsider, it looked like nothing was wrong.

But I knew.

And if my friends knew, they were gracious enough to love me through that difficult time.  God bless them!!

This is why I am dedicating this post to them:

Thank you for loving me by engaging me in conversation even though I didn’t have much to say.

Thank you for loving me by calling me even though I wasn’t calling you.

Thank you for loving me by seeking out my company when I wasn’t much fun to be around.

Thank you for loving me when I wasn’t as witty as you’ve known me to be.

Thank you for loving me for ME simply for who I am, even if I wasn’t acting like ME.

I’m on the other side of it now (since sometime in mid-June if I had to think about it).  It was the kind of funk that you don’t fully realize the depth of until it’s over.  I will never know if it was medicine that helped me out of it or it simply ran its course, but I am so glad I told my doctor and was able to find relief.

For a time, I felt like I was just going through the motions of life, living reclusively inside myself.  During that time, it wasn’t that I thought I “didn’t need” my friends or anything, I just didn’t have the mental energy to reach out to them.  Now that I am able to get back into the groove and actually LIVE, I wanted to take the time to thank them for being there for me.  I am forever grateful that my friends were waiting for me when I got back to being Me.

Believing, Loving

Blessings in Disguise

To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:1

Once again, this – my life’s verse, has proven true.

God has a wonderful way of turning things around. Now that I find myself on the other side of the death of my beloved Pippa (see this post), I can see that God had His hand in so many of the events leading up it, and even during it. I am just now making sense of some of the things that happened along the way that I didn’t understand at the time.

For instance, I wondered why my Pippa didn’t die from pneumonia after Thanksgiving. He was hospitalized two different times before being sent to a hospice care facility. However, when he “improved”, he had to leave; too well to stay, yet too sick to return to assisted living. I was upset at the thought of him lingering in a bedridden state, and wondered why God would let him suffer in that way. I see now that I was only focusing on his physical state. A blessing I missed at the time was that because he was too sick to return to the assisted living facility where he and my Neana had been living in for the previous 18 months, he was able to move back to his home. Given the choice of him going to a nursing home or his home where he lived for 50+years, my family chose to take him home with around-the-clock care. We moved him out of hospice and my Neana back home the day before Christmas. His getting to live his last weeks in the comfort of his own home with my grandmother by his side was a huge blessing for him and for for her. The fact that she didn’t have to go back to the assisted living facility alone was another blessing. Thank you, God, for always providing what we need, sometimes even before we need it.

Another blessing I missed at the time was the way that I was prepared for the possibility of not seeing him “one last time” before he died. I got a call around 6:00pm on Thursday, February 9th, telling me I’d better go to Arkansas soon. I knew I couldn’t make the 5 hour-trip until the next morning after I dropped the kids off at school, so I went to bed praying that I’d be able to see him before he died. Looking back, I know that was a very selfish prayer, but it was all I could think of at the time. Later that night, at 3:21am (I know this because I looked at the clock on my phone), I was awakened by what I thought was lightning outside my window. When I kept my eyes open but saw no lightning nor heard any thunder, I closed my eyes to try to go back to sleep. As soon as I closed my eyes, a fantastic light show went off behind my lids. It was like fireworks! Every time I opened my eyes, the lights would disappear. This “show” lasted awhile before I was able to eventually fall back to sleep. The first thought I had the next morning, was, “What if my Pippa died and that was the celebration going off in my mind’s eye?” I told my husband as much, and also said, “I know if he did die, my family wouldn’t tell me because I have to drive 5 hours today.” In a strange way, my heart and mind were prepared for the thing that eventually did happen – I wasn’t there when he died. I had gone to bed desperately hoping I’d make it in time to see him before he died, but I had woken up with an unexpected sense of peace that it would be OK even if I wasn’t able to. Thank you God, for preparing us for the future while we are yet living in the present. Thank you for going before us and planning out the way we should walk in.


The very coolest blessing in disguise is something I didn’t even find out about until a week after it occurred. During my drive to Arkansas that Friday morning, I experienced a myriad of emotions. I made my way through the usual suspects – sadness, guilt, regret, and shock, when out of nowhere a strange emotion hijacked my senses: I was overcome with excitement. It was such an odd thing to be feeling, and I remarked as much to the person with whom I was talking on the phone. She agreed that it was strange and asked me to try to explain. I said, “All I know is that I feel really excited to see someone who is about to see Jesus.”. That is the feeling that carried me through the rest of the trip, and I could hardly stay below the speed limit. When I arrived home around 1:00 and found out that my Pippa had passed away, the first thing I did was run in and take his face in my hands and say, “You’re already there [in heaven]!” I felt more joy than sadness and spent the next few hours holding his hand just feeling very peaceful. I did cry tears of sadness later on, but for that moment in time, I was just happy for him. What I didn’t know until a week later was the timing of that unexpected feeling that overcame me, and I had forgotten who I was on the phone with at the time to ask her more about it. As it turns out, the same friend I had been on the phone with going to Arkansas called me as I was getting back to my home in Texas. She asked me how the week was, and when I was telling her that my Pippa had died at 11:30, and that I wasn’t able to see him until 1:00, she asked me if I remembered being on the phone with her that day and telling her about the strange excitement I felt at seeing him. I said, “Yes I do! That was you?” She said it was, then asked me again what time Pippa died. When I told her, she said that she called me that day when she was leaving an appointment she had gotten out of a little after 11:00. She reminded me that we talked for awhile and were likely on the phone when he died. I got chills when I realized that the feeling of excitement that came over me out of the blue AT THAT EXACT TIME was likely from God. I think that my Pippa was excited to see Jesus – after all, he spent most of his days on earth with his eye on the prize that Paul talked about in Acts and 2 Timothy:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV)

My Pippa and I weren’t just physically bound by flesh and blood because of shared genetics, we are bound spiritually because the same God lives in us both. Although I wasn’t physically present when my Pippa died, my soul was there with him. I think that God allowed me a glimpse of something that couldn’t be seen with human eyes. My soul saw and shared the same excitement that I’m certain my Pippa experienced at seeing Jesus face to face. I had never experienced the death of a loved one before he died, and I used to imagine having to actively seek out little spots of joy and happiness in the dark, deep midst of sorrow and loss. What I have found to be true, though, is that I don’t have to find joy – it finds me. Thank You, God, that Your peace truly does pass understanding. Thank You, God, for Your unwavering pursuit of me. I know that You will find me wherever I am and draw me closer to You. Thank You, God, for loving us all the crazy/beautiful way You do. Amen.

Loving

Suckah…

I don’t consider myself a pushover when it comes to parenting.  Neither do I consider myself a “Helicopter Parent”.  But there is just something about my kids, that causes me to some times (not all the time) be unable to resist them.  Sigh.

One of those times is when one of them sidles up next to me on the couch and asks me to scratch their back.  I am powerless against their charms.  99.9% of the time I say yes, and forego anything else that is calling for my attention.  Laundry?  Can wait.  Dinner?  That’s what Papa John’s is for.

Maybe the reason I can’t resist them because most of the time they are whirling dervishes of ADHD, but when my hand is on their backs, they are so calm.  And to me, it is a little slice of heaven.

I took the Brown-Eyed Dervishes to the park yesterday, and I got one shot of them sitting there posing for me.

Can you tell they are just humoring me?

Then… they were off…

I was exhausted just trying to keep up with them…

I seriously didn’t get more than the one shot of them being still.

But it was fun.  And sometimes, that’s all that matters.

Loving

Friends With Skin

I’ve been using this phrase a lot lately, and thinking about it even more, so I have decided to do an entire post on what it means to me.

I will be the first to admit that I lurve me some technology.  I have a MacBook Pro, and iPad, and an iPhone.   I have a digital camera and I love tinkering with the images on Photoshop.  I think that Twitter is fun and Facebook is passé.  Oh yeah, and I also dabble heavily in the blogosphere.  😉

Because I love to travel, I have made friends who don’t live anywhere near where I do, so in order to maintain my friendships with them, I rely heavily on e-mail, texting, Yahoo IM, and Google Chat.

I am sooooo thankful for the ability to keep in touch with people that I may only get to breathe the same air with once a year.  I have also grown quite fond of a few people whose blogs I follow – most of whom I will never, ever meet in real life.  I am drawn to their seeming transparency – they are so willing to talk about anything and everything, and I find this very refreshing.

Having said that, I will admit to a stirring in my soul, a desperate need at times, to physically be in the presence of my friends.  I want to hug them.  I want to share a belly laugh with them instead of just a “LOL”.  I want to see the tears if they are flowing, because there is nothing more sad to me than crying alone.  I want to share coffee or a meal with them, commenting on the tastes and smells we are enjoying.

I guess this need of mine is less about *having* friends (because God has blessed me with plenty) and more about *experiencing life with* friends.  

When I ask about your vacation, I am not interested in simply flipping through the pictures on Facebook and hitting the “Like” button.  I want to look at the pictures with you, listening to the commentary you give as you tell me what you were thinking and feeling when the picture was snapped.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words standing freely on its own, but there is so much more detail that I want to know from the point of view of you, my Friend.  The pictures themselves are something I could locate on Google Images anytime I want to, but you, my Friend, are why I am interested in the pictures in the first place.

I feel very “old-fashioned” that way because I feel like it is of greater importance to me than to most people around me.  I know life is busy and yada-yada-yada, but – let’s face it – we ALL make time for the things we consider important.  I know that life must be lived according to priorities, and I happen to consider my friendships to be very important and worthy of time spent maintaining them.  While I do love technology, I want my friendships to consist of more than letters and emoticons on a computer screen.

I am not pining for “simpler times” – I swear!  (I would *not* have been a happy camper before the advent of air conditioning and espresso machines!!!)  I guess I am just wishing that some things never go out of style.  Simple things like friendships and cooking at home and manners and morals and people staying married until death parts them and parents loving their children and vice-versa.

But I digress…

Loving

Life Lessons From my Child

The other day, my Brown-Eyed Boy said something to me that blew my mind, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Brown-Eyed Boy with Brown-Eyed Aunt in 2001

A little back story:  His (younger) sister was razzing him about his blanket, telling him that he had to sell it when he was a grown-up.  My distraught little boy came up to me and asked if this is what he “had” to do.  (Mind you, she has a blanket, too, so this was totally a Pot vs. Kettle thing going on.)

My Brown Eyeds in 2003

I told him of course he didn’t *have* to do that, and that I would be more than happy to keep Blankey for him when he outgrows him, and never get rid of him. (Yes, my kids’ blankets have gender and are for all intents and purposes talked-about members of our family)

2002

Wrong. Thing. To. Say.

2003

He was almost in tears as he said he would never outgrow Blankey, so I quickly said that when he goes to college and has a family of his own, that I would keep Blankey, that way he would never be lost.

2003-ish

Then he asked if he could love on Blankey whenever he came to visit me when he was older.

2004-ish

{cue the sound of a mother’s heart breaking in two}

2005-ish

“Of course,” I say, “any time you want.”  Then he said the thing that I can’t stop thinking about.

2005-6-ish

He said this:  “I don’t care if people make fun of me for liking the things I like.  I like me and I like the way God made me.”

……………… Blown……. Completely…….. Away……………………

I still am.  Who in this world *doesn’t* want to be able to say and believe those words?!  “I like me and I like the way God made me.”

Just because they are adorable

This has made me think about self-esteem and what a hot topic it is in parenting these days.  Everyone, it seems, wants to make sure their kid has a “good” self esteem.  But what does that really mean?

It made me want to examine my own parenting style, and if this expression by my son was affirmation or condemnation of how and what I am teaching my kids.  So of course, I went to the Source.  The only thing I could find even remotely related to the concept of self-esteem (since there was no such word back then) was the verse in Matthew 22:39

“Love your neighbor as yourselves.”

The statement implies that we must know how to love ourselves if we are to love others in the same manner.  So self-love is an important part of a healthy self-esteem.

I believe that self-love can only come if you first know who you are.  Who you are is not the choices you make or have made, what others’ opinions of you are, or who you see when you look in the mirror.  Those things are ever-changing.

Who you are is your eternal soul that God knew before He wrapped skin around you and you became human.  You were created in the image of God!

God created human beings;
He created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
Genesis 1:27 (The Message)

I’ve heard this saying before:  “God doesn’t make crap.”  If you believe (like I do) the truth in that sentiment, then you have to follow your own logic and acknowledge that you are a special, made-with-a-purpose creation.

I daresay that living your life by that belief would bring untold joy to you and innumerable glories to God.  How much more would we be able to show love (to our neighbor and ourselves) if we considered all people to be God’s creation?

Wow.  Struck dumb by the words of a child.  My child.  Thank you, God, for blessing me with a glimpse of You in that sweet, unexpected conversation with my son.  Thank you for giving me a tangible example of a puzzling verse.

3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:3

Loving

Friends

“Friendship with oneself is all-important because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
 
As I was browsing through friendship quotes, trying to find just the right one, two things stood out to me.  For one thing, I can’t imagine a more commented-upon subject than friendship.  There were so many quotes to wade through!  All through the ages, people have thought it important to put their musings on friends and friendship down in writing.  Secondly, the common theme of the importance of having friends is in most every thought represented in the compilation of quotes.  There was not one mention of friends being overrated.  
I met Mah Honey in 1993
Ultimately, the quote I chose reflects an idea that is near to my heart:  The importance of treating yourself as you would your best friend.
Friends with Elise since 1996
For some reason, God blessed me with abundant, unfounded self-confidence.  I say unfounded because on paper, a train wreck would have been less uncomfortable to watch than my upbringing.  Nothing about my childhood was what you’d call “normal”, yet somehow I exuded confidence in my own abilities even when other people tried to discourage me.  At various times in life, I have had to call on this reserve of courage to remind myself that I am worthy of respect and love and kindness, no matter how others treated me. 
Jody doesn’t call me her Texas Twin for nothing!
I don’t know why, but God has also blessed me with a heart for listening and counseling others.  I’m not quick to judge and give my unsolicited opinion, but if you want to talk to me about a problem, I am all ears and willing to tell you what I think.  I’ve been told that people leave my presence feeling better than they did before they saw me.  That is one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.  I don’t think I’m all that wonderful; I just hope that others see the God who lives in me and were comforted by Him.
I’ve known Ellen since 1980
I think that God created each of us to have friends and to BE a friend to others.  One of the reasons God tells us in Hebrews 10:25 to not neglect “assembling together” is so that we can be an encouragement to one another.  It’s for our best to be surrounded by friends!
I’ve known Amy since 1985
Like the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt says, we must first befriend ourselves if we are able to befriend others.  To me, that means talking to ourselves with the kindness and care we would a friend.  The negative self-talk that others confide to me just kills my soul.  If they talk to themselves as if they were a hated, unlovable, stupid, fill-in-the-blank person, how must they allow others to talk to them?
Friends with Alicia since 2007
The best way I have found to be a better friend of Me is to remind myself who I am in Christ.  God created me in His image and He loves me and desires a relationship with me.  He created me for His purposes and blessed me with skills and thoughts and words and opportunities that only I possess.  He loves me so much that He didn’t just wish me luck and send me on my merry way to navigate life on my own.  He gave me His thoughts on all sorts of subjects, written by several people over a period of hundreds of years, and inspired another set of men to compile them into one book, and inspired yet other men to translate them into various languages so that all people may come to know Him.  It blows my mind that the God who created the world and everything in it cares to know me and wants me to know Him, and provided all the means to do so.
Friends with Callie since 1986
People, even friends, will inevitably let me down, but God never will.  He will never leave me or forsake me.  He knows I’m not perfect, yet He thinks I’m worth extending grace to.  I KNOW I’m not perfect, and I think I’m worth extending grace to.  To me, that is the most important way to express friendship to anyone, self included.
 
The next time you are feeling down, and in need of a friend, think about being a friend to yourself.  Try it, you might like it!