Friendship is one of the best gifts we are given in life. It’s also one of the trickiest of relationships to navigate.
When I was a little girl, my family moved to a new place every couple of years. By the time I was eight years old, my family had lived in six different places. As a result, I learned to make friendships easily, but to not expect that they would last forever. However, I didn’t learn until much later in life that you could lose friendships for reasons other than moving to a new place. I thought that once a friendship was forged, you were friends for life.
It has been painful over the past decade to discover that there are many reasons that friendships don’t last. One of my friends described friendship as annuals and perennials. Some you have for a little while, but then they fizzle out. The annuals. Others are life long friends and when you’re together, you just pick up where you left off. The perennials.
I strive to be a perennial friend. I love reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in awhile. And even if someone has hurt me deeply, I will welcome them back if they want a friendship with me. I would describe myself as loyal. Some would say to a fault.
In the process of losing friends, I have learned that I need to have a thicker skin, but the truth is “I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” (from Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen).
Recently, a pastors’ wife friend shared the concept of “friends and allies”. We can and should be friends with anyone who desires friendship with us. But allies are an entirely different level of friendship. Allies are the ones who know your faults and your weaknesses and they love you anyway. They know how to challenge you, but you never worry that you will be too much for them. You just know that they are there for you no matter what. And you are there for them.
I would call these friends, “friends without pretense”. You never feel like you have to earn their friendship or that if you mess up one more time, that will be the end of that. You don’t have to worry about having differences of opinion. In fact, with allies, you welcome the different perspectives and know that you can share your thoughts without worrying about being written off. Allies understand that we are all on a journey and so the place we are at now is not where we will be in a year or two or ten. And they are in it for the long haul.
As I consider this, it makes so much sense to me. Not all friends will be allies and that’s okay. We can enjoy friendships with a wide group of people, but the allies are a much smaller group.
I have to tell you that as a pastor’s wife, friendships can be a challenge. I feel sometimes like everyone expects me to be an ally to them, but they only have to offer friendship to me. It’s conditional. This can feel scary, especially when you lose a lot of friendships all at once. Who are you supposed to trust?
What the Lord is teaching me is that he is the best ally I could ever have! He will never leave me or forsake me. In fact, he loved me so much that he was willing to die in my place, paying the penalty for my sins and rising again giving me new life in him. We’re celebrating all of that this weekend and I am eternally grateful.
My husband is also an ally and I feel so blessed that after a difficult year, we are able to continue to love and support each other no matter what. I know this is not always the case- sometimes people discover in great adversity that they married a friend, not an ally. This is a painful reality that so many are facing and I do not want to make light of it. But I can’t possibly write a post on this subject without acknowledging my best human ally!
This year has shown me that I have more allies in my life than I even knew. You don’t know how strong a friendship is until it is tested. I am grateful for the friendships that have stood strong against the challenges of this past year. For all of my precious allies- thank you!
It is scary to trust when you feel betrayed. And I have to acknowledge that while I feel betrayed by friends, they probably feel the same way. And so, all I can do is find my security in Christ and keep reaching out in love to the best of my ability. No expectations. No strings attached.
What have you learned from friendships in your life?
I was not going to write about this topic today. The kids and I went on a fantastic hike earlier and I was inspired to write about so many different topics.
But then this happened.
Our neighbors left a snow blower on the side of the road and a lady stopped to take it. My husband was watching her and quickly realized that she was not going to be able to lift the snow blower into her vehicle. So he grabbed my son and they both ran out to offer assistance.
My husband did not do this to be acknowledged, but the truth is he does things like this all of the time that no one knows about. But God sees it all.
Spreading kindness is such a simple thing and in this world that is full of horrible news, we need to be reminded of the good that is still in this world. There are still men of integrity and honor out there, men who are leading their sons through their godly example. There are young men growing up knowing that they need to respect women and value them. They are learning to live unselfishly and sacrificially, because they have men pointing them to the example of Jesus.
As women, we don’t need to diminish men in order to feel like we are equals. Instead, we need to celebrate the men who are honorable and humble and kind. We need to value them and then we get to be the incredibly blessed recipients of their kindness and love.
We heard “Revolutionary” by Josh Wilson on the radio today and I think it’s a message that we all need to hear:
Why does kindness seem revolutionary?
When did we let hate get so ordinary?
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary!
Let’s get revolutionary. Let’s spread kindness!
I think we can all agree that 2020 was not the greatest year, but when we look back on difficult times, it’s important to look for the great moments too.
We are now experiencing all of the one year anniversaries of events that happened during a global shutdown. Perhaps these anniversaries are bringing up some painful memories that you would rather not revisit. I know this is true for me.
So today, let’s celebrate the moments that made us smile. What were the best things that happened to you this past year?
Here are my Top Ten Favorite Moments Since the World Shut Down:
- Movie Marathons with my Family- we watched the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy, “The Chronicles of Narnia”, the “Harry Potter” series, the entire “Star Wars” saga, the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy and many others. It was a time when we needed an escape and I’m glad we made those memories together.
- Epic Game Nights- we have friends who love games and are introducing new ones to us all the time. We learned to play “Love Letter” this past year and it is a new family favorite.
- Trips to the Beach- Living next to one of the Great Lakes was a huge blessing during the Pandemic. There was always a beautiful place to just go and be. In our most anxious times, we would go to the beach and allow the beauty to flood our souls.
- Driver’s License Test- Our oldest was ready to get her driver’s license before everything shut down, but we hadn’t scheduled her road test. The result was that by the time she was able to take her test, she was MORE than ready. There was no stress and she was more comfortable behind the wheel then she ever could have imagined.
- Trips to church camp- my teenagers were excited to be on staff at a Christian camp last summer, so when things shut down, they were deeply disappointed. However, Camp Hickory Hill went above and beyond to have family camps and special camp days that still met the requirements. We were able to attend a pastor’s family camp and it was exactly what we all needed. The friendships my kids have made as a result of camp have been an amazing blessing to them.
- Reading- Sheltering in place gave us ample time to read, so read we did! I don’t have a final count of how many books I read in 2020- I lost track- but it was a lot. I love getting lost in a book!
- Music- There were times last year when I felt like I was drowning. When I couldn’t get to the beach, I would listen to music. I found two YouTube channels that I would listen to frequently- Sounds Like Reign/Tiny Notes from Home and Jonathan Ogden/Rivers and Robots. I listened and watched and was encouraged and challenged. I’m no longer in that desperate place, but these channels became the soundtrack for making it through dark days. I’m forever grateful!
- Trip to the Adirondacks- Our friends have a home on a lake and it has become one of our favorite spots on earth! We have now been there three times and each time has given us an opportunity to enjoy time with friends and family, explore beautiful places and make unforgettable memories. My happy place!
- Trip to Pennsylvania- This memory brings its own grief and sadness, but also joy. My Mom went home to be with Jesus in October. She had been suffering for a long time and was so ready to go, but I’m not sure you can ever be ready to lose a parent. The remarkable thing was that all of us- her three daughters and sons-in-law and all of her grandkids- were able to come together and celebrate her life. THIS was an incredible blessing in the middle of the worst year ever. She would have been so pleased.
- Journaling and Reading Scripture- This became an absolute lifeline for me! I’ve shared this before, but there is nothing like the Word of God to help you fix your eyes firmly on Jesus. And nothing can lift you out of despair like He does! I knew this was true, but now, I REALLY know it. All else will fail, but He never will!
As you reflect on 2020, what makes YOU smile? I pray that the Lord will help you to keep your focus on the blessings. We need to learn from the difficulties, but I don’t believe we are meant to dwell there.
Do you ever have one of those days where everything seems right in the world?
I had one of those kinds of days today and it was a reminder to me that God isn’t done writing my story. He keeps giving me glimpses of his beauty and his perfection. In the squish of homemade playdough through tiny hands. In the laughter of friends. In the rejoicing of cancer-free news. In the preaching of God’s Word. In the voices lifted in praise. In sharing a meal with friends. In the warmth of the sun on my uplifted face. In the late afternoon rain shower that produced the loveliest of rainbows.
Glimpses of his goodness. Evidence that he has not forgotten me. Reminders that he is putting me back together again.
I hope you are seeing those glimpses today too.
There were days during this past year when I thought I would never have a day like this again. But I now realize how true it is that God does not take us into a dark valley and leave us there. No! He walks with us through it, leading us, guiding us, loving us.
Keep looking for those glimpses of his goodness. They are there. And one day, he will remind you that you made it through and he never left you.