On Friendships

May 25, 2015

To the brave ones whose hearts may have been burned, are being burned--by supposed friends.
I see you. I know. I care. 
Chin up.
Via Pinterest
To the the girls who share and get closer than close in high school. To the ones who go through so much and spill your heart and tears to supposed friends who only come home from college the next year and act as if they barely remember you. It sucks, I know. It makes you wary to open up again after having such two-faced people drift in and out of your life in the course of a school year. But you are so much stronger and braver than you know. Keep your heart open. There's great heart-friends to be had. Trust me.

To those hurtful so-called "friends:
Grow up. Look beyond yourselves at people you may've hurt by either unintentional and intentional snubs and think hard about how certain people who're at home while you're at college feel. Years down the road you'll hopefully realize what you missed out on. An amazing, supportive person who could've been a pillar in your life forever had you not bulldozed through her after you left for college.

To those of you with those girlfriends you grew up with still in and out of your life. They may be the ones you shared painfully awkward stages with. More than likely you still have those friends since childhood who call you when they need you or when there's no better plans that came along. You're one of the first they call when they get engaged, and when they break up for good. It's rough being That Friend to Those Friends. But for some reason we may not know till eternity--God has us in their lives for a reason. So keep praying, keep caring--but don't be a doormat. If it's toxic, kick the friendship to the curb. If a friend like that is on your heart--pray, or reach out. Don't be a doormat.
via Pinterest

To those flighty friends:
I get it. Life's busy. You're trying to find your place in the world and figure out who you are. But don't make them your maid of honor out of obligation. No one cares that much. Just be honest with them. Ask hard questions if you can handle the truth. Remember that 2001 classic, Princess Diaries and Lilly's show, Shut up and Listen? Just do that. Listen for once to that friend who's sipping coffee across from you every four months to "catch up." You may know that she's still working at the same place, same relationship status--but listen and pay attention if you really want to keep her in your life. If you can't pour back into her even a little bit--just make the clean break and stick with your heart-friends that came along later in life.

To those of you who've waited through and celebrated through so many friends' Forevers and now it's finally your turn. Only those brides you once prayed with, calmed and stood up behind are now way less than enthusiastic, judging you at every turn because your story isn't a carbon copy of theirs. To those of you with those type of "friends" and the type of friends who retreat more into themselves because they don't have a guy yet. It hurts. So much. Because at all those weddings and in all those pictures, you thought those same friends in white would be there for you when you got to wear a white gown. They may be there in person that day, and that's something. But when they so harshly judge and condemn you from their holier-than-thou high horse, you wonder if it's even worth an invitation. I get it. It hurts. This new season of life may actually involve pruning friendships. But you will be stronger for it. It's going to be okay.
To those holier-than-thou so called friends who apparently forgot all about your single friends until they got into a relationship:
Go jump in a lake. Figure out the log in your own eye.

I am dedicating this post to some amazing people in my own life that I've seen be hurt by those types of friends I wrote about. No friendship is perfect. We're all sinners. We all need to accept and extend grace. We all have our moments. Please please please know I'm preaching to myself, here. Maybe you've been on both sides of these fences I wrote about! Life and relationships is just hard. Branching into new seasons and upkeeping friendships is hard. But keep at it. Keep being you. Keep your heart open and searching for how the Lord may use you in the lives of, yes, even the difficult people.
But also pray hard and take courage if there is a toxic friendship you truly would be better off without. If a friendship gives you nothing but dread, anxiety and angst--cut it out. It's not worth it.

A Heart Abandoned | On Worship

May 18, 2015

I grew up in church. In a few very different ones, actually. One had a vibrant, jumping and dancing for joy type of worship complete with banners, while the other was far more reverent and staid. There was nothing wrong with either. My mom, for instance, loved and still loves swaying in the row of seats and clapping and singing out loud. My sister now leads worship for junior highers at our church, and she has such a gift for tying in a poignant, central theme to the songs, and sings her heart out and in turn--draws the kids into worship.
It's taken me awhile, as I look back, to come into full freedom in worship. Half the time I'd keep my eyes shut because it was either the reverent, good church girl thing to do, or I didn't want to be distracted. I'd raise my little, still-pudgy hands but only to my waist. Much of my worship in a church building was genuine. Much of it was out of obligation or for fear of what people would think of me depending on what I did or did not do in worship.

This past Saturday night I found myself caught in the trap of worry when the acoustic and bass guitars played the opening chords. Have I mentioned lately I am a work in progress? Maybe it was the acquaintances who came to sit one row in front of me and didn't seem to see me. It took me through the first song to just shut my eyes, shut out the events of the day, really hear what the Holy Spirit had been trying to tell me all weekend--you are never alone--and let my aching heart go be free to worship He who steadies it and loves it unconditionally.
Let me tell you--when I let my stubborn guard down, I met with God during the worship set. I sang loud and tossed both hands high above my head through one song, and it was glorious to have had the Lord strip me of my prideful insecurities and turn my gaze back up to Him.
With freedom in Christ there is peace that transcends everything. Even afterward and the next day, anything I had been wrestling with, I acknowledged, put back at the foot of the Cross, and just shrugged with palms upward. You've got this. I don't know what You're doing. But it's good. And I have You.

The Story Behind a Diamond

May 6, 2015

Working at an ear, nose and throat doctor's office, there's quite the eclectic group of patients, the majority being elderly. I was sitting at check-out, the patient's last stop before leaving the office, and our physician's assistant brought around a spry, ninety year old elderly woman. She was quite the character, let me tell you; she rattled off opinions about the other patients in the waiting room with no filter and all I could do was laugh. Not mockingly, because I agreed with her--but she just was one of those people that made you wish to have an iota of their boldness.
via Pinterest
As she was handing me her copay, I noticed the modest marquis diamond on her hand, a smaller diamond but identical setting as pictured, and commented on how beautiful it was. It was a vintage setting, so of course it caught my eye. First, my patient launched into how once she was getting bloodwork done and the nurse was oohing and ahhing over it so much she was convinced the nurse would put her to sleep and steal the ring. Ah, but then...

"The man who gave me this ring died seventeen years ago.
                And I miss him every day."

Not a tear in her eye, nor a quaver in her voice. 
A loving but matter of fact tone of voice as she shared about her husband of, I'm guessing, over fifty years.
"Every morning at breakfast, I wind up his watch and set it next to my coffee and it's just like he's there with me having breakfast."

Once she got started, she didn't stop for a good ten minutes almost. She told me about how her husband always took care of everything for her. She'd see something needing fixed or changed and he'd get right on it. She told me about how they worked as a team; she had the ideas, he put in the work to get it done and get it done right to last.
Just like their marriage.
I was sitting at my desk just soaking up this sweet lady's stories and wishing I could just sit and record her for hours when all of a sudden she asks, "Are you married?"
Me: Way to bring me back down to earth out of my hopeless romantic cloud.
Outloud, I replied the negative. Did anybody freak out with this post's title, by the way? Eh, I doubt it. Moving on.
This dear ninety-year old widow shook a kind finger at me, "I'm going to tell you a secret. Don't take a guy that doesn't have those qualities. Be patient."
I thanked her genuinely and said I'd take all that to heart and let her know if it worked next time she came in.
My patient's reply as she went out the door: "You just wait and see. And I won't charge you a fee for that advice."

Reflections off Lake Erie

May 3, 2015

Saturday was spent with my sister and two great like-family-friends on a roadtrip Lake Erie in NY and PA. The first part of the day was spent on a private beach in Westfield, NY surrounded by cliffs with trees overhanging and there were only two other people on the beach off of the marina. Absolutely heavenly. Have I mentioned Westfield's one of my favorite places on earth? It's an old town, so vintage and beautiful, and in the heart of wine country. I plan to write a trilogy set there someday. We first discovered it while on a family vacation in Chautauqua NY a few years ago and I've been in love with it's quaint Americana charm ever since.

The two-hour car trip was fun, and surprisingly not tiring--thank you God for cortisone shots! and we picnicked on the beach and just relaxed. The definition of tranquil with gentle tiny waves lapping on the shore, the warm sand and sunshine and cool breeze. I took a few jaunts through the sand in search of rocks to skip, even though my wrist needs work. Treading through sand barefoot with my eyes on the sand for proper skipping rocks, I saw other footprints, long deep crevices where waves had washed up during a storm...
So it is with life. Walking through sand you have to push against the ever-shifting ground and in my case, I was keeping my eyes down in search of rocks. There are easier sections of sand to walk through, just like in life. But when I keep my eyes too-long down on the sand/road of life and not lift them up to take hold of my Savior's hand--I falter, stumble and lose my balance.

There were many deep crevices in the sand parallel to each other, and then spots of perfectly flat sand. Sometimes life drags me down and through hard heartaches and trials and pain and crisis--and once I lift my eyes from the sandy road of life, God carries me. How great the Father's love for us in these parallels in HIS creation.

I don't know why I enjoy skipping rocks; it's the old-fashioned soul in me I suppose. I'm not very good at it by a long shot, and watched one couple skip rocks at Presque Isle on Lake Erie--our after-dinner beach stop--and wondered how he got his rock to skip far out on the water seven whole times! My rocks that skipped merrily over the crystal-blue water of the lake sent out many ripples, but the rocks that merely kerplunked did as well. Everything we do, every moment of bravery, reaching out, simply obeying the One Who calls us out upon the waters, matters.

The ripples we often don't notice, or they are those that will one day become clear with 20/20 hindsight. But they matter. The kerplunk of the mundane matters. Treading deeper into water as Jesus calls can be frightening, but He is there holding out His hand. Skipping rocks involves letting go of the rock. It doesn't do a blessed thing if we wish it to skip and send out impressive ripples. It just stays stagnant in our hand. It's when we let go, turn our eyes upon Jesus, and let HIM--that is when we are truly effective and can experience the sweetest of loves fully.

I did not inherit the vocal gifts in my family--Mum, Sara and Anna did. But worshiping the Lord through music and lyrics is my favorite. The beaches were secluded, and quiet, and so I sang. Just under my breath, not looking down for rocks, but looking up and out across the vast water that seems to have no end. How deep the Father's love for us? How vast beyond all measure? That He should give His only son to make a wretch His treasure. Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart--His wounds have paid my ransom.

Our road trip to Lake Erie was a blessed time, almost a retreat. A refreshing day spent in God's creation where I quieted my soul and worshiped the lover of my soul, healer of my scars, Who is always so faithful to steady my heart.

The Beautiful Mess in Hopes Deferred

April 27, 2015

Last weekend I completely reworked and purged my "wing" of our attic. Yes, I have my own section. The only things I didn't budge were the bin of my great-grandmother's china dinner service and my Christmas china. Here's the majority of the damage on my side of the room:

I didn't even open my hopechest that day. Meant to go through that and reorganize, but it'll keep. I condensed three boxes of cards and letters from birthdays and graduations past to one box, as well as packed up a huge box of books to give away. Have I mentioned I'm really, really grateful this job I took upon myself was one I'm glad I did alone? The purging was cathartic, though there's residual mess in my bookshelf to reorganize...but I'm blogging instead. *smile*

Two dear, well-meaning friends jokingly said I'd have to get an apartment soon if I get much more stuff for a future home. Have to admit, the thought's crossed my mind. But for the foreseeable future, I'm home due to finances and my hip dysplasia. And that is truly fine and dandy by me. Besides, in an apartment it's not like I could display half my pretty things.

All the boxes of mixing bowls, spring-form pans, a punch bowl set, vintage housekeeping books, photo albums that are endearingly embarrassing to look at now...I truly did recognize how blessed I am to have so many things to one day fill a home. So many memories too, preserved and kept together. But I sat there in that huge beautiful mess and felt a loss as tears welled. As an aside--I am so done with apologizing or rationalizing away tears. I'm a sensitive soul who is trying to find strength in transparency with myself, and most importantly with my Lord and Savior and He doesn't mind my tears.

I remember asking for all these books and home-goods from about my fourteenth birthday, on. Surely if I were this well-prepared I'd garner a husband right out of high school. Two friends who did exactly that didn't exactly help that way of thinking even as I found I was really grateful I did not get married at the young age of eighteen as my little girl romantic's heart had once dreamt. Before ya'll think me naive or pathetic, I know I have to put myself out there and be in God's will--not cloistered away at home--in order for the guy God has for me to be able to find me when the time's right.

This past winter, and moments now, I've really wrestled with questions and resentment. That ugly struggle is fading, by God's grace...but there've been hard moments for me. Not gonna lie. Now they aren't every day by a long shot, but the ache of hopes deferred but for now ebbs and flows. This weekend was a tough one, to be frank. Seeing all my girlhood hopes and dreams in so many things that will one day fade away, that truly don't mean much...but they're mine. And they're packed away in a dusty attic in cardboard boxes, waiting to be used. The sixth box I repacked and trucked back into the attic, I shoved it against the wall too hard and just lost it. Will I ever get to unpack these in my own home, with my husband doing the heavy labor and gently teasing me for how many books I own?

Returning to my room--thankfully right off the walk-in attic--I surveyed the rest of the mess of all my things. All these things that my sister teases me about because she's just happy she won't need to throw me a bridal shower someday because I already have so much. I'm no longer ashamed of pouring my heart out to God--even the hurt. It's when I internalize, though He knows all, that I rail at Him and grow angry and resentful. If I literally cry out to him and curl up at the Cross with my tired, weepy heart--He meets me. And carries me.

And He reminds me that even in the midst of trying to thrive in the present, with huge hopes deferred only temporarily, it's a beautiful mess. It's a beautiful mess of lessons I had to learn. Of fun memories antiquing and birthdays and time with friends where I found so much of myself and much of what's packed away in the attic now. 

Things I Want < Things I Have

April 19, 2015

So oddly enough it seems I only have a truly bustling social life once every few months. This weekend was one of them. Shopping with my sister Friday afternoon, coffee in South Side in the evening with a friend, then we got hungry and went out for wings afterward. Saturday was brunch with friends at a fantastic Pittsburgh diner, then a beautiful bridal shower for a friend from church...and an impromptu stop in an antique store where I found what I think is a third edition of Little Women. Copyright 1896. It's a beauty--and my third copy.

It's raining softly outside now, a traditional roast chicken Sunday dinner is in the works, and my grandmother's coming over. And have I mentioned it just smells like spring? It's so wonderful. I even took a cat-nap this afternoon--proof that this weekend was draining for this introvert.

It was bitter-sweetly draining in another way, this full, blessed weekend. In the course of twenty-four hours, my lack of relationship status slapped me in the face in the midst of smiling wide and being oh-so glad for dear friends who have great guys in their lives. Now don't get me wrong--I'm not the type to wallow in my singleness day in and day out. Honestly? I don't think about my singleness every day. I admit to thinking of the guy I'll marry/praying for him every day--but this weekend was just a lot.
I'm not so self-absorbed I turn eevery conversation with my non-single friends (aka the majority) to my singleness. That's not me. And I love being kept up to speed about all the details of burgeoning romances and firsts. I really do--I'm a hopeful/hopeless romantic. My pain level hasn't been bad at all this weekend--grateful for cortisone shots!--but my heart's been sore. Worn. A bit tired.
via Ann Voskamp
But this is how great God is--time with Him in worship at church, and the tail-end of the sermon just cut me right to the quick. How near He is. How He sees me--trust me. Stark difference in how I see myself/my life. Down in junior high, the pastor spoke about David and how God looks at the heart and sees us with such value, even when what we see in the mirror or in our circumstances doesn't seem all that hot. 

Thriving now means not letting the things I want make me forget the things I already have. Wonderful friends, a great job, a bright and full future with not one but two gifts upcoming in 2015 I did not see coming. Listening to the Voice of Truth, speaking truth to myself, owning my life and letting myself cry it out once in awhile because it's healing.