Better Than One

Ding dong…

Opening the front door slowly, I was taken off guard by the hopeful face on the other side…and the double stroller on the sidewalk behind her. My across-the-street neighbor, whom I had just met at a neighborhood cookout a few days before, stood there smiling with her four-year-old son beside her. His twin three-month-old brothers waited in the stroller.

“Do you think you’d like to go over to the playground with us?”

I quickly recovered my senses, smiled, grabbed my two kids, and joined her at the neighborhood park where we spent the next hour getting to know each other while our preschoolers played.

My husband and I  had been in our house for less than a year, and as an introverted stay-at-home mother, I had not made any effort to connect with families outside our four walls. Quite frankly, I hadn’t felt the need.

Kristen changed all that. She was not an introvert. She thrived on companionship and began immediately to teach me its importance. When I would have stayed in my house and lived a small, drab life, she pulled me out of myself, out of my home, out of my gray boredom. Her friendship and genuine approach to life and relationship blew whole new realms of color into my life. Our children became best friends. We shared our fears, our hopes, our prayers, our confusions. She is the most authentic person I have ever known.

Two years and zillions of picnics and cups of tea later, God called our dear friends to another state to begin preparing for His next mission for their family. I felt so lost, like one of my arms or legs had moved away. We’ve kept in touch, of course, and we still pray for each other, but there is no substitute for the daily practice of community. Even though we no longer share each other’s daily lives, Kristen’s sense of spontaneous adventure, her zest for life and God, and her grace-filled, compassionate lifestyle have left an indelible mark on me. I have been forever changed by her friendship and presence in my life.

Scripture has some pretty clear things to say about friendship and community. For several years before Kristen rang my doorbell, I had dismissed those truths, convinced that my husband and children were all I needed. Sure, I could have continued to live my narrow life as it was, but I would have missed out on so much. My children would have missed out on so much.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 rings true.

“Two are better than one, becausethey have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”

That’s been true so many times in my life. There have been times when, if my friends hadn’t been there to pick me up when I fell, to listen to my heartbreak, to support me with their prayers, I’m not sure how I would have made it through.

Before Kristen rang my doorbell that spring day, I did not seek out the companionship of other women. As an introvert, I just didn’t recognize the need of my heart. Thankfully, God in His wisdom knew what I needed better than I did. Since He brought Kristen into my life, I have begun to understand that I need the insight, laughter, and spontaneity of other women. I need to know that someone else struggles with the same things I do. I need to mentor younger women and be mentored by those who have been where I am.

There is  another oft-overlooked reason to pursue close friendships with other women (or men, if you happen to be a man). We need people who know us well and love us enough to speak truth to us, even when it’s uncomfortable truth. I can trust my friends to tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. I need to be challenged and held accountable by those closest to me. When my walk is not matching my talk, when I’m spiraling into swirling anxiety instead of trusting God, I need people in my life who care enough about me  to remind me of the truth.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.                                         Proverbs 27:6

Hard truths from a friend may hurt, but they do not harm. Rather, they are intended to help.

Since Kristen moved away, God has met these needs in so many ways. There have been several other women toward whom He has turned my heart. In each relationship, we minister to each other in unique ways. There is Candy, whose daughter was involved in Bible Quizzing with my son. Over the last several years, she has become a mentor, dear friend, and prayer partner. There’s Lauren, with whom I’ve shared the pain of children in crisis and the struggle with diabetes. Most recently, there is Sheri, whose sweet, quiet, unassuming, sunny spirit brightens and calms my own.

As a bit of a loner, I still have trouble initiating friendships with other women, but I now recognize my deep need for them, and I welcome them when the Lord directs me their way.  What about you? Who are your traveling companions? Do you live life in community with others, or is it perhaps time to open your heart to new friendships as God turns your heart toward those He has for you.

If you are experiencing the lack of close same-sex friendships in your life, but you don’t know where to begin to find them, the best counsel I can give you is to begin to pray for them. When we ask God for the things that He desires for us, He is thrilled to provide them. Be patient, though, because He does things on His timetable, not ours. When you least expect it, you may find Him turning your heart toward someone who is already in your life in some capacity, or He may unexpectedly bring someone along, as He did for me. Either way, He will provide just the right relationships at just the right time. Praying for those friendships will allow God to begin preparing you for them.

I’d love to hear about the precious relationships in your life. Who has taught you to laugh, wept with you, or held you up when you couldn’t stand on your own?  

Houston, We Have a Problem…

It’s midsummer, and for the first time, our family is in the midst of the deep inhale before the plunge, at about 3 in the countdown to launch our sweet Fairy Princess into the stratosphere of college life. She has chosen a Christian school twelve hours from home, so we have been bracing ourselves for months of separation, continually—but silently—asking ourselves if, after all she’s been through over the last few years, she’s ready to fly solo.

Then, two days ago, we finally completed the college cost planning worksheet to see exactly how much more cash she needed to ask God to provide. We thought this was mostly a formality, since we had a pretty good idea of what her remaining balance would be after financial aid—or not. The great disparity between the deficit we expected and the one we actually came up with was heart-rending. It was more than twice what she anticipated.

We don’t have that kind of money. Neither does she, even after working for a year after graduation. Also, our credit, while we’re working on it, is pretty stinky right now, so I don’t even know if we could get a private loan to help her.
What do we do? She’s confused. As a newly recommitted follower of Christ, she really felt that she was on the path God had chosen for her. Was she wrong? What now?

Our first impulse (well, my first impulse) is to launch a rescue by applying for more loans. But this is God’s business. She is His child. If He wants her to do this right now, He is fully capable of making a way. So, her dad and I have agreed to be still and pray for a few days and see what her loving Father does. Either way, we pray that He will protect (and even increase) her faith and hold her heart through whatever comes.

Also, we are asking God to strengthen our faith and fill us with His peace. Like a toddler who falls on her little diapered bottom and then looks at Mommy to see if she’s okay or if she should wail, our Fairy Princess will be looking into our eyes for reassurance. We want her to find peace and trust there, not panic and anxiety. After all, if we don’t trust God with her heart and her future, why should she?

Well, this story is far from over. God is doing amazing things in our daughter’s life. She has spent the last two years breaking free from a severe eating disorder, depression, anxiety, self-injury, and more. She is still recovering, still growing, still learning to go to her Heavenly Father with her pain and fear. He is healing her heart. Only He knows when she needs to leave our nest and try her wings on her own. Whenever that time comes, whether next month or next year, we will be cheering for all we’re worth, and we have no doubt she will fly.

To be continued…