A Tribute to Friends, Silver and Gold

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My “silver” friends. Love the bond we’ve formed already.

As a child I was shy and insecure. I didn’t make friends easily, as you have to look someone in the eye to befriend her. The friendships I did manage to form were the on-again, off-again type. (Can I just say girls can be mean? And I wasn’t always on the receiving end. I knew how to dish it out.) The difficulty in maintaining friendships was intensified by the fact that my family moved across country twice between my eighth grade year and my sophomore year in high school.

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High School Graduation

 

The moving didn’t cease. Since high school, I have lived in six different towns, moving, on average, every five years. Some would think this lifestyle makes it more difficult to make friends. While that was true of me growing up, as I’ve matured, it’s had the opposite effect. I am friendlier and more determined to find friends.

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My “gold” friends.

On my recent visit to IL, I re-connected with many of the friends I left last summer. I felt so blessed to be loved on by these precious ladies. On the flight home, I thought of the new friendships I’ve forged. I started reflecting on the groups of friends I’ve belonged to over the years–how attached I get, how difficult it is to leave. It reminded me of the Girl Scout saying:

Make new friends,

but keep the old.

One is silver,

the other is gold.

My attitude toward moving has changed. I used to be so emotionally devastated to leave the comforts of what I knew, I took a “don’t look back” approach, choosing not to stay in touch with those left behind. Additionally, my insecure-self knew I didn’t do friendships well, and I was sure I would be quickly forgotten. Now I seek new friends, overturning every rock, looking for them like the gems they are, not forsaking those established relationships. Now I cherish each friend I have – one is silver, the other is gold.

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More “gold” friends.

So here’s to friends!

They fill us up. They cheer us on. They teach us.

They encourage and admonish. They give us strength to face the day.

They laugh with us, and cry with us–on occasion at the same time.

They rejoice in our triumphs and mourn our losses.

They pray for us on a good day.

They pray for us when we have lost our hope and have no words.

They know our strengths and weaknesses, our strong points and flaws, our courage and our fears–and yet love us.

They hug us hello and hold our hand when we hurt.

Without friends, our marriages would suffer and our sanity would flee.

Friends are a gift from the Lord. Cultivate and nurture your friendships, old and new.

One is silver, the other is gold.

In the comments section, tell me what you love about your friends.

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Encourage the Radical

In Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love, he refers to interactions he encountered with others after feeling led by God to make a radical change in his life.

When I returned from my first trip to Africa, I felt very strongly that we were to sell our house and move into something smaller, in order to give more away. The feedback I got was along the lines of “It’s not fair to your kids,” “It’s not a prudent financial choice,” and “You are doing it just for show.” I do not remember a single person who encouraged me to explore it or supported me to explore it or supported the decision at the time.

Although I find this sad, it is not surprising. Even within churches, there are norms, standards, boundaries created. One does not simply downsize for the sole purpose of giving away more money.

Don and I ran into a similar situation while trying to bring Melinda home from Guatemala. A year and a half into what was supposed to be a four to six month process we still faced obstacles. While not everyone discouraged us, we felt some within Christian circles believed we should cut our losses and move on.

In certain areas of life the differences between the church and society in general is almost indistinguishable. Eating is one of those areas. I have battled food issues since puberty; but I have learned not to tell people when I am trying to eat well or attempting to eat less. Inevitably I will hear, “Oh, you look great. You don’t need to worry about losing weight.” I stopped attending a Bible Study because the hostess was offended if I did not eat dessert. The temptation to cave into her (many) offers was too hard to resist (even though I knew I would be sinning if I ate it).

Most of us have been on the receiving end of such statements; however, we feel justified when we are the ones making the assertion. What I think we fail to understand is we can be a stumbling block to what God is trying to accomplish in someone’s life. It may be we don’t grasp the call or we fear he is stepping out of God’s will simply because it’s not what Christians normally do.

The typical churchgoer will not ask me why I am choosing to eat differently. If she did, she may find that food can be an idol in my life. She may also find I need encouraged and prayer because my flesh is weak in this area.

Not every Christian is called to sell his/her house, adopt or eat differently. However, we are asked to live by God’s standards, not the world’s. Therefore He may request us to make changes that appear extreme.

Shouldn’t church be the place where we are encouraged to follow God no matter the cost? Shouldn’t we feel comfortable, dare I say excited, to share God’s next adventure for our lives with those who claim to love Him wholeheartedly?

Maybe before we speak, we should prayerfully consider if it is a time to encourage a fellow Christian to step out in faith.

Let me be the first to encourage you to pursue with abandon God’s directive even when it appears radical.

Who does God want you to encourage today?

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Photo taken in India, courtesy of Don Winters

Purposeful Life

A few years ago I was asked to speak on the question: What is God’s purpose for my life? As I considered the possible answers, I envisioned myself living on a mission field, speaking before captivated crowds, and signing autographs on my latest best seller. Something grandiose. Something spectacular.

I also thought of those before me and God’s purpose for their lives, specifically those martyred for their faith—and wondered how I measured up.

Then I remembered Susanna Wesley. Susanna lived in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, was married to a difficult man (to say the least), and endured many hardships. Susanna bore nineteen children (yes, 19!). She was well-educated, studied and memorized much of Scripture, and spent long periods of time with the Lord. As a matter of fact, her children were trained not to interrupt her when she flipped her apron over head. For that was the signal that she was engaged in prayer with the Lord. And to think, we use all types of excuses not to spend quiet moments with Him.

Susanna Wesley

Susanna poured her life into her children. She educated them in academics, various languages, and in the Bible. But her primary concern was for their souls.

Raising children may not seem like a noble purpose. It’s not grandiose or spectacular. But, Susanna Wesley obeyed God and His calling.

You may not have heard of Susanna, but you have probably heard of at least one, if not two, of her children.  John Wesley and Charles Wesley were instrumental in starting a Methodist movement. Out of this movement, the Wesleyan denomination was born. In addition, Charles Wesley published words to 6000 plus hymns, many of which are still sung today.

I am not claiming one of my children will start a church movement. However, when life appears dull and pointless, Susanna’s long-time commitment to parenting urges me forward. She persevered with no knowledge of the outcome, and so should I.

So . . . what is God’s purpose for my life right now?

  • As I drink coffee with my husband, to be a listening ear.
  • As I homeschool, to teach my children in the way they should go, so when they are old they will not depart from it.
  • As I clean house, fold laundry, and cook supper, to provide a safe haven for my family—a place where they feel comfortable being themselves and sharing their joys and heartaches.
  • As I listen to a friend in need, to be a source of encouragement and love.
  • As I shelve books at the library, to be connected with the community and contribute additional income to our family.
  • As I help with Kid’s Club, to show His love to hurting and lost children.
  • As I speak, write, and disciple ladies, to point others to freedom found only in Christ.

Let me encourage you to persist in God’s purpose for your life even if it seems bland and uninteresting because you may be fostering another John or Charles Wesley.

What is God’s purpose for your life right now?

10 Things You Should Know About PMS (for Men)

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For ease of writing (and reading), I assume you are a husband married to a wife who possibly probably experiences PMS on a regular basis. However, this information can be applied to any and all women, such as sisters, mothers, girlfriends, etc.

1.       It’s not all in her head. It’s real.

2.       Each woman has a specific combination of symptoms unique to her. Learn to recognize your wife’s.

If you aren’t sure, ask her. But be warned, she must be approached lovingly and not during high PMS time (a term I coined to describe “the worst days”).

3.       Not all symptoms are physical. Mental and spiritual symptoms also exist.

In my last post, I encouraged women to read Lorraine Pintus’ book Jump off the Hormone Swing. If your wife isn’t a reader, it may be worth your time to skim through it for a glimpse of what she may experience.

4.       Satan will use this time of the month to mentally beat up your wife, and thus, drive a wedge between you and her.

Do not allow her frustrations or attitude to rub off on you. Listen to your wife in an understanding way and choose not to take her harsh words or actions personally. Gently guide her.

5.       This is a great time to seek God’s face.

God provides many opportunities for us to rely on Him. Ask Him the best way to love your wife during this time of the month.

6.       Let your wife cry.

Crying releases the built-up tension that may otherwise cause a fight. Tell your wife it’s okay to cry and hold her while she does so. (She doesn’t know why she’s crying; there’s no use asking.)

7.       There are things your wife can do to lighten the symptoms. Help her find what works for her. (i.e. clearing her schedule, taking a nap, taking a walk, eating less sugar and more protein . . .)

Ask your wife, “What can I do for you right now?” Or chat with your wife during a non-PMS time. Tell her you are there for her and want to help. Another tip: It may be beneficial to restrain from making any big decisions during PMS (less chance for conflict).

8.       Provide a “Stand Back 5 Feet” sign for her to wear.

Seriously, watch the calendar. Ask your wife to keep you apprised of her “schedule.” I know of one lady who marks the calendar with a star as a signal to her family.

9.       God created your wife this way for a reason.

Physical shedding of blood is necessary for new physical life just as the shedding of Jesus’ blood was necessary for new spiritual life.

10.   PMS is not fatal – you only wish it was!

Instead of looking at it as a curse, see it as a blessing! Embrace her femininity. Praise God for the miraculous way He created our bodies.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7

Women: Click here to read “10 Things You Should Know About PMS (for Women).”

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Witness

I stepped off the airplane and headed toward baggage claim. As I rounded the corner, I spotted him . . . my husband. My heart leapt! An unexpected surprise! I had driven to the airport, so his presence was unnecessary.

I smiled. “Why are you here?”

“I missed you,” he replied. “Besides, I want to be here—I am the witness to your life.”

I knew the reference. It was from a movie we had watched together, Shall We Dance? In the movie, the main character, played by Susan Sarandon, explains why people get married. “We need a witness to our lives . . . in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. . . You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

Don’s declaration means that he not only loves me, but he values me and our time together. He treasures the time we spend together and desires to know me—the whole me—intimately. He expresses this in numerous ways. He cheers for me. He listens to me. He consoles me. He counsels me. He encourages me. He helps me. He leads me. In essence, he emulates Christ. And because of his actions, I better reflect Christ to others, especially our children.

Which makes me wonder . . . shouldn’t I be the witness to my children’s lives? Who, besides the Lord, cares for them more? Don’t they need someone to hold them when they are hurt, pay attention to them when they are discouraged, and listen to their stories even when they go on and on with no ending in sight?

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So when you see me shout the loudest after Melinda makes a basket, know it’s because I am her cheerleader.

track meet

When you see me yell, “You can do it!” as JT runs past me at a track meet, know it’s because I am his encourager.

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When you see me assist Kenneth during a magic show, know it’s because I am his helper.

drummer

When you see me attend a rock concert in which Kevin is the drummer, know it’s because I am his promoter.

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When you see me wipe a tear as JT and Kevin walk down the aisle in their caps and gowns, know it’s because I am their teacher.

I am the witness to their lives.

What about you? Whose life are you witnessing?