“Love as brothers (& sisters)”

Y’all my brain is swimming as I plan & pack to be away from my brood of men for 4 days (at Allume). I literally just placed 11 jars of baby food on a piece of paper. I drew a grid of the days I’ll be gone and the meals for each day. (in writing this I just realized that’s 11 meals I don’t have to cook & I get to sit down at a table to eat…with adults…and have conversation…woot!).

I’m beyond-the-moon excited (which feels good after the past year) for all the lovely Godly women I will be chatting, praying, & worshiping with this weekend. God placed this weekend on His calendar before time began & I have no doubt He will be present. When you think of me will you pray I will be humble & open to His purposes? (gracias!).

By God’s goodness, He had me write a month ago a post for the MOB Society on brothers & facilitating “forever friends”. If this is a topic of interest to you ( if you are a mother of brothers), then click —> here<— to read more.

Just because you only have one boy, doesn’t mean your son can’t have a “brother”. Quade’s best friend has two sisters. He and my son call each other “brothers”. Price’s best friend is about to have his 3rd sister! Remember my hubby had 3 sisters. Give your son a “brother from another mother”!

Is there another boy your son enjoys spending time with? Perhaps you can arrange regular playdates. When they get to be over 5 (maybe even 4yo) you can have “drop off” playdates. Trade off who watches the boys each week. Then both moms benefit because your son has a playmate (other than you) or you get a quiet house for a couple of hours. Win-win.

The tips I share in my “brother” post apply to all sibling relationships, not just brothers. Actually they apply to all relationships. Because God is honored when we love one another with “brotherly love”.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

I am blessed with a large group of wonderful women here in Dallas who love me well (even when I’m not so easy to love). AND I have a large group of women online who demonstrate God-centered love in their words of encouragement and affirmation. I can’t WAIT to hug the necks of some sweet “sisters” this week.

Lord,

May you provide each reader of this post with the opportunity to experience brotherly/sisterly love. Draw a kindred spirit into her life. Break down walls that prevent vulnerability. Give her boldness to take the first step. To invite a sister in Christ to grab coffee. To write a note to encourage a friend. To start a book club or Bible study. May we continue to love one another well for Your Glory.

Amen.

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Making Room for the New Girl

It’s back-to-school time. New schedules. New opportunities. New friends.

photo credit: usag.yongsan

It’s not just the kids seeking out new friendships. Mommies may search the sea of unfamiliar faces for a inviting smile. Someone to include her in the inner circle.

But what happens if every mom she meets already has a “full table” of friends? If each mom already has established church friends, playgroup friends, old college friends, then we feel we don’t need anyone else to meet our friendship needs.

If my table is full and your table is full, who is going to make a space and pull up an extra chair for this mom? To continue the analogy…she may have the best chocolately brownies in her  lunch box and wants to share. But we’ll never know all she has to offer because she’s forced to eat alone.

photo credit

Having been homeschooled from 3rd grade to 8th grade, I know the feeling of being left out of the circle. Literally. At junior high youth group all the girls with mile-high bangs & permed hair wearing neon chatted in a circle. With their backs to me, I  tried to “work” my way in. But they were content to enjoy laughter & chatter. They weren’t looking around to invite me. Each girl was looking out for herself & her comfort.

Is it any different now that I’ve exchanged neon Umbros for a neon tank (the 80s are back!)? When I arrive at a back-to-school event I’m in the circle. It may not be the “coolest” circle, but I find my friends and catch up. There is nothing wrong with maintaining good friendships, right? But “she” is over at the snack table trying to look busy. Because the new girl doesn’t have a friend to walk straight up to. She may need me to make the first move.

I challenged you last August to meet 3 new people. How did that go?

If you struggle with making room at your table or your table is legitimately full, here are three tips:

  1. Invite her to an event you are already attending. It feels good to be invited and to know one person. Perhaps at the event/Bible study/play group God will bring the perfect friend who doesn’t have a full table.
  2. Introduce her to another new girl. Just because you do the “reaching out” doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with everyone you meet. Become a people connector. Introduce two new people you have met to one another. Have both new moms meet you at a park. Then step back and allow their friendship to grow.
  3. Be honest. Maybe you have overcommitted yourself and you know you can’t be the kind of friend you’d like to be. Say that. Tell her your life is full but you would love to get to know her. I shared this with a new mom to Dallas and she invited us over for dinner. There was no work for me. She wasn’t asking me to add anything to our schedule that we don’t already do (like eating dinner). It was a great time to share the ins & outs of Dallas and help a new family feel “plugged in”.

This is an exercise in humility. Serving others before yourself. You (and I) will be tempted to seek out comfort. Looking for a familiar face. But let’s resist the comfort and embrace “the new girl”.

We may discover a rich, new friendship. We may learn something new. We may give her a reason to smile that day.

I’ve been the new girl. I am the new girl. Thank you to all those who have welcomed me in the past and will in the future!

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”-C.S. Lewis

Today I’m writing over at The MOB Society about my experience with a new friend. An email led to an entire new table of friends (literally every other Monday we sit at a round table). Click here to read more.

My “Bump Into Grace” Friends

*disclaimer: I received permission before including any of the following stories for this post. 

80% of our interactions are accidental. I should rephrase that. We didn’t plan on seeing each other, but God always had our “accidents” written in His planner.

Monday morning I felt like a metal ball in a never-ending pinball game, bouncing from need to need. The crazy wave never seemed to die down. When the sitter arrived I announced, “I’m ready!!” Unfortunately, there were still 45 more minutes of ‘crowd control’ (a.k.a. disciplinary measures and tantrums) to deal with before I walked out the door.

Driving away from the house, tears brimming, I said out loud, “I don’t want this life.” Just as quickly as the words slipped out, my mind filled with all the logical reasons why I really did want my life. Included in my gratitude list were boys who said “goodbye” with big kisses and hugs (and blows on necks…it’s a tradition). Despite the nuttiness of a morning, they still wanted to give me hugs. They live big and love big and forgive big.

My main goal for the afternoon was to mail out Quade & Price’s birthday party invites.  But the first step was to find envelopes large enough for the invites I created on my computer. I knew there was a Michael’s near the post office. So my half-aware brain headed towards Michael’s.

As soon as I walked into the store I bumped into a friend…a “bump into grace” friend. Since Quade was a toddler we’ve consistently bumped into each other at stores, museums, parks, restaurants… I leave our conversations refreshed. We go deeply quickly. We breathe grace in each other’s presence.

On this particular day I was super impressed to find her three kiddos perfectly behaved standing next to her, all quietly holding on to the cart. I encouraged them, saying “Wow! Y’all are doing such a wonderful job patiently waiting in line with your mommy.”

photo credit

My “bump into grace” friend, through smiling, gritted teeth, said, “You have NO idea.” I shared with her some of my morning. Including my theory that challenging behavior may have been due to a late bedtime from the previous evening’s VBS. She agreed. We exchanged goodbyes and I was off in search of envelopes.

I walked out of Michael’s empty-handed, just as my phone showed a text message from my “bump into grace” friend. Her text explained how a moment before I walked into Michael’s her oldest and youngest were playing an angry tug-of-war in with a Brave coloring book. Right before I saw them behaving perfectly, she had given the “mommy look” and insisted they both put their hands on the cart. Her middle child was just scared quiet. She ended the text, “nice to see your smiling face.”

As I looked up from reading the text I saw my friend driving through the parking lot. I held up my phone to show I got the text. We shared knowing glances. We get each other. I felt encouraged because I’m not the only one struggling through the challenges of motherhood. It helped pull me up from my belly gazing and “woe is me.”

She shared how it encouraged her to see me and know God is kind. Seeing me had re-colored her day. Instead of remembering the horrible “tug-of-war” incident she remembered my perfectly timed entrance.

You know what’s even crazier? As I walked away from her car I asked if she could think of any office supply stores nearby to get envelopes. She pointed me to the Office Depot. RIGHT NEXT to the post office. Um, yeah.

Why didn’t it cross my mind to go to the very conveniently located office supply store for envelopes?

I believe God directed my steps.

“A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

He is kind. If we are willing to see His hand in our day we can see how He orchestrates “bump into grace” incidents.

Not just friends. Perhaps grace comes from bumping into a stranger (<—click to read). Or even through the world-wide web…

This week I received a Facebook message from a college friend I have not seen in over 13 years. She took time to tell me I have been on her mind. The night before she dreamed about my husband Bruce and I meeting her at a conference. When she woke up from her dream she prayed for us.

Do you know where my husband was when she messaged me? In Boston at a conference. I hadn’t posted it on Facebook. But I needed prayer while he was away. God had been kind. She had been available. She took the time to stop and pray.

Do you have friends you frequently “bump into” and God uses to speak to your soul and show you grace?

If you don’t have a real-life grace community, have you experienced “bump into” moments through online community? God speaking through the words of a blog post when you were at a breaking point? Scripture shared through Twitter or Instagram?

Ask God through His Holy Spirit to open your eyes to “bump into grace” moments. They are happening. My prayer is you don’t miss them!

“Say it to Her Face” Challenge

Last week I wrote how we can break the negative cycle by entering into Christ’s fruit-producing cycle. If I long for love, joy, peace, patience in my family life & my friendships, then (according to John 15) I must:

  • Abide in Him by…
  • Abiding in His love by…
  • Obeying His commands, one of which is…
  • Love one another, I can do that by…
  • SAYING IT TO HER FACE (instead of behind her back).

My tongue has gotten me into a lot of trouble. In second grade I was punished for making a girl cry because I was whispering about her to a friend…yes, I was a “mean girl”. Over the holidays I’ve frequently created or worsened tensions among family members by talking behind someone’s back (“A dishonest man spreads strife,  and a whisperer separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28).

Honestly, I didn’t want to write this post. I didn’t want to be held accountable by friends, family and my online community. However, if I am going to be obedient and experience the fruit of the Spirit in my life, this is one area I need to be held accountable.

WHAT IS THE “SAY IT TO HER FACE” CHALLENGE?

When interacting with others, I want to be aware of my words. Before I speak, I want to consider if it’s something I would say to her face. If I couldn’t say it to her face and she isn’t present, then I should NOT say it.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

As women we all know gossip is a problem & is wrong. Read Paul’s words:

“They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29b-32)

We know it’s wrong, yet we still do it & encourage friends to gossip. Look at the other groups mentioned along with “gossips” in this verse: “haters of God”, “inventors of evil”…ouch!

Another reason for this challenge is to set a good example for my boys. They are old enough to pay attention & listen when my husband and I talk with each other. Slander and gossip should not be a part of our conversation.

HOW DO YOU PARTICIPATE?

1. Pray each morning for God to “put a guard over your mouth and watch over the door of your lips (Ps 141:3)” and not allow any “unwholesome talk to come out of your mouth (Eph 4:29).”

2. Pray this again before meeting with a friend or attending a social event, spending time with family, etc.

3. Memorize this scripture:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

To memorize this verse I am going to write it on a card & keep it taped to my computer keyboard. I will also make the verse my wallpaper on my phone as a reminder before talking with a friend or family member.

4. When in a conversation don’t talk about ANYONE unless they are physically present. 

  • Even if she is a common friend (if we both know her still not ok to talk about her)
  • Even if I am speaking well of her (it’s a slippery slope!)
  • Even if I am just stating facts

5. Keep her confidence. If someone shares information with me, it is not my job to share it with other people.

  • Even if it’s exciting news (pregnancy, marriage, job)–> use the line: “That’s her news to tell”
  • Even if she needs prayer–> only if she wanted me to ask others to pray for her should I share a “prayer request”.
  • Even if someone asks me a question about a person not present–> I will gently direct them to that person (“You should ask her”).

6. Instead of talking about others, ask those I’m talking with these questions:

  • What is God teaching you lately?
  • What was your highlight/low light this week?
  • What specifically can I pray for you?

7. Give myself grace. 

I am going to fail in this challenge because I am sinful. Even if I fail & speak about someone who is not in my presence, I am going to give myself grace to try again in the next conversation.

Disclaimer: This is a personal conviction. It is not my intent to preach AT you or assume this is a problem for you. My hope is if you struggle with “gossip”, talking about others or keeping confidences, then you would join me in the “Say it to Her Face” challenge. 

Will you join me in this challenge?

Face to Face: Real Life Community

As the fog has lifted from my mountain top experience last weekend, some realizations are just beginning to make themselves clear. One of these was understanding the “why” behind the joy I had experienced.

In the months leading up to the Relevant Conference I had felt my heart pulling away from my “real life” friends. I used to find contentment, camaraderie, and a way to process what I was thinking through those relationships. Now I was finding those things through writing and my online “twitter” community.

From the moment I started my trip to Pennsylvania I was interacting with “real people”…and I loved every second. Conversing with over 200 like-minded women who desired to know God & to make Him known was life-giving to me. I remembered God created me to interact face-to-face with other women.

(from L to R, top to bottom: Kat, Stefanie, Katie, Jen, Kristi)

Something magical happens when women talk with one another in real life. You listen. You feel. You connect through the back & forth. You can read emotions that may not communicate themselves through a computer screen.

(sweetest surprise of the weekend: Amy Lynn)

Joy came when I sat down with another soul and we shared God’s working, His provision. When we found, despite our differences, a connection. We encouraged one another through words, a resource, Scripture, or previous experiences.

I arrived back in Dallas and I was immediately reminded that I am fortunate enough to have “real women” in my life. Ironically, the week following Relevant was full of “real life” encounters. Each day I interacted with a least a handful of women and there was a new set of women each day with whom to connect.

Looking back over the past week I’ve had as many real-life deep conversations here in Dallas as I did when I was at Relevant. How blessed am I?

I had been pouring into my computer and finding fulfillment through this writing process. Yet my real community has been right here waiting for me

Motherhood can be isolating. Some women do not have “real life” women friendships. In those situations online friendships may be their lifeline. Fortunately, we live in a time in history where we can find community through the internet. (If that’s you then I would check out these online Christian communities: www.incourage.me  or www.thebettermom.com.)

However, maybe you do have women available to you that you are not pursuing in relationships. Are you in a MOPS group? Bible study? Sunday School class? Community group? Is there another woman in those groups that you find interesting and you would like to get to know better?

Here is my challenge: Call/email/text someone this week to meet for coffee or a playdate. When you get together, go deep quickly. Don’t be afraid to ask what God has been teaching her this week. Share what challenges or joys you have been experiencing.

Maybe you don’t feel comfortable meeting someone one on one. Here are some other ideas for developing community with a small group of women:

  • Host a “create & conversate” night in your home…have a little dessert & coffee available and each woman brings a craft, project, menu planning, etc to work on while you chat.
  • Invite a small group of women over for dinner. Pull out some nice dishes, napkins, light candles. Make a centerpiece to give away to someone there. Put get-to-know-you questions under each person’s plate.
  • Ask a few girlfriends to read a book with you. Then get together at a local Starbucks and discuss what you read.
  • Sign up to host an Incourage (in)RL Beach house meetup for April 27th & 28th. It’s an online convention you can host from your home. There will be speakers available through a webcast. They will give each participant a t-shirt and help the host with ideas for making it special time of community.

We need each other. We were created for community. Real Life Community.

“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong–that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” {Romans 1:11-12}

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” {1 Thess 5:11}

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” {Hebrews 10:25}

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