Friends Matter

We all know the importance of family in our lives and the tremendous impact that family has upon us, both good and bad. But there is another extremely important group of folks that we get to choose, unlike who we are related to. It is our friends. 

Our pastor has said many times ‘show me your friends and I’ll show you your future’. And every time he says that I say AMEN! It’s the truth, our friends can change the course of our lives. 

The Bible has a LOT to say about friends. Parents have SO much to say about friends. Teens are determined to defend their friends. Even to a pre-school child, friends matter. Relationships can be ruined by the wrong friends. You can have opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise with the right friends. 

What is a friend anyway? That word like many others has been diluted to the point of little value. Like the word love for instance. We say we love tacos and we love a song and we love all kinds of stuff and people. We have school-friends, FB friends, work-friends, internet-friends, church-friends and some of these friends we hardly even know. 

A true friend is someone you can share your dreams with and know they won’t laugh at you. A real friend is someone you can confess your failings to and know they won’t shun you. A genuine friend is someone who will hold you accountable while holding you up. A friend worth having is one whom you will call when you’re in trouble and need help. 

A friend can be a great treasure. They might loan you a twenty, watch your kids or listen to your troubles. They may help you with your project, tell you when you’re wrong and love you anyway. They can encourage your heart and challenge your soul. Friends matter. 

A friend can also bring you low and urge you to do things you know are wrong. They can flame the fire of your dissatisfaction and justify your bad choices. They might insist that you join them in the pigpen and wallow in the mud with them so you are as stinky as they are to prove you are their friend. 

Consider who you have surrounded yourself with today. Who do you exchange ideas with and have discussions with? Who are you allowing to influence and impact your future, your family and your choices? 

Perhaps we should all consider our friends carefully and the consequences that may result. Friends matter. 

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True Friends

Thinking lots of thoughts this morning. Mostly I’m thinking about the women in my life who have invested into me with love and time and energy.I’m thinking of true friends. 

I have always believed strongly in mentorship and perhaps one of the reasons was because I’ve been the recipient of many such relationships. 
There’s a long list of women I could name as having helped to form me and mold me, starting of course with my own mom and grandma. But, this morning I’m thinking of my own Miss Clara. 
If you’ve watched ‘War Room’ you likely know exactly what I am referring to. She’s the older lady that in my opinion was the star of the show. She was without a doubt, my favorite character. I assumed this movie (and book) was about marriage. On the contrary, at least in my eyes, it was about women supporting women. 
My Miss Clara that I’m thinking about was Irene Gilley. She, like Clara in the story, was in her 80’s and like Clara, she was a Godly women and a prayer warrior. She loved me. She blessed me in numerous ways. She was a tremendous influence in my life. She supported me when I felt wobbly. She was not related to me or otherwise obligated to me. She chose to be a part of my life and I chose to allow her. 
The other day a young woman I love dearly told me I was her Miss Clara. My heart was so touched by that thought. We definitely chose to be a part of each other’s lives.  Then last night, my daughter-in-law shared so kindly about how good it felt to be supported. It does feel good. This morning I was reading in the _War Room_ book that my son’s fiancé  gave me for Christmas and near the end of the book, Clara said, “Give me another one, Lord. Guide me to who you want me to help.”

  
This really made me stop and think. It challenged me. As Christian women, we can get so caught up in our own families and lives that we forget what we are really supposed to be doing. “Go and make disciples.”

I’m not sure exactly why it is, but often it seems that women are most critical of other women. Competition? Comparison? 

When we choose to support another woman, when we encourage her, pray for her and value her, it extends far beyond her. The influence spreads to those she loves and values. She impacts others. The power of love prevails and the ripples continue long after we are aware. 

I’d like to challenge us, you and I both to reach beyond our comfort zone. Stretch out our arms, extend ourselves beyond our own daughters and invest in the life of another woman, young or old. Be a listening ear, a prayer partner, a true friend. Be someone’s Miss Clara. Be a true friend. Never be too busy to invest in the life of another woman. 

That young lady who is struggling may be quite desperate for hope. That woman who seems bent on self-destruction may just hear your kind words. That girl who has too much attitude may be a scared little girl on the inside. That gal that insists on controlling and manipulating may long to feel strong and going about it the wrong way. 

My prayer is that women will resist the urge to criticize and ostracize. My prayer is that we will be someone’s safe place so they can be real. My prayer is that we will not underestimate the value of being a true friend. 

The Big Day

Yesterday was a big day in my life. Oh, it wasn’t the day I was born, the day I became a Christian, the day I married, or even the day I adopted my children. Those are the biggest of days. But yesterday was a big day in its own merit. It was the day my friends and family gathered around me and celebrated the release of my first published fictional novel. It was a big happy day!

  
Even though the rain tried to dampen our festivities, several dozen friends and family members joined us as we celebrated a little girl’s dream come true and that little girl was me! 

 In my book, the main character makes cornflake candy, so we had plenty of Tessie’s Cornflake Candy to enjoy with the hot beverages that the Chelsea Coffee Shop offered. 

  
My talented children sang and played beautifully and blessed my heart. I hugged long-time friends, met brand-new friends and saw friends that I hadn’t seen in far too long. Books were bought, books were signed and now I can’t wait to hear what they all think. 

  
Friends and family who could not make it last night have encouraged and supported me from a distance. They’ve ordered books and posted reviews and even given talks about it. I am truly blessed beyond measure. If I’ve learned one thing through this process, it is this. It’s never too late to take your dreams seriously and see them fulfilled. And, once that happens, keep on dreaming! Start working towards another big day and the next. 

  
http://www.amazon.com/How-Then-Shall-We-Live/dp/1508921237

One of the best things about this big day is that my children have seen the process, the effort, the determination it took to bring it to fruition. I believe it has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever taught them. They’ve seen first hand that my big day finally came after I pressed on, didn’t quit, asked for help, kept trying and did the next thing that needed doing. They now know that they can have big days in their future too when dreams come true. 

  

I Might Cry

Our waitress seemed anxious as she approached our table last night and very briefly greeted us before asking a bold question of complete strangers. “Are any of your children brothers and sisters?” All eyes turned to me. My husband and children waited for me to answer. The waitress seemed to be most eager for my answer as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. I’m pretty sure several nearby tables had their ears tuned in to hear what I would say.

It is one of my least favorite questions and yet, one of the most common. I understand what it is that people want to know. They want to know if we’ve adopted a sibling group. They want to know if they are birth related. They are curious or nosey or bold or well-meaning. But, although I understand what they mean by their question, I also am fully aware that my children are listening. They are waiting to hear validation that yes they are brothers and sisters, yes, we are a real family.

So, last night, I had to decide which route to take in answering this least of my favorite questions. I decided to avoid the scenic route, after all, we were trying to make it to church on time. I decided to give a condensed but truthful answer. I reminded myself to smile kindly and said, “The girls are birth related.”

She seemed quite satisfied with this answer and quickly leaned a bit closer. Her eyes glistened as she whispered, “I placed two of my children for adoption.”

I had hesitated slightly in answering her initial question but, there was no hesitation as I spoke in response to her revelation. “God Bless You,” I said. “You must have loved them so much to make such a choice.”

She stood a little straighter. “Yes. Yes I did. I did what I did because of love, love for them and love for the four I am raising.”

All of this and we hadn’t even opened our menus. Throughout the meal as she took our orders, served our food and checked to see what else we needed, she continued to ask questions and to share about her own adoption experience.

She was very proud to have open adoptions with both families who had adopted her two children. I now know the states they where they live and their ages. She now knows that we were foster parents and that some of our children came to us as infants. I know her son who was adopted will turn 13 in August. She knows that Jeremiah is a musician. I know that she played the clarinet in her high-school band. She knows that we attend Church of the Highlands and that she is welcome there. I know the name of her home church.

It was amazing how much information was shared in brief exchanges once common ground was established. We were connected by the miracle of adoption. We stood on different stages, we discussed different children, we were different ethnicities, different in so many ways. But, we were alike because we were mommas who loved their children and our lives had been impacted by adoption.

As we prepared to leave at the end of our meal she put her hands to her eyes and said, “I’m sorry. I think I might cry.” I touched her elbow that was covered in a sweater that I noticed was a bit frayed. “I understand.” Was all I could say.

“So many people said I should have had an abortion. People thought that was better than adoption. But, I don’t believe in that.” I nodded in understanding and agreement.

As she walked away, my girls studied my face hard and then they asked a hard question. “What did she mean Momma?”

“She meant that she would rather her children live away from her than not live at all.” I told them and felt like I might cry.

We were almost late for service but we made it our seats just in time. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, we had already been to a special meeting that God had arranged and I was glad.

The worship music was especially wonderful. The communion with our church family was especially tender. The message was especially challenging as we were taught about the importance of relationships and small groups. As an example of the impact that small groups can have, a video was shared about one particular small group. The members of that group shared a common grief. The group was for post-abortive healing. As they shared their stories, I thought of our waitress, I thought of the many women who are hurting, struggling, searching for healing, and silently saying in their hearts, “I think I might cry.”

Please hear me if you are one of those women. Please understand clearly that you are not alone, you are not condemned and it is okay to cry. There is healing available for you no matter what it is that grieves your heart.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”
Proverbs‬ ‭27‬:‭17‬ NLT

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Assumptions: Ten Steps to Avoid Them

I’ve been considering how assumptions can strain even the strongest of relationships. An assumption can compromise trust on both sides. An assumption often means choosing to believe the worst when we could have chosen to believe the best. An assumption is often the result of fear or insecurities, a self-protection mechanism. An assumption rarely makes things better. An assumption proclaims loudly that we know a person’s heart and have determined their intentions. An assumption can hurt the heart of those we claim to love and add insult to that injury.

How can we avoid the snares of wrong assumptions, faulty conclusions and unfair judgements?

#1 Don’t. Just don’t. When you are tempted, refuse to assume. Get the facts. Ask a question. Find clarification before you come to a conclusion.

#2 Give the benefit of the doubt. Choose to believe the best until the facts (not feelings) prove otherwise. Feelings are fickle.

#3 Remember the character of the person in question. Does this sound like them? Does it line up with what you have experienced with them before?

#4 Keep in mind your state of mind. Are you already aggravated with the other person, put out with them, have a bone to pick?

#5 Err on the side of mercy. Don’t be so quick to give them what they deserve. Justice knows how to locate them if justice is required.

#6 Say you are sorry. When you were wrong, admit it, don’t excuse it. Apologize and hope they are willing to apply mercy when you weren’t.

#7 Consider the consequences. How will your relationship change? Will it cost you dearly if you assume incorrectly?

#8 Avoid words like obviously, apparently, undoubtedly, clearly when determining the intentions of another person’s heart.

#9 Forgive. Offer do-overs and second chances. If you were right and they were as rotten as you imagined, keep in mind, we all make mistakes.

#10 Decide now and often that you will not lump people together. All men. All teens. All southerners. All politicians. Yes, even all politicians. Each person deserves the opportunity to prove themselves, make their own way and even their own mistakes.

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