Friendships: the precious life edition

So, I am tired and I am going to be subbing in HIGH SCHOOL for the next two days, so I hope I survive till the weekend, but…I wanted to write about something, so here it is:

AWESOME FRIENDSHIPS!!!!!!  Between girls.  Yes, it’s possible.  It seems hard, though.  I mean, girls all know that the worst enemy of a girl is not a boy, it’s another girl.  Girls know how to go for the heart.  Girls know how to pick and tear and plant a seed of paranoia that will sprout into head games, that will bloom into a big ole MESS.  And some girls thrive off of that.  I read on Ann Voskamp’s blog entry on {in}courage website that female friendships can really, really damage or build us.   She writes about a fictional girl whose mother sang the song of her soul (almost like the song God sings over us) and this girl grew up singing it, but she eventually forgot the song.  In later years, eventually her friends (sisters) sang the song to her.  I love the way she writes this:

Her sisters/friends sang her beauty when she saw herself ugly.

Her sisters sang her wanted when she saw herself broken.

Her sisters sang her hope when she only felt hurt.

Her sisters sang her beloved — when she couldn’t believe.

It could be like this — It could be honest, what her sisters sang:

This is a fallen world. So everyone has broken edges. So everyone is going to hurt you. So commit who you will suffer for.

http://www.incourage.me/2013/04/the-one-song-no-woman-can-afford-to-miss.html

At the end of the post, Ann asks if we’ve ever been hurt or healed by friends.  You know the hurt from my other post, but I have been healed by friends, too.   I have three sisters and they are, honestly, my dearest friends.  People might say that family is biased–they have to love you and all that–but I think that my sisters give me the most honest appraisal of myself that anyone besides my mom would give.  They have seen me run the gamut of emotions; on my best days, on my worst days; they have seen me fly off the handle; cry when stressed; be loving and serving with people.  They have the most unbiased view of anyone because they see all of me and they love me anyway.  We haven’t always loved each other well.  And we haven’t been able to love each other well (healthy and whole) which can only be done by Yeshua (Jesus).

Okay, if you thought sisters as friends is a cheat, I also have a few dear, close friends that I love.

1. Met Li her in grade 9 and became friends instantly.  Love everything the other did.  Old souls together; watched loads of black and white movies together (Abbott and Costello, Casablanca at the park); went camping together; laughed and giggled about boys, then wrote emails back and forth into her engagement and marriage to the man of her dreams.  We are the kind of friends who could go without seeing each other for years, meet up and feel like nothing had changed.  We recently reconnected over Facebook and it’s been amazingly fun!  She has been a listening ear (or a reading eye??) on Facebook as I have handed over bits and pieces of my heart that’s been broken by previous friends.  She said to me the other day, “I see you.  Like on Avatar.”  And I freaked out because 1) movie quotes are a family tradition (or lovely family heirloom…name that movie) and I loved Avatar and all that “I see you” stands for.

2. Met Jo when I left home to do my teaching internship.  Moved across the country to a wild, vast land with beauty I am still trying to comprehend.  She is the type of friend who would do anything for me…and sometimes did.  And she’s the type of friend who demands and gives honesty.  We have laughed silly till tears pour from our eyes, we have seen each other on our best, worst, and in-between days.  She shared her family with me and included me at every turn when I was away from my own people.  She is the friend I have had deep God conversations with into the night.  She is the friend who told me that I was a good friend…she sings my song to me over and over again, teaching me good things about myself, writing a new story in me, seeing all I am meant to be…and calling it out of me!

3. Met La when I moved away to do my teaching internship, too.  She and I literally hit it off from minute one and we often said, “This is amazing, we’re neither one of us very good at making friends and the Lord definitely wanted us together.”  Amen.  We felt like we had always known each other; eternal friends more than kindred spirits like Anne would say.  Anyway, she and I had our shared insecurities and we could talk about anything and everything and often did and we never, ever felt judged by the other.  Ours is an easy, yet deep friendship built on doing what we say we will and investing our love into each other.  For Christmas, she bought me a bag of Ruffles chips, gave me like 8 baby oranges (because we spent one night eating a whole box of them together) and drew me a precious picture of the two of us smiling together.  She’s precious to me.

Over the years, I have had friends come and go and I always thought I was the key ingredient as to why they never seemed to work out.  But, friendships are hard.  And I praise God that He has given me these three precious (and my three wonderful) sisters and more friends that I am starting to get to know and share with and love…and it’s awesome.  This is the point of life: to take the painful with the glorious…but the glorious always comes!!!!!!

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This is how I feel right now.

One of my dearest friends once texted me a random conglomeration of letters like the ones from the title of this blog and I was so confused.  I asked her what she was doing.  I thought that maybe she was pocket texting me because it made no sense.  She said that the letters expressed how she felt.  I quizzed her about it a bit more, asking her when you’d use such a technique (I am a linguist, can you tell???) and then I finally understood.  And I was so excited that I had finally found a way to textually convey my feelings of frustration, anguish, irritation, or any other yucky emotion.

Today has been a rather annoying day.  Still dealing with the ‘friend’ issue from the wild life post….still trying to cope with the fact that my mother has been ill for going on 7 years and our doctor really wasn’t doing much about it…still annoyed that my roommate might ask me to go play badminton and I REALLY HATE BADMINTON…still feeling frustrated that the people I call friends use me and demand things from me, while giving little or nothing back….still feeling annoyed that I LET PEOPLE DO STUFF LIKE THAT TO ME.

And I shouldn’t feel like this.  I went to church today where we had great worship.

A lady from our close-knit house church recently had a huge answer to prayer that we all rejoiced with her about (more on that later!!).

I have everything I need.

It’s just one of those rotten days.

I feel like I’m 11 again.  Like I’ve got the world on my shoulders.  Like there’s something wrong with me that I can’t possibly fix.  Like there’s this stress ball inside of my chest that is curling and throbbing and growing into this big monster that’s going to swallow me whole.  What I’ve just been convicted/prompted of is that I need to let Jesus love me.  I need to let the Lord minister to my heart and swallow up those fears that I’m not good enough, never will be, and can only bring harm.  I’ve been living under lies and curses that all I ever do is break things, that I’m to blame for everything.  That’s a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of guilt.  And I need to continually give it over to Jesus.  I need to ask Him to come in and take all that yuck away.  But when I ask for that and don’t fill myself with His Word, I leave myself empty and waiting for those lies to come back in.  They may not be good for me, but at least they’ll keep me from feeling that gnawing, empty void.

I love how faithful God is.  And even in the midst of pain, we can turn to Him and He will save us.

Isaiah 35

The joy of the Redeemed

1The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus

2It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the LORD,
The majesty of our God.

3Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.

4Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you.”

5Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.

6Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.

7The scorched land will become a pool
And the thirsty ground springs of water;
In the haunt of jackals, its resting place,
Grass becomes reeds and rushes.

8A highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not travel on it,
But it will be for him who walks that way,
And fools will not wander on it.

9No lion will be there,
Nor will any vicious beast go up on it;
These will not be found there.
But the redeemed will walk there,

10And the ransomed of the LORD will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

single, not alone

Rambling thoughts on singleness…

I am single.  It’s definitely something that people know about me, but it’s not something I really advertise.  This is not because I’m ashamed, but because it’s personal and I’m not looking.  Well, I’m not looking today ;P.  But being single is also not the most important thing about me.

I’ve been single my whole life…as in never been asked out on a date, not even a friend-date to prom single.  As in made it through 5.5 years at a private Christian university single.  As in gone to church my whole life single.  Yeah.  For those who know, that’s deep, deep single.  That’s the single that God has called you to, really.  At least for the time being.

And most days, I’m okay with it, so okay with it, that it doesn’t even cross my mind.  Sometimes I’m so okay with my marital status (or lack thereof) that I think, “Hmmm, I’m single…and I like it.”  Other days being single seems like a sad, depressing thing, and on really-really bad days, being single is like some kind of judgment or flag that I carry around with me, causing me to feel pathetic.  But like I said, most days, I’m okay with being single.

I think probably the biggest fear of single girls is that they will be alone for the rest of their lives.  This is part of my fear.  I don’t want to do life by myself.  I vividly remember grocery shopping probably three years ago, going through the aisles alone and putting “food for one” into my cart.  I was planning my meals, planning my life, planning “I only need one package of pita bread.”  And I reached for something on the shelf, maybe a box of macaroni, and such a feeling of sadness overwhelmed me that I almost cried right there in the aisle.  I thought to myself, “I don’t want to do this alone my whole life.  I don’t want to shop for myself.  I want to shop for a family, have someone to talk to in the store, go home and fill the cupboards for someone else besides myself.  I want to have a husband, children, I don’t want to shop for one forever.”  I am not satisfied with doing life with a good group of girlfriends by my side.  I want a man.  I think for a long time, I tried to be strong, tried to tell people, “I don’t need a man, I don’t want a man, I’d like a man” and then I realized that I’d been lying to myself.  I really did want a man.

Isn’t it precious when people who are married try to comfort you with stories of how they felt when they were single?  They tell you kind, yet unhelpful things like, “I wasn’t thinking about dating and poof, there he was” or “It’s so hard being single, but keep at it because one day, when you least expect it, he’ll appear.”  And so, we singles begin to “least expect” every day.  We close our eyes and pray, “God, I give you my love story, I give you my life, my desires for this guy, my desires for a guy, and I just give it all up to you to do your timing and to just bring this man into my life when I am ready and when you want it to happen…” and secretly we open one eye and look around for this mystery man.  For so long, my unspoken prayer has been, “So, I surrendered my love life, where’s my man?!?”  but surrender isn’t just a feeling, it’s a way of living.  And it’s a hard way of living.

I guess I need to remember that while I may be single that does not mean that I am doing life alone.  I have three wonderful sisters who support and love me.  I have my parents, my extended family, my friends, and Jesus to sustain me.  I’m not alone, but I am single.  And single doesn’t encompass all that I am.  It doesn’t change the way that I look at the world, it just changes the way I move through it.  Being single doesn’t give me a stamp of approval or disapproval; it’s just the state I’m in right now.  And if I am in this state for the rest of my life, that is fine.  God will carry me through.

There’s a lot of rhetoric in the church about marriage.  Yes, marriage is good, but it is not the only way to be.  Single people are almost always treated like married people-in-waiting, as if they are hovering in a perpetual state of wondering when they mystery man or woman will show up.  What if God has called someone to a single life?  There is usually nowhere to prepare for this life, or learn about it, especially in the Protestant churches.  Being single is another way of being in the world that is almost always overlooked in churches.  I’m not about to say, “Single is better because Jesus was single and Paul said we should all be single and blah blah…” but I am tired of hearing sermons about marriage and none about singleness.  What does it mean to be single?  Is it a judgment from God?  Does it mean that you don’t trust/love him enough, you’re not ready?  Should you spend your life preparing for a mate instead of living a full single life that has been given to you?  And how do you deal with issues of lust and sexual feelings in singleness?  The world tells you one thing, but that’s most certainly not God’s way.  It’s time to stop relegating singles to the singles group (which we all know is a place where people college age or 35+ go to hopefully meet someone they can marry) and ignoring their needs and stories.

But most of all, we need to realize that being single does not mean being alone.  Being single doesn’t mean ‘pre-married’ or ‘lady-in-waiting.’  Being single means that I’m right where God wants me.  I have lessons to learn here.  Things to do here, people to affect here, as a single woman…who is never alone.

friendships: the wild life edition

I’m going to try something.  I want to take themes or ideas and then compare and contrast them based on the wild and precious life idea.  I strongly believe that a huge part of being human is the ugly side of life.  God stores all of our tears we cry.  And we’ll never feel pain in Heaven.  We’ll never feel hurt, rejection, bitterness, unworthy.  Those are the wild, raw, ugly parts of life, but they are necessary for being human.  So, I want to start this off with the topic of friendship.  This post will be about the “wild” side of friendships and the next will be about the “precious” side.  Make sense?  Off to the races!

–  — — — — — –

I have a very old wound.  It is a winding, ugly scar that snakes across my heart and tears open ever-so-slightly time and again.  For some reason, I will not let this old wound heal.  I keep opening it up believing it somehow makes me humble.

It’s a wound that says I am unworthy.  Specifically, this type of unworthy wound says that I am unworthy of friends.  No one really loves you.  The scar whispers.  Sometimes it shouts.  Often it speaks through comparison: “See how they love that person, no one loves you like that.  See what they do for her; no one’s going to do that for you.  Everyone will forget about your birthday.  No one will care… No one really wants you around.  You’re the starter friend…the one people come to for advice or when they need someone to sympathize and listen well…but other than when they need you for something, people don’t want you.”  And some sadistic part of me loves to sit in these lies until they are all I can see, hear, and believe about myself.

Sometimes the scar rears its ugly head in a tricky way, a subtle way that catches me off-guard.  There’s an old friend who recently contacted me for some information after years of no contact.  Things with us ended after her last year of university.  We drifted apart.  There’s no one to blame.  Our lives changed; our priorities changed; our interest in tending our friendship waned…and perhaps we both realized how little we had in common or how hard we’d have to work to keep the friendship viable.  Anyway, we didn’t fight or have a big huge thing…it was soft and slow and it barely caused a twinge…

…until she messaged me the other day to ask me for something.  She couched it in a friendly message, sharing updates about her new husband, asking me how I was.  After me reaching out a few times in previous years to say a nice hello with no response, I can’t say that it felt good.  I didn’t know what to say to her…and honestly, I didn’t want to say anything to her.  I was mad and hurt and all the pain I had felt at being left out of her life resurfaced.  She and I had been on a life-changing trip with another girl in our last shared trip of university.  For me, it was huge.  For her, not so much.  We drifted apart.  She got engaged, we found new friends, she didn’t invite me to her wedding…the other girl from the trip sang at her wedding.

So, the hurt came back, but with the hurt came bitterness and guilt.  I felt bad about feeling sad that she hadn’t really wanted to keep our friendship going.  I felt those old tapes rewind and replay in my head.  “People only like you when they can get something from you.  You’re unworthy of love and friendship.”

I decided not to write back.  But then she messaged again, saying she’d really appreciate me taking a minute to respond.  I wrote the next day and while I thoroughly answered her questions, I also wanted to address the issue of our friendship having come to an end.  I mentioned something about it hurting.  Not that she had hurt me, but it was all I could say.  I didn’t write and say, “Leave me alone” or “You haven’t talked to me in years, why should I respond now.”  I stood up for myself and mentioned that it hurt…

…and it backfired.  She wrote back to say that our friendship ending was not intentional on her part; that she couldn’t have invited me to her wedding (I hadn’t brought this up at all), that we were doing different things, that we were going separate ways…and it was true.  But she tried to smooth it all over, to absolve herself from feeling guilt.  She said she’d like to reconnect; asked me what God was teaching me now; said she always enjoyed my outlook on life.

I cried.

I have forgiven her, but I am not interested in picking our friendship back up.  She’s not really interested either.  She just doesn’t want to feel like she’s been anything other than super kind and nice.  So, if I don’t respond, well, that’s my fault because she offered in her to extend kindness to me again.

And what’s so annoying about this whole thing is that it’s not even a mark on the page of eternity.  It’s like a little smudge in the corner and yet it’s causing me to literally come to a stand-still and really…get into it and deal with this pain.  When we deal with something, God reveals another, deeper level for us to deal with.  This is the next layer on the path of coming to Him for all that I need and not relying on anyone else to tell me how to think of myself.

And there’s a fear in me that I’ll do it wrong. I feel like on one hand, I should be able to stand up and decide, “No, right now, I’m not ready to reopen this relationship.  It ended.  Let’s leave it that way.” And on the other hand, I feel like I have to say, “Yes, I forgive you and I will try again.”  You know what, I don’t want to.  Is that being wise or is that me being selfish?  Is there any point to us talking again?  I feel so at odds about this.

I think it’s okay to say that she hasn’t earned the right to have my trust and be honored with knowing about my life.  That takes her actually caring…but then I think, “She’s making an effort.”  I just want to do nothing.  I feel like in order to be true to myself, I have to say, “No, thanks” to her offer to reconnect.  I feel like it would make her feel better if I responded and said, “Oh, here’s where my life is now” because she can just read and ignore/reply at will.  She doesn’t have to deal with the messy; she never did.

Friendship is messy.  And I’m learning slowly that if someone is not willing to deal with the real, honest, raw me, they’re not to be honored with being my friend.

Intro…

I’m a writer.  My works aren’t published and I’m not that good, but writing has been my constant companion since I was very young.  It’s how I cope with, process, and celebrate life.

But sometimes I have no idea what to write.

Like right now.

I don’t know what to say.  I am at a loss for words and I am NEVER at a loss for words.  This whole ‘first blog’ thing is really scary.  I feel like there’s a lot riding on what I write.  The first blog is supposed to be like a resume: supposed to introduce my prospective audience (employers) to me so that they want to come back to share in my life (hire me).  I feel like I’m supposed introduce myself and the intentions of the blog, but I can’t.

I’m still in the process of getting to know myself.  I can’t really make any introductions yet.  Each blog I write will be a deeper intro to me and how I tick.  I can’t tell you what this blog is going to be about because I don’t know.  I don’t know what people want to hear/read.  I’m typing now under the covers in my bedroom with a knot of fear curling in my belly that I’m opening up yet another can of worms that I am not ready for.  I’ve got a lot to write, but who wants to read it?  I’ve got tons to say, but what’s the central theme/message?  Does a blog need to have a theme or message?  What if I want to write one day about a friendship gone awry and the next about a movie that I really, really love?  What if I want to write about my faith, my passion for teaching, my love of fried rice?

Who cares?

I need to write and so I will.  I’ll write about it all.  The church I go to, the silly things that happen, the places I’ve been dreaming of visiting, whatever I think of.  I’ll write for me.  I’ll write with integrity and honesty.  I’ll write raw and open.  That’s scary, but it’s the only thing that can bring healing.  I’ve seen a lot of fake in life and I’m tired of it.  I want something real.  I want to be part of something real.

Welcome to my journey through this one wild and precious life.

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?