Friday, May 30, 2014

Girlfriending: Getting Started

Today is one of those Fridays that make me want to do a little dance. Maybe a jig! The sun is shining (and started doing so before 6 AM), the man is already out the door for work (you go Z!), and the man child is tucked into his couch with Thomas in hand while he watches Thomas. And I'm sitting here - pretending that I'm chatting with you instead of typing words on a screen. It's a jig worthy Friday, my friends!

Girlfriending! What a fun, deep and wide topic. Last week, I started a series on Girlfriending because I love this topic and all of God that we can find within it! Here's a link to part one if you are interested. It's one of those things that we rarely ever think about in terms of how much there is to learn. We all just assume that we all know what we're doing! But I think that girlfriending in a healthy and life-giving way is much more of a learned skill than we give it credit for.

At the end of the day, girlfriending is about girls. And Lord only knows, we all hope and pray we get better with age, but sometimes our humanity gets the very best of us - still. Shoot!

So today, I thought I'd explore the foundation of healthy girlfriending. Because the truth is - we don't become great girlfriends after we have been given great girlfriends. Certainly - we continue learning through each and every relationship. But it all starts way before any one particularly great friend comes into your life and changes your perspective forever. It starts with me. It starts with you! It starts with you, me and God - just us.

So maybe you have a corral full of treasured girlfriends. Maybe you have three. Maybe you're really wondering what is wrong and why this part of your life seems to struggle. Regardless of your circumstance, I think it's healthy for all of us to go back to the very beginning and take a look in the mirror. These are a few of the things I have discovered to be key to my ability to be a life-giving girlfriend in the first place.

1. My perspective of God. He is the one who knows me better than anyone else possibly could. He knows me better than I know myself. He loves me more than any other human is capable of loving. Girlfriends are His idea and His creation, but the truth is that He is enough. He can be enough! The more I delve into this relationship, the more healthy I am in other relationships. And conversely, the less I delve into relationship with Him, the needier I am and wonkier I am in girlfriend relationships. There is a deep need we were born with that He and only He can fill. If I don't allow Him to intimately, genuinely and lovingly deal with me at my core, I will constantly be left feeling that something is missing in my girlfriend relationships. She was never meant to meet that need. She never will. And she'll get very tired if she's being asked to meet needs that she has no possible way of meeting.

If my identity isn't dealt with in Him, then I will be looking to her to fulfill a part of my identity. And that gets weird fast sister.

2. My perspective of myself.. Speaking of identity...Being in healthy girlfriend relationships brings up just as many issues about ourselves that need to be dealt with as it does about anyone else! The truth is, and for real this is true, if you are in relationship with anyone for long enough there is going to be conflict. Take it to the bank sister. Before healthy relationships can be built, a certain level of honesty mixed with confidence has to be established. Honesty: I'm not perfect. I've got just as many quirks as anyone else. I have weaknesses that surface within relationship. I NEED the Lord to keep working on me and showing me how to grow. Confidence: I bring a lot to the table! I like me and I don't need to be like someone else to be worthy of friendship. God has put a unique portion of Himself in me that will come out in healthy friendships. I am ready to be a giver and to also receive. I am rooted in the Lord and open to who He wants to bring into my life! Bring it!

3. My perspective of others. My parents are and were great parents. One of the biggie topics we talked about as kids was the preciousness of others. That each person was created with a God-given preciousness because he or she was created by God. And if I really believed that, it affects how I treat people. It started with how I treated my parents and my brother, but it related to how I treated everyone. If I really believe that each person is a unique and precious creation of God, well then, it's a game changer. If she's valuable because of who her Creator is, that means that it really doesn't matter if our personalities mesh. I am not proposing that this theory be used to say that every single person is to be our best friend, never to be confronted, or always to be pursued. But if we are really wanting to get this girlfriending thing down in a way that honors the Lord, we need to grow up to the point that we can treat each person as if they exist and they matter - regardless of how close we are or are not to them. Being a good girlfriend is just as much about how much we treat the people in the periphery of our lives as it as about how we treat our nearest and dearest.

Ohhhh friends this feels like we've only discovered the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully this series will end up being 3-5 posts total...someone stop me before it becomes a way too long saga! But for now, I am so thankful for the words that are coming as I type about this topic. I am passionate about it because getting the girlfriending thing down will never look like perfection but we have so much to gain from growing in this area. It doesn't matter if you're five, fifteen, fifty or ninety-five....girlfriending is worth growing for. At the end of the day, it's a huge way that God reaches out to us and that He reaches out through us. And that's important.

Lots of love and happy weekending!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Girlfriending: Making and Keeping Friends

When it comes down to it, there are only a handful of topics that I feel confident giving advice on. Frankly, I think there are only a few topics that God wants me to give input into! I can't foresee writing how-to topics on parenting for many many many years. How-to organize your home? Nope. Super funny stories of my life? Rarely. But there is one topic that lives in my heart consistently and I want to start developing some internal thoughts into external concepts. Please help me with your feedback in this process!

Girlfriending. Some of us have them. Some of us don't. Some of us have them for a few years...and then something simply happens and it's gone. Some of us have them but we don't know how, lol! May I share a brief story with you, kind reader? It will be short but it will give you a point of reference for a bit of my history with girlfriends.

My history with girlfriending started when I was six years old. I was shy and quiet (can you believe it?!) and they were a strong group of four girls - friends since infancy. Classic clique from even that young age. Now don't get me wrong - they weren't directly rude to me - but from the age of six until the age of eighteen they were a constant in my life. It wasn't so much that I was bullied (I wasn't) - but I simply was not a part of the gang. Wouldn't you love more juicy details??? Ahhhhh that's another post my dear. But, I know this, even with the little I have said, SO MANY of you can relate. Whether you have dealt with gangs of girls at a young age, a middle age or an old age, each one of you knows exactly what I am talking about.

Well, to keep it short, the bottom line is that the enemy has plans for our lives but the Lord has plans for our lives too. And at the age of fourteen, His plans started to emerge and the shy girl started to find her voice, personality and convictions. He started to show me that I was NOT alone in my hurt feelings, that the gang 'o four hurt each other as much as they hurt anyone else, and that it was time for me to open my little eyes and see the other jewels around me that had also been affected - each an island unto themselves for the most part. There were other people to appreciate and give attention to beside the gang! Novel. By the time I turned eighteen, God had really done a pretty amazing thing in my heart. In the matter of four years, His confidence had emerged and the power of a group of girls to include me or exclude me had been greatly diminished as I realized my value and worth simply had nothing to do with their opinion of me.

Now - insecurity is a nasty devil to be sure. It's frankly something that I have to keep a sharp eye on within my heart to this day. It would love nothing more than to raise its quiet and deceptive head, I am certain, until the day I die. But it's a battle worth fighting my friend and the biggest reward I've received in allowing Him to help me overcome insecurity is in my friendships. The more I received His help - the sweeter my friendships became. The more numerous they became. The more sought after I became. And the perspective He allowed me to develop from my experience with the gang continues to slap the enemy in the face to this day. I can see people that others don't see. I can see how my actions affect others. I can breed love and acceptance into a group that may have a tendency towards cliqueiness (pretty sure I made that word up). I can have a meaningful conversation with a new acquaintance over the span of five minutes. All while dealing with a the girl inside that still would rather lean towards shyness.

A few of the treasures God has given me in life:

And so, I have no formulas for gaining and keeping girlfriends. But I have been there, done that, with most stories regarding girlfriending. And because of it, I truly care about this topic. I have learned a lot about it. I'm not perfect at it and I still have failures and hurts, but there is an overriding health in my girlfriend relationships that can only be because of the path He allowed me to walk and the heart He allowed to develop because of it.

This is going to develop into a series of posts because who has thirty minutes to read one post??? Nadda. Over the course of the series, we'll delve into signs of a healthy friendship, what to do if you're lacking in healthy girlfriend relationships, and practical actions/decisions that yield rich fruit in a friendship.

But for today, I want to share a few big picture thoughts to get the fire stoked.

Three thoughts to ponder:

1. Every healthy girlfriend relationship is marked by a certain level of mutuality. You're both giving and you're both taking. If you find yourself always giving, something's off. If you find yourself always taking, something's off. Every friendship can go through specific seasons of one friend playing more of one role than another....embrace the season. Watch for it to eventually come back to the middle. Of course, we all have friendships that don't strike this balance and that's okay. But of your truest friends - this is a sign of health. If you're uncomfortable being in a taking/receiving position within the friendship - pray about it because receiving should be a big part of it....which means allowing yourself to be weak/transparent/whacked out in front of someone else. The same is true in reverse. You may not thinking of yourself as being the more dominant receiver. But look at your friendships. What are you giving? I promise promise promise you, you have something to give her.

2. Good girlfriending is NOT about perfection. You are going to make a mess of things at some point and so am I. Sometimes they are little messes and sometimes they are big messes. But the answer driven by love is always to be willing to make it right. Don't let stuff accumulate under the proverbial rug. The more that is avoided, the weaker the friendship.

3. Girlfriends are a healthy part of life! Wives - your husbands were never intended to be your everything. Girls who have a best friend - that one girlfriend was never intended to be your all in all. One human being simply will not ever suffice fully. And truly, there is so much in this life that only God, Himself, can touch. But I'm a firm believer that He moves through the variety of girlfriends in our lives. Don't have just one type. Be open to seeing who God wants to bring along your path! His surprises are always delightful. Being an open person is a mark of relational maturity.

Ahhhhh my friends I think we're just getting started and I'm so thankful for you! So many of you are dear friends in my life and I count myself rich. As always, your feedback is genuinely appreciated. If you have an idea for an aspect of girlfriending that would be great to hit on - please let me know!

Happy weekending y'all!

Friday, May 9, 2014

There Is Grace For You Mama

Sometimes coming up with the right title for a post is the thing that trips me up the most. What's on my heart most relates to my mama experiences as of late but grace applies to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

I've been mulling this one in my heart this week. The topic of grace. More specifically, what a huge difference a little switch of perspective makes when grace is in the picture. Wouldn't you know this very morning I needed the reminder just as much as anyone else! I'm so thankful that this pregnancy with our second little boy has been smooth, he is healthy, and any symptoms I deal with are minimal. But you know what I do consistently get? SO. MANY. DREAMS. Lots more than I had with Liam. Mostly they are just weird and long. But sometimes they veer into disturbing. And those seem to last as long as I will let them. If I wake up from it (even praying) and lay there for a few minutes and then go back to sleep the dream will start right where it left off when I woke up. I'm trying to remember to pray and invite the Lord to come right before I go to sleep...sometimes I'm too tired and I just fall into bed, forgetting all else, and go to sleep instantly. They have gotten better but I do need to get a little more serious about praying over my sleep.

Well, this morning was no exception. The dream had something to do with drowning on a plane (good grief!) and I consciously decided to wake myself up because frankly, how ridiculous is that? I was not going to deal with it. I knew when I woke myself up that it likely meant I'd be awake from 3:30 in the morning on....another pregnancy deal - hard to get back to sleep once woken. But this morning, I didn't care because I'd much rather be awake than be partnering with fear. By no means am I presenting a theory of how to handle bad dreams! It was just what I felt grace for this morning.

So I stumbled into the living room, flipped on the lamp, and thought to myself - 'considering what I want to write about today - this is just about right!' I found my Bible, which looked like this:

Life with boys!

I started reading some and then shifted my focus to my heart focus today: grace.

A few weeks ago, I started thinking a lot more about it. Even at one child to care for, there are more moments than I can count where I feel beyond weak. When a circumstance hits me in the face that just sucks any energy I had left right out of me. When my body says - 'No more! You can't do more!'. The moments certainly come during our days but they seem to be particularly loud when they come in the middle of the night!

Sleeping consistently has been hard to come by with this pregnancy so when Liam needs me during the middle of the night - well I will give you one guess as to what my heart attitude looks like. Ha! Cue thoughts like "I simply can't do this." "We have such a big day tomorrow and now I am going to be even more tired." "This isn't fair." Or just cue the anger. LOL! I hope you can relate. Or perhaps you're the mom that delights in the middle of the night interactions? I'm her sometimes :).

But one night/morning/who knows really a few weeks ago, the Lord cut off my frustrated and depleted thoughts with a simple but strong statement.

"Abi, there's grace for you."

Huh? That stopped me cold.

Is it really that simple? A simple switch of perspective? A quick acknowledgement that I'm REALLY not alone? That He knows? That He is there to help? That simple, huh?

I think it is. Immediately my heart warmed and I felt the support of his grace upon those words. The victim thoughts were drowned out by the realization that I could lean into his grace and it would be more than enough for me and more than enough for my man and my little. I'm a visual person and this picture of a big puddle of water (grace) that I can choose to step into keeps coming back to me. It's right there. Always ready for me to step into.

Merriam Webster....those guys are smart. I like them. So I asked them what grace was. Two different definitions stood out:

1. Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. Divine assistance that is unmerited???? Yes and amen, sister!

2. Skills that are needed for behaving in a polite way in social situations. At first I glossed over this one but then I laughed and came back to it because I can use a WHOLE LOT OF THIS after not sleeping well!

2 Corinthians 12:9
"But he said to me, 'MY grace is sufficient for you, for MY power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest up on me."

Oh man. Can I get that on auto-repeat looping through me all day long?

There is grace for you, Mama! There is grace for you. It is there. Your weakness is okay because His strength is just aching to take over. You don't have to be frustrated at how much is pulled from you and asked of you all day long because He wants to flood in and fill you. And apparently we can even have skills needed for behaving in a polite way in social situations! Praises.

This pic was taken after Liam and I landed at Double Shot this Tuesday.

It had been QUITE the morning of nothing but rush. But there was grace. He reminded me again and again that I didn't have to pick up the hard because his grace was there.

As we celebrate being mommies and those who are our mommies this weekend - let us remember grace. It's a game changer.

Happy weekending y'all!