Tag Archives: Friendship

you have a theology problem.

Puzzle from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Andreanna Moya Photography, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

“You have a theology problem.”

A trusted woman in my life told me that the other day.  (And by trusted woman I mean my counselor whose qualifications for saying such a thing to me are found in the string of abbreviations that represent her many professional degrees in these matters!) I cringed, but couldn’t exactly protest.  I was asking all these questions of her, looking for wisdom and counsel and frankly, some answers!  What I got instead was, “You have a theology problem.  You need to go work that out!”  Not what I was looking for.  In fact, I’m quite certain I left the conversation with more problems than what came in the door with me!

It seems that what I believe to be true for you, friend, is not what I actually believe to be true for me.  I carry around two different theologies.  One for you and another for me. Can you relate?

What I believe for the world and for you is like this:

I believe that God is good and beautiful.

I believe that you are loved and worthy of love simply because you exist.

I believe that God is first and foremost a Father;  a perfect, loving Dad who desperately wants good things for you.

I believe that the kindness of the Lord is the only thing that leads to repentance.

I believe that you are free.

I believe that for you.

I do not believe that for me.

I “know”rationally that these truths apply to me.  As it turns out, the problem is that I, along with the rest of the human population, am made up of more than just reason and logic.  (I know, I know- it was surprising for me to learn, too!) So things start to really break down for me when I’m challenged to push beyond what I know and consider what it is that I truly believe.  It’s a full on meltdown for me then when what I think in my head contradicts what I believe in my heart (or spirit or gut- let’s be honest, those are pretty tough to distinguish between).  Apparently I am not a fan of said meltdowns (can you blame me?!) so I’ve just learned to avoid them largely by ignoring my heart.  Things are tidier and more stable for everyone that way. At least that’s what I tell myself.

People are sophisticated and strong creatures– we can hold a massive amount of tension for a while.  We can subdivide ourselves.  (Some of us can do that more efficiently than others.)  We can decide what parts of us have a higher moral value, what parts of us are more socially acceptable, what pieces are “stronger” or more important or appealing about us.  For me, those rational and reasonable parts are what I offer to the world, the parts I invest in and care for and like the best about myself.  All the other pieces in there I’ve labeled as weak, intemperate, fickle, and untrustworthy.

What I have been learning the slow, long, hard way is that God made us to be whole.  He made all the parts and all the parts are needed to make me whole.

There are no spare or inconsequential parts in me.

There are no spare or inconsequential parts in you.

The painstaking process of reconciling my “theology problem” involves me being willing to hold onto all the puzzle pieces; not throwing out or dismissing half of them just because I can’t figure out where they fit right now.

It looks like carving out space in an already impossibly full day to dig deep; to find a way to name the hard things; to gently call out the fragile things hidden away.

It means confessing my unbelief to the Lord over and over and over again. It requires me writing with ink on paper what’s in my heart.  Sometimes it helps to think of someone I love and what I would say to them if the unbeliefs I hold were coming out of their mouth and not mine.  What would I want them to know?  How would I pray?  How could I bless them and deposit tender truths in their heart?

Those are the things I have to do in solitude.  But then I am reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing:

“The Christ in their own hearts is weaker than the Christ in the word of other Christians. Their own hearts are uncertain; those of their brothers and sisters are sure. At the same time, this also clarifies that the goal of all Christian community is to encounter one another as bringers of the message of salvation.”

This means I cannot fix my little “theology problem” alone.  It becomes a group project, a team sport.  The Lord mercifully recruited bringers of the message of salvation for me.  He gives me a trustworthy counselor, who I affectionately refer to as my very own black hole.  Let me tell you that there is something holy about saying whatever you need to say to someone who is trained to suspend judgement and who is bound by law to keep your confidence.  She’s an amazing bringer.  Then there are the handful of friends and family who still manage to take my calls and want to spend time with me, even though it must feel like watching a dog chase its tail for hours on end to listen to me process all of this.

Lastly, I know deep down that banishing my unbelief will mean taking some hard and scary steps in my “everyday, ordinary life—my sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life” as Eugene Peterson puts it.  Honestly, I don’t know what all those will be yet.  I imagine many of them will be small and awkward- the kinds of things you think surely wouldn’t be so insignificant if they were really from God, but so hard to talk yourself into doing that they must be from God.  You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?!

There will be big steps, too, I’m sure- “Peter steps” is what I’ll call those.  Because while I know it was by faith that Peter believed and earnestly wanted Jesus to call him out of the boat, the miracle we all talk about is the guy actually walking on the water, not simply him wanting to do so from inside the boat.

I guess the best way to say it is that I don’t know how much you can believe, or how much unbelief you can exorcise, from inside the boat.  That’s the terrifying truth.  It’s terrifying though in the way that really trusting God is always terrifying…and life-changing.

Knowing just isn’t enough for me anymore.  It isn’t all that I need, it isn’t all that I am inside.  I need to believe, in every sense of the word, that Jesus is for and with me in all the ways that I deeply believe that he is for and with you.  I need to be free from the weight of lugging around two different theologies everywhere I go.  I just need one really good one in which Jesus is more than enough for every part of each and every one of us.

 

 

 

 

 

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Surrounded

A few weeks ago we took our staff on a road trip for a conference and it was a great day.  While I learned a lot, my biggest takeaway had nothing to do with the workshops or sermons I heard.  It had everything to do with the company I was in.

I sat at the conference and looked around at our team.  I thought about each of their journeys, each of their giftings, each of their callings.  I was overwhelmed– at the faithfulness of the Lord in each of their own lives and His faithfulness to our church in bringing them to us.

I stood silent before Him thinking about the great lengths He’s gone through to raise each of them up for such a time as this.  I am proud simply to be counted among them.  When I consider it’s my job and honor to lead them, it’s completely mind-blowing to me in a way that I will never be able to describe and will likely never be comfortable with!

Don’t get me wrong.  Many days I bang my head on my desk and shout, “WHAT IS THIS DAY??!!”

I get crazy emails and annoying requests.  I have meetings I don’t want to be in to discuss problems that should have already been solved.  It is not easy being a leader and certainly not any easier being a leader of leaders in ministry.  What is easy is seeing all the cracks and blemishes and mistakes and gaps and balls being dropped.  If there were a degree to be had in scrutinizing, I’d have a doctorate by now.

But it’s a beautiful, I dare say holy, moment when the Lord allows you to see things the way He sees them.  When He enables you to see people the way He sees them.  When He delivers you from walking by sight.  When He lends you His perspective.

That was the kind of moment I had that Thursday.

I am surrounded by sons and daughters of God who desperately long to see His Kingdom come and His will be done.  I am surrounded by their compassion, their faith, and their perseverance.  Our church and our city testify to their labor and creativity.  Today I testify to all of those things, as well.

I have watched each of them stretch and grow.  We’ve prayed together and laughed together, and Lord knows we’ve eaten a lot together.  We’ve car danced together, cried together, and played together.

Sadly, we’ve hurt each other at times but we’ve certainly helped each other, too.  We are the better for all of it.  Perhaps much like Flannery O’Connor, we “can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”

I am surrounded and I am kept by these leaders.  They inspire me and give me courage.  They share their faith with me when mine seems to be in short supply.  Each of them is a gift to me and a reminder of God’s goodness, day in and day out.  Even the days when my inner monologue would make a sailor blush and even in the moments that make me find something hard to bang my head against.  Even then.

Rebecca Kathryn

…or Kate as the world knows her.

She is my sister-in-law, my husband’s little sister.  (Incidentally, it’s pretty great when you marry an amazing man who comes with an incredible family who loves you like their own!)

Truthfully, I started this post to push through some writer’s block.  Kate has always been an “emotional portal” of sorts for me.  You see, I’m not an overly emotional person.  I’ve been asked before if I ever cry.  I’ve been likened to a robot and had my heart compared to that of a cow.  Clearly, I’m not very sentimental.

There are many times when I desperately need to “lose it” and can’t.  When I know I’d feel better to ugly Oprah cry for a few minutes.  When I need to feel awake or alive or you know, human.  Whenever I’m really stuck, I can think about Kate and it takes no time at all for my rusty tear ducts to get to work, for the words and inspiration and feeling and life to come back.

My first memory of Kate was in the den of her parents’ home in Columbus, GA.  She was reenacting some scene from Drop Dead Gorgeous.  She was just as silly and beautiful and fun when I met her at 16  as she is now.  I don’t know anyone else like her.  She is this rare breed of fun and spontaneity mixed with thoughtfulness and sensitivity.  She is sassy and passionate as the day is long, but she is the most tenderhearted and loyal friend you could hope for.

I turned 33 a few weeks ago.  Kate surprised me with a birthday cake made from scratch.  If you don’t know her you can’t possibly appreciate that sentence.  This is the girl who just a few years ago had to call her friend to ask how to make boxed mac n’ cheese.  It’s like THAT.  She made me a two-layer homemade cake with homemade icing, y’all!  It was the sweetest and messiest gift ever.  As I sat across the kitchen table eating cake and laughing with her, my heart was full.

Kate is most known for 2 things:  dancing and laughing.  She’s been dancing for 20+ years and any time I see her on (or off) stage dancing, my heart leaps.  She’s a Rouse, so she’s been laughing from birth, I feel certain.  That laugh is unmistakeable and infectious!  It melts away self-consciousness instantaneously.

She’s one of the only people I’ve never tired of.  I’m always happy to see her and always sad to see her go.

Seems to be a bottomless ocean of love I have for that girl…even if she does keep me waiting and is always dressed better than me.

She makes me better.  She makes me grateful for life in all its beauty and complexities.  She’s one I could never do without.

______________________________

Who is home to you?
Who is your “emotional portal”?
Who brings light with them on your darkest of days?
Who are the people in your life that make you feel alive?
Who are the ones who make you want to be more yourself than you’d ever dare to be otherwise?

Those are your Kates.  There can’t be many.  Probably just a handful.

In fact, one is enough to make the poorest soul rich.

rouse gallery (220 of 242)

Choosing My Own Adventure

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

My husband and I recently attended a parenting class hosted at Renovatus based on the popular book Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk.  The second week of class revolutionized my life.  It was literally mind blowing to me.  In the lesson Silk declares that we’ve all bought into the great lie that we can be controlled and that others can control us.  The longer I thought on this, the more apparent it became that I have swallowed that belief hook line and sinker.  And while the point he was making was largely confined to how we raise our children, I knew this was far bigger for me than my 2 & 4 year old.

I grew up an Army brat.  My father grew up an Army brat.  My grandfather, my father, my uncle and my cousin all graduated from the United States Military Academy.  My grandparents were married there and are buried there.  Heredity has bred in me a profound respect (dare I say fear?) for authority and a serious understanding of the value in a chain of command.  To this day my father could put his hand on his hip and point his finger at me and I feel certain he could reduce me to tears without even raising his voice!  My sister and I were never spanked because the threat of my mother telling my father on us was enough to correct almost any disobedience on our part!  Ironically, neither of my parents are particularly controlling people.  They are not manipulative or coercive or overbearing.  However, respect and obedience were core values in our home and were taken very seriously.

Now let’s take a moment to couple my upbringing with my temperament.  I am a rule follower and a people pleaser.  I like (dare I say need?) for everyone to get along and to feel cared for.  I am easily influenced by a compelling argument or an impassioned case.  While rational and reasonable, I am not overly trusting;  yet I can be manipulated  by authority or strong personalities.  I presume they must know what they are talking about in order to be so dramatic or insistent!  And in this way, I can live a lot of my life at mercy of others with their intense feelings, opinions, and pseudo-authority.

Subconsciously, my primary life goals then and now have been to avoid making mistakes, to keep the rules, and to make the people happy.  THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE!  Don’t get me wrong- these are decent objectives.  They just aren’t compelling or healthy life goals!  There is no adventure, no real freedom nor sense of self in those pursuits.

Realizing that day in class that no one could control me honestly felt utterly scandalous.  I’m sure I have understood that logically in the past, but never in such a way that made me feel liberated to take ownership for my thoughts, feelings, and choices.  Historically those things have always been incredibly contingent on others.  And if I’m being really honest, not living so contingently on others feels selfish when I do it, though it sounds healthy & right when I see others do it!

These days I’m putting a lot more effort into acknowledging myself and owning my thoughts.  I have a voice.  And it’s just as valid as the overly dramatic person’s or the overly confident person’s.  I am in control of what can offend me.  I can choose what I like even if no one else likes it.  I get to decide how to respond in any given situation.  Much like the books we read as children, I really can choose my own adventures in many ways.  I can do all of that and be a loving wife and mother and friend and leader.  It is possible and IT IS GOOD FOR ME.

These are new muscles I’m learning to flex.  I’m grateful for the people around me who won’t let my sense of self atrophy– the people who know when I’m deferring when I shouldn’t be, the ones who know to ask me the questions sometimes as I’d much prefer to hide behind asking all the questions of you instead.  Without them I’d surely give myself away to following the rules and avoiding mistakes and trying to make the world happy.  Instead, I think I’ll flip to page 52 and see what adventures I can get into.

Confronted by Love

Lately I’ve been haunted by the reality and necessity of confrontation in true friendship.

I put a lot of equity in friendship.  I pay it a lot of lip service.  I have always been fiercely protective and loyal to handful of friends in my life who are as family to me as family.  The problem I’m having these days is this:

I hate conflict.  I like for people to like me.  I like for people to be happy.

Except none of those things have anything to do with love, really.

I love my daughters.  I don’t want to fight with them.  I want them to like me.  I want for them to be happy.
Yet, if I see them doing something wrong, I correct them almost instinctively.  I don’t want Lucy to burn her hand on the stove if I can help it.  I don’t want Penny to run out into the road.  I love them enough and am secure enough in my relationship with them to care more about their own well-being than their opinion of me or even their own immediate happiness.

I love my husband.  I don’t enjoy fighting with him.  I want him to like me and my company.  I want him to be a happy man.  But if he is doing something destructive to himself or to me, I tell him.  (Okay, let’s be honest.  Sometimes that’s even hard for me in the safe confines of the covenant of marriage, but usually doable because I know he isn’t going anywhere.)

The conviction comes when I watch friends- men & women whom I deeply love- make poor choices or believe lies or run buck wild and I sit quietly and politely in my ringside seat.

I want to be the supportive, easy, encouraging friend.  I want to tell you to chase your dreams, find yourself, do it your way, go for it.  I want to believe that what you want is what is best for you, simply because it’s what you want.  I want to believe it will all work out for the best and that you can’t screw it up too badly.

Except none of those wants have anything to do with love, really.

Real love not only warns you when you are out of your depth, it comes to get you when you are over your head and don’t even know it.

It says “Please stop doing that.  You are going to get hurt.”

It says “I love you, but you are making a mistake here.”

It says “Your personal choices aren’t made in a vacuum.”

It says “That’s a bad idea.”

It says “That doesn’t sound like the Lord to me.”

The circumstances are endless.  The loving confrontation in any scenario has to come from a place of tenderness and compassion and assuming the best of someone.

To quote singer-songerwriter Derek Webb, “It’s not right or safe to let your conscience down.”

It’s not right or safe to let your friends down because you couldn’t bring yourself to say what they needed to hear.

I Corinthians 13 is always quoted in weddings and marriage books but was never intended to have such a narrow purpose.  It applies to our friendships, to our fellowship, as well.  And if it’s true that love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things then surely hard conversations and potential risky confrontations are covered under “all.”  Surely.

That’s what I’m choosing to believe, anyway.  That’s what I’ll stand on and remind myself of before picking up the phone or stepping into the restaurant or opening my door.  I’ll choose to trust that the Lord will go before me.

I’ll choose doing what is best for my friends over what is easiest for me, because that’s what love does.

The Constant

My sister, Trish, and I haven’t always been as close as we are now.

We use to fight over everything: who got to ride shotgun, who got to wear Mom’s earrings or whose turn it was to have a friend sleep over.

When I was 3 she convinced me to touch the electric fence in our backyard. When I was 8, I was insanely jealous that she got to go to the Tiffany concert and I didn’t.  (Can you blame me?!!)  Over the course of my entire childhood, my sister would find it amusing to sit on me, pinning me down and then proceed to pop my toes until I could break free.  She still thinks this is funny though it wasn’t and still isn’t.

I was forever blackmailing her and tattling on her. (In my defense, she was always getting herself into trouble. I was just using her rebellion to my advantage!) She was always trying to boss me around and I was always shouting “you’re not my mom!” at her.  It was a rocky decade or so.

Fast forward to 1993.

A shift happened when Trish left our home at the time in Mons, Belgium for college in Abilene, Texas.  I actually missed her! And I realized my need for my sister in her absence more than I could have known in her presence.  I was 13 and my parents were on the verge of divorce.

Fortunately for me, she came home to Georgia when they actually did file for divorce a year later.  That was the summer before I started high school in a new town.  Trish and I shared a room in an apartment with my mom. It was the first and only time in our entire lives that we shared a room.  (Luckily that didn’t last long!) For the next four years, I would have my sister by my side helping me navigate through the drama and friendships and relationships that are in full effect for any teenager.

Trish took me to freshman open house and dropped me off at band camp.  She attempted to teach me how to drive stick shift (which incidentally almost sent her into premature labor with my nephew)!  We ate pineapple pizza at crazy hours and watched the same movies over and over together.  She was always in the stands to cheer me on playing soccer and conducting half-time shows.

During that same season we watched our father remarry and our mother begin to date.  Both surreal experiences, I might add.

We survived it together, me & Trish.  When the foundations of our family began to be re-negotiated in every conceivable way, our sisterhood was the thing that remained.  It was the constant in the tumultuous equation we were forced to solve.

We stood beside each other on our wedding days.  Trish married an Army officer and moves every few years all over the country.  (In fact, he deployed for Afghanistan on the day of my wedding! What a bittersweet day that was for her!) We don’t see each other very often and don’t get to “do life” together now that we are adults.  But she remains a constant.  She’s my first phone call when I need another mother’s advice.  She’s who I want on the other end of the line when I have a problem I can’t solve or a crisis to weather.

I now have two daughters.

Lucy & Penny are 25 months apart to the day. They play and laugh and hold hands. They push and grab toys from one another. They vie for their parents attention and affection.  They hurt each other and cry and hug to make up.

I am smart enough to know it’s going to get harder before it gets easier for them.  They will likely slam doors and say hateful things to one another (especially in middle school, I predict)!  They will compare themselves to the other in academics and sports and appearances.  They will be each others’ source of comfort and frustration, seemingly simultaneously at times.

For as much as they will change and grow and make their own choices, it is my forever prayer that they always play and hug and fight and laugh and cry together.  Because they are sisters.  And, praise God, there’s no changing that.

I’ve Got a Question.

There is an ongoing joke with the people nearest me about my “spiritual gift” of asking questions.  I love asking questions and the learning that comes along with it.

I am curious.  About everything.  All of the time.

I have way more questions than you have answers for or time to entertain.

If you are around me long enough you’ll be subject to my random questions and come to either find it endearing or annoying, or perhaps both!

If you were to drop into a Renovatus staff meeting on a Tuesday morning, you’d likely witness our team with index cards in front of them answering 5 questions I just threw out to them related to the topic I’m speaking from.

There are many things about leading a team and running a church that do not come naturally to me.  I’m not very strategic.  I’m not process driven. I’m not task-minded.  I like helping.  I like keeping the peace.  Nevertheless, here I am responsible for a lot of people and resources on a daily basis.  Thankfully, the one thing that is instinctive for me is asking questions.

This got me thinking about how asking questions is a really valuable practice.

And because I like lists almost as much as I like questions, I decided to write down a few reasons why I think asking questions is incredibly important and healthy:

1.  Shows honor & concern– When someone asks you a question about yourself or for your perspective, it’s validating.  It communicates respect, interest, and care.  We live in a wildly individualistic, egocentric world.  It is counter cultural and perhaps even counter intuitive to take the time to look someone in the eyes and ask them a meaningful question.

2.  Fosters humility– We often feel the need to know everything (which is silly and another rant for another time) and asking questions reminds us that we can’t and don’t have all the answers.  It acknowledges our need for people and things outside of ourselves, which incidentally, is really helpful at keeping our pride in check.

3.  Creates space for vulnerability, trust and intimacy to formPeople are open to people who are open to them.  It’s amazing the relationships and opportunities that are birthed by curiosity or a well-timed question.  We all appreciate the opportunity to explain ourselves and take ownership of our responses.  Asking questions (as opposed to speaking in the declarative all of the time) often lowers defenses and increases our receptivity to what another person is trying to communicate.

4.  Challenges mindsets and ruts– My dear friend Amanda once said “it’s a spiritual discipline to break your routine.”  I think about that a lot in a number of different contexts.  In this particular one I’d simply say that asking questions breaks us out of our routines, out of our box.  This is a very, very good thing.  We can all think of a time when we were challenged, for better or for worse, by having to answer the question “why?” for doing something the way we do.

5.  Produces good leaders– Your effectiveness as a leader (and maybe more broadly, as a human being?) is correlative to your desire and discipline to learn.  Whether this is in personal relationships or developing new skills at work or picking up a new hobby at home, asking questions is a great way to learn and an easy place to start.  Additionally, asking questions is a great way to help develop leaders around you!

6.  Keeps us open to wonder & gratitude– This is more abstract, but just as important.  Asking questions keeps our eyes open to new ideas, to see beauty in the world, to dream new dreams, to recognize the gifts around us and to be grateful for it all.

Are you seeing all the potential & possibilities wrapped up in questions?!

I know none of this is novel or earth shattering, but hopefully it’s a good reminder of how we can communicate and lead and love one another really well.

Start with a question and see where it takes you.

Friendship is not optional.

I have a rare gift.  4 of them actually.

I have 4 best friends from college.  We have been a part of each other’s lives for well over a decade.  Nearly every major event of my adult life includes them.  It doesn’t matter how much time passes between our conversations or trips.  We usually have 1-2 weekends together each year, which is no small feat considering our schedules, careers, families and geography!  And if you were to ask what we do when together, the locale may change from time to time, but the content is the same:  thorough updates from each of us with Q&A to follow, an obscene amount of junk food, retelling the same stories we’ve been telling for the last 12-15 years, laughing until we cry, and sometimes a little crying until we can laugh again.

I don’t get excited about much, generally speaking, but the 4-5 days that precede a girls’ weekend, I am positively giddy. The moment I set eyes on those girls, I am home.

We’ve grown a lot over the years.  We are different women now than the college girls we were at the turn of the century.  Our interests, opinions, theology, and politics are not the common ground.  (Which is really fortunate for me, otherwise I’d be quite the black sheep, I think!)  I’m honestly not sure that there is a lot of “common ground” these days outside of a deep love for Jesus and for each other.  Somehow, that makes the friendship that much sweeter to me.  It is not out of convenience or proximity or hobbies that our friendship endures.  It is the faithfulness, investment and simple joy of each other’s company that bounds us together.

A few years ago I stumbled upon this Henri J.M. Nouwen quote: ““When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

I immediately sent it to those 4 women.  We have walked together through death and through new life; through moments of absolute celebration and seasons of complete devastation and everything in between.  They embody all that I know to be true and beautiful about friendship and faithfulness.

I say all of this to simply say:  Friendship is really important.  It can be tempting to consider friendship as optional, as luxury.  Many of us have healthy familial relationships and would say our spouse or our parents are our dearest friends.  That is a rich blessing, indeed.  However, the very definition of friend is:  “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.”  We need a handful of people who aren’t bound by blood or covenant to love us, but who do so really well anyway.

Who knows you?  Whose advice do you value more than others? Who do you want by your side when you receive the best and the worst of news? Who is going to sit in the silence of a difficult moment with you?  Who is going to say the hard thing you don’t want to hear, but desperately need to hear?  Who’s company leaves you encouraged and hopeful?  Who are the people that make you feel most like yourself, but inspire you to be all the more so?  Who keeps you sane?

Those are your friends, or at least your potential friends.  You may not have a childhood best friend or someone who has known you for a dozen years and could anticipate your every thought or inclination before you could.  That’s ok!  New friendships bring a joy of their own.  You might be in a new season of life and some old friendships aren’t enduring and it feels like starting from scratch.  You may not know who you’d call or who would come running with no questions asked.   In those times, instead of busying yourself with another distraction, think and pray about who you would want to answer your call.  Who would you like to be sitting next to you on the couch? Pursue her. Pursue him. (Yes, friendship is essential for men, too!)  If you are in a relationship and friendship can be found in another couple, pursue them! Pursuit is the point here!

My 4 aren’t my only 4.  Moving to Charlotte six years ago created a need for community and friendship that could be found within at least a 30-45 minute radius!  And while it’s rarely “easy” to me to reach out, I have to remind myself that it’s good for me. It’s worth it.  It’s worth the risk; it’s worth the investment.  It’s worth pushing past the awkwardness, digging deeper than the casual conversation.  The discovery of a treasured friend far outweighs the effort it took to get there.

I consider my dearest friends among my richest blessings as I feel completely undeserving of each of them.  I do not call as often as I should.  I rarely remember birthdays or anniversaries.  (And if I do, the card sits on my desk for months and never gets mailed!) I am full of good intentions and execute only a fraction of them.  I feel like I fail them more than I life them up most of the time.  Yet, by God’s grace, they remain.

True friendship is not optional, if for no other reason than we need the constant reminder of our most gracious and loving Friend that is found in the face of another.

Shades of Grey

I have a love-hate relationship with “grey.”  The color, the concept, any and every expression of the word, really.

It feels at times indecisive, complex, mysterious, ambiguous, indefinable, unaccountable to me.  Somehow, “grey” can’t be judged on any grounds.  It gets a pass.  It is as if there exists no filters or rules outside of black and white.  I like black.  I like white.  I know what to do with them.  I like the contrast, I like the clarity.

I am surrounded by some really brilliant, beautiful people.  Many of them are gifted artists and creative minds.  They, unlike me, love grey.  They find it inspiring and textured and nuanced and interesting.

I do not.  I want to wrestle it down and make it decide what it will be.  Black or White.  Take your pick, but those are your choices.

My way seems like a much simpler way to live, right?  Except the longer I try to live seeing only in black & white, the more blind I become.  Blind to a world full of complicated, broken people.  Blind to my own nuanced thoughts and emotions.  We are filled with great intentions and mixed motivations.  We are selfish and ambitious and generous and noble.  Nothing stays entirely black or white for long, it would seem.

It is naive and overly simplistic not to acknowledge shades of grey.  Sure, the resolution or decision or action step might be quite clear, but to acknowledge the grey in a given situation, at least for me, is to practice empathy.  It is choosing to enter in to a subjective perspective, often one very different than my own.  It is to affirm the heart of another, even when it might be misguided and camoflaged in hurt or deception. It is to see the world with eyes of redemption rather than judgement.

And I’m no good at any of it.  Empathy is decidedly not my strong suit.  Ask any family member of mine.  Actually, please don’t!  Just take my word on it!  I do not naturally empathize.  I am quite impressive at judging.  I have to work really hard to perceive grayscale at all!  I score almost a perfect zero in gifts of mercy on  a spiritual gifts test.  I am not kidding!  You do not want me making hospital visits, you do not want me as a counselor.  And while it’d be easy for me to leave the “grey” to others better suited for it, to do so would be disobedience.  I am called to see the world as it was intended to be and as it one day will be again.  To settle for anything less would be flatly reductionistic.  And no one, not even I, like to be reduced to the confines of black or white.  There’s a lot of life happening and ministry to be done in all these shades of grey.  And I don’t want to be blind to any of it.

Ladies, We Just Don’t Know The Whole Story

There is great wisdom in thinking before speaking, for following a thought through before opening one’s mouth.  We’ve all been both transgressors and victims of careless (or at least less than thoughtful) questions or comments.  And I am willing to bet that the vast majority of our awkward and hurtful exchanges could have been avoided if a little more consideration had been paid upfront.

Specifically, I want to address wounds inflicted among women.  And more specifically, when women inquire of other women about their desire, or lack there of, for children.  It’s usually done innocently enough: “So, when are you guys going to start makin’ some babies?!” or “Why no kids yet? You know there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ time!”  Right.  Or how about when we bring up each other’s sex lives when we ask, “So, are you guys trying right now?  You gotta try a lot!”  Keep Trying. Or when we put our foot a little further in our mouth when we do get a reply, but misinterpret it as an invitation to dig a little deeper:  “Well, don’t worry- it’ll happen when it’s suppose.  And you know what they say, stressing about it makes it even harder to conceive!” Thanks for the tip.

Ladies, please hear me.  There are times and places and relationships in which these conversations are more than appropriate.  What I’m referring to is when an intimate family choice is discussed flippantly and casually, as if it were commonplace and open to the public.  I know we don’t mean to offend and certainly don’t set out to hurt each other, but inevitably, without proper care we end up face to face with a woman who is:

In an unhealthy marriage and praying to God she doesn’t get pregnant right now

Struggling with infertility and all the shame and insecurity that comes with it

Trying really hard to be supportive and content and full of faith in light of her husband’s infertility

Recovering from miscarriage #3 and really wants to hit you right now (please do not say anything remotely like, “it just wasn’t the right time” or “it’ll work the next time” or “it’s probably for the best”)

Content and at-home in her decision not to have children, but who still has a hard time communicating that choice without feeling judged or condescended to (“Oh, you’ll change your mind eventually!”)

18 months into “trying” and getting nowhere, who has spent hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests and ovulation kits, and is praying that this month will be the month that the stupid stick produces a plus sign for once!

Still reeling from postpartum depression & sleep deprivation like no other and if another person jokingly asks when she’s ready for Baby #2 she might just implode on the spot.

The list of potential scenarios could go on and on.  I do not mean to make anyone fearful to ask a question or have a meaningful conversation with someone.  I am simply suggesting that when discussing issues of family planning to consider the nature of your relationship with the woman, choose your words carefully, and be mindful of your context.  Maybe a dinner party or waiting in line for the bathroom is not the best time to discuss the most successful positions for conceiving.  Or maybe what is easy for you to talk about regardless of the time or place, is not as easy for others.  Be discerning.  Express interest, love and concern with as much propriety as you can muster.  And when those times come when we are on the receiving end of a well-intended word that feels more like a blow to the uterus, let’s agree right here and now to find a gracious way to say as much to one another.  Let’s acknowledge that we rarely know the whole story and ignorance is no excuse for recklessness.  Let’s love one another carefully.