Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Are You True?

A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
---Proverbs 12:26

I mentioned in the last post that 2013 was a challenging year for our family for several reasons.  Now that I've had some time to look back on the year, one of the things I've realized is that the people who I considered my friends were, unfortunately, friends of convenience.  That is, when I could no longer be the person they thought I was, or refused to protect and guard some very nasty and detrimental issues that were unfolding in our home, I wasn't really worth pursuing as a friend.

I thought I had true friendships.  I cherish the few that I have maintained, and appreciate those more than they will ever realize, because sometimes, a true friend is someone that you never would have thought in a thousand years would be there for you.  I will admit, I have been wrong about people I'd originally thought I'd never begin or maintain a friendship with, and to this day, these are the friendships I value the most---because God was intentional about planting those people in my life, and nurturing and growing those relationships.  They don't disappear.  They'll send a message out of nowhere, and I know I can and will do the same.  They'll tell me the truth in love when they feel I'm not acting according to God's plan, and they'll own up to their errors and shortcomings.

So, then...what makes a true friend?  Do your friends make you feel needed and encouraged?  Make you want to be a better person?  More confident?  Or do you feel worse after being around them, even when things are going well in your life?  Do they put you down or make you feel worthless?  Do they root you on and encourage you?  Even if they don't necessarily agree with what you're doing, or understand, do they provide support, or better yet, share the truth in love?  Push back on you when they feel you're not doing what they believe God intends for your life?

What about being a good listener?  This is a HUGE part of friendship, and one that I feel has been out of balance for me, especially last year.  Don't get me wrong---I think there are times in friendships when we give more than we take, and that's just the nature of things.  But last year?  I felt like a dumping ground for people's problems---in fact, it pushed me over the edge and deep into the pit of despair.  Several months, I was under that muck in the pit.  The depression was like a wet blanket, so heavy I couldn't breathe.  I didn't guard my heart.  I forgot to put on the full armor of God.  Those arrows from the Enemy?  Right where it hurt.

It's not just about being a good listener---it's about being an active listener.  Put down your phone.  Silence it, turn it off, do whatever you have to do to FOCUS.  Make eye contact.  Nothing feels worse than feeling like you're a burden---unless, of course, it's feeling like you're unimportant because your "friend" is constantly looking over your shoulder or checking things out around you, all with the intent of finding someone else with whom they HAVE to connect.

How is your communication?  The key to all relationships is communication, and if you're as great of friends as you believe to be, you should be able to share your feelings and maintain levels of open and honest dialogue.  I'll admit, right now there is an area of my life that I don't feel like I'm doing a great job with a friend of ours.  I disagree, on so many levels, on a situation in this person's life, and my disappointment in them as a person is paralyzing.  I've lost so much respect for this individual, but I realize the responsibility is mine to communicate to this individual the fact that I don't agree with the detrimental choices being made.  I know that after removing myself from being so close to the situation, I will have the perspective I need to respectfully communicate my feelings and thoughts.

What about gossip?  Do the majority of your friends gossip about other people?  Guard your heart, because there's a good possibility that if your "friend" spends a majority of the time talking about other people, those other people aren't the only victims of your "friend's" gossip.

Finally, MAKE time to nurture and grow those friendships and most importantly, STICK TO YOUR WORD.  I have always said that I don't want to be someone who says I'm going to do something, and then backs out.  Are there circumstances sometimes that we cannot control?  Life gets in the way, and interrupts our plans.  Regardless, if we say we're going to do something, then DO IT.  Re-schedule.  Include your friends in your life---don't isolate yourself.  Don't make promises you can't keep.  Don't say things you don't mean.  Most importantly, don't say things you can't take back---because even if that friendship doesn't survive, those words still will and have the power to destroy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Creating a Life Story

Is your life a story worth telling?  I re-read these words this morning when I was completing today's assignment for Priscilla Shirer's "Jonah:  Navigating a Life Interrupted."  I have had plenty of experiences in my life that are worth sharing, but at the end of the day, what sort of legacy am I creating?  Is this life one I'm proud of living, and sharing, and most importantly---telling?  Will I be proud to share this story with my family and friends, my babies?  And finally, if I'm not there yet, what will it take for me to create a life that has a story worth telling?

The last year has been quite a roller coaster ride---we have had a few long term houseguests, unemployment, a new company created, a pro card earned and professional competitions entered---and at the end of the day, one thing has been constant.  God has never turned his back on me, even when I've hit my breaking point.  In fact, I believe that it's at my breaking point that God has been able to do the most work with me.  One of the things I shared last week in my women's group is that I don't feel as though we should be ashamed or scared to tell our stories about how God has transformed us, precisely at a time where we felt the least useful to Him.  In fact, if someone had shared how God had used her during a time of crisis, I feel like I would have found encouragement in this rather than despair.  

What are you doing to create a story that is worth telling?

A few years ago, I created a list of 52 things I wanted to do in one year's time, which set some pretty unrealistic expectations on myself---a perfectionist who holds herself to such high standards that anything less feels like a failure.  About a year after that, while crossing some items off the list---learning how to surf, swimming in an ocean, making homemade preserves, and going to Build-A-Bear to name a few---I came to the realization that rather than try to accomplish these experiences at a frantic pace, it would be better to continually add items to the list throughout my life.  Some items won't always stay on the list, and some I'll discover aren't really priorities or desires of my heart.  Some may be unrealistic, and others may come to fruition thanks to the grace of God.  Regardless, these experiences are going to be creating MY story---a story worth telling.

Because I want to be completely honest and transparent, I'll share a few of the items I do plan on accomplishing this year.  I believe in accountability, to myself, to God, and to my family and friends.  With that being said, here are a few of my wishes to accomplish in 2014:
  • Establish a yoga practice---attend or practice at home at least once weekly
  • Read the collection of Jane Austen novels that's been taking up space in my bookcase for years
  • Make S'mores with William---baking the graham crackers, making the marshmallows from scratch---for his first S'mores experience
  • Visit family more often
  • Rekindle my love of crafts, especially sewing
  • Read the remainder of the Harry Potter books and watch the movies (this is something William and I have decided to do together)
  • Read three books I loved in high school (okay, so a lot of the items so far are about reading...)
  • Restore or repurpose a piece of furniture, using Pinterest inspiration
  • Join a Bible study
I'm thrilled that I've already been able to accomplish one of the items on my list---joining a Bible study.  I had visited the website for a nearby church more times than I can count on one hand, and was thrilled to discover they were offering a study on the book of Jonah.  Priscilla Shirer is such an inspirational and well-spoken leader in women's ministry, and I'm fortunate to be studying both Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted, as well as Gideon: Your Weakness, God's Strength.  I know His timing on these two were perfect, as we're in a season where I feel as though these studies were written for me, personally.  Isn't that how it always is?

As I go about my week, I want to imprint these verses on my heart.  I want to create a life that is worth sharing my story, and I know I cannot (and do not want) to do it on my own strength.

 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
---Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NIV)