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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