Adult friendships: are they worth the work and the weirdness?

Have you ever walked away feeling awkward and off after an oddly flowing conversation, even with someone you’ve known for a long time?

Have you ever laid in bed at night mulling over the same words that someone said that maybe you were reading too much into… or just maybe they meant something by? Or worrying about the words you said that someone else might have misunderstood?

Have you ever left a crowded event still feeling unknown and alone?

Have you ever felt like it’s high school all over again as you longingly watch the cool posse laugh and walk by?

Have you ever been nervous to put yourself out there and initiate a friendship, only to find that when you finally reach out you were met with rejection?

Have you ever felt yourself resenting the person who “just got to town” and already has more friends than you have made in the past 2 years since arriving?

Have you ever missed what you used to have with the same person you still see all the time and wonder why things had to change?

Have you ever spent years getting close to someone and in the end had to tell them good bye? And then you were left feeling like you had to start all over again with someone new?

Then you’ve made it.

We’ve made it.

Made it to the place they used to always talk about. The place where “life gets more complicated and relationships don’t come easy.” So here we are. Adult friendships.

These relationships that can be so noticeably clunky and complex. Full of tendencies that can annoy us. Personalities that can confuse us. Sins that can hurt us. Plans get cancelled. You always show up late. They always leave early. They expect too much. You give too little. They always forget what you said. You always make the drive. Work is busy. That struggle is isolating. Schedules don’t line up. The kids will have melt downs and they interrupt grown up conversation every other sentence. Actually, forget it, you’re just going to spend the majority of the time chasing them around anyway.

It can be plain hard.

And as a 27 year old mom of 2 my friendship challenges may look different than your friendship challenges. But at the end of the day we’re pretty much all out here saying that friendship is harder and weirder than we thought it might be. Even more so though, we’re all still saying that we want it. And need it. And it’s worth it.

We were made for relationships.

We become our stronger and softer selves, because of them. Community life, filled with sometimes funny-feeling friendships, has a way of growing us into our fuller potential. Of chipping away at our edges and filling in some of our gaps. Of teaching us a new kind of resilience and endurance. Of giving us greater understanding and deeper compassion. Of simply bringing us enjoyment and laughter.

So how do we fight for it? How can we dig deep roots of friendship that will eventually produce some of the sweetest and rarest of fruits?

I do not have all the answers. Obviously. But, I have studied the way other’s around me live life with one another. I have leaned an ear into the voice of those who do it well and sought to follow in their footsteps. I have taken tidbits (or ton-bits) of practical application from podcasts and nuggets of wisdom from break out sessions and books.

In my own words I’ve compiled (that’s a nicer word than stolen) a list. It’s been spoken and lived out mostly by others first.

7 ways to approach and walk in healthy adult friendships:

1. Keep pressing on

I’ve heard the phrase “failing forward.” I like it. To me it is paints an accurate picture of what real life relationships look like. While it might sometimes feel like friendships are a constant dance of 1 step forward and 2 steps back, the good news is, you’re still going in the right direction.  Just because you’re stumbling, it doesn’t mean you’re not moving. One day we might just look a few steps ahead of our stumbling-selves and find that something pretty cool has been, and is being, built. So keep doing it. Keep texting first. Keep asking the questions. Keep pressing through uncomfortable pauses. Keep inviting them over even when your house isn’t perfect. Keep giving the benefit of the doubt. Keep accepting that you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And keep showing up as you. Where ever you said you would be, whenever you said you would be there. In all your Monday-morning messiness. Again and again and again.

2. Let go of your idealized version of friendship

Remember when you were a kid on the playground and making a friend meant swinging next to someone and saying hi? Or when you joined that club or team in High School and quickly found your niche? Or when you got to college and instantly became friends with a handful of people who were coming in and out of your dorm room on the daily?

Maybe your experiences of friendship haven’t been quite that easy or simple. But most likely we all have had at least one period of time in our lives that friendships were fluid and fun. Where they were just a given. And they lightened our load and rarely seemed to add to it. Or maybe your idealized version is something you’ve seen in a movie or read in a book or seen in other’s lives, but never quite experienced it yourself. Whatever your version may be, I believe it’s something we have to let go of. We have to realize 2:00 AM study dates are a season and a sort of friendship. They aren’t the prototype. And if we’re too busy waiting around for friendships to look that way or another, we may miss the unique ones that are right in front of us. In the words of Meg Tietz, stop waiting around for your best friend soulmate.

3. Allow friendships to be what they are

This is an idea that I heard recently shared in a podcast and I thought it was so enlightening and freeing. Don’t force something out of a friendship that it just isn’t going to give. Let it morph and grow and don’t box it in, but also just let it be. Don’t expect someone who never knows where their phone is to text you every day. Don’t expect someone who is quiet to shower you with all the words that you want to hear. Don’t go on a play date “for” your kids and expect it to actually be a mom date “for” you. We don’t have to put all of our friendship eggs in one basket. Actually, we shouldn’t. Because no one person can be everything we need them to be. They can not meet all of our friendship needs. And that’s a good thing. It allows us to have various friends who fill us in various ways and not have one friend who fulfills us in all the ways. Because they just can’t. This approach creates the room for us to make more friends and for those that are already our friends to make more of their own, too.

If you found your up-for-anything friend, have fun with them. If you found your honest friend, ask them the hard things you need to know the truth about. If you found your empathizing friend, cry to them. If you found your group friend, one on one time might not be your best bet with them. If you found your fix-it friend, call them when your pipe is leaking. Appreciate your friends for who they are and what they uniquely bring. And when maybe you get the chance to find a “freezer friend” (again shout out to Meg Tietz with Sorta Awesome) who knows every single thing in your freezer; aka knows every detail of your day and wants to… rejoice in the rarity and hold on tight to them. But acknowledge that this type of friendship is simply not everyone’s norm.

4. Share experiences

I recently heard someone say (once again, my written words and someone else’s ideas) that they realized about themselves that they rarely ever sat across the table with someone and felt an instant friendship-connection. They rarely “hit it off” with people. Rather they kept gathering around the same things at the same times, and formed something sweet. This can look like weekly coffee shop meets or biweekly play dates or monthly pizza nights or annual camping trips. Friendships can be forged and kept by the very things we mark on our calendars again and again. The routines that we build into our rhythms of life. Friendship isn’t confined to the spoken word only. It can be cultivated and kept by common interests and shared experiences. Turn up the music and make pizza together. Sit on the couch and cry at This Is Us together. Pant and sweat while you hike together. Be captivated by the flames of the campfire together.

Create together. Rest together. Play together. Watch together. Cheer together. Find the things that unite you, and keep capitalizing on those things and gathering around those things. They will be the very things you tell past stories about and create current memories in.

5. Sit in the sadness

I have found that, at least from my own personal experience, something that keeps me running from relationships is the fear of not knowing what to say. I’m afraid of walking through a situation with someone that I know absolutely nothing about. I’m afraid to say too much, offer too little, or flat out say the wrong thing. I’m afraid of the things that feel foreign to me and then I write myself off as having nothing to offer. Yet because we’re all human, pain and sorrow and suffering are no strangers to any of us. They may come in varying forms and degrees, but we are all acquainted with them. And so we can choose to be human with our friends. We can acknowledge that we have no idea what to say or no advice to give. But we can offer ourselves. We can give our quiet and caring and un-rushed presence. We can give the sacrificial gift of bearing one another’s burdens by simply sitting in them. We can take some of the tears by crying them too. We can take some of the sting by letting it pierce us too. Hearing the silence and feeling the pain might be all we have to offer, and it may be all they ever actually wanted us to give.

6. Have hands that help

I have never seen such a raw and beautiful picture of helping hands as when I joined a local church. This came to life to me when I covenanted to a body of believers. A group of people who saw themselves not only theologically but also practically as just that- a body. A body with moving and functioning and active parts. Doing their job. Imperfectly but faithfully. While my taste of this “hands on” friendship has been primarily in the context of my church, what new mom in your play group would pass up a meal being brought to her door? What car-less coworker wouldn’t want a ride to the office? What new house owner wouldn’t welcome able-bodies to help move some boxes? What single parent wouldn’t take you up on a night of free childcare?

Sometimes we can’t come up with the words to say. And sometimes we don’t have the chance to just sit and feel with them. But we can always say “I’m ordering” or “I’m doing” or “I’m bringing.” These soothing words and these kind actions have made me feel known and cared for in a way that almost nothing else ever has. Maybe it’s because we’re adults and we have so much on our plates that lightening our load is our new love language. Or maybe it’s because we’re human and we desperately need each other to make it through this thing that we’re all in together called life.

7.  Have lips that celebrate

Be a friend that mourns quietly and helps practically and cheers loudly. Throw their party. Buy their ice cream. Watch their kids. Send the text that says “good job!” Make the call that says “you did it!” True friends challenge us but they also cheer for us. See the good. Call out the growth. Emphasize the victories. Choose to be a friend that is quick to honor and root and uphold. The joy in your life will multiply as their celebrations become your celebrations, their wins become your wins, and their happy days become your happy days. Even in the midst of your own complaints and loses and sad days. Sometimes friendship is letting someone else ignore the brightness of their own day to sit in the darkness your hard day. And other times friendship is choking back your sad tears to rejoice in someone else’s happy tears.

There are enough hard days and harsh voices. We all could use that friend, and be that friend, that celebrates proudly and embarrassingly and often. It’s not an expensive gift to give but it’s a priceless one to receive.

Take heart and keep fighting the friendship fight.

Embrace it in all of its weirdness and wonder and work. Oh, and don’t forget to look around and see that you’re among the 99% of people who are wanting the exact same thing as you.

A friend.

 

 

 

 

 

The secret to contentment

A couple months ago my kids and I were taking a morning walk around our neighborhood. It was the same usual route full of the same usual houses. But for some reason, on this particular walk, I really saw these houses. What size they were. How well-kept their yards were. How pretty their flowers were. What color their front doors were.

This noticing struck me.

Initially I think it was because I am not typically observant about things like this. At all. My husband could probably recall how many windows are on each of the houses around the loop we take. Me, I couldn’t even tell you if a single house had windows. But the thing that really struck me was the reason I was noticing. I would love to say that it was out of appreciation or admiration that I was taking note of such things. It wasn’t. What my heart was doing that day was making a subtle list of what we didn’t have. Or of what we did have, that wasn’t quite as big or as pretty or as fancy or as appealing, as theirs.

Of course this was nowhere near the first time I had caught myself playing the comparison game. But honestly, on the list of recurring struggles I’ve had in my life, this hadn’t ever made the top of the list for me. My eyes were not usually prone to wandering to other peoples lives, relationships, or things. So when mine did in a very obvious way, it took me off guard.

And it caused me to realize, on much more serious and deep levels, the kind of hold this thing we call the “comparison trap” had actually started to have in my life. It had taken on many ugly forms for many ugly reasons, and I’m painfully thankful this little walk around the block opened up my eyes to this reality.

I started to wonder “is this just part of being an adult?” or “maybe this is what it feels like to settle into an area for more than 5 years? I’m not just passing through. So it makes sense to now look around me at others who have done some part of staking their life here, and what their life looks like compared to mine, right?” Maybe there is some truth there. But as I have been reflecting on (or more aptly put- wrestling though) what contentment is all about and why it really matters for a Christ follower, I realized I couldn’t let myself settle for the answer that I was just “adulting.”

To the Christian, contentment is both necessary and possible. We have a reason to be as well as the means to be. Therefore, like most things in the Christian life, I am able to both rest in what has been won for me (the power to be content) and also fight hard for it at the same exact time.

And I promise you this, as I promise it to my own forgetful heart, it will always be worth both the resting and the fighting, because we are called to it. And whatever we are called to in Christ, is worth it. Every time.

How I am learning to fight for contentment

  1. Call it what it is

    One of those spiritual “hurts so good” moments was when I heard someone say that essentially believers should stop using coddling words and phrases to make us feel better about what the Bible calls, well, sin. For example, she said, stop saying that we are just “comparing.” Comparison, used culturally, insinuates a sense of dreaming. Maybe it is a little misdirected but it’s really just wishful thinking that means no harm. It’s normal. It’s to be expected. We’re only human. It helps us push for greater. It allows us to achieve our #goals. But the Bible calls it something quite different. It changes a vague and harmless habit into a directed and soul depleting sin. And calls it coveting. In Romans this word coveting is pitted against love itself. It is antithetical to it. If you love your neighbor you will not murder, commit adultery, steal, or covet. This is not a picture of simply striving after greatness but rather it is a picture of wanting what does not belong to us. Of not loving but rather sinning.

    So the first self-denying yet life giving way I have found to fight the fight of a contended heart is to call my coveting what it is. And then to see what God has to say about it. And me. And Him.
     
  2. Pray for those I am envying

    I have always heard that it’s hard to hate someone you are praying for. In the same way I have come to find that it is hard to want a part of someone else’s life for myself when I am praying it becomes even more theirs. When I not only thank God for what they have, but also ask that he bless them even more.  I can’t put into words the beauty that takes place deep within when a prayer is choked out for the flourishing of another’s friendship that we wanted for ourselves. Or the raw request for someone else’s continued success, that magnifies our own failure. God does a sanctifying work in those moments. It is a hard moment. But it has the ability to become a holy one. One that turns a harsh shout of envy into a soft whisper of celebration.

    As we pray for the thriving of others we ourselves begin to sense this mysterious settledness seep into the once hidden and envious crevasses of our hearts.  Prayer opens these dark places up and allows the light to come in. The light of contentment which in and of itself, paired with godliness, is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6)
     
  3. Count what I have

    I can hear generation after generation of the sweetest voices in my family singing “count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done. Count your blessings. Count your many blessings.” And they would all attest that these are more than words of a song to them. That there was never a time in their life that they did not have more to be thankful for than they even knew to count. And when I start to “name mine one by one” I find that the same is true. I find that I have so much to be thankful for that if I spent my whole life rehearsing the list, I wouldn’t have enough time to think about what I do not have. Or what others have. Counting my blessings tunes my heart to the contented rest I should continually be at. But it’s not only a catchy little timeless song. It is something we are told to do over and over again in scripture. Giving thanks softens and enlightens and cultivates. It opens its hands to receive and keeps them opened to praise.
     
  4. Name who I am

    While I have found the power of a good bullet-journaling session to name all I have to be grateful for, I have found that even this, as effective as it might be, is not the true secret to contentment. While rehearsing blessings certainly puts things into perspective it can not truly anchor a soul down in contentment. While envying is wanting what we don’t have and thankfulness is remembering what we do have, the focus is still the same. Our happiness, or lack of, is still tied to what we do or do not have.

    It is only when I, along with Paul, can say that I know how to be brought low and how to abound and in every circumstance have learned the secret of facing hunger, abundance, and need: I can do all things though Him who strengthens me. Strength when I look across the yard at my neighbor and want what I do not have. Strength when I do have it. Strength when I never get it. Contentment is not dependent on what is outside of me but rather who is inside of me.

    Our heart’s are only ever fully, completely, satisfyingly content because of Christ. Christ in us.

  5. Claim who He is

    “Just as a cup of tea gets stronger when we give it time to steep, so we become more content when we spend time in God’s Word and allow it to steep into our lives, transforming us to be like Him.”

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion

and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” Psalm 16:5

“I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Can we say that there are things that happen to us that do not belong to our lovingly assigned “portion.” Are some things, then, out of the control of the Almighty? Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good. As I accept the given portion other options are cancelled. Decisions become much easier, directions clearer, and hence my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter. A quiet heart is content with what God gives” Elisabeth Elliot on Psalm 16:5

 

A quiet heart is content with what God gives.

Because it knows who God is.

Mother’s Day 2019: 31 things my mom has taught me

1. There’s always room at our table.

2. Pot Roast tastes the best on Sundays.

3. Give yourself the treat of coming home to a clean house after vacation.

4. No question is a stupid question when it’s genuine. Never stop learning and growing.

5. All human life is valuable and is always a hill worth dying on. Every single time.

6. The gospel gives us reason to sing, even when our voice is shaking.

7. It’s a fact of life that not everyone is going to like you.

8. A Chick-fil-A sandwich is heavenly, even when it’s smooshed in a bag and flown to you from thousands of miles away.

9. Cities have their own personalities, explore them.

10. Sometimes the best answer to life’s problems is just a good night of sleep.

11. The small family feast around the Reeves table in this life is worth giving up for the blood bought family feast around the King’s table in eternity.

12. Different colors look good on different people.

13. You can be both honest and gracious.

14. There’s no such thing as talking anything to death.

15. It’s okay to parent your kids differently, they’re all different.

16. Sweet tea goes with breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Oh, and bedtime snacks.

17. We all see things through different lenses. Try to put someone else’s on sometimes.

18. A happy-hearted mama makes for a happy home.

19. You’re not going to get what you want if you don’t ask for it… like for people not to cut your drink lemon with the onion knife.

20. Proper punctuation, really! matters. And get your apostrophes’es right, people.

21. Respect your own kids in the ways you relate to their own kids.

22. God’s Word informs us, we do not inform it.

23. The art of making a house a home.

24. The beauty of confidence and contentedness.

25. The wisdom of listening.

26. The kindness of buying someone else’s coffee.

27. There’s no such thing as an “original family.” When someone else joins in, they’re the original family now.

28. Some things you just have to accept, not master. Like never remembering where you parked your car after coming out of the store.

29. Cheer on the next generation.

30. Own the things that make you who you are, even your ticks and quirks. And love people for who they are, even with their ticks and quirks.

31. IT’S ALL GRACE.

Anxiety

Anxiety: intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur.

 

Anxiety cannot fully embrace the good in front because it is too busy bracing for the bad that must be lurking behind

Anxiety is sinking into the waters while driving over a bridge

Anxiety hears the mocking whispers of others who are not even talking

Anxiety quickly locks the door to keep things out and slowly turns around to ensure nothing got locked inside

Anxiety hides in the bathroom

Anxiety locks all the windows, and locks them again

Anxiety goes to sleep exhausted from the mental worse-case-scenario game it’s been playing all day

Anxiety wakes up exhausted from nightmares

Anxiety sighs and shrinks and shakes and sweats

It consumes

It suffocates

It paralyzes

It steals

It taunts

It lies

But the terrifying thing is it also tells the truth

The truth?

The truth is we are capable of being harmed

We do not know what is going to happen to us

Our worst fears may come to pass

And ultimately, we have no control over what happens to us 

Anxiety does what anxiety can’t have

The very control it desperately chases ends up enslaving

Yet it is here, in the admitting of our limitations, that we are freed from its shackles

We find freedom, not in tackling control to the ground, but in releasing it

It is here, in the battle ground of anxiety, that we fight its own truths with its own lies

Dear brother, sister, bought by the blood of Jesus,

Anxiety is lying to you:

It does not give the protection it offers

Someone better than itself is in control

He is the one who gives peace in relentless storms

He is the one who gives joy in the deepest of sorrows

He is the one who gives light in the darkest of places

He is the one who gives strength in the weakest of moments

He does not promise us protection from all our fears,
but He promises His presence as we walk through them

His presence is the best place to be; To dwell and to land
And to launch headfirst into the unknown

The release is worth the risk when His arms are the place we get to fall

Let’s spend our time getting to know our God better than we know our anxieties.
Even if they never fully flee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When your life isn’t what you thought

I have come to find that sometimes the hardest time to write about something can be when we’re smack dab in the middle of it. Often it feels safer to be a few steps ahead of something before sitting down to write about it. But God doesn’t just meet us in the aftermath. In the solutions. In the recoveries. He meets us right where we are at: in the thick and tangled up mess. In the processing. In the wrestling. He doesn’t always provide a boat for us to ride above the waters. Instead, He may keep us inside the turning currents but give us goggles to see some treasures while we’re there. And the best part of all is that He doesn’t just throw us the googles, He jumps into the waters with us.

Now don’t let me mislead you, there are no storms of suffering surrounding me like they may be you. But there is a different kind of storm and it is going on inside of me. Side note, one embarrassing thing about writing in the midst of something is that our perspective is usually skewed. Everything looks and feels much bigger than reality. So we tend to be a bit dramatic. But, I digress. In my own little self-sized internal storm these big intimidating waves taunt me, “WHO ARE YOU EVEN? AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?” Yeah self… who are you?

3 years after the real life version of “getting a gift I did not desire” (ie having my daughter) I have come to further realize that my struggles were more than the initial news of an unexpected gift. I was aware of this, but as always, there is more going on inside of us than what is on the surface. The surface-level is an expression of what is below it. Often it takes some digging and unveiling. So here I am, 3 years later. And on this side of it, I can tell you two things. I can unashamedly proclaim that I love my kids in a way that has totally exploded my heart and life. I can also, more ashamedly, confess that I don’t always love being a mom. More seriously, I can still deeply resent it. Big deal, right? Who doesn’t feel that way from time to time. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that motherhood wasn’t, and still isn’t, just a threat to my own plans and timelines. It was a threat to my very own self-made identity.

So, maybe you’re reading this and you’re in a totally different place in life than me. Maybe you find yourself being depended on in ways you never expected. Maybe you’re dependent on someone else in ways you never imagined or wished for. Maybe you’re sitting at that same desk or pulling up to that same apartment or looking down at that same bare finger, all for years longer than expected. Maybe your life has been uprooted and replanted in a brand new place surrounded by brand new people. Maybe that degree, or job, or trip, is being put on hold. Maybe you are experiencing the excruciating pain of longing or loss. Or maybe it’s (whatever your it is) here and you weren’t expecting it to come when and how it did.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

It wasn’t supposed to feel like this.

Who am I?

Wherever you find yourself in life, I hope my raw, flawed, zoomed in, goggle-sort-of-view of these things I’m learning brings some grace and understanding and truth to you.

“You aren’t alone”

As I have shared some of my personal wrestling with my own identity and worth, I have been met with empathy and a real sense of comradery. That’s a sweet gift you can receive and give to someone, y’all. It can be one of the most comforting things. But I would be less than honest if I didn’t say it can also be sobering. It’s comforting because we see that we aren’t left to deal with things on our own. It’s comforting because we aren’t strange for being the only one to go through something. But it’s sobering because we don’t get to throw ourselves an ongoing pity party. Because we don’t get to wear a badge for being the only one to struggle a certain way. You are one in a million, but you are also one of a million. So do yourself a humbling and helpful favor, and give people permission to tell you they have been there, or are there, too.

Stripped identities can be scary and sacred ground

The very things I was unknowingly clutching onto to form my identity did not only feel imposed upon by motherhood, they felt at odds with it. Where I wanted to be free spirited, I felt motherhood told me I must be restricted. Where I wanted to be adventurous, I thought motherhood meant I must be rigid. The list goes on. It felt like some painful sort of self death would have to happen in order for another life to be born in me. I deeply resented this death of self. But what I often fail to realize is that this sort of self death will be both beautifully true and foolishly false for the rest of my life. It is a constant and necessary losing of self and finding of self all at once.

When we realize our identities- be they a title, role, ability, relationship, desire, dream or so much more- are in some form being taken from us, it’s really terrifying. When the thing that we have let label us and define us for so long is somehow no longer a part of us, it can feel kind of like being exposed and having nothing to hide behind. It’s uncomfortable and scary. But don’t miss this, it’s also sacred and soft ground here. It’s an opportunity to be rebuilt, remade, and redefined. Or maybe just reminded of who we already are that we may have forgotten about.

Identify identity

The dictionary definition of identity is: “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” And while there could be many ways to define it biblically, I think Christian identity can be summed up in this verse found in Corinthians, “whoever is in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed and the new has come.” Identity is a buzz word in many Christian circles. And while it may not be a specific word used outside of these circles, the idea of identity is a big deal to us all. I think this new world of self branding and self promotion through social media reveals our intrinsic identity-chase.

Now the tricky part I’ve found in this whole identifying our truest self thing is that identity is both fundamental and functional. Fundamentally, I believe myself to be a human being created in the image of God who has been recreated in Christ. But functionally I currently find myself flailing around in a perceived state of crises, instead of resting securely in the one who’s undeserved and totally willing self death birthed my new life. I find my identity-naked self being exposed, instead of hiding behind the rock of ages. So how do we bridge the fundamental to the functional? We preach the gospel to our very own heart and mind and soul. Until the day we die. The gospel wasn’t just a thing of the past, it is the very essence of who we are now and it is to permeate into all we think and do and say and are, today.

Breaking borders

There is a subtle yet major difference between contentment and settling. Settling says “this” is all I am, can be, or going to be. Settling suppresses God given passions and gifts and desires and dreams. Settling usually plants seeds of bitterness and self pity. Contentment gladly embraces what God has seen fit to give to us in His own good time. Contentment is not afraid to strive while also being deeply settled. Contentment usually breeds thankfulness and joy. We are whole beings who are capable of functioning in more ways than we often give ourselves credit for. We often sell ourselves short in claiming only our primary occupation as who we are. We let this thoroughly define us. Instead, carve into your calendar an enjoyable hobby, make space for that creative outlet, pursue your passions, and explore what makes you feel like, you.

Being you, right where you’re at

The potential danger in pursuing what may feel a little out of our borders is that in turn we might miss what is right in front of us. This has hit me like a ton of bricks in my discontentment lately. No, I’m not only a mom, but yes I am a mom. So instead of seeing my passions and personality and gifts and goals as something I must put into some sort of outside source, I should seek to channel these things into motherhood. If you’re creative, bring creativity into your work place. If you’re merciful, show mercy to your children. If you’re driven, be diligent in your studies. Bring your adventure and structure and knowledge and compassion and your craftsmanship into the very spheres you are already in, if you believe you are supposed to be there. It would be a shame if in the constant chase for something more, we waste what has already been given to us.

Bringing it (to your own) home

I’ve heard it said that good desires make bad masters. As do good callings make bad identities. So how do we know when our misplaced identity has turned into idolatry? How do we know where our true identity lies? I think one helpful gauge is by recognizing the way we respond when something is taken from us or given to us. Does the loss lead us to normal disappointment or to total despair? Does the gain lead us to a healthy sort of happiness or an awaited sense of wholeness? Does it have the power to make us or break us?

I will not soon forget the wise counselor who looked into my misty eyes and kindly urged me not to think that shifting my identity into motherhood is my new ticket to fulfillment. Instead, they said, being a Christian is your identity. It is at the center. Everything else for the rest of your life is just an avenue off of it.

So friend, our heavy ladened souls searching for worth and value can find rest in who we currently are and always will be, in Jesus. It’s settled and secure. No matter where we go or what we do or who we become, we are in Him. And it’s all from Him and for Him and to Him, forevermore.

Unapologetically you: learning how to say sorry for the right things

You look at the clock and before you can even fully register what time it is, there is a knock at the door. They’re here….On time. How rude. The house is not in the condition you hoped it would be but you have no choice other than to open the door and let them in. Into the mess that is your house that reflects the mess that is your life. Before they can hardly step in the door some of the first words out of your mouth are “sorry the house is such a mess….”

Sorry.

That small word then clears the air. It’s been acknowledged by you and brushed off by them. Moving on now. Cool.

But there is something I’ve been realizing in real life scenarios like this: there is a vital difference between the sentiment of “sorry” and of “I’m sorry.” Maybe you should be sorry the house is a mess. But, maybe you’re saying it for all the wrong reasons.

“Sorry” says please excuse and “I’m sorry” says please forgive. “Sorry” says don’t judge me and “I’m sorry” says I’m examining myself. “Sorry” says I’m afraid to offend you and “I’m sorry” says I’m afraid that I have hurt you. “Sorry” says I’m apologizing for what happened and “I’m sorry” says I’m apologizing for my personal part in it.

For me at least, “sorry” often comes from a place of insecurity or even more deeply, pride. Whereas “I’m sorry” often comes from a place of stability or even more deeply, humility.

I think there is this sense, especially among females, that we need to apologize for the very things that expose that we are not perfect.

So friend,

Stop apologizing for your unwashed hair, your kids being loud, and your dishes being dirty.

Stop apologizing for crying hard or laughing loud or dreaming big.

Stop apologizing for not knowing all the answers.

You don’t have to validate yourself for being a hot mess and you also don’t have dismiss yourself for being put together sometimes.

You don’t have to explain yourself to every single person, every single time.

You don’t have to rationalize why you formula feed, or put your kids in daycare, or don’t buy them all (or any) organic food.

You don’t have to say you are sorry for every opinion you have and choice you make.

You don’t need forgiveness for what makes you different.

As a general rule, you don’t have to apologize to other people for things that don’t actually effect them. That do not harm them or hurt them or really even pertain to them.

Eat the cake.

Take a break.

Let your kids play in the dirt.

Show up without makeup on.

Sit quietly.

Sing loudly.

Be passionate.

Feel deeply.

Ask for help.

…unapologetically.

But also, in a raw and repentant way, apologize. The real kind. The kind that says, “I’m sorry.” Those two words can be so hard to utter. So embarrassing. So unnatural. But so necessary.

When we blame or belittle
manipulate or mock
gossip or gripe
neglect or nag
abuse or accuse

When we point out the speck in someone else’s eye and miss the plank in ours.

When we are quick to speak and slow to listen.

When we go back on our word.

When we lash out in rage and when we grasp in selfishness.

When we slander our coworker or church member or classmate.

When we disrespect and disregard our spouse.

And yes, even when we lose it with our kids.

We can sheepishly come back, boldly look them in the eye, and even if our voices shake, we can proclaim the powerful words, “I am sorry.” True relationships happen here. Not in shallow sorry’s spoken from the mouth but with sincere I’m sorry’s that are spoken from the heart.

I’m sorry bridges gaps. It springs forth restoration and peace and humility. It exposes our humanity. It levels the playing field. It reminds us we are, in fact, in need.

I have heard this phrase before and I think it sums up, for Christians, this whole idea well: be your in-Christ self.

Self meaning you in all your idiosyncrasies and quirks. Your enneagram 9ness. Your type Aish tendencies. Your expressive and extroverted self. You don’t have to fully rid yourself of what makes you uniquely awkward and awesome.

In Christ meaning the new you who has been set free from sin and who is still daily dying to it. Your saved and sanctified self. The one that is being molded to look more and more like Jesus.

You can bravely be both unapologetically and repentantly, you.

The ministry of showing up

“75% of life is just showing up.”

Most of us have heard this quote or quotes like it. Which is slightly unfortunate because it means it’s become cliche. And I’ve heard it said that the secrets of life are hidden in cliches, but we ignore them because we’ve heard them so much. But, I have been discovering the wisdom behind sayings like this.

Showing up is “half the battle” (or more, I’d argue). Showing up to class, to work, to coffee dates, to meetings, to play dates, to planned events… the list goes on and on.

The idea of “showing up” clearly applies to so many aspects of life. But I wanted to share this for Christians in the context of the church. What I am going to share is two-fold. First, the more obvious and more talked about aspect- what it does for our own soul.

I have come to believe deep in the recesses of my heart that church is vital for a Christian. Not in a check list/religious sort of way but in a uniquely life-giving and God glorifying kind of way.

Christ calls the church his bride. His bride! Brides are beautiful and beloved. Now I know many people have found the church to be the farthest thing from reflecting beauty and beloved-ness. But, I have seen throughout my life that when church is done right (not perfectly, but rightly) it is indeed glorious and radiant and like nothing else on earth.

In keeping with the metaphor, in a healthy marriage, the closest we really get to someone else without actually being with them is being with their spouse. Likewise, I believe the closest we get to God this side of heaven is being with, and a part of, His bride. He has set up his church in a unique way that allows us to know Him, know ourselves, and know others in a way that nothing else can quite produce. The biblical church is more than gathering together once a week. But it’s not less than. We are strengthened and matured and convicted and encouraged in ways we could not be without meeting together.

For all of this and so much more I have become convinced that we must not underestimate the power of our presence. But here is the other, often missed, side: showing up isn’t just for our own hearts it is for the hearts of others too.

A while ago we had a friend over and we were all talking about what it’s been like for us transitioning to having two kids. I told him that one really challenging thing for me was getting to church with both the kids on the Sundays that my husband, Kyle, was working. I was explaining how some of those first Sunday mornings without Kyle felt nearly impossible. And in-fact, the first couple ones where our baby was old enough to go, I literally did not make it out the door.

In a really kind way he shared how encouraging it was to see people show up during difficult or inconvenient times. He named one person in particular who he has specifically taken note of. She has come, even with three kids climbing all over her or tagging along behind her.

She was there.

And he noticed.

He was spurred on to take his own commitment to the church more seriously.

Caveat: I did not write this to heap guilt or burdens onto you. For me personally, this resonated deep in my heart in a way that has not only challenged me but comforted me and even freed me. My aim is for it to do the same for some of you.

You are welcome: your frazzled- half put together- I need coffee- self. From the baggage of the past, the sufferings of the season, right up to the chaos of the morning.

When you look over and see that woman who is grappling with scary news from the doctor. That couple who is longing for a child. That man who lost his job. When you see someone standing silently, with the kind of sadness that makes it too hard to sing, with their hands lifted high letting their brothers and sisters sing for them.

The shaky hands and tear filled eyes of a courageous person who chose to show up speaks a powerful message. Ultimately they shout the worthiness of our God and the value of his people meeting together.

I know being a part of a church is much more than just showing up. That’s for another blog. I know that sometimes we need permission not to show up. There is a time for that. I know some of you have showed up time and time again and have never felt noticed or known. That’s a different story. And I’m really sorry.

But for those in messy yet striving, sometimes awkward yet faithful, flawed yet genuine churches- let’s fight together to show up. To not forsake meeting together. Let’s be a people who do not grow weary of showing up. Time and time again.

That, in and of itself, is a ministry we can all sign up for and serve in.