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Posts Tagged ‘friends’

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Birthday cake to share with my Troy Mills JAM friends. And I wore the right color sweater!

Today’s the day. I made it. Born on this day in 1960, today I turn 60. Quite a milestone, actually, and one I do not take lightly. Thank you for reaching out to me through social media, texts, cards, in-person visits, and phone calls. I am blessed to have an amazing family and many wonderful friends, near and far. I’ve heard “Happy Birthday” from places like Istanbul, Brazil, and South Africa, as well as states coast to coast. I’ve received beautiful cards with heartfelt sentiments, flowers, coffee, cake, and time spent with family and friends. Those are my birthday presents.

But my goal today is to have birthday presence. To listen, to observe, to acknowledge those in my circle of influence; to be present wherever I am. Life is short. I don’t have time to mess around anymore. I’ve got to be about the important work God has given me to do…and I can’t do it if I’m not present. I can’t stayed mired in regrets, disappointment, and unforgiveness based in the past. My eyes are fixed forward.

I may not be in Istanbul with my sister, but I want to be present with her, listening to her stories, encouraging her in her adventures. I want to give her my presence (even when I can’t be physically present). I want to learn and grow through the expertise and stories of my co-workers, I want to be encouraged by the acts of kindness I witness on my daily walks, or in the grocery store line, or through a Facebook post. I want to share stories of triumph and victory, as well as mistakes and failures.

It sounds a bit arrogant but I want to give my presence to my youth group, the next generation of leaders, teachers, scientists, writers, pastors, artists, mothers, fathers. I don’t mean I’m the greatest person ever – but I know these students need someone outside of their family dedicated to loving them, listening to them….

I want to be a better aunt, sister, mom, wife…and I think if I commit to being present wherever I am, that’ll be a good start. May mean putting the phone and remote down, turning off the music, closing the book, turning my eyes and ears away from distractions and then, connecting.

Focus – my word for 2020 – is taking on deeper meaning, just two weeks into the year. Here’s to greater days yet to come and even more birthday presence.save-image

 

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Singer/songwriter Ben Rector has a song called Old Friends, and the first time I heard it, I thought of my small town and the many school friends I still keep in touch with. We’ve grown a little grayer (me? a LOT grayer), maybe added a few pounds here or there, lost our parents and former teachers, but the bond we created 40+ years ago, hasn’t been broken by time or distance. And to be honest, social media has been the catalyst in keeping us up-to-date on each others’ lives.

My tidbit of wisdom today: Stay in touch with old friends.

Friends – true friends – will stay with you in the rough times, offering a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and many times, helping hands to get things done. You see – old friends know where you came from, what your roots are, or as Ben says, still dial your house phone. They don’t give up on you, on your friendship, just because we’re a little older. In anything, we hug a little tighter, celebrating our joys and mourning our losses together.

Don’t give up on staying in touch, no matter how busy life gets. Carve out time to get a coffee, make a phone call, send an email, meet in Galena for a Saturday shopping trip (YES!)…make more memories and spread more joy.

“Can you take me back when we were just kids
Who weren’t scared of getting older?
‘Cause no one knows you like they know you
And no one probably ever will
You can grow up, make new ones
But the truth is
That we grow up, then wish we could go back then
There’s nothing like old friends
‘Cause you can’t make old friends” (Ben Rector, “Old Friends”)

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You can’t make old friends. Classmates from Durand High School Class of 1978

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Friends through ups and downs. More ups, though!

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Girlfriends – many from kindergarten. Love each one!

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My special almost-daughter, if I were old enough.

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I know absolutely nothing about investments – at least the financial kind. But I work very, very hard on the relationship kind. I spent a fortune this weekend – but my return was about triple my investment, so I’m flying high right about now.

I invested in three types of relationships in the last 24 hours.

f4bea308-903e-4bc2-a206-7474aa061fd4First, my husband and I drove about 3 hours, from Iowa to Illinois, so I could eat dinner with eight of my high school classmates. The distance wasn’t an issue – we were happy to do it.  The girls in my Class of 1978 are amazing women – and for the last few years we’ve worked hard to find time to spend together. We’ve done Galena days, class reunions, and random dinner Girls’ Night Out. Not everyone can make every time, but we do what we can, making those relationships a priority. As I mentioned in a prior blog, one of our classmates is facing a long health battle and we wanted to make sure she knew she was not alone, we will stand with her and her husband as they fight the good fight. It was a night filled with the joy of life long friendships. We caught up on each others’ lives, grandchildren (or not), memory issues, and discussed what other classmates were doing. A few tears were shed too, as we talked about life and death, disappointments and joys. Not many of us have both our parents any more and those that do realize the privilege that is still theirs. We prayed for our friend, hugged over and over again, and laughed until our sides hurt. I think the people around us in the restaurant were amused. At least I hope so.

Don and I also invested in each other. He made the huge sacrifice of sitting for hours in our little car, driving through brown countryside, just so he could spend time with me. He worked in the hotel room while I met up with my girlfriends, but I was so happy, knowing he was waiting for me. We love our kids, but we are enjoying our empty nest and time devoted to each other. We don’t always fill the time with conversation – sometimes just quietly being together is enough.

And lastly, this afternoon, I spent a couple of hours investing in 11 middle and high school girls. They aren’t my own flesh and blood, but they are loved like my own. We took over three bowling lanes and had lots of laughs, gutter balls, strikes and spares, prizes and pizza. No one was the greatest bowler, but that wasn’t the purpose. Sometimes it’s just fun to get outside the church and do stuff together…see each other in a different environment. I wanted those around us to see kids who are healthy and kind, honestly enjoying each others’ company. I so appreciated the parents who stayed to help me “supervise.” I am blessed to have good new friends and good old friends.

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Are you managing your investments well? Spending time with those people that matter most in your life? Investing and mentoring our youth? Providing a healthy, godly role model for those that desperately need to see adults who love and respect them? Do you still have parents or other elderly relatives that would dearly love your attention? How much time do you commit in maintaining your marriage and parental relationships? Just a few questions I keep asking myself as I try to manage my investments.

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I’m taking some time to celebrate genuine girlfriends. No matter how old you are, if you’re a woman, you’ve probably had great female friendships, and a few not so good. Mean girls are not just reserved for high school. Most of those mean girls grow up to be mean women. But today – I want to give a shout out to those women who give unconditional love and support, who celebrate the great times, and stand beside us through the tough times.

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Women from the Class of 1978 – Durand High School

I’ve been blessed to have many wonderful women friends through the years. My high school classmates are still great friends, even though we don’t see each other often. We are planning a couple of “Girls’ Night Out” events so we can come alongside one of our own who is facing a tough health battle. We love her so much and want to show her our support.

“We are friends for life. When we’re together the years fall away. Isn’t that what matters? To have someone who can remember with you? To have someone who remembers how far you’ve come?”  Judy Blume

As a young pastor’s wife, I moved to a different city wondering if I’d have difficulty making friends in this new place. It didn’t take long to bond with some amazing women who loved me and helped me acclimate.

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Ladies who brunch!

Friends who threw me a baby shower, babysat my boys, took us out for dinner, gave me homeschooling advice, had us over for family birthdays and holidays, sat with us through sickness and health. Priceless friendships that have stood the test of time!

I have been fortunate to have older women mentor me in ministry, marriage and parenting. I’ve loved the opportunities to mentor younger women in those same areas. They are treasured friendships that now span the country. Thanks to social media we can still be a part of each others’ lives.

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My sweet friend Nichole

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Best buddies Debbie and Jody

As I head toward my 60s,  I’m spending time in reflection…remembering fun road trips, shopping trips, ministry trips…ladies who have hugged me as I cried, ladies I’ve hugged through their own pain. We’ve prayed, laughed, worshiped, cheered, and eaten chocolate together. I’ve tried to stand by them through illness and grief…they have done the same for me. They point me to Jesus and my goal is to be a light in their lives.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate my beautiful sister as a girlfriend. She’s my confidante, my inspiration, my favorite friend. I wish we lived closer physically but I know there is nothing we would not do for each other.

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My sister – my first and best friend

Pray for your friends today. Send someone a card. Give one of them a call. Make a coffee date. Connect. As we get busy, life passes us by. Make time to celebrate the special women in your life.

“I’m so thankful for friendship. It beautifies life so much.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

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Is it possible to be exhausted and energized at the same time?

I had a busy, but so satisfying Saturday. My morning was spent with ten friends. We ate brunch, laughed, chatted, drank coffee (I was good – drank my herbal tea), encouraged one another and made cards to give to someone who may need a little spark of joy.

I also caught up with a long time friend I hadn’t seen for quite some time. Of course I’ve seen her Facebook posts but I mean really seeing, really connecting. Face to face. I’m sorry but no technology, no emoji, can replace a flesh and blood hug. It felt so good to listen to her stories about her son, her family. It made my heart glad.

This afternoon I met up with another wonderful friend. That hug was so great. She’s recently come through a tremendous health battle and is making a slow but steady recovery. I loved listening to her stories – some humorous (because she always finds something to laugh about), some humbling, most uplifting – of God’s faithfulness, His steady presence beside her – her honest confession that this journey is difficult. My tea got cold as we took turns connecting over our life stories.

Late this afternoon Don and I visited one of “my girls” recovering from pneumonia in the hospital. She was sleeping (thankfully for her) so we caught up on her health adventure of the last few days with her parents. Our own experience with our son’s pneumonia at much the same age gave us some insight into what they were going through. Scared but trying to be strong and calm for their daughter. Trusting doctors but still praying desperately for lungs to open and sleep to come. So glad we could connect and pray in that hospital hallway. And just heard they were able to go home tonight.

Connections. It takes your time, your effort, your willingness to set aside the routine to meet with someone face to face. There is no substitute. So I’m exhausted but energized by the human connections I made today. I can still feel the love conveyed through those hugs. ❤️❤️

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It’s not even a word – but it so accurately describes my life. I have a lot of unexpectedlies – every day. And so do you. At first, I was blindsided by happenings in my life that I never planned for. Death. Accidents. Job loss. Broken relationships. All these and more kept me off balance, sometimes teetering on the edge of grief and despair. I felt more fear than faith – dreading the next bend in the road.

One weekend TrailI had an epiphany. I came to realize, with the wooing of the Holy Spirit, that these unexpectedlies are opportunities. Opportunities to find blessing in the midst of sadness. Joy in the midst of sorrow. Healing in the midst of pain. Instead of finding the gray on the backside of every cloud, I really do attempt to find the silver lining.

This past month, three close friends have passed away. One was my beautiful daughter-in-law’s father. He was a huge influence in my life, in the lives of my friends and family. Another was a man who helped me navigate the stress of my first radio job, moving from co-worker to great friend. He and his lovely wife gave me support in the hardest time of my life and for that, I will be forever grateful. Just this past Tuesday, another friend entered in the presence of Jesus. We’d only known each other three years but we became the best of buddies, joined together through our love of the Chicago Cubs and our little church family.

Each man was an unexpectedly in my life – unexpected voices of encouragement and affirmation, sometimes challenging, always loving and supportive. I am a blessed woman to have known these three and I am so grateful I was able to run part of my life’s race alongside them.

Takeaway – celebrate the unexpectedlies. Look for the blessing in each one. Grow through the experience. Choose to respond to each one with grace and forgiveness. Love fiercely because unexpectedlies happen…every day.

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old friends

I remember a conversation I had with my husband when we both decided to join the Facebook frenzy back in 2008. We were trying to learn this newfangled thing called social media. Our kids had recently created profiles on Facebook and we were not about to be left behind. So while discussing all the ins and outs, he asked me about “friends.” What does that mean exactly? He was adamant that he wouldn’t have any “friends” because none of his friends were on Facebook. I tried to explain that “friends on Facebook aren’t really your friends, not as you would know them. They are people who want to see what you post, people who follow you. Facebook just uses the term ‘friends.'”

Since that time I’ve come to realize our culture has embraced the Facebook definition of friend. We know so much about a person, from their photos, profiles, posts and shares, that we really think we are friends with everyone. In reality, when a crisis hits, only a tiny percentage of those “friends” will be there for you…that tiny percentage – those are your real friends.

I’m so grateful for my true friends. They aren’t defined by time spent together, proximity, or age. It doesn’t matter if we are attend the same church, live in the same city, or read the same books. I count as true friends those who are honest, kind, real and lasting. They love me, with or without makeup, money or ministry. I love them the same way. Some of my friends I’ve had since kindergarten…some I’ve gained in the last few months. All are precious to me – not for what they do for me, but because they love and appreciate me for who I am on the inside. They are honest with me – telling it to me straight when I get a little too self-absorbed. And I know they expect the same from me.

Some of my friends live too far to see very often, but when we do, it’s like no time has passed at all. In those cases, social media has been a blessing – keeping up with the lives of my far off friends…though nothing beats a little “mas café” on the beach in Puerto Vallarta with good buddies, or giggles over dinner with high school classmates, or pie & ice cream with the best neighbors ever.

In my 40-days of Intentional Gratitude, I know I need to express my thankfulness to my friends, for they are often “Jesus with skin on” for me.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:14

 

 

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old friends

I spent today with some of my favorite people – some family, some soon-to-be family, and some might-as-well-be family.

I hope you have people like that in your life. Friends you may see only sporadically but can pick up right where you left off, no matter how long you’ve been apart. Friends who speak your same silly language…who “get you”…who love you in spite of your flaws and foibles. Friends who think like you, which, in my case, can be a very scary thing.

I have a friend who is a sister-of-my-heart. We spent all afternoon together and now I feel so refreshed. She radiates the love of Jesus, full of fun and creativity (she was my Flat Stanley co-conspirator today). We laughed and laughed and laughed – all day.

She speaks her mind, but listens with such a tender heart. She cherishes my kids and truly cares for their welfare, just as I do toward her beautiful daughter. Our husbands are best buds and enjoy just sitting together drinking coffee (or, sometimes frappes).

I’m planning to grow old with her because if I have to endure gray hair, chin hair and the effects of gravity on my aging body, I want to do it with someone who’ll see the humor and help us get through it together.

Her friendship means so much to me and I’m already planning exciting adventures with her very soon. What do you think – maybe some tubing on the Wapsi River this summer?

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Finish Well

I ran another 5k last weekend. It wasn’t very fun…at least not the running part. It was hot and already 100% humidity at 8 a.m. One of my good friends was running also. Alanna’s a different class of runner than I am. She loves the long stuff…8-10 mile training runs are nothing for her. She’s a beautiful and godly woman who I have known for over 10 years. When we first met, Alanna was very shy and quiet. She was hesitant to share her opinion, but very willing to help in any way. She’s a great wife and mother and in recent years, has grown into leadership abilities I would guess she never thought she had.

On Saturday I noticed her confidence. She has found her place and she walks in it with assurance. She has grown and matured and, though she’s still quiet, she isn’t afraid to speak up and share her advice and encouragement.

We had a nice time getting reacquainted prior to the start of the race but I knew once the race began, I would be eating her dust. And I was totally ok with that!

The race began and I took off at my normal pace…slow. The weather conditions were ugly. I’ll take running in rain or snow over heat and humidity any day. The route was well marked but I knew I was in trouble when I had to stop and walk at the first mile mark. Though I’m not fast, I can usually run the whole 3.2 mile distance. But by mile two, I was struggling to run more than a half mile at a time. I knew my time was shot but I was moving forward and making little goals along the way.

I always have my run app going through my phone so every half-mile I’d hear the app’s voice tell me how far I’ve gone, how long it’s taking me and my pace. It helps me realize how far I have left to go. At mile three I knew I only had two-tenths of a mile and I was determined to gut it out. There was a turn in the course ahead of me so I assumed the finish line was just around the corner. Then I saw my friend Alanna coming toward me. She met me saying, “I’m going to run you in.” It was then I realized I had further to go than I thought. As we turned the corner I saw more than a quarter mile left to go.

I can’t describe how discouraged I became at that moment. Physically I really didn’t think I could do it. I knew I could walk it in, but Alanna was running alongside me and, to be honest, I didn’t want to disappoint her. I wanted to finish well…or as well as I could. I felt sick, my legs were rubber, I was panting, almost gasping, and sweat was dripping in my eyes. I was literally “a hot mess.” But I prayed “God, just get me home,” and with Alanna’s verbal encouragement and physical presence, I dug a little deeper and ran across the finish line.

My time was awful – but that wasn’t the important lesson. Here are my takeaways:

  • Train hard. It’s the everyday journey through life that prepares you for those sudden races that occasionally pop up.
  • Run your own race. It doesn’t matter where you are in comparison to other runners. You are the best “you” there can ever be. Be good with it.
  • Don’t believe the voice in your head. Keep your eyes and ears on the truth. My app was “off” on the distance of the 5k and I had put my whole mindset on its veracity. When I realized I had more to go, I was so discouraged. Run using the sign posts along the way – the Word of God is your sign post. Let it be your training manual for your own race.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, when you are confident and secure in your race, go back and encourage someone else along the way. Alanna’s voice and presence brought me in. Without her, I probably would have dropped back to a walk which was a failure in my mind. Be the coach, cheerleader, mentor, leader – whatever term you prefer – to bring others along toward their finish line.

The times we live in are getting hotter, tougher, harder…We need each other so we can all finish well.

By the way, I got first place in my age division…I was the only one in it! One more life lesson: There are no other runners in your race. As long as you show up and finish, YOU WIN!

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