Tag Archive for friendship

Seeking Friendship {Ministry Wives Edition}

For the next few posts I’ll be answering a few ministry related questions I’ve received over the last few months. Hopefully, by reading someone else’s perspective, it’ll help you make sense of your situation. I know every ministry situation is different and has its own nuances. Please feel free to take what helps and leave what doesn’t. Okay, then?

friendship

I frequently get asked about friendships in ministry–specifically the lack of forming close friendships in your own congregation.

It’s no secret that friendships in ministry can be tricky.

No matter where you serve,

whether full-time, part-time, or layman, missionary, youth pastor’s wife, musician, or church planter’s wife, we all need someone to love us enough to speak truth into our lives. But we all know that sometimes transparency backfires in a leadership position. This is certainly the ministry wife’s catch-22.

“Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.” Although this saying from Rachel Lynde is laughable, there’s wisdom in realizing that we are all just people walking through various stages of life at different stages of sanctification. Since we are flawed people serving with other flawed people, wisdom is necessary when sharing our heart.

You don’t share your heart with someone who gossips about others.

You don’t share your heart to someone who is critical or outspoken about every little thing.

And repeat after me:”Transparency is not spilling your gut and sharing every thought. That’s venting.”

You simply don’t share with people who have proved themselves untrustworthy.

  • I know of one friend who was co-laboring with another couple and who shared some deep troubles they were having in their marriage, desperate for help, and they were basically disciplined out of the church after a slow death of the relationship, and told they would not be recommended for another ministry because of their marriage issues. (For the record, their marriage is thriving.)
  • In another instance, a ministry friend was punished by a bitter pastor’s wife after sharing concerns about ministry practice to her.
  • In yet another instance, a pastor’s wife and family were raked over the coals for asking, through a broken heart, for prayer for a struggling teen.

So what do you do about forming close friendships as a ministry wife?

Well, the Lord initiates friendship with us and the Bible warns about how vulnerable the “loner” is, and how there is strength in numbers, so we know avoiding friendship is not the answer.

The pat answer seems to be to have friends in other ministries because sometimes you do need to “talk shop.”

There’s a problem with this, though. Friends in other ministries don’t know our “blind spots” and we’re certainly not going to tell them because–wait for it–we are completely blind to them, so our version of the “truth” might be skewed and we might not get the help we need.

And God does PUT us with people to humble us and chisel away our ungodly characteristics, so total avoidance is really short changing yourself.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my limited experience:

Be in your Bible.  God’s word is there to convict you and change you. Go into each reading assuming that God wants to humble you in some area. Then read to change. God also offers you friendship and only when you love God supremely will you actually have the ability to love others well, warts and all.

Know your church culture. If you’re in a church culture where truth is valued and transparency is safe, then by all means, feel free to share with your fellow leadership wives or trusted friends. If you’re not sure about the culture, listen, listen, listen to the way people talk about others when they fail. You can tell a lot about the humility of a leader by how well or ill they speak of others.

Accept what God gives you. You might really want a close friend and deep conversations but God keeps giving you younger moms who are really needy for advice and play dates. God always gives us what we need. He promises to. Perhaps our desire is stronger than it should be and God wants us to serve others at a play date at the park or beach.

Keep friendship in perspective. We sometimes imagine that there is that one person out there who will always be there for us, be completely loyal, never let us down, always know just what to say. There is only one person who can do all this and it’s God. That kind of pressure on any friend will kill it from the start. Friendships are good gifts, but not the ultimate thing: God is!

Pray for a wise woman. She doesn’t have to be in your congregation, but pray for an older woman to talk to. You don’t have to bear your soul. You might just really listen and learn as she talks about God’s faithfulness through years of marriage and child raising and widowhood.

Look for a woman who has these qualities:

  1. She doesn’t feel the need to gossip to gain acceptance or to seem like she’s in the know. This quality assures you she’ll keep your confidence.
  2. She speaks well of others.
  3. She’s self-controlled in her life and emotions.
  4. She’s Word-filled. Enough said.
  5. She’s faithful. Her yes means yes and her no means no.

Realize that God appoints your place and time and makes no mistakes. You don’t have to be best friends with someone in order to work with them. Your personalities don’t even have to mesh. Because in the end, love for God will smooth the way.

 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.

Notice that Paul doesn’t give relationship strategies or personality profiles to help fix whatever was troubling Euodia and Synthche, two New Testament women who seemed to clash. He tells them to recognize their place “in the Lord.” He emphasizes their mutual submission to the Lord. He was saying, “Hey, girls, it’s not all about you! It’s all about the Lord!”

Realizing that we are “in the Lord” does eliminate any temptation for one-upmanship or insisting on your own way. This brings humility. Serving in unity rises and falls on our willingness to see ourselves in Him.

Initiate friendships. If God brings someone to mind, you initiate. If you’re lonely, they might be, too. Make the first call. Invite them over. Ask to meet for coffee. Contact them online. Tell them you’d like to get to know them better. This is always a blessing.

Don’t demand that friendship look a certain way. Maybe for a season, your friendships will be with older women or with women walking through a sorrowful season. You be the friend that you’d want to have.

Don’t waste your loneliness. Read good books. Do an online Bible study. Encourage others. Visit a nursing home. Babysit for a younger mom. When one of my girls struggled with loneliness in her teens, I told her that maybe God was preparing her to depend heavily on Him for some mission work in her future or season of isolation.

“Be not weary in well doing. For in due season, you will reap if you faint not.”

I’ve learned that God uses every trial to direct and lead me. When I’ve lacked close friendship, He’s used unpleasant circumstances to lead me to the people and the opportunities where He wants me to minister. And in obedience and joy, there’s so much hopeful anticipation about what God is doing and how He’ll provide for each of our needs, just like He’s promised He will.

 

 

 

 

Friendship is Not All About Me { and it’s like sorting laundry}

Friendship is not strictly a way for our needs to be met.

Friendship is not all about you or me.

God may give you “friends” that you wish He never sent your way. Sometimes people are draining and moody, tiresome and just plain not who you’d choose to hang out with. (Sometimes we compensate by seeking “authentic community.”) People are problematic. We all are at some point.

So what do we do with these friendships that are all over the place. We listed the different types of friendships last week and said that each type of friendship comes with its own set of expectations–care labels if you will.

The care label for each person is different.

When you are considering buying a new shirt, you check the care label to make sure you can actually afford to care for this blouse. If it says “machine wash cold,” you know you can handle that. If it says “dry clean only” then you might think twice before purchasing it. Forethought and care must go into our friendships. We don’t take home a blouse and then get angry that it wasn’t a pair of comfortable jeans. We don’t wash each garment the same. We read care labels. We evaluate whether our piece needs bleach, fabric softener, lavender or pre-treatment.

And unlike blouses, sometimes we don’t get to choose our friendships. Sometimes we are thrown into a “mix” that we’re not happy about. Perhaps you have a new brother-in-law who is extremely unlovable. Perhaps your neighbors turn out to be the Munsters. Perhaps you are in a ministry team with one of those “prickly” people. There’s not much you can do to get out of these relationships. In fact, God ordained these relationships and He has a reason for them. Maybe He wants to use you for His own kingdom purposes; maybe He’ll use this person to refine you, sanding away your own rough edges by giving you time after painful time of grief (courtesy of this prickly person) where your own humility will be tested. Sometimes God is testing our humility, refining our resolve to do right or just testing our willingness to follow Him. We don’t always know the reasons, but we can be sure that He doesn’t want us to sin. In fact, when we sin, we become part of the problem.

So, as you think about your relationships, ask:

1. What does God expect from me today? He does expect you to obey his word toward this person, loving your neighbor as you do yourself, exhibiting 1 Cor. 13 kind of love. You can’t do this if you are not God focused throughout your day.

2. Am I looking for fulfillment in this friendship or in Christ alone? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying and benefitting from a friendship. But when your desires for friendship become demands, that is where the problem lies. To have that desire is normal, but any time we become demanding and dependent on anything other than God, we put ourself on track to sin (“my will be done” vs “Thy will be done.”) and we become desperate in our pursuit of our idol.

This quote from Elyse Fitzpatrick about things that become idols in our lives is revealing:

“If you are willing to sin to obtain your goal or if you sin when you don’t get what you want, then your desire has taken God’s place and you’re functioning as an idolater.”

This of course can apply to anything in our lives: power, influence, money, s*x, sleep, drugs, comfort, respect or friendship.

Tomorrow we’ll look at ways to safeguard yourself from unrealistic expectations and how to meet the needs of others in our friendships.

 

All Friendships Are Not Created Equal, And That’s Okay.

 

I plan to spend a few posts talking about friendship.

We all have many kinds of friends and different levels of friendship.

Here’s the thing: All friendships are not created equal, and that is okay.

friendship

In fact, knowing this will help you in the long run. Have you ever had a friendship that disappointed you and left you disillusioned, wondering what went wrong?

If we lump all friendships into one category, we really can’t benefit from the friendship. The Lord brings different people into our lives for different reasons, in different seasons, and by realizing this, and keeping the Lord’s goals in mind, we can be more effective in our ministry to our friends. If we realize that every meeting is God ordained, we’ll be more apt to offer friendship with a God focused mindset.

And if we remember that our friendships are not ultimately about us, but about God’s glory and his ends in our lives and in the lives of others, we’ll be more apt to jump in and offer comfort or aid, lend a listening ear or some advice when asked, or whatever is needed, whether we feel this person is an ideal fit for us or not. Let’s face it, we all come from different backgrounds, have different personalities and weaknesses, and sometimes this prejudices us from extending friendship to someone who is not just like us.  Worse, if we believe that every friendship must have the end goal of becoming future BFF’s (to use a seventh-gradish term), we’ll be sorely disappointed by our friendships.

Friendship is ultimately a good gift from God. He modeled it for us on earth, and he called us into friendship with him. He is the reason we know about friendship.

It might help to realize that every friendship has a purpose, and if we are wise and open to God’s leading and are looking for what He might be doing by allowing this “friendship”, we can befriend all kinds of people in all types of walks, in all stages of growth, and in turn will open ourselves up to a broader spectrum of ministry.

All friendships are not created equal and do not have the same end goal.

Here are eight types of friendships. These categories might help you set your expectations and goals for each friendship.

For instance, there are:

1. Acquaintance friendship, where we see each other around once a month, enough to say hello and wave or chit chat for a second.

  • the visiting couple at church,
  • women I see in town on a regular basis.
  • familiar face at the cash register or doctors office

2. Casual friendships, where we see each other on a somewhat regular basis, once a week, bi-weekly, and have at least one common bond in our life.

  • women at our homeschool co-op
  • other moms at my kids lessons or activities
  • women in my own extended family
  • friends who are in other ministries but that we see often enough to connect with on a deeper level
  • a friend of a friend

3. Close friends who I love and know well: we do many parts of life together and want the best for each other.

  • women in our family
  • our kids’ teachers
  • women in our church
  • lifelong friends

4. Women I mentor: younger women who need some help and come to me for advice

5. Women who mentor me: older women or women more experienced than I am in an area of life, who I’ve asked for specific help in areas I struggle with.

6. An intimate friend. An iron sharpening iron kinda friend. A person who you can be totally truthful with in love and they’ll know your heart. They always assume positive intent because they really love you. Usually built over a long time, this friendship that is held together by the glue of love, trust, integrity and looking out for the good of the other person, even if you have to tell them that they are headed in the wrong direction. They accept and give correction and advice if needed without fear of losing your friendship. They are there for the long haul.

7. Women who don’t understand how to be a good friend. (Hurt women who hurt other women.) These are women who don’t seem to know how to accept love from other people, therefore can never love others well. They assume the worst, second guess everyones motives, make caustic comments about other peoples situation. They are fun on a casual level but shallow relationships are all they know. They build walls to hide their own insecurities, put on a masks so that people don’t know the real them (because they’d never love me if they knew me, they assume.) They project their own heart’s motives on other people and assume that everyone acts just like they do…so they don’t trust anyone.

8. A “friend” to avoid. These would include angry women, gossips, those who love to start discord, envious (want what you have) and unloving (does not want the best for you, but for themselves).

Although you cannot have a close friendship with one of these people scripturally, these women are strewn throughout all of our casual friendships, and you may find yourself mentoring a woman who is trying to rid herself of these things.

Have I left out any categories? Have you ever set yourself up for disappointment by expecting more from a friendship than it was able to deliver?

Do you shy away from a friendship because you believe that every friend must be a kindred spirit, when maybe God is calling you to mentor an “unlovely” person? (we are all unlovely in some regard in our lives and could all benefit from the ministry of others to help prepare us to meet the Lord.)

Are you wondering what went wrong in a specific friendship, but are now able to see that maybe you were expecting a kindred spirit, but that was not where the other person was?

Share your thoughts?

(photo credit)

Thoughts on Friendship from Me and C.S. Lewis

Today seemed like a holiday. A mini-vacation.

My friend Shana asked me to go over for lunch. We are both in the same season of life, each of us with a child away right now: hers in military training and mine in Germany.

Our kids are the same ages and have grown up together. I have pictures of our oldest kids together in their feety pajamas. It seems like just yesterday we were talking about child training, sippy cups and potty training.

But today we talked of children leaving home. We shared our struggles and confided fears. For me, Shana is a safe person to talk to. She has a kind heart that trusts God. She is always gracious and wise with her mouth. Her life honors God and blesses mine. Sitting on her front porch in the sun, chatting away and philosophizing did my heart good.

Then tonight I had one on one time with my sweet twelve-year-old, Holly. We went to the Christmas Tree Shop and bought silly things. She wanted a mood ring and flip-flops. I wanted a Turbie Twist and napkins.

My Holly Dolly

We went out for supper and she told me about her friendships and favorite things to do. Later we watched the stars. She thanked me for “all the stuff I bought her” and told me that she loved being alone with me. She is at a wonderful age, so full of questions and laughter. In her eyes, the world hold nothing but hope right now. I have no intention of shattering that perception. There will be time for reality later on. For now, I’ll let her dream and chatter on about her little friends.

Friendships are one of God’s best gifts. Iron does indeed sharpen iron. God taught us how to love and He calls us friends. He intends for us to pour our lives and hearts into others and tells us to love as He loved.

Nurture your godly friendships. Don’t be afraid to love and share your heart. There is always risk in any relationship, but that is okay. You can’t help but pity people who have never had true friendships because they are so touchy, moody, sensitive or combative: just plain selfish. They usually end up alone and lonely as a result.

C.S. Lewis said it best:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

 

Have you thanked God for your friendships? Are you friendly? Are people better for having known you? Or are you someone that people avoid because they never know what they are going to get with you? What changes can you make today to be a better friend?

A notice, that I am guest posting, turned tribute to Peter.

Just wanted to let you know that I was invited to be part of a “31 day marriage challenge” and am a contributing writer along with 31 other women writing about marriage this month.

I am thankful for God’s grace over our marriage as Peter and I have “WORKED” to get it right, and still we are not perfect. I have had many people tell us that we are the “perfect couple.” We are not.

We were high school sweethearts, and there is a special spot in my heart for Peter that no other person could ever fill. He makes me  laugh on a daily basis and is always fun to be with. People naturally “take” to Peter, because he genuinely cares for them. And he has a heart that has always been “tuned” to God. He really is one of the godliest men I  know.  (But, he is not the stuffy, self righteous, or condemning sort of  “godly” person that we sometimes encounter–you know, the kind that loves to insert themselves and their opinions about what you do and say at every chance they get!  He is never offensive.)

His godliness is seen in how he treats others with meekness, and in his servants  heart. Although he holds a leadership position(Youth Pastor/Director of Youth Ministries/ Business Administrator/Deacon) in our church, he is always serving others and never uses that to “call the shots,” or serve himself.  He builds other people up, even if he becomes a stepping stone along the way.

Godliness to God is seen by our love for other people, and  if we say we love God but fail to love others, we are self deceived, according to God’s word.

Although we love each other dearly, we found out early on that each of us had married …a sinner!  So two sinners under one roof with five kids equals a need for God’s grace and obedience to his word each and every day!

So, join me over at Time Warp Wifes blog to read about how to love your husband, not in the way that you might think, but according to the prescription in Titus 2, for philandros love, which is “friendship” love. My article is entitled “Do You Like Your Husband?”

Read here: 

Also, for another glimpse at what a spirit filled home should look like, you can read another guest post that I wrote here.

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A Little Secret for Moms

The beautiful Gerber baby!

This is a post dedicated to mothers of young children–babies and toddlers, to be precise.

I have a little secret to tell you…

Being a mother is hard. It is the hardest job you will ever do.

Babies don’t come with manuals. Sometimes the “maternal instinct” that you hear about is slow to kick in.

Sometimes you can’t differentiate between their cries. Sometimes breastfeeding is a nightmare. Sometimes you can’t get them to nap, to try new foods, to stop taking tantrums, to stop hitting or pulling hair, or to potty train. The list could go on!

It is easy to enter despair mode.

Here are five suggestions to keep you from loosing your mind:

1. Keep your eyes open for a Mom who is doing it right in your opinion and ask for help! Most older mothers are happy to empathize with and encourage a younger mom who wants to do things “right”, but lacks the self confidence or know– how. The time spent with another mom can only encourage you and sharpen your parenting skills!
2. Evaluate your goals. Your kids will not be perfect! Children are not “self-parenting” and this is why God gave kids parents. :)

Kids will throw tantrums and will need your intervention. Kids will bite and pull hair and need to be told “No!”  It is easy to think “We just went over that!! Why isn’t this kid getting this?’”

Instead, think “Assembly Line Parenting”, and expect to do the same thing over.and.over.and.over again in order to cement principles and teach. :)

3. Do not live for your child. Your child is a wonderful addition to your world, but should never be the epicenter of it. Make time out with friends, and plan for dates with Dad. If you can’t get out, nap time should be your time of solitude. Time alone with your thoughts in quietness is essential to evaluate where you are going and how you will get there.

4. Don’t neglect your Bible reading and prayer time. Even if it is ever so short, something is better than nothing. Can you spare three to five minutes? Get a devotional for busy mothers and take care of your soul.
5. Don’t seek security in methods. Each child is so different. Be consistent, seek God’s word and humbly ask for help!  “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” “If any of you lack wisdom, let Him ask of God, who giveth liberally…”  God will give you the grace to do the job He has called you to do!!

Older mothers, what advice would you add to this list?

Do You Like Your Husband?

Walking through Boston with Peter.

“Train the young women to…love their husband.” Titus 2:4

Titus 2 gives us a checklist of seven good things that older women in the church are to pass along to the younger women in the church.  The first in this list of things to learn is to “love their husbands.”

Most of us would say we love our husbands. We DID marry them, after all.

But can you say that you actually LIKE your husband? Do you consider your husband your best friend? Do you actually like spending time with him?

In this verse, the greek word  translated “love their husbands” is philandros which means a “loving friend and companion.”  It is a friendship love.

Friendship love is something that we have to nurture. It is so easy to slip into “service” love with our husband instead of practicing friendship love. We wash, cook, clean… and cook some more. Although these are good things, they don’t substitute for a friendship with your man.

What does Friendship Love look like in daily life? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Checking in with him during the day just to say “hi.”
  • Kissing him when he comes home just because your glad to see him.
  • Calling him to tell him exciting news before you call your girl friends.
  • Scheduling time to be alone with him doing things you both enjoy: shopping, sports, dinner dates, etc…

As women, and especially women with children at home, it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, and never really enjoy our guy as a companion and friend. (Similarly, I think we tend to have the same tendency in our relationship with God. We think service equates to love. Serving God=Loving God.)

So, what are some ways you can be friend to your husband? Are their other relationships that need to be put on hold until your friendship with your husband is real and vibrant?

When you live out the priorities of Titus 2, the Bible says that your good example helps to promote the good news of Jesus Christ and ensures that the gospel is not maligned and slandered.