Be the Friend You Seek: 7 Lessons on Friendship

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In church we call it “community”. In the blogging world it’s a “tribe”. You may use my peeps, my crew, my girls, my boys…something along those lines. But, the bottom line is relationships.

I have learned a lot about relationships, specifically, friendships, during my lifetime. I have had great ones, and not so great. I’ve gained life-long friends, and some that were for a short season. I’ve nurtured some, and quite honestly, blown some. I have lived long enough for some friendships to cycle around. But, the point is I’ve learned.

Here are seven lessons I’d like to share:

I’ve read once that, “you attract who you are” (Lord knows I hope not, because before I met my husband I considered myself a “nut magnet” – attracting guys who would say and do any ol’ crazy thing). I believe some element of that is true. We do tend to attract like-minded people. Musicians tend to spend time with musicians. Crafters with other crafters. Wealthy with the wealthy. Gossips with gossips. You get the picture. However, we can also attract people who see things in us that they admire. For example, (confession time) I am not the most gracious person. But, I am friends with some of the most gracious, kind people I know. And, I watch them. I enjoy being with them. I learn from them. My husband naturally serves people well. It is how he is. I do not. If we are sitting at a table with someone, and they spill something, I think “they need something to clean that up.” My husband does it for them. I love that about him, and I learn from his example.

You should be the type of friend you want. Do you want loyalty? Be loyal. Trustworthiness? Honesty? Be trustworthy and honest. Forgiveness? Then, forgive. Which leads to…

Forgive folks. More relationships are destroyed because people will not forgive. And, I’m not talking about “big” stuff, like she slept with my man (although, we are to forgive big things too). I mean things like “she didn’t call me back”, “he didn’t invite me”, “she didn’t keep her word”, “I didn’t like that one thing that he said.” Slights. Misunderstandings. Unmet expectations. The reality is, we are all human. Your friends are human. Your family is human. My husband. Your wife. Your kids? All human. I am human. So, I will blow it. Chances are I will forget something. I will not follow thru on some promise. I will say or do something that will offend. Heck, I may not answer the phone or text right away when you contact me. Because, I’m human. Guess what? You. Are. Too

Own your stuff. We all have insecurities, and childhood experiences that play into how we interpret life today. Most people are not out to get you or make your life miserable. That takes waaaaaay too much energy. But, depending on your life experiences you may interpret it as such. If you lived under demanding, unforgiving parents you can have the tendency to believe that all or most people are demanding and unforgiving. If you are afraid of being abandoned or rejected, you may expect people to abandon or reject you and treat any slight as an indication of such. I was teased and left out by other kids as a child (weren’t many??). And it produced this desire to want to please everyone, to make everyone happy, be a chameleon. But, it did not leave me with more friends. It left me exhausted. Owning my stuff helped me to realize that I will not be friends with everyone I meet. It’s impossible. Friendly? Yes. Spend time with them? Sure, I will. But, people connect for different reasons (see point #1). And, that is ok.

Change your expectations. There is this expectation that people will be what you want, when you want. They won’t. End of story.

Develop a proper view of love. We celebrate the saying, “if they love you they will accept you as you are”,  and use it as license to ignore or challenge any concerns people have. We say “God is love” or “God loves me.” True. “God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died.” Yep. He loved me as a selfish, proud, fearful, unforgiving person, but died so I didn’t need to stay that way. True love will do something. If you are expecting someone who loves you to never correct, challenge, or question you when you are obviously doing something destructive, you don’t want a loving friend, you want an enabler…or, a pet.

Please remember that it’s not easy to be YOUR friend. Surprised?? Friendship is hard. Doing all of the things above (and more, like communicating, serving, spending time, etc.) is not easy. If you are thinking about how difficult it is to forgive, love, etc., just know that chances are it’s difficult for someone else to be/do that for you at times. Granted, some of us are more challenging than others. But…

That friend wasn’t really available to answer that call. But, she knew you needed her.

Yes. He did have other plans, but, he rearranged things to do that “thing” for you.

Actually, she was asleep, but it sounded important.

He really would’ve preferred to be doing something else, but, since you needed a favor, he did it.

Her family had plans for that money, but you needed it, or were getting married, or lost a loved one, or had surgery or a baby and she used it for you.

She did not want to have that hard conversation with you, because she knew you would be hurt by it, but she also knew that in the long run you needed to hear the truth. She was willing to risk your wrath so that you would be better for it in the long run.

See? It’s not that easy.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

(Proverbs 18:24 NIV)

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:6)

World Wide Wednesdays: Too Many Tamales

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After a brief hiatus, for this month’s World wide Wednesdays, I decided to focus on stories of holiday from different cultures around the world after finding this list of children’s books on Pinterest. This week we read Too Many Tamales, by Gary Soto. The story takes place on Christmas Eve, and tells the story of Maria, a young Latino girl who gathered with her family to celebrate on Christmas Eve. Maria, is really excited because she finally has the opportunity to help her mother make tamales for their extended family. Maria’s mom has a diamond wedding ring that Maria has always loved, and her mom takes off the ring while kneading the masa for the tamales. She then leaves the kitchen. Maria determines that this is the perfect opportunity to try on the coveted ring, and she does so, while kneading the masa. Hours later, to her horror, after the 24 tamales are ready to eat, she discovers that the ring is no longer on her thumb.The rest of the story tells how Maria decides to “fix” the problem, and teaches great lessons about honesty and family.

Since my children have never had tamales before, I decided this was the perfect opportunity for them to try them out. You would like to think I made them since that is what they did in the book, right? Hah! No. Instead we went to this little Salvadorian bakery and restaurant nearby, Susy’s Bakery and Deli, where we ordered chicken and pork tamales, and their favorite Salvadorian dish, pupusas. Enoch says, “Delicious!”

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Our Top Seven: #6 – Twin Reveal

My dad is a twin. My mom had twin brothers. My sister has two sets of twins. Several people over the years had dreams of us having twins (myself included). According to research, there are three factors that increase one’s chances of having a multiples birth – heredity (√), being African-American (√√), and being of advanced maternal age, older than 35 (√√√). So, I can’t say that we were surprised when we discovered we were expecting twins. However, the timing is what caught us off guard.

Prior to moving from Tennessee, we decided that Reggie would come ahead of us in order to get our lives in order. We moved by faith, but we had a plan – plans actually, and they all fell through. Horribly. Well, our plans fell through. God’s plans to teach us that He is a great BIG God, and our Provider and Protector, to humble us, stretch our faith, increase our prayer lives, grow us closer to Him and one another, teach us the importance of authentic community, get me writing again, etc., etc.- His plans prevailed.

As I was saying…our plan was that Reggie would come ahead of us in June, while Enoch and I spent the month in North Carolina with my sister and her family. We would join him in July, once he was working, and had our home set up. Except, the job fell thru, actually, a couple of jobs, which means he could not set up our home. However, we still followed thru with joining him 5 weeks later. And by mid August we were pregnant. Unexpectedly. In fact, we had a conversation about continuing to wait before expanding our family, and being ok with Enoch being the only child for awhile. Unbeknownst to us, we were already pregnant. I’m quite sure God laughed as we laid out our plans.

By 10 weeks I was a bit larger than typically expected and wearing maternity clothes already. By 12 weeks, I was feeling movement, which typically doesn’t occur until 16 weeks or later. I mentioned it to my midwife – a very experienced, well-loved and revered midwife, because I was convinced it was twins. After measuring, checking for heartbeats, etc. she assured (and re-assured) me there was only one, and that I just carry big babies (Enoch was almost 10 lbs). I jokingly (but not really) pointed out that either I was having an alien baby or twins, because it was too much movement for just one. Checking again, she assured me, one heartbeat. One baby. What we would later discover is that the girls heartbeats were often synchronized. So much so that in the latter half of pregnancy, I had to have multiple ultrasounds because doctors and techs had difficulty detecting both heartbeats because of their position and the fact that they beat simultaneously.
At 13 weeks an unexpected two-week trip to Chicago for my grandfather’s funeral meant I missed the window of opportunity to have an ultrasound common for mothers of “advanced maternal age”, which means, I missed that window to find out we were having twins. By the way, my ENTIRE family was certain it was twins, and rarely missed the opportunity to tell me while I was visiting. We all knew, but I kept protesting with, “But, my midwife said”.
Should’ve listened to Bigma.

Twenty weeks. December 21. That morning we mailed out our Christmas cards announcing the arrival of “baby G” in May (yes we mailed Christmas cards on Dec 21 – don’t judge). That afternoon we went in for the twenty week ultrasound. I’m prepped – laying on the table, belly exposed. Reggie is sitting in the chair next to me watching the screen. The ultrasound tech grabs the wand, plugs in some information on the keyboard, and begins scanning. About 2 minutes in, she abruptly stops. Holds the wand still with one hand, she frantically starts flipping thru my chart with the other. Glances back at the screen. Flips thru the chart again. Looks at screen. Looks at us. “Is this your first ultrasound?” “Yes.” “So. Um…” Reggie and I together, “You see two babies.” With a look of relief, and surprise “YESSSSSSS!!!. Did anyone ever tell you that you were having twins?”

Yep. But, not a medical professional.

Five months later…

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Lessons learned:

  1. God is in control.
  2. We are not in control. God is in control.
  3. Birth control is an illusion. Because, God is in control.
  4. God determines when it is time to conceive (twins), or not (before conceiving Enoch). The results of any amount of trying or preventing was left up to Him. Because, God is in control.
  5. God provides and protects. Because, God is in control.
  6. Grandmothers know stuff. But, God is in control.
  7. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. But, always remember that God is in control

Your Hands Must Be Full

Your hands must be full.” I get this a lot. A. Lot. My response is usually a friendly, mildly sarcastic “A little.” As I give a sheepish smile and hold my pointer finger and thumb together. The commenter typically laughs and goes on with whatever he/she is doing. Meanwhile, I meander along, looking as though I have a handle on things and systems in place in order to give the appearance that my hands are not really that full. This usually works in Trader Joes (its small), and Target (they have 3-seater carts), or the little park that we frequent (it is fenced in).

But noooo, on this particular Saturday I decided I wanted to venture out. Alone. Hubby had to work. I wanted the children to have this experience. And, I needed to prove that this “your hands must be full” season is a fallacy. So, I took 3G (the name a friend gave to our crew) to a kids theatre production – an open house – with an instrument petting zoo, interactive on-stage performances, an arts and crafts station, stairs, a balcony, and children, many many children.

After successfully navigating the petting zoo, we ventured into the auditorium to watch the main performance. I had the wonderful idea to take the twins out of their stroller so they could participate in the dancing and singing. Except. One wasn’t interested in the singing and the dancing. She was fascinated by the stairs. So off she went. Her sister decided the stairs were a viable option, while brother decided that this was the perfect time to go to the bathroom, and he had to go RIGHT NOW. Now, my better judgment said to put the girls back in the stroller before heading to the bathroom, but in some misguided effort to prove that my hands are not that full and because big brother had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW, I put a toddler under each arm and we marched off to the bathroom amidst several “Awwwww, you have your hands full.” comments. Blah.

In the bathroom, we were alone. Perfect. No lines. I hold the girls. Enoch picks a stall, and goes in to get situated. Except, the toilet is a little too tall. So. I weigh which twin is most likely to make a fast break, and hold onto her hand, while helping brother with the other. Except. My calculation was off. Little Miss Bella took off running while he was midstream.

By now, another woman has entered the restroom, and this is what she hears…

“Bella. Bella. Come out. Bella. NOOOOOoooo. Get your hand out of the toilet!!!”

And as she comes out of her stall, this is what she sees…

Enoch, out of his stall, standing in the middle of the bathroom with his pants and underwear down because he wants to see Bella playing in the toilet.

And this is what she sees and hears…

Me, with Issa still dangling under one arm, holding Bella between my knees, grabbing Enoch with my free hand, incredulously asking him “Enoch. What are you doing??! Pull your pants up, right now.

And this is what she says (while giggling, I might add) “You have your hands full.”

 Lesson for me: Do not take all three children into a bathroom without 2 of them strapped in a stroller until they are 18.

Lesson for you: if you see a mom barely holding onto one child, while another child is playing in the toilet, and yet another is standing in the middle of the bathroom half-naked. Do NOT state the obvious. Yes. Her hands ARE full. So, loan her one (or both) of yours.

World Wide Wednesdays: Gustavo

Our trip around the world continues. This country is the largest one in South America, and the fifth largest country in the world. It’s flag is readily recognizable by many people in the US, as there are cultural fingerprints left in various areas here. 

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Our friend, Gustavo shares a little more about his country of origin.

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What is your country of origin?
I am from a very ethnically diverse country called Brazil.

What is the primary language(s) spoken?
The primary language spoken is Portuguese.

Traditional/popular greeting?
Olá! Tudo bem? Which means “Hello! How’s it going?”

Common/favorite food(s)?
We have a lot of different fruits and vegetables. Many of them are not available in the US. But my favorite food is called Pamonha. Its made from grinding corn into a nice sweet paste, adding a few ingredients, then cooked inside the corn husk in water.

What 3 things do you want/wish people knew about your country or culture?
Brazil is a wonderful country. It has amazing natural resources and very friendly people who despite all the social economic problems, always find a happy way to go about life.

How can people pray for your country/culture?

Please pray for all the people who don’t have access to education and culture and end up being manipulated by the greedy and corrupt politicians.

Please also pray for the children who don’t have access to opportunities of any kind as many start working really early to help with finances. They end up never going to school and often times end up living a life of crime.

Thanks Gustavo!!

Our Top Seven: #5 – Enoch’s Dedication

In July 2008, we found out we were expecting our first child. We were shocked. Honestly, it took a few days for the reality to sink in. Once it did, we began talking about dreams for the child, names, and gender preferences. We went out to celebrate. And, I made my first doctor appt for mid-August.

Then, one day, it all crumbled. We lost the child. And for the next year and a half we desperately try to conceive, all to no avail. Losing a child is heartbreaking…then, the inability to conceive again as quickly as others tell you it should happen heaps insult upon painful insult month after month. I was devastated, and determined that I needed to stop “trying” in order to protect my heart for awhile.

In late January 2010, I went on a mission trip to Ghana. A few weeks after returning, I started feeling odd. I went to the doctor, absolutely convinced I had contracted some parasite. However, the exam revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Interestingly enough, neither the doctor nor I considered pregnancy a possibility, because it was considered to early to be tested. But, two weeks later the “odd” feeling intensified and it all became clear – I was pregnant. And we were ecstatic.

I won’t lay out any details of my pregnancy, those can be found at sovereignrest.com, along with his birth story, which was definitely one of our top moments, but it’s already written (for starters, it took 51 hours for Enoch to arrive. Yes. Fifty-one).

One of my top moments is Enoch’s dedication at the church we attended in Tennessee, Strong Tower Bible Church. After the miscarriage and during the time we were trying to conceive, people would occasionally come up to us to let us know they were praying for us, and our future children. Many of them were full of faith, absolutely certain that it would happen, during a time when I admit I was faith-less. I could not see beyond the moment. In the moment, I was child-less, and as far as I was concerned, barren. It hurt too badly to pray or hope. But, these friends encouraged me.

When the time came to dedicate Enoch, I wanted to acknowledge the people who prayed for us somehow. I wanted to publicly thank them as I was overwhelmed by their gratitude. So, I asked Pastor John to have any one who prayed for us to simply stand, as it was general practice to have those who supported the family to stand anyway. What he did had much more of an impact on me. He asked those who prayed for us to walk towards the stage. Y’all, as people began walking up from all over the church, I lost it. I knew we had been prayed for by a few people, but to physically see them, and to watch people come forward who never uttered a word to us about praying, but faithfully and privately prayed, was overwhelming.

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And then, with outstretched arms they prayed again – that this little boy we held in our arms, would grow up to love God and love people. Anyone who has spent any time around this sweet, busy, inquisitive, lively, extroverted almost 4 year old little boy can attest to answered prayers.

Lessons learned:

  1. God does hear.
  2. God’s “Yes” leaves you in awe, and with overwhelming gratitude.
  3. God is faithful, even when we are faithless.
  4. He is in control. I am not.
  5. Since I am not in control, I must trust Him.
  6. We have great people in our lives.
  7. This verse is true, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b

World Wide Wednesdays: Diane

Japanese.

What are the things that come to mind when you read this word? Are they based upon stereotypes? What your parents taught you/believed? Truth?

I would like to introduce you to my friend, Diane.

Japan Phil Diane

What is your nationality/ethnicity? Japanese and Filipino

What is the primary language(s) spoken? English. My Dad spoke Japanese to his mother and father. My mom understands Filipino, but does not speak the language. I could have been tri-lingual…oh well. English was the primary language spoken at home.

What 3 things do you want/wish people knew about your country or culture?

Not all Asians (Japanese) are bad drivers.

Not all Asians (Japanese) are passive individuals.

Not all Asians (Japanese) are nerdy and driven by education.

I am speaking from the Americanized Japanese. Ones who were born and raised in the US.

How can people pray for your country/culture?

To break down the barriers of stereotyping the Japanese culture and its people.

The reality is, I have heard on numerous occasions all of these stereotypes – poor drivers, nerds, the assumption that all Japanese are from Japan and speak Japanese, etc. I have lived in the Midwest, South, Southwest, and West. And honestly, I have believed a couple of them. Fortunately, I have a friend who helped me out many years ago.

Anyone else helped?

Thanks so much Diane!