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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eucharisteo - Thanksgiving

I recently read a book by Ann Voskamp titled, One Thousand Gifts. A dare to live fully right where you are. In the book she is challenged by a friend to begin a journal to write down one thousand things she is thankful for. Ann discovered, in giving thanks for the life she already had, she found the life she'd always wanted. As she chronicled gifts, she began to open her eyes to gratitude and began to be present to God's presence that brings deep and lasting happiness. You can read Ann's blog at www.holyexperience.com.
The exercise of writing down the things you are grateful for should not be an exercise to be "super Christian", this exercise is one that shows you that God is in the everyday; debt, drama, daily duties, heartache, betrayal. It is a way to find joy in the midst of all of those things, states Voskamp. Ann spoke at a recent conference that I attended, her words challenged me to begin my own gifts journal. And here are a few of my gifts.
1. The sound of my husband's truck pulling into the driveway, it means he made it home safely...again.
2. The sound of little boys laughter
3. Tyler's old soul
4. Josh's brilliant smile that is punctuated by a dimple on his left cheek.
5. Sarah's keen mind and quick wit
6. Daniel's God given talents, they are so many
7. My mother's voice
8. My father's kiss on my head
9. The smell of coffee as I wake to a new day
10. Afternoon sunlight as it filter's through the oak trees in my back yard.
11. Hot, running water.
12. Medicine that is keeping our aging parents with us for a while longer
13. Chocolate
15. Friendship so true and pure

I challenge you to start your list. Begin to recognize your gifts. It is so easy to overlook them in the everyday.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lessons learned....raising boys

Someone recently asked me how I was able to establish such a close relationship with my now grown sons. I didn't have an immediate answer because I've never really considered the alternative, not having a close relationship with my sons. After pondering that question for several weeks I'm not sure I have an absolute answer but I do have some ideas that you may find interesting.

BE A GOOD EXAMPLE: Like most mothers I know, I am crazy in love with my children. From birth until present day I've always done my best to think about how my choices, my actions, my reactions, my interactions and my decisions will teach, equip and affect my children. Sometimes I cringe thinking back on the poor examples I set for my children over the years. But, somehow they seem to have picked up on the good examples and choose to do their best to live those out. Thank God.

HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE: One thing I don't do is let them excuse any poor behaviors or decisions they make based on any poor decisions or behaviors I've had in my past. They alone are responsible for their actions. I want them to be adults who own their behaviors without excuse. If I allow them to excuse their behavior or decisions based on mine or anyone else's failures then they will learn that anything is acceptable as long as you can find someone to blame it on. Knowing that, I believe, has made them think through their choices.

LISTEN: Another thing that I've always done is listen to my kids. I've done my very best to hear what they are saying without forming my response while they are still talking. Sometimes that is easier than other times. There have been many occasions when my boys have been telling me something and I wanted to shut them down and not hear the rest of the conversation because it was either too shocking, too silly, too painful or too much information! At those times I've tried to remember that I want them to talk to me about everything and if I want them to talk to me about everything then my reaction to that everything has to be both calm and reassuring.(those who know me are laughing about now, I don't do much calmly) After raising them through their teen years, I've heard some things that scared me to death, some things that made me chuckle, some things that made me sad, some things that made me mad, some things that made me proud and some things that disappointed me. No matter how the conversations made me feel, I think that my kids would always walk away knowing that without a doubt I loved and supported them.

RESPECT: When I decided to get married the second time it was very important to me that I get it right. Not only for my sake and my husband's sake but for the sake of our children. Danny and I had both paid a heavy price for the failure of our first marriages and we agreed that we would do whatever it took to make ours work. In doing so, I set out on a journey to figure out our differences. Our differences as male/female, our different personalities, what made him tick, what made me tick. During this journey and through a series of Bible studies I learned that the most important thing for a man is to feel respected, even above feeling loved. As I began to put that principle into practice in my marriage it began to make a huge difference in my relationship with my husband. At the same time I thought if this is so important to men in marriage, it would have to be important to all males in general. So I began to practice that same principle with my children. Not only did I need to love them unconditionally, I needed to show them that I respected them. I think that is one key element in our relationship today. They know I respect them.

FREEDOM: It would be so easy to scoop our children up under our wing and never let them out into the scary world. Everywhere we turn there are more things to be afraid of for our children. At some point while raising my children I was able to find a balance between being over protective and being an irresponsible parent. I trusted that God loves my children more than I do and that He was the only one who could completely protect them. There was no way, especially once they started driving, that I could control their every move. I taught them right from wrong, had a check and balance system in place for whether or not they were being responsible, continued to be the parent and disciplinarian and then gave them the freedom to make some choices. It wasn't always easy and there were times that I wanted to scoop them back up into the nest and hover over them so they would be protected. They knew this so they would reassure me that they were okay.


UNCONDITIONAL LOVE: My love for my kids has never been based on their performance or whether or not they did or didn't do something. I love them just because they are a treasured gift from God. I can't think of anything, and I do mean anything, that would ever be able to make me not love them. They know this and I think that gives them the comfort to lean in close.

None of these things are magical or mystical formulas for my blog readers to try out on their own kids. It is just what seemed to have worked for us. If you are reading this and you still have children at home, I hope that you will try some of these examples and that in some small way they may enhance your relationship with your children while they are still living in your nest and most especially once they fly away.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lead and I will follow

To describe the past few months of our lives at the Cook household would take far more letters than can be written in one post. Like so many of you, my husband and I have found ourselves living right smack in the middle of the sandwich generation. It is almost as if you go to sleep one night only to wake up the next morning to mostly grown up children struggling to find their way in this world and aging parents with health issues. I so want to play both roles, that of devoted mother and devoted child, well.  Only with God's help will I be able to do either.

This past Saturday, we watched as our middle son married his childhood sweetheart. I couldn't be more proud of the man he has become. Months of planning and preparation unfolded before us in a beautiful and moving ceremony performed by both families mutual pastor. My husband is my son's step-father, but an outsider would never know it. He has embraced my children as his own while at the same time he has respectfully and graciously acknowledged their father's role in their lives. Only a few minutes into the reception we received the call that my father-in-law (Bill) was gravely ill and had been placed on life support. I watched as my husband compartmentalized his thoughts and emotions so as not to dampen the spirit of the newly married couple as they celebrated their new life together surrounded by friends and family.


After sleeping a few hours, going home to unpack and repack, we made the 10 hour trip to the hospital to see my-father-law. We prayed all the way there that we would make it in time for Danny to say proper good-byes. We walked into the ICU unit at 11:50 p.m. on Father's Day. I watched as my  husband told his beloved dad good-bye and prayed to the God his father had introduced him to so many years before.  The next morning upon returning to the hospital we were shocked to see a remarkable recovery taking place before our very eyes. As he was given blood to replace what he had lost, you could almost see Bill get better moment by moment. By Monday afternoon Bill was coherent enough to ask about the wedding. I told him it was beautiful and made the statement "it is  good to be young and in love", he said "Hon, it is  good to be old and in love." I felt then that once again he had beaten the Dr's odds.

That evening we moved Danny's dad to a hospital "in town" where his oncologist could be near and treat him. Again, I watched as my husband graciously and compassionately dealt with the delicate issues of his dad's end of life decisions. He never once wavered in his compassion to show his father respect, to make sure his dignity was intact, and to include his sister and step-mother in the decision making process. It is a very fragile dance.

On Tuesday afternoon we received the call that my husband's step-sister had been killed in a car wreck. She had been at the hospital with us only the night before. Once again, I watched as my husband graciously and compassionately dealt with his father's and step-mother's emotions and needs. You see, Catherine and Bill were both widowed when they met over 30 years ago. They have a beautiful love story. They managed to build a life together surrounded by a large blended family of his kids and her kids who were all mostly grown by then. They respected and loved each other's children and honored the memories of their deceased spouses well. The world would do well to have more people like them.

Yesterday, (Friday) my husband settled his dad into a skilled nursing facility. We then  attended the funeral of a step-sister his exact age. Once again, I watched as he compassionately offered his condolences to his extended, blended family.

I didn't think it possible but it's true, I've fallen in love with my husband all over again over this past week and the months leading up to the wedding. He has worked tirelessly and without complaint to help the kids have the wedding and a good start to their new life.  I was always that young wife who fought submission. I never fully understood it from God's perspective. Only when I studied the true meaning of Biblical submission did I begin to see God's plan.  God has called my husband to be my spiritual leader.  The Bible says that Danny's prayers will not be heard if he fails to love me as God has commanded.  Being the spiritual head of anyone is a tremendous responsibility.  Being my spiritual leader is a job for a very strong, very secure man.  Luckily, my man lives up to his responsibility.  My job is to make his job easier.  By being is helpmate, by supporting him and respecting him, I am living up to the responsibility God has called me to.  I'm sure there are theologians out there who would scoff at my elementary description of submission. That's okay, I'm no theologian.  I am just a Jesus girl who is thankful that God has given me a man who loves God, loves me, loves our children, loves our parents and leads us all well.  I can follow that lead.

1 Peter 3: 1-7

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gift Card Winner

The winner of the gift card is Tracy Nunes.  (Tracy, my husband drew your name out of all of the names of the women who responded to my blog last week.) 

I met Tracy last year at She Speaks.  Tracy is a gifted writer who loves Jesus with all of her heart. You can visit her blog and see her writing at, http://tracynunes.blogspot.com/.  And she lives in beautiful Hawaii!  Too bad I can't personally deliver the gift card.  Tracy, I will mail it to you this week.

I hope you all had a beautiful week.

Blessings,
Jennifer

Monday, March 28, 2011

Springing Forward..........

Spring has sprung in on the Gulf Coast.  Everywhere I look there is new life.  Buds are appearing on the plants that have been dormant all winter,  the grass is turning green and the birds are beginning to make their way to the bird feeders we filled with fresh seed.  I love Spring, it is my favorite time of year (until Fall and then Fall is my favorite time of year....yes, I'm female).  

What is it about Spring that brings joy to most of us?  Is it the promise of new life in the plants and flowers around us?  The excitement of inching a little bit closer to vacation time? The warmer, longer days? The celebration of Easter and the resurrection?   Beach, boating, and family time?   For me I think it is all of the above.

This Spring is especially promising for our family.  Our little "Pookie", Josh  is all grown up and getting married in June.  How is that possible,  I only gave birth to him just a few minutes ago!  If you've had a child get married you know of what I speak.  If you haven't, it happens in a blink.  Only yesterday we were running from ballpark to ballpark, cooking hot dogs, driving through McDonald's, rushing home to wash uniforms and get homework done only to start over again the next day.  My precious husband accepted this child and the responsibility of helping raising him when he married me.  He has stood by my side unwaveringly through every tear, every trial, and every triumph of parenthood with Josh.  And in June, he will stand beside me as we watch Josh marry his chosen bride.   So this Spring as Danny and I spring forward we feel we are springing forward to a new chapter.  Another child getting another feather in it's wing that will take him away from our home and on his life journey.  We've prayed for Josh and Chelsea for many years.  We pray God blesses their marriage and that He will be the center of their union together.  But as with all of our children, there will always be a warm place in our nest and hearts for Josh, the third in our blended tribe of four.   We are so proud of all of our children.  We know we've done nothing to deserve them and the blessings they bring to us each and every day.

What changes is God springing forward in your life this Spring?  Send your comments, I would love to hear from you.   This week I'm giving away a Starbucks gift card to a random winner that comments back on my blog.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Daddy's Girl

This past Tuesday morning at 8:00  I received a normal text message from my older brother " Call me when you get a minute".   I was headed into the bagel shop to pick up breakfast for myself and a couple of co-workers so I called him when I got back in the car.  Me..."hey, what's up?" Him...."just wanted to let you know dad had a little heart attack this morning about 4:00, he is at the Crestview Hospital and they are transporting him to Ft. Walton Beach".  Me........"Is he O.K?"  Him....."yea, they are going to do the angioplasty baloon thing when they get him there.... hey; someone is walking up to me now I will call you back".  He hung up.  Wait a minute, I'm not through asking questions and I've not even begun to fuss at you for not calling sooner.  So, I went to the office and did what had to be done.  Called my husband and kids and took off to Ft. Walton.  By the time I got there they had already performed the angioplasty and Daddy was in recovery.  The Dr. put in two stents.  He was resting and told me he was fine.  Shortly after, Josh my oldest son came in and we sat there with him for most of the day.  Daddy went home on Thursday and is doing very well.

What I'm left with is how peaceful I was during Jeff's phone call, my drive to the office, my drive to Ft. Walton and in the days following daddy's procedure.  I've been a little stressed out lately about some things but in this particular situation I was completely and totally at peace.  I just felt in my soul that he was okay and that he was going to be okay.  He assures me that he feels much better, that he is going to change his diet and exercise.  Good news!  Daddy turns 70 this August and is in remarkably good health considering. 

Like all of us, I'm sure my daddy has things that he wishes he could go back and do over.  Unfortunately, none of us get that opportunity.  He and I haven't always been as close as we have become in the years since I became an adult. I never considered myself a daddy's girl.  Always preferring my mama in times of crises and tragedy and thinking I couldn't be both a mama's girl and a daddy's girl.    Daddy has been a model grandfather to his five grandsons since the oldest was born twenty three years ago.  He has plans to travel to New Mexico later this month to spend time with his yongest grandson, one year old Lucas.   Until my sister-in-law, Geri lost her battle to cancer in December 2009, my dad was her primary care giver.  He made numerous trips taking her back and forth to MD Anderson in Texas.  He spent hours with her listening to her fears, dreams and hopes as she battled melanoma.  He slept in hospital chairs, held her head while she vomited, talked to doctors about scary words that they didn't understand and became her voice in the "business of all things cancer."  He loved her because my brother loved her but he also loved her for the person she was.  He took care of her because my brother needed him too, and my nephew needed his momma to be here as long as possible.  But he also took care of her because he is a good man. 

So maybe that is why I was so at peace.  I knew that God wasn't finished with him yet. He still has a lot to teach his grandsons.  Some of it silly and hilarious.  Some of it serious and sound.  But mostly about being male and being compassionate and that the two can and should go together.  Whatever the reason. I'm glad God only gave him a wake up call and didn't take him home because after all  I'm his only girl, and after 45 years I kinda like being daddy's girl. 

I love you daddy and I'm glad you are still here!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hope

How do you define hope?  We were asked that question in our life group class last week.  The answers varied from person to person.  What I noticed most were that a person's answers were often defined by their life experiences.  In Proverbs, the Bible says that "Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life".  I like that.  Hope is sometimes all that we are left with.  Hope that a cure will come quickly.  Hope that a job will become available. Hope that our children will ______(fill in the blank).  Hope, a small four letter word that can mean so many different things to each person in so many different ways. 

 I know where my hope comes from. I know in Whom I trust.  Without my hope in Jesus, I would have no hope. My husband often says, " this life is so temporary, it is gone in the snap of a finger. And the good news is we win. God has already written the end of the story". 

The world around is always in turmoil. All we have to do is turn on the news and see war, famine, earthquakes, terror, floods, injustice, violence, disease and on and on the list goes.  I believe that if we didn't have hope of survival, hope of rescue, hope of a better day, we would all give up and
our hearts would be sick.  Perhaps you know someone who's heart is sick because they have no hope.
If you have hope, share your hope. If you have no hope, find your hope


1 Peter 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I want to be Mary only I'm so totally Martha.

If you are like me you could be in any one of twenty places right now.   Okay, so maybe that is an exaggeration but you know what I mean.  I had to decide what to do first, write my blog or fold the laundry, fold the laundry or answer my e-mail, answer my e-mail or go visit a friend that could use some cheering up, etc., etc.  I've already mentally prepared my to do list for tomorrow and will write it down before bed time but as soon as I do I will begin the process of thinking about the rest of what I have to get done this week.  It is a never ending tornado of thoughts, to do's, should do's, could do's, want to do's.  I know I'm not alone in this storm because so many of my girlfriends talk about how busy they are and how much they have to do.

So, where is this never ending journey of not being able to manage our time coming from and why can't we seem to win the battle and be done with it?  For me it seems to be that I have a hard time saying no. I want to be like Mary and be able to sit at Jesus feet and just "be".  Although over the years I've gotten much better at saying no and being still, I wouldn't say that I have mastered the art of doing either well.  I still feel guilty when I can't be everything to everyone and fill everyone's needs bucket.  I still feel "less than" when I can't get it all done.  Just ask my poor husband whom I make weary just by his having to watch me flitter around trying to do it all.

Many times I have been able to slow way down and feel really good about  it. I have time to enjoy my Bible study and not rush through it. I have time to sit and have coffee with a friend, snuggle with my husband while watching a movie, have lunch with one of my children and really be present.   But then very slowly the busyness creeps back in, I say yes to more people, yes to more responsibility at work or church or volunteer activities and before I know it I'm right back in the midst of the tornado, spinning out of control.  I'm accomplishing everything that is on the TO DO list but I'm not engaged or enjoying any of it because I am too busy thinking about the next item on the TO DO list.  And then I have to figure out what to let go, who to let down by saying, "I'm sorry but no, that just won't work for me and my family right now."  And then the guilt  kicks in and after I am over the guilt I will be okay for a while, until the process starts over again.

Two weeks ago I went on a trip with my husband and a group from our church on a marriage retreat.  Then this past Friday night I met my husband for a quick overnight stay in New Orleans.  Now, I'm behind on my need to's, supposed to's and should do's.   You guessed it, I'm feeling overwelmed and guilty for not being able to do it all.  And the really hard part and is that it's all really good stuff.  Most all of my list of to do's are things I really care about and things I really want to be able to do, only I can't there just aren't enough hours in the day.

So what about you.  Do you find yourself in this same situation?  Write me and tell me your struggles.  I would love to hear them.

Luke 10:  38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”    41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Transparent Friendship (Blog #3 on Friendship)

The second part of my a blog about friendship is about the transparency required for deep and trusting friendships between women.  

A portion of the definition of transparent is:  free from pretense or deceit : frank b : easily detected or seen through : obvious c : readily understood

Isn't that exactly we are all looking for in our friendships?  I want friends who are free from pretense.  I definitely want friends who are not deceitful.  I want to readily understand my friends and be understood.  So, what do I have to do to have friendships with these qualities and characteristics?  I have to be free from pretense.  I have to do everything I can to avoid deceit. I have to be open and honest in order to be understood and to understand.  If I do these things then I will be considered a good friend. But, if I do these things well and with excellence then I will be considered a great friend.  That is my goal. To be a great friend and to have great friends. 

 As women we long to nurture others and be in community with others.  So why is it so hard for us to make ourselves vulnerable to other women in our friendships?  I would say it is because we've all been hurt by so called friends. We've all had those pretentious relationships.  We've all been deceived by a friend. We've all been misunderstood by a friend.  And therein lies the problem.  Some of us never break through the cycle of deceit, misunderstanding, and pretension.  What started in the sandbox with our kindergarten friendships has followed us into our adult lives. Those seemingly innocent and immature behaviors we displayed back then are present today, we just don't see them as innocent anymore because they aren't.  We know it is wrong to be deceitful, we know it is wrong to be pretentious, and we could really try harder to understand where our female friends are coming from.  Only some of us don't.  Why do you think that is?  Is it insecurity? Is it because we feel like we have to compete?  Is it because we've put a wall up and told ourselves over and over again that we won't ever be hurt again?  I'm sure for some of you, there are reasons I can't even imagine because I've not had your experience. Whatever your reason for not being a great friend, and in turn having great friends, may be unique.   I hope that you will consider the word transparency.  Consider the meaning of transparency. If there is something in your life that you are hiding from your best friends ask yourself why you are hiding it. If you are deceiving your best friends, ask yourself why you are being deceitful.  If you are being pretentious, what is it you are being pretentious about?  Is it worth sabotaging a friendship over? Are you an understanding person or one who finds fault easily?  

I said in my first blog on friendship that I have friendships that are transparent.  I don't have to pretend that I have it all together. I don't have to pretend my marriage, kids, job and Christian walk is perfect.  Because I have friends who are understanding, I am free to share my insecurities and weaknesses without fear of being deceived.  Over time we've developed deep trust and compassion with each other. I want you to have these friendships too.  I don't pretend to have all of the answers and I can't guarantee these steps will work for you. But I do pray that they help you in developing deep, trusting and lasting female friendship.

1. Pray for Godly friendship:   Ask God to give you Godly friends and to give you the ability to be a great friend.
2.  Take it slow:   You wouldn't just walk up to the new girl at the church luncheon and tell her your secrets, so don't expect her to do so either.
3. Find a mentor: Do you know someone who has great female friendships like you are looking for?  Chances are if you asked her she would be willing to share her secrets with you.
4. Be a great friend first: In order to have great friendships you have to first be a good friend.  That means you must be willing to be honest, discrete, loyal, and merciful.
5. Keep limits:  In any great friendship you have to have boundaries.  Just because a friend can't make that lunch date or hasn't called you in a week or two, you can't take it personally.  Remember, our friendships are to enhance our lives not take away from them.  As  adult women we are all busy with our lives.  Our family must come first and a great friend should understand that.   (Read last week's blog about letting God fill those empty places)

 
 

Friday, February 4, 2011

First Things First

There was such an overwhelming response to my blog on friendship last week that I decided I would camp out there for the next few weeks.  I am going to do my best to unpack the truths I've learned about women and friendship. 

As I said last week, I believe that the most important element of my best friendships is each of our relationships to God.  For me, allowing Him to fill all of the voids and not placing expectations on my friends to fill these voids, frees them to just be my friend, not my god. 

My friend Suzanne paints a beautiful picture of what allowing God to fill those voids looks like.  During an especially difficult time in her life she asked God to be so close to her that she wouldn't long for the earthly relationship that was missing in her life.  During that time of prayer and seeking God she says that she would imagine herself standing side by side with God. He reaches around her shoulder and places her in the curve of his side.  Then whichever way He turns she has no choice but to go with Him.  She is totally submitted to His movement and His will.  At the same time she is protected by Him.  I want you to close your eyes and see yourself there in the curve of God's arm.  In that position, totally submitted and protected, God is able to fill up all those empty places you may have.  And we all have them.  Imagine what your need is and submit it to Him.  What is yours?  Do you long for a husband that cherishes you? A child to fill your empty womb?  Or do you have a child and that child has made poor choices that are breaking your heart?  A parent that has disappointed you?  A friend that will be true?  A job, a home,  a cure, a breakthrough?  Let God take whatever your need is and fill it as He stands with His loving arm around you.  Move with Him as He moves. Give in to His guidance, give in to His protection, give in to His love, give in to His comfort.

You see I've learned that only God can fill those empty places.  Even though  I have a great marriage, Danny cannot fill the places that only God is meant to fill.  Even though I have beautiful children, they cannot fill the places that only God is meant to fill.  Even though I have earthly treasures, they cannot fill the places that only God is meant to fill.  My girlfriends cannot fill these places either.  And by not expecting them to, it gives us freedom to just be girlfriends.  I'm not asking them to fill my empty places that they were never meant to fill in the firstplace. 

In John 13:23 we read about the disciple Jesus loved.  Jesus had just washed the discipes feet, all of the disciples were eating a meal with Jesus. In John 13:23 the Bible says: "One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. "  Isn't that beautiful?  I love that word picture. This is the same principle my friend Suzanne talks about.  God wants us to lean in to Him.  To climb up in His lap and let Him love on us.  He is our Abba Father. 

I hope that you will imagine yourself this week in the curve of God's loving arm being guided and protected by Him.  And that when a longing fills your heart that you will allow Him to fill it instead of man (or girlfriend).

Blessings!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friendship between women

I've spent some time lately thinking about friendship.  Not just the acquaintance type friendship but that "you are my sister from a different mother" kind of friendship.  The I care very, very deeply about this person friendship.

I was that typical grade school girl who had a different bff every week. And if one or the other of us talked to another girl on the playground well then we couldn't be bff's anymore because a true bff would not talk to another potential bff.  Then middle school friendship was even more complicated. You all remember the drama involved there. So what makes our adult friendships so much less complicated? For me the answer would be my relationship with God.  By allowing my relationship with God to be the most important relationship in my life, I no longer expect anyone else to fill that void that only He can fill.  This allows me to be a better friend and to not put so much pressure or need on my girlfriends.  I'm also able to be more transparent with my girlfriends because I know that the only acceptance I truly need is God's.  Accepting that truth about Him allows me to let my girlfriends off the hook.  I'm not always looking to them to validate me and give me my self worth.  I don't get upset if a week or "gasp" a month goes by and I haven't heard from one of them. I know that they have busy lives and that it doesn't mean I've done something or they don't like me any more because they haven't contacted me,  it just means that they've been busy.

Transparency is huge in my adult friendships too. Transparency allows my girlfriends to see my weaknesses, feel my vulnerability, know my hopes and dreams, and see the real me. This self transparency then lends itself to their making themselves vulnerable to me.  I've learned  not to judge, not to condemn and to always do my best to be gracious and merciful.

I heard this statement once and it made a huge difference in my life.  There will always be someone prettier, someone smarter, someone who has a bigger house or car, someone who has a seemingly perfect marriage, and perfect kids and someone wealthier than you.  I'm friends with all of these previous mentioned women. I have prettier friends, richer friends, most definitely smarter friends. And what I've learned over the years is that there is always a struggle, always a history and always something in a person's life that makes us equal. That seemingly perfect marriage may just be smoke and mirrors when you peel back the layers.  That seemingly perfect child may have some real issues that breaks his mom's heart and that wealth may be a burden because of the demands to keep up this standard of living.  I've heard stories from my friends that make me want to weep for having ever thought that they "had it all".  Having another person be truly transparent to you is a very humbling experience. If a girlfriend trusts me enough to share a deep dark secret with me then it is my job to handle  that trust as I would a priceless treasure.

There is no competition among me and my girlfriends. I believe that is because the more deeply we know  a persons weaknesses and pain the less likely we are to envy them and the more likely we are to want to see them succeed. When we know their heart and motivation it makes us want to champion their cause with them, to come along beside them and help them cross the finish line successfully.

Friendship should  always be changing, always growing. It shouldn't be static. In my adult friendships I've learned to embrace this change always looking forward to the next chapter while savoring the journey as we grow together.  As my girlfriends and I are fully embracing middle age, I have started to look back over my shoulder at the young women coming behind us.  I feel a great burden to share these little nuggets of true friendship I've gained over the years.   Maybe the secrets aren't mine to unlock for them, perhaps it is only through trial and error that God ever gets a woman to reach her highest potential as a friend.  Whatever the secret is, I thank God for it. My life is so much richer, so much more fulfilling, so much calmer, so much MORE with my girlfriends by my side.

If you aren't lucky enough to have this deep, trusting, lasting friendship with one or more women, I want to pray for you. I believe that God wants you to have friendship like this. Send me an email  at jmcook96@yahoo.com.  It's our secret.:)
Colossians 3:12-14
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The "Tate Road house"

If you are a parent, then certainly you've asked yourself, "am I giving my kids enough or too much"?  Maybe you've worked hard to give your children more stuff.  The separate game room from the rest of the house, the pool, the go-cart and the latest and greatest video games; every year a new one because it is not as cool as last years model. I get it. I've been there. Even though all of our children are grown now we often find ourselves still going there.   In recent months I've heard all four of  our grown children in our little blended family comment on how much fun they had in the "Tate Road house".  The Tate Rd. house is the house that Danny I lived in when we were first married in 1996.  I had purchased the 1600 square foot, very modest ranch style home while I was a single mother between the years of 1994 and 1996.  Josh was 7 and Tyler was 5 when we moved into the house.  When Danny and I got married and blended our families the kids ages were: Daniel 16, Sarah 13, Josh 9 and Tyler 7.  Danny and I were both starting over financially.  We didn't have extra money for a new home so we added two very small bedrooms onto the back of the house so that each of the kids would have their own space bringing the total square footage up to 1800 sq ft.  Needless to say we were close, very close.  The dining room table was practically in the living room and we had to take a number to get to the bathroom. Our hope was that by giving each person their own space that the blending would be less traumatic for everyone. During the remaining years that we all lived under that one roof, Danny and I struggled to make our way on this journey of the unknown.  We ate a lot of hamburger helper and spaghetti  while living in that little house. There are so many stories that we repeatedly visit now when we are all together. Often Danny and I learn little tidbits of information that we weren't aware of until one of the kids are retelling the story and I guess they figure enough time has passed that they can confess. I suppose it also helps that they are all grown and  and there really isn't much we could do about it anyway. 

Danny and I had many discussions while we were living in that little house about the happiness and comfort of each individual.  Were we providing enough love and emotion support to each individual.  Were there enough games, enough stuff to entertain them?  Should we let the older ones watch certain movies that the younger ones might see or hear?  Should we let them swim in the above ground pool when we were not home?  Was it unfair to have the older ones babysit the younger ones?   In retrospect, I suppose these are all questions that nuclear families have as well. After all, whether you are in a blended family or a nuclear family, no one gets an instruction book. 

We are long gone from the "Tate Road house".  Daniel is now 31, Sarah is 27, Josh is 23 and Tyler is 21.   One of the kids told me this past week that some of his happiest memories are in the "Tate Road house" because he had to use his imagination for fun.  They all made up games together.  They have secrets together of the things they did that they knew they didn't have permission to do and would have been in trouble had they been caught and that gave these step-siblings common ground.  They played in the woods, jumped from the trampoline to the pool (even though we told them not to). Made dance videos and played video games.  One of the funnest games they made up was making a sled out of an old truck tool box and having Daniel pull the three of them around the yard by hooking up the sled to the riding lawn mower.

By not being able to provide them the cool "in ground pool" and spacious dedicated play room and all of the latest and greatest toys and trinkets, they were forced to have a common goal of creating their own entertainment.  I believe this brought them closer together.  Not that having more is a bad thing, but for us, in our situation, less was definitely more. Maybe those folks that are now saying they want to simplify their lives are looking for what we had at the "Tate Road house."

Friday, January 14, 2011

To blog or not to blog

To blog or not to blog, that is today's question.  Last year I attended the Proverbs 31 Ministries She Speaks conference.  Blogging or I should say all social media was one of the break out sessions that was offered.  There were so many breakout sessions to choose from that I didn't feel that particular session was for me...at that time.  During the seven months since I attended She Speaks the topic of blogging has come back again and again.  After much thought and prayer, I've decided to give it a try.  If after several weeks or months it doesn't work for me or for you, the reader, well then nothing tried nothing gained.  My goal is to write a weekly blog each Friday.  My blog will be mostly what is on my heart and what I feel God is giving me a voice to say.  Topics may range from Bible studies to house cleaning and all in between.  I hope to keep it fresh and relevant and real.  I am certain that not everyone will relate or agree every week and the good news for you is; you do not have to read my blog if you so choose. 

Queenie

Today I will leave you with this verse:

The Lord Your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17