What Does A Normal Friendship Look Like?

When I was in college, I loved to be alone. I had a very full schedule between school, work, church, ministry, dating, and friends. I would get home, and immediately retreat to my room for some alone time. I had deep, meaningful friendships, and was around people all the time. I felt no lack or longing in my relationships.

friends fire

Since graduating, getting married, and having kids, my schedule looks a whole lot different these days. I stay home with my kids, so time with other people is much more limited than it once was. I find myself each week mentally running through my list of friends and thinking okay, who am I going to hang out with this week? I grab my phone and start sending texts, trying to make some plans for each day. And after a year and a half of living in this town, there is something I’ve noticed.

If I don’t do this, it doesn’t happen.

Rarely, there are occasions where I have plans that I didn’t initiate. There is the occasional birthday party or group play-date. But typically, if I don’t take that first step to ask someone to hang out, I end up sitting at home by myself all week. Of course, there are the regularly scheduled church activities and mom-things where I am able to see friends on a pretty regular basis. I don’t go months without seeing a friend. But I could easily go months without spending intentional time with a friend if I do not make it happen. And I have.

There was a time when I would have taken this personally and been hurt by it, and most likely would have stopped asking a person to hang out if I felt like I was the only one pursuing a relationship. But then I had 2 kids 13 months apart. And during those first 2 years of being a mom, I was a really terrible friend. I pursued people very little, because I was constantly needed by my little boys, had very little spare time, I was really tired, and all my mental space to think about other things was depleted. As my boys have gotten older and more independent, more flexible, our schedule has opened up a lot. Looking back, I did very little to initiate relationships, but it wasn’t because I just didn’t like someone or didn’t care about my friendships. I neglected relationships and didn’t return calls to people that I genuinely loved, and it had nothing to do with them.

So, I realize it may not be a personal thing. It may be that my friends are just tired. Also busy, because everyone is (except me, I guess). Thankfully, my friends don’t dodge me when I try to make plans, so I don’t think it’s entirely that they are uninterested. I could be wrong, of course.

I used to inwardly whine about my lack of community and real friendships. You know what I’m talking about. There is a difference in those you see every so often and catch up with, and those you share your life with. But in this area at least, I’ve learned not to whine so much and blame others, but take responsibility for making these things happen. If I want friends, I need to initiate. I’m not saying I’m great at this now. I still could be a much better friend, and much more intentional. But I’ve become more active in this whole process, and less offended when others aren’t.

So I’m at this place where I am kind of trying to figure out what is normal in this town/in mom-of-little-children world/in my circles. My husband and I feel we often want to be with other people more than others want to be with other people. I would feel great about hanging out with the same person several times in a week, but I feel like I would scare some people off if I actually asked them to hang out a few days in a row.

I spent time with a new friend the other day, and afterwards she texted me and said she had fun and we should do it again soon. My initial response is great, me too! Want to get together again tomorrow?!? But then something kicks in that tells me my new friend will think that is too much and will be all like whoa, slow down, maybe next week.

So, am I wrong? Would other people be happy to get together more often, but maybe like me are hesitant to ask? Or is there actually some unspoken rule that you can’t see people too frequently? OR am I way off and everyone else actually is hanging out with people on a pretty regular basis and I’m missing something??? Friends, I need answers.

There are definitely days I retreat in my little home in the woods and don’t engage with the outside world. I know I can’t do this for too many days in a row, or I will, in fact, go crazy. But for the most part, I know my days are much better spent when I am walking through life alongside other people.

One of the things our family is passionate about is community. We desire depth in our friendships. We want to share our lives, and be on the receiving end of others sharing their lives. I know some people are pretty protective over their “family time” and I understand that when we have this built-in community in our own houses, our need for other relationships may not be felt the same way. But I feel like there must be other barriers that prevent people from pursuing relationships outside their homes. I also feel like there must be people like us that want to be with other people. So, how do I find those people? The ones that won’t think I’m weird because I keep asking to hang out? OR AM I WEIRD, I DON’T KNOW GUYS?!?

I read a great book recently about sharing our lives with others. If you find yourself, like us, desiring community with other people, you may enjoy The Simplest Way to Change the World. It is a super helpful, practical, challenging book that will help you think through your approach to building relationships, and leave you wanting to put yourself out there, and invite others in. I have a feeling I’ll come back to this book more than once.

I’d love to hear what your expectations for friendships are? Do you feel like you are constantly initiating? If not, what keeps you from pursuing other people? Let me know your thoughts!

 

Photo credit: Foter.com

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When Thriving Feels Far Off

coffee

As a mom to 2 little boys, I read a lot of blogs and things that seem relative to my life. I think that’s normal? I’m attracted to headlines that 1) offer me help, 2) commiserate with me (just being real here), or 3) encourage me. I’m not sure if it’s a new trend, or what, but it seems there’s a lot of talk lately about how we as moms of little children should thrive, or flourish. Those two words, I’ve heard a lot recently. And it seems to me like all of a sudden moms everywhere woke up and realized we’ve been doing things all wrong. All these moms are experiencing this unanimous epiphany about how merely surviving is not enough, while I’m still over here sleeping. I’ll be the first to admit parenting is HARD, I’m probably doing it all wrong, and I need all the help I can get, but it somehow feels like an added burden, a reminder of another area in which I fall short.

Making it through the day with just enough energy after laying the kids down to throw yourself onto your own bed? That’s not good enough. Barely getting through that conversation with your 3 year old without screaming your head off? Nope, not good enough.  You may only be getting a few hours of sleep per night, you may not have eaten a real meal in a week, you might be trying to balance mom, wife, and career duties, but you better be kicking tail while you’re doing it!

Initially, when I think of what it looks like to be a thriving mom, I think of someone who shows up everywhere on time, hair and make-up done, with kids who don’t have snot all over their face or dirt under their fingernails. Someone who has time and energy to cook dinner for other people, host parties, volunteer in ministry. I think of someone who has it all together. And y’all. That ain’t me.

Isn’t it funny how we can twist something that’s meant completely for good, and find fault in it? Take something that’s meant to offer freedom and grace, and allow it to hold us captive? The thing is, this call to thrive, to flourish, it’s not meant to be a burden.

Jesus says in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

In the very offer of abundant life, the thief is busy trying to rob us. The enemy loves when we’re tired, worn down, defeated. He wants me to believe that thriving is out of reach, that life to the full is unattainable, to settle for less than.

This year has been a little hectic for my family. My husband changed jobs, and then changed careers. We’ve moved 3 times, living in someone else’s space for the past 7 months, 3 of those consisting of me and the boys living in one city and my husband in another. Let me say, we have some AMAZING friends and family that have housed us over this time. Hospitable, gracious, selfless people. We are so, so, so thankful to have such wonderful people in our lives. But the year has been full of transitions and unknowns. I wouldn’t for a second try to convince anyone that I’ve been soaking up every precious moment, cherishing each day, relishing the season we’ve been in. It has been hard, and really, really unpleasant at times.

Most moms will tell you, we are tired. This season of raising little kids is tough. Exhausting on many levels. And life has a way of forgetting that you’ve got little kids and you’re already tired from keeping these little humans alive, all the while trying to nourish their little brains and spirits, and sometimes it tosses something else your way when you’re already at the end of your rope. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours, you know? To be honest, surviving is just about my only goal some days. Thriving? Maximizing opportunities and delighting in every experience offered to me? Not so much.

So, how do I experience abundant life, when my circumstances are undesirable? How do I live life to the full, when it feels like life is throwing punches?

I’m sometimes tempted to believe that “life to the full” is lived out in the form of nice vacations, lots of friends, a good reputation, comfort, ease, fun. But a quick look around, and I know that’s not true. I have seen people with much less than I living rich lives. I have been in houses made of mud and witnessed life to the full within those very walls. Everywhere you look there are people going through really hard things. And I know that Jesus’ offer for them is the same.  Abundant life is attainable. It isn’t limited to those with favorable circumstances, or money in the bank. It is for the broken, the lowly, the hurting, the sick. It’s for the beggar, the blind man, the woman at the well, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the single mom, the outcast. This offer is there for the taking, despite where we find ourselves. And it is found in relationship with Jesus. It is in those quiet moments when He speaks straight to my heart. It is in the encouragement and prayers of dear friends. It is in soul-filling conversations. It’s in communion and intimacy with the Father, that transcends circumstance, and in the truth that HE is so, so much better than anything this world has to offer.  It is not something so fleeting as happiness, success, financial security. It is HIM. Getting to walk through this life here and now, with Him, and the promise of eternity, with Him.

So often, I believe the lie that life to the full is somewhere off in the future. When we get out of debt, or finally own a home, when my marriage is better, or my kids are older. But I’m so thankful that the Lord’s promises are not dependent on me having my crap together or what stage of life I’m in.  I’m also thankful that on those days when it is all I can do to make it through, those days that I’m already completely spent by 8 am, those days when surviving is all I can muster up, He will meet me there with his big, deep grace, and love me through. That He is faithful through it all, in times of plenty and of want, joy and sorrow, good times and bad.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Don’t Judge Me

Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY

I read this Ann Voskamp blog the other day on “how women can stop judging each other: a movement of key women“. It was exactly as it sounds, encouraging us to be women that allow others the freedom not to be perfect. It was good. You should check out the link and read the whole thing, because everything sounds better coming from Ann Voskamp…but here’s an excerpt that sums it up, I think:

“There could be Key Women who turn to their sisters and unlock everything with their own anthem coming like a freedom song:

I won’t judge you for dishes in your sink and shoes over your floor and laundry on your couch.

I won’t judge you for choosing not to spend your one life weeding the garden or washing the windows or working on organizing the pantry.

I won’t judge you for the size of your waist, the flatness, bigness, cut or color of your hair, the hipness or the matronliness of your clothes, and I won’t judge whether you work at a stove, a screen, a store, a steering wheel, a sink or a stage.

I won’t judge you for where you are on your road, won’t belittle your offering, your creativity, your battle, your work.

The key to the future of our communities, our culture, the church is whether there are Key People — people who will not imprison with labels and boxes but will unlock with key words, with key acts of freeing.

There could be Key Women who link arms with their sisters and say we will be the few Key Women: Key Women release you by not judging your mothering, your cooking, your cleaning, your clothing, your kids.

It’s a beautiful picture, this ceasing of judgement. I think a lot of us need to hear her words and resolve to be the kind of person she is talking about. Although, I think the solution is twofold. I’m not taking anything away from what she is saying. I’m just continuing the conversation.

It seems to me like we women feel judged by just about everyone concerning everything, and often times, we want to place the blame on them. The judges. Maybe my perception is off, but I’m going to say that I think (we) the offended are equally at fault.

In certain areas I fit the “judgy mom” bill. I had 2 natural births, we don’t vaccinate, we don’t give our kids sweets, we are very particular about the products we use in our home and on our bodies. I have heard moms that don’t do any of those things I just mentioned say a million and one times that they felt judged by someone who does do those things. I know that those people exist, the people that think others are beneath them when they make a different choice, the people who are all self-righteous and think everything they do is what makes them a good mom. But I am here to tell you, I am not one of them. Of course, we use natural sunscreen because we don’t think the chemical filled stuff is good for you. Obviously. But just because we use natural sunscreen doesn’t mean I think those who don’t are crappy people. I’m not assuming that the mom on Instagram doesn’t care about what’s best for her child because she let them eat ice cream for dinner. I’m not.

But all my not being judgmental doesn’t do any good when others assume I’m judging them anyway.

The fact that I am picky about what kind of shampoo we use on our kids does not mean I have a problem with someone else’s anything-goes attitude. The mere mentioning of “my midwife” doesn’t mean I think those who have a doctor are weird (I had one, too). Will any of us ever be able to talk about the choices we make without coming off as judgmental? Can I say that I breastfed my children without someone assuming that means I am elevating myself above those that use formula? Since when did simply talking about things become looking down on everyone, everywhere, for everything?

I’m guilty, too. I know the feeling. Because let me tell you where I don’t fit the judgy mom bill…is in the clean house arena. If you have ever been in my house, you know it looks like crap 99% of the time. I know that some people do actually keep clean houses. For some people it’s easy, or they like cleaning, or messiness drives them crazy or whatever. Apparently, I can live with the mess. I don’t like it…but it’s not the highest thing on my priority list, every day. Some days it is. But my point is that most of the time my house looks like a tornado went through it, and I know plenty of people that can vouch for me here. I have done my share of explaining and apologizing for the dishes in the sink, the crusty pots left on the stove, the crumbs on the floor…I could go on. But I know, when I let someone in my messy house, it is not the look on their horrified face that makes me feel judged. Because there is no look of horror. It is simply me. Me feeling like I should have a clean house, that makes me assume they think less of me because I don’t. I’m sure somewhere along the way there’s been a few people that actually did care. But I’m going to bet that most of them don’t. Because there are probably dishes in their sink, too. They get it. I get it.

In some ways I’m a bit impervious to judgment. Sometimes I honestly don’t care if someone else doesn’t like what I’m doing. But there are those times when a friend shows up and I haven’t showered in days, or my kid is screaming bloody murder in the middle of Target, or the zoo, or the restaurant, or anywhere and everywhere we go, that get me feeling all sheepish and wishing I could disappear.

But I think it’s time that we start accepting some of the responsibility for the judgment we feel. Because it really isn’t about the decisions we make. It’s not about how much TV our kids watch, or whether we work inside or outside the home. At the heart of it, it’s about how others view us in light of those things. It’s the idea that someone else thinks little of us, looks down on us, that we find offensive.

When faced with our shortcomings, the problem is not always the judgement from others. It is the judgement of ourselves. We are the ones holding ourselves captive. We are the ones making ourselves feel like we don’t measure up. It’s not the mom across the playground, it’s us.

What if we found our identity in Christ and who He says we are? What if we allowed the grace of God to change us into women that are satisfied with our own quirks and idiosyncrasies, our own personalities and preferences (when they aren’t sinful, of course)? What if we started to identify the shame we feel over our dirty dishes for what it often is, an internal war with ourselves and who we hope to be? NOT who others hope us to be.

Yes, let’s be key women, but let’s realize we have to start with ourselves. Let’s stop blaming others for the pressure we feel to be perfect, when we haven’t dealt with the pressure we put on ourselves. We have to give ourselves freedom and space to be who we are, unapologetically, if we want to allow others that same freedom.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17