Saturday, May 12, 2012

Are you a good friend?

I've been feeling very challenged in certain areas of my life lately.  Not only do I want to become a better  happier, more well-rounded, generous, kind, loving individual, I want to make sure I am being a good friend to those who are in my life.  I know how quickly things can change in your life.  And how important it is to have good friends who will stand by your side during your darkest hours, who will lift you up in times of trouble, you will challenge you, grow with you, cry with you, laugh with you, and will be around to enjoy all the precious small moments that make up your life.

I will admit it.  It is very easy to get caught up in my own life's drama that I often forget about the needs of my friends.   With five kids, a husband who travels, and my own, personal needs and desires, it's easy to let friendships slip.  I can't tell you how many times I've "meant" to call, write, text, or say "hi, how are you doing?" and time has gotten away from me.

With Facebook, Twitter, and all the other gadgets we have at our fingertips, it's easy to think we are connected to our friends.  And, I guess we are, on a superficial, surface level.  But, do we really take the time to cultivate these relationships? 

In an effort to be more genuine to my friends, I've put together a sort of mental checklist for myself.  I'm sure there is more to add to this list, but it's a good starting point for me.

Be open, honest, and real.
True friendship cannot be built on false images. We must be true to ourselves. We may think we have to present a faultless picture of ourselves to the rest of the world, but why? No one wants to be friends with someone who is perfect! We simply need to be our best selves and allow people to know the real, imperfect us.

Of course, being open and honest doesn’t mean spilling our guts to everyone. As we already know, loyalty is a rare commodity in today's society.  Show that you are a friend who deserves loyalty by being that type of friend to those who are already in your life.

Take a genuine interest in others.
Everyone has something to offer this world. We need to search for it, find it, and help them realize it.  Everyone wants to feel important, needed, wanted, valued.  When we listen to others and show interest in what's important to them, we begin to truly understand and love them. If  we only focus on us, or expect our friends to focus on us all the time, the friendship will quickly lose steam and we'll be left with nothing. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”

Be a positive role model
We all face trials and tribulations of different magnitudes and we all have times when we feel down and out.   However, people who consistently bring us down with their problems and complaints are generally not the ones we want to hang around with for any length of time. Habitual whining is not the stuff of which true friendships are made. Of course, sometimes a friend will go through a difficult time, and we need to be ready and willing to hold a hand and provide a listening ear.  We need to stand in the gap for our friends.  Don't be looking to boost yourself up by putting others down.

Be a giver, not a taker
How can we be givers?  Instead of asking what we get out of any relationship, we should be looking for what we can give.  What can we give to others? How about a smile, a hug, a kind word, a phone call, a text, a listening ear, help with an errand, a prayer, an encouraging note, a meal, our TIME? We can come up with many things to give others if we are willing to be attentive to their needs. But, to know someone’s needs, you must take a genuine interest in the person first. Giving and self-sacrifice are part of the definition of love.

Be loyal, respectful and forgiving

When a friend shares with you in confidence, don't be quick to gossip.  Be respectful of where others are in their life's journey.  Most of all, don't hold on to anger.  If a friend hurts you, try - really try - to understand why your friend said the things or acted the way she did.  Jealousy, envy, bitterness, and anger are all sisters in sin and killers of good relationships. But if we continually take these emotions to God and ask for His help in overcoming them, we can remain loyal, respectful and forgiving to our friends through the thick and thin of life.

I'll admit, I have a lot of work to do in many of these areas.  It's a daily struggle to set aside my own needs and desires to focus on others. I'm hoping that with each day it gets a little easier. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stand Firm and Get Ready to Fight

I had great intentions of writing a blog yesterday.  It was supposed to be an uplifting, motivating blog about Random Acts of Kindness and being thankful/grateful for the little things in your life.  Unfortunately, my plans didn't go as I wanted and my day quickly spiraled out of control.

I was woken up at 1:00 am by a Fab looking for kleenex because the box in his room was empty.  I was woken up again at 3:00 am by same Fab coughing.  After that, I could not get my brain to shut off again, and I ended up lying in the darkness, getting more and more agitated and frustrated.  Instead of turning my thoughts to God, and asking for protection, I let the bad start to my day take hold and grow roots.  By dinnertime, I was in mental overload, my kids were being extremely demanding and had spring fever in droves.  They were running around and having fun, but the noise and energy levels were getting on my very last nerve.  When my husband finally walked in during dinner, I quickly retreated.  But, I still didn't do what I should have done.

I chatted with a few girlfriends.  I attempted to be an artist on Draw Something (they were very poor attempts) and I posted a few humorous pictures on Facebook about feeling stressed.  These things soon had me giggling and feeling better, and I was able to spend the rest of the evening dealing with the Fabs until bedtime.

After the Fabs were in bed, I read a few emails from friends.  I responded to one with what was on my heart.  And one of my sentences was "Just keep your defenses up."  I read another message and didn't feel I was in the right state of mind to answer clearly enough, so I left that one for a later time.  I had a third "conversation" yesterday in which I wrote about not letting bitterness and anger control you, about not letting the anger and bitterness consume you.  That you must guard your heart against these attacks from others who have let the hatred consume them.

When my husband and I went to bed, we discussed the sermon we heard on Sunday.  Dan couldn't remember what the "challenge" of the message was.  I'm not usually a note taker, but I had scribbled the challenge down, and so I went to get the piece of paper.  The challenge?   Simply this:  Direct your very first thoughts towards God every morning.   As we went to sleep, I realized I had not done that and made a promise to do it today.

Unfortunately, I went to sleep without listening to what God was trying to say to me.  His message was there in front of me all day.  I readily handed out the message to others.  Yet, I forgot to take heed myself.

This morning, I was again woken up in the wee hours of the morning to a sick little Fab in the bathroom.  However, my very first thought was of Ephesians 6:17
 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
I took care of little Fab, got him some medicine, some orange juice and settled him back into his bed with a kiss and a few whispered words in his ear.

I resolved myself to another early morning and came downstairs and decided to check Facebook.  One of the first pictures I saw was this:

This led me to read all of Ephesians 6, but I was especially stuck on the Armor of God
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I wrote a response to the friend's message I neglected yesterday.  In it I wrote about God wanting us to be happy. 
God wants us to be happy. The one who is giving you these feelings is not God. This gives me great comfort at times. Sounds silly. But, to know there is evil at work, trying to bring me down, well, it makes me want to fight for the good. I don't want evil to win the battle within me. Ya know?
This was my lightbulb moment! 

DING!  I hadn't been guarding my heart yesterday.  I hadn't been taking what God freely gives.  I did not clothe myself in the Armor of God and evil was able to take root yesterday and put my world into a crazy tailspin - with seemingly small things being off-kilter.   Those small things chip away at the foundation God gives me if I don't stand firm, put on his full Armor and fight!  Fight the evil that lurks around, just waiting for that little chance to gain entrance and start to chip away at me.

Putting human characteristics to the evil that lurks around us helps me keep focus.  It gives me the courage to want to fight against evil and keep it from taking root in my heart.  The great thing is, even when I stumble, like I did yesterday; I can wake up, refreshed and renewed and God will begin His great work within me again.  If I let Him, He will stand me up, wipe the tears from my eyes, clothe me in His Armor, and help me fight the good fight!

Today, I am ready.  I gave my first thoughts to God, I have listened to His words, and I have clothed myself in His Armor.  I'm ready to fight.  Are you?

Thursday, April 26, 2012


There are days when things just don't seem to go right (okay, who am I kidding, this is almost every day).  The kids wake up grumpy.  They fight over EVERY.LITTLE.THING.  Who knew that someone "stealing" your chair at breakfast could be the start of World War 3?  It doesn't matter if I wake up feeling like I am on top of the world, the fighting, complaining, whining, and simply not listening ends up grating on my nerves to the point where I'm grumpy.  Sometimes, I wonder what I am doing so wrong.  Little things start to annoy me and before I know it, my whole day could be ruined if I don't reign in my emotions. 

How do you take all the negative feelings and release them so you don't carry them with you all day?  Ah, I don't have all the answers.  But, here's what I do have.

1.  I know I am not alone.  We all think we have to be SuperMom.  We have to do it all, be everything to everyone, and wear a smile on our faces even though we are bone tired, worn out, and struggling to keep up.  I can tell you, I am NOT supermom.  I have failings and shortcomings just like everyone else.  I often feel I fail my kids on a daily basis. I fail as a wife, a mother, a friend.  I sometimes want to hide in a corner and cry.  Despite what it might look like, I don't have it all together, and I can't do it all and I'm not perfect.  It doesn't matter if we have no kids, 2 kids or 5 kids - it's HARD to be a woman.   We need to be willing to look into the mirror and say it's ok if we can't handle it all.  We need to expose ourselves, just a little bit, to others. 

2.  I have friends.  Friends who make me laugh when I am being stupid.  Friends who listen to my occasional rant, sometimes commiserate with me.  Friends who aren't afraid to tell me that I'm being petty, argumentative, selfish, etc.  Friends who will pick up a phone or send me an email or private message.  Friends who will make me giggle when I need it most.  Friends who will take my Fabs so I can have a moment's peace.  Friends who can tell me that I'll get through this, that I will survive, and that it will eventually be ok.  Not perfect, but ok.  You need to have friends in your life who are willing to speak the truth to you - even if it stings a bit. Friends who will encourage you, challenge you and help you grow.


3.  I have prayer.  You might not think this is important, but I beg to disagree.  When all the world is crumbling around you, if you can just stop and pray, it changes your mindset, your mood, your outlook.  Prayer has the wonderful ability to bring things back into proper perspective if you let it.  Not only do I have the power to pray for myself., but I have the power to pray for others - and this is huge to me.  When I stop to think about the friends I have who will stop whatever is happening in their lives, and give up just 1-2 minutes out of their crazy, hectic day to pray for ME, little ME, it gives me such feelings of warmth, value, friendship, hope, peace and love all wrapped up in one small prayer.  No, it doesn't answer all my questions, take away all my fears, fix all of my problems,
but it does make a huge difference in my thinking, my actions, my faith.

4.  I have a loving Father.  My Father doesn't want to see me struggle, hurt, or fail.  What He does want is for me to use those things to draw closer to Him.  To let His love shine through me.  He can do great things in me if I just let Him. 

 I've been feeling the desire to embrace the women in my life.  To support them, lift them up, let them know they aren't alone - that we all struggle.   So, I've begun to reach out to the women in my life.  I've begun praying for them - some by name, but also, in a general sense for all the women in my life.  I've been reaching out to those I feel need to hear the words "I care, everything ok?" the most.  And, I am working on embracing all the differences that make us unique and cherishing those aspects of each woman in my life.

 We need to be more supportive of one another.  We need to pray for one another, and we need to reach out to one another and not be afraid to share our shortcomings, our failings, our fears.  Most importantly, we need to let God guide our paths. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

I like to think I am crafty. But, really, I'm not. I am mediocre at best. I sometimes have great ideas, and lots of heart, but often, my perfectionism does me in. What I am really fortunate to have is an abundance of awesomely crafty friends who have vision and talent to turn my mediocre attempts into brilliance.

These Be-You-tiful signs will be given as gifts at our church women's tea next week. And, thanks to my friends, they have flare and sparkle beyond my wildest dreams.

So, thank you, dear friends for having talents where I do not!