Posted in Friendship, Mail on Mondays

Mail-on-Mondays: Dear Tidy Momma

tea party

Dear Tidy Momma,

Last week I made my bed for the first time in probably a month, or two if I’m being honest. It looked so pretty, I almost took a picture and posted it on social media. Except I was afraid of what you might think of me, or worse, what you might say.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a made bed, a clean kitchen, and floors that don’t leave your feet feeling gritty when you walk barefoot across them. But the truth is many days this does not describe my home, especially during our busiest seasons of homeschooling and basketball.

During those days, you will likely find dishes in the sink, baskets of clean laundry waiting to be put away, dust on the mantel, and paperwork calling for my attention. And although I run the vacuum often, there will still be some grit -and probably a bit of dog hair left behind by our beloved Jack Russell who thinks he owns the place. The table will be cluttered with the latest art project, or other school work in progress, or perhaps just a  mess one of my people failed to clean up. There may be a pair of shoes littering the living room floor, and possibly a blanket abandoned on the sofa.

This is more often my reality.

When I find myself longing for order in the midst of cluttered counter-tops, cookie crumbs, and the overall chaos of our incessant comings and goings, I begin to wonder how you manage it all. And why I can not.

If I continue in that mindset, comparing my home to yours or my tidiness (or lack thereof) to your tidiness, I will worry myself into a pitiful state. Such comparisons are seldom helpful. Measuring myself next to you will not result in a cleaner house, nor will it allow me the freedom of inviting you into my imperfect home. Rather, my insecurities will pile up, crushing the likelihood of us spending time together.

So instead, I’ll choose to see you as a mother much like myself, with your own set of concerns, uncertainties, and dangerous little comparisons. And if truth were told, probably a messy home from time to time as well.

And I hope one day, despite our differences, we’ll sit together in my home. We’ll connect, one momma’s heart to another. And another day, we’ll sit in your home, and I’ll breathe in the loveliness you’ve created, gathering inspiration to take back to my own home.

Sweet friend, we have so much to offer one another. May we lower our guard, put away our unrealistic expectations, endless efforts to please, and critical tendencies.

May we accept one another exactly as we are -and where we are- in life’s journey. And as we do so, may we find a safe place to rest and recline, basking in the beauty and delight of unexpected friendship.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9 (NLT)
Posted in Friendship

Oh, To Be Honest

Friendship, Friends, Snapshot, Girls

What if, today, when you ask me how I’m doing, I give you an honest answer?

What if I refuse to sugarcoat my response? What if I just put it all out there? My raw emotions, my hurts, my struggles, my disappointments. What if I don’t attempt to hide my fears from you? What if I allow myself to shed a few tears in your presence?

Would that make me a burden? Would you consider me high-risk, perhaps needing a little more of you than you’re willing or able to give? If you’re like most, you would be hesitant to ask that question of me again, fearing you would step into more “life” than you’re prepared to deal with.

And yet, wouldn’t it be nice to have that freedom? The freedom to be real with one another, to step out from behind our struggles? And in doing so, to find others standing there with us, smack dab in the middle of what’s ailing us … sometimes leaning on one another, sometimes holding one another up, sometimes just sitting there together waiting on the storm to pass.

What a blessing to find rest in one another. To trust that we’re accepted. And loved. And forgiven. No longer feeling the need to impress or pretend. Realizing it’s okay to be ourselves. It’s okay to not have it all together. It’s okay to be less than perfect.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

How do we go about finding this often elusive place of unity, of trust, of uninhibited friendship?

We begin the journey to oneness with a simple thread of small kindnesses, carefully spun together over time. A smile, a hug. A quick phone call or text. Showing up when it matters most. Sticking around when others don’t.

Then we choose to hit repeat, making a conscious effort to remain nearby. Willing to be inconvenienced from time to time. Willing to make ourselves available. Even though we’re busy. Or preoccupied. Or some days just really, really tired. We don’t stop.

We keep checking on one another. Loving one another. Forgiving one another. Slowly and intentionally building relationships – good, solid, healthy relationships. Seeking out those who will speak truth into us, who will hold us accountable, who will stand by us when everyone else bails – and resolving to do the same for them.

We invest in them. We commit to them.
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Until one day, we realize all those little, seemingly insignificant gestures really did make a difference. They took root and, somewhere along the way, they bloomed into beautiful, lasting friendships.

What a blessing to have such friends – and to experience the privilege in being such a friend.

May we all be that friend to someone today. May we intentionally seek out others who also need the freedoms associated with such a friendship.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Posted in Friendship

The Words We Speak

red-telephone-booth

Her words, though seemingly innocent, cut me to the core.  A compliment laced with criticism as the main objective. I chose to respond to the flattery, purposely pushing the criticism out of mind until I could politely excuse myself from the conversation. But its effects lingered.  In my mind. In my heart. I couldn’t help but wonder if her words were intentional, or if she honestly didn’t realize the punch they packed to my sensitive heart.

Oh sweet sisters, why aren’t we more careful with our words?

It’s so easy to find fault in one another, voicing our disapproval in small, subtle ways. We are masters at inflicting one little jab here, another tiny dig there, leaving one another to question … “Am I a bad mother? Was my idea foolish? Should I do more for my children? Less for my husband? Am I wrong for not adding this “important” activity to my already busy schedule?”

And in the aftermath, some precious lady begins the arduous task of separating those hurtful words from what she knows to be true. Working tirelessly to shake off the undeserved guilt. Struggling to find her confidence again despite the uncertainties rising within her.  All because another woman carelessly cast inconsiderate words her way.

I’ve been there. No doubt you have as well.

And even worse, I’ve been guilty of dishing out sharp comments myself at times. I’m guessing you could say the same.

Sadly, we do this without truly considering the impact our words have on one another. In the busyness of our own small space, we forget how much we need one another. We fail to show love. To extend grace. To grant acceptance. To offer an occasional pat on the back.

Dear friends, how I pray we will become more thoughtful with the words we speak to one another. More aware of the message our words convey. Praying for each other more, judging less. Cherishing rather than belittling -despite our many differences.

May it become our mission to affirm our sisters, seeing to it that tenderness and hope tarry in their hearts long after our conversations cease.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Posted in Faith, Friendship

And So I Pray

three peas in a pod

I’m praying for a friend. Actually for a few friends. Friends who are going up against difficult assignments. Friends who so desperately long for a definitive answer from God, but all that’s heard clearly is His instruction to wait. Or to reach out, to be available to others, regardless of the outcome.

What a challenging place to find yourself. Yet I have friends who are there, in the midst of it, plugging along while awaiting clarity and direction from the Lord.

And all I can do is pray.

It feels as if my hands are tied. I can’t fix things, nor can I step into their place. I can’t make things happen as I think they should. I can’t remove their fear or eliminate their worries. I don’t have the answers they so badly crave.

But I can pray.

And so I pray. What I begin to realize is that in reality this is exactly what these friends need from me.

You see when the only thing I can do is pray, I find myself in the delicate position of trusting my friends, whatever their situation, to God. Believing that God sees every tear, knows the tension welling up in each heart, and is very much aware of every single need. I can confidently carry my sweet friends’ burdens to Jesus, fully trusting Him to listen, to answer, and to love my friends through whatever their future brings.

And therein lies the most powerful, magnificent thing of all. Because it is there that Jesus begins to work it all out, to replace their fear, anxiety, and worries with a lovely peace. To reveal to them, in His perfect timing, snippets of His wonderful plan for their lives. To give them the answers they so diligently seek. To show them He has been there all along, and that He loves each of them so very much.

Yes, prayer is such a beautiful gift – for these special friends; for every friend who has an unmet need; for me as well. When we earnestly, sincerely, and humbly approach God on behalf of those precious people around us, blessings are sure to follow. Needs will be met. Hearts will be touched. Lives will be changed. If only we will pray.

And so I pray.

Posted in Friendship, Mail on Mondays

Mail.on.Mondays: Dear Friends, My Sisters

woman with wildflowers

Dear Friends-Who-Have-Been-Like-Sisters-To-Me:

How I love each of you.

You, precious girlfriends, have left your mark of friendship, of sisterhood, on my heart.

Some of you I haven’t seen in years.  Some I’ve lost touch with completely. Some are in and out of my life like a gentle breeze that comes and goes. And some of you are a very real presence still today. Regardless of where you are or how little or how much I see you, you are often in my thoughts and prayers.

For you are the sisters I never had.

You see, I’ve received many blessings in my lifetime, but having a real-life, blood sister is not one of them. Growing up with two younger brothers, I played the role of big sister well. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to have a sister of my own.

That, dear friends, is where you came in.

God placed each of you in my life at different times, in different seasons.  And you’ve all done your jobs well.  I know this because despite the passing of time, your names abide on my lips, your smiles are etched on my heart, and your beautiful laughter rings in my ears.

Because of you, I have been blessed with the joy of sisterhood. I am forever grateful.

Grateful to a God who knew I would need special friends, and the exact time I would need them.  A God who loved me enough to make it happen.

Grateful to you, my sweet sisters, for loving me unconditionally and for truly hearing me, even when my words were few and my choices were poor.  For accepting me as is, yet encouraging me to become even more. For allowing me to share my deepest feelings, my greatest fears, and all my less-than-perfect ideas and solutions with you. And most of all, for opening your hearts to me as well.

I hope you will one day read this and know, without a doubt, that I am speaking of you.  Yes, you, my dear friend who has been like a sister to me…

Oh, how I love you, my cherished friend, my sister.

Love,

Me

Do you have a friend who has become more like your sister? If so, take a moment to let her know what her friendship means to you.

Posted in Faith, Friendship

Messiest of Messes

pebbles

I found myself cleaning up the messiest of messes the other day.  The type of dirtiness that requires rubber gloves and a pinched nose.  It wasn’t my mess.  In fact, I have no idea who made the mess, but someone did, and they left it for another somebody to clean up.  That “lucky” somebody happened to be me – Oh, joy.

I was irritated. More than disgusted.  Wondering who would do such a thing and how in the world I got stuck with clean up duty. Before long I began to realize I had, in fact, been chosen for that degrading task.  Yes, you heard me right… chosen.  God had a message for me and He used a stranger’s atrocity to draw my attention to it.

He reminded me that we’re all guilty of this from time to time. No, not the exact type of mess this person left behind.  But those sticky situation type of messes caused by careless words, angry remarks, or bad attitudes.  We spew them out and there they are, hanging in the air, waiting on someone else to wipe away their nastiness. Ouch.

And to think God may be as irritated and disgusted with my ugliness as I sometimes am with that of others.  Another ouch.

Yet He is swift to extend grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love. Am I as quick to do so?  Ouch again.

Friends, does this call to mind any debris you’ve left on the path behind you?  Do you need to retrace your steps and tidy up a few things along the way?

Or perhaps it’s chaos pushed onto you by another.  If so, it may be a good time to practice forgiveness and show love to that person — that unconditional kind of love God has shown to you.

Whatever the case may be, wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in such a way as to keep your messes to a minimum?  It would make life so much more peaceful, and clean up so much easier.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Romans 12:18

 

Posted in Friendship

If I Were Having Coffee with You Today

fancy coffee

One of my absolute favorite things is having coffee with a good friend at a local coffee shop.  I love everything about it.  The coffee, the company, and the cozy climate of the shop.  I could sit for hours catching up on the latest news, laughing together, encouraging one another, sharing burdens, and celebrating successes.  Yes, that would definitely be the high-point of my day.

If you were that friend and we were having coffee today, I would tell you how happy I am to be here with you. The opportunities to gather like this are few and far between.  Our days are so saturated with responsibility that the nurturing of our friendships is often pushed aside. Yet they are so important.

So believe me when I express my gratitude for you, and for this uninterrupted time to sit together and unwind over a cup of coffee. And if I’m a little too talkative and excited as we take our seats, please don’t be concerned.  I may need a sip or two from my cup, a moment to take a few deep breaths, and time to slowly transition into sitting mode.  I think you’ll understand.

If I were having coffee with you today, I would tell you how I’ve barely began Christmas shopping.  And that the mere thought of pulling decorations from the attic, sorting them out, and decorating my house tires me out.  I would tell you I think I’ve lost my desire to decorate, and ask you how I might get that spark back, or how to at least create some simple form of decorating that would delight my children and require only minimal effort on my part.  I would bounce ideas off you and wonder aloud how much I should spend on gifts this year.  And I would be relieved knowing you don’t think any less of me for feeling the way I do.

If I were having coffee with you today, I would ask about you.  I would inquire as to how things are going – your marriage, your children, your work, your daily grind.  Are you happy? Stressed? At peace in some areas? Frustrated in others?  I would encourage you to keep plugging along, trusting that there is purpose in every hard situation you face. I would take to heart your struggles, and make a mental note to pray for you, to pray you through every single one of them.  Because you’re my friend, and God caused our paths to cross for a reason.  Perhaps this fulfills one small part of that reason … you and me having coffee today.

 

Posted in Family, Friendship

Our Words

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14journal

This verse has become my prayer each time I sit down to write.  I carefully ponder what to say and how to say it in a way that breathes life and encouragement to those who hear.  This is so very important.

You see, when our writings are just words on a page, with no consideration for those who will read it, we end up leaving a trail of hurt, anger, and disappointment behind.  Just as words spoken verbally can cause harm, so can words hastily written on paper, through email, or by social media.

Sometimes we need to stop, and be still, and calm down before we speak or write.  We need to take our issues to God before we jump into battle.  We need to allow time for God to align our hearts with His goodness, to help us see the other person as He sees them, to realize that those unlovely people in our lives oftentimes do not know any better.  Possibly even to remind us that we are sometimes the unlovely ones.

When I stick close to God, I find I am often able to forgive and move on without the need to voice my opinions or to defend myself.  Other times when an issue must be addressed, it is wise for me to lean on God for the proper timing – and the proper words.  To ask Him to prepare my heart, enabling me to focus on reconciliation rather than on what I deserve or don’t deserve.  This is so hard, but it is possible with Jesus leading the way.

Have you ever been so aggravated with someone that you decide to “pray” for them in that tattle-telling kind of way?  I hate to admit it, but yes, I’ve done it.  I’ve taken my complaints to God and listed them all out, only to hear Him whisper back, “but what about you, child?” He calls to my memory the occasions when I’ve acted much the same way.  Yet, I am forgiven, and I know I must forgive.

So rather than spewing ugly words back at those who have offended me, I start praying.  I pray for myself.  “God, how do I deal with this?   What should I say?  How do I show your love to this person?”  Eventually, I begin to pray for them.  “God, draw them closer to you.  Help them to truly know Your love and blessing in their life.”  And a funny thing happens, my heart begins to change.

Maybe not overnight, or even within a week or two, but over the course of time, my heart does change.  It begins to love more, to forgive quicker.  The meditations of my heart become more acceptable to God, not because of anything I have done, but because He is my strength, my Redeemer. Likewise, as my heart more closely resembles His, so will my words.  I will choose them more carefully, not only in my writings, but in my daily conversations as well.  And I will be quicker to ask forgiveness when my words depict a heart that is not so lovely, as it most certainly will.

Friends, may we commit to look past our tough exteriors and take a peek at what lies beneath.  May our words to one another be affectionate, extending the grace we so desperately need.  We’re all in this together.  Let’s hold one another up, build one another up, and breathe life into one another with the words we choose.