The value of friendship

I visited an old friend last week. I love catching up with old friends. Seeing people who “knew me when” – especially those who not only knew me then but still know me now –  does something remarkable to my soul. It’s as if that deep part of life’s only desire sees a glimpse into realization. Maybe not even a glimpse. Maybe it’s a full realization that I am known.

As I caught my friend up on my life, telling him about my closest friends, crushes, heartbreaks, and dreams, he offered the occasional comment and observation.

My whole body and mind loves it when a friend declares an accurate statement, affirming they not only heard what I said, but understood it. My shoulders sink back and my chin lifts up while my eyes soften and for that one instant I know that everything in life is as it should be.

“You have really good friends”.

“Wow. Yes. I really do. I’ve chosen to surround myself with people who make it easy to say, ‘because of this person, I am better’.”

Let me tell you, some days these friends are really hard work. Some days they make me angry. Some days I want to pack all my bags and move closer to the Tropics. Some days we talk on the phone for nearly an hour and I’ve only said a few words – none of them about myself.

But even on those “somedays”, I have really good friends.

Because on the other days, the days when we’re doing nothing more than living life, they make me better. On the lonely days, they remind me I’m lying to myself. On the crazy days, they remind me “this too, shall pass”. On the days when I think I’m the only person in the whole entire world who did this sin or feels that way or can’t figure it out, they boldly say, “me, too”.

I may live in a tiny apartment by myself, but I certainly don’t live alone.

Neither, do you.

Community, Grow

When I can’t escape the words

Do you ever feel like you’re just…fighting? Like you can see ahead all the things that you want and need to do but you can’t. What is it that they say? Something about how your “get up and go” won’t “get up and go”. I may have made that up.

A year ago, I was reading close to 100 blogs and articles a day. I was so active on twitter and facebook, because I saw hundreds of people who always seemed right in the middle of things. I thought that if I wasn’t reading and participating at a constant, steady pace, I was a slacker.

Then I read so many blogs and articles about Jesus and Christianity, that I began to resent the Jesus being represented. So much that I wanted to walk away from the perceived Christian life. By that, I mean, the Christianity that people think of when they hear the world “Christian”. Or, at least, what I think people think of. Confused?

Yeah, me too. I needed a break. So I categorized my blog reader into “fun blogs” and “serious blogs”. I currently see 274 unread “serious blogs”, and that’s because I think my reader started erasing unread posts. This was my “Jesus break”. I didn’t want a break from Jesus, exactly, just from the endless flow of opinions about him. Particularly opinions that weren’t about Jesus at all, but more about the people who threw his name around to up their Klout score.

I began investing myself elsewhere. In my community, with my friends and neighbors. I started going to a church with a building. A place where so many people knew me they thought I was already a member even though I hadn’t been to a service there in years. I read books that had been neglected. I researched ideas on decorating my home – something I’d never really done even though I’ve lived on my own for a decade.

And I watched a lot of Hulu.com.

My writing slowed. Then, last month, it stopped altogether. My resolution to write at least one offline published article this year, forgotten.

Promises to blog and for giveaways, although sincere, unkept.

Forgive me for neglecting you. And thank you for checking here weekly, anyway.

Each day, my mind spins with new ideas for articles and conversations. Getting them to the screen is taking more effort than I’d like it to, but they’ll be there. Sometimes I can’t escape the words, and other times it’s they can’t escape me.

Grow

Giving birth to a miracle

A friend of mine is in the hospital this week due to pregnancy complications. Thankfully, baby and mom are doing okay, but my friend is being continuously monitored and on bed rest.

Since I don’t have personal experience with pregnancy and giving birth outside of the stories of multiple friends, I very quickly forget the dangers of pregnancy.

I read a story about a situation brought in front of an ancient spiritual leader. The people brought forward an unwed pregnant woman, asking for direction as to her punishment. The leader attempted to ignore the request of the people. Angry, the people protested, “she is a sinner!” The leader then replied, “She is near death, what would you have me to do?” Instead, the spiritual leader requested that the woman be given new clothes and linens, to help with the child or potential death.

While the point of that story is much greater than the danger of pregnancy, I still wanted to share it as a reminder. Everywhere in the world, women are pregnant, and it doesn’t always go smoothly. Birth is a painful, and messy process. Giving birth isn’t pretty.

However, at the exact same time, birth is a remarkable miracle.

It’s one of the most beautiful, joyful, moments created. You can go into a room with two people, and emerge with three. Never-before heard screams fill a room and people weep with joy.

In the same moment of something that could be seen as ugly and dangerous, beauty and life transpire.

I think this theme, this miracle that begins at birth, follows us throughout our lives.

That which is ugly, is actually beautiful. That which is broken, is made whole. That which is dangerous also changes the world.

The messiest, ugliest, most painful experience can – at the exact same time – be truly remarkable and perfect.

_______________________
**A quick search led me to Family Care International. FCI envisions a world where no woman suffers preventable injury or death from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes, and in which all people are able to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

If you know of other organizations working with women around the world to make pregnancy and childbirth safer, please share them in the comments.**

*This post marks one full year of posting every Wednesday. I didn’t even realize that until this moment. I’m in awe that I met my goal. Thanks for the encouragement to keep writing, I couldn’t have done it without you.

I’m taking next week off from blogging as a birthday gift to myself. I need a break! I’ll be back on March 28th with a Giveaway and something else brilliant, I’m sure. See you then!*

Go

A Day I Discovered My Worth

For years, I believed that other people were “the authority”, and I was always wrong. I somehow managed to apply this theory to all people, from children to grumpy old men or politicians to teachers. If someone spoke with authority, I gave it to them.

Eventually I learned that giving authority to people caused me more problems than my 20-year-old car.

Today I’m sharing a short story about a day when I realized my worth, as a guest post for my friend, Jermaine Lane. In celebration of Women’s History Month, he’s hosting a month of posts written by women. I’m thankful to Jermaine for encouraging me to share this story, and I hope you enjoy it.

Click here to read about a day I discovered my worth.

Grow

How To Change The World

Every time I take a trip, I’m reminded of a good lesson when I return home. I’ll travel to some exotic location (like Nebraska) for a few days, and then return to normal life. My friends inevitably ask, “how was your trip?”

Enter lesson.

Some people really want and need to know the details. Other people ask and, “it was good”, is the only appropriate response.

Check out my high-tech art below.


We start sharing with those closest to us. These are the people who should know intimate details of our lives. They know the ways our eyes light up at the mention of certain topics. They call to check in on bad days, and celebrate on good ones. They know the details of vacations, including the people we saw and the emotions we felt. We are continually invested in each other.

The next circle out are the people we interact with on a regular basis, but they won’t necessarily know details of our lives. They may know where we work and how we act in public. These people may be important to us at certain times in our lives. The investment isn’t there, but we regularly share parts of life together.

The third circle represents the people who come in and out of our lives. These people will see glimpses, but will likely never know intimate details of our life. If we saw each other at a Norah Jones concert we’d share the excitement, but would probably offer no more than, “it was great to see you!”

So here’s the deal. If we focus our time sharing intimate details of our life with people who are in the outer “Networking” circle, we feel empty, misunderstood, lost, and lonely. We’ll live in “I’m in a crowded room yet I’ve never felt more alone” thoughts.

Why?

Because we’re always reaching. We’ll always be trying to build a relationship that doesn’t want to be built.

However, if I pay attention to the relationships going on around me, and begin investing my time and energy finding people who want to be in the inner circle, incredible things begin to happen. I become stronger, more confident, and I grow like a tulip in the spring.

As I grow in strength, that small circle grows with me. When strong roots grow with close friends, I find myself free to give to others. Since I’m not as busy trying to figure out the crazy in my life, I own the emotional capacity to mentor people, or walk with someone through the crazy in their life.

It seems then, that if we pay attention to the relationships we’re building, we’ll become whole people. As we grow, we’re able to offer our time and energy into loving others, beginning from the inside (circle), out.  We create a ripple effect, or “sphere of influence”.

And that, my friends, is how you change the world.

Community, Give, Go, Grow

The results of influential people

One week ago, I returned from a weekend-plus trip to Annapolis/DC. My brother lives in that area, and I lived there after I graduated from college. Vacations to places like that, where I am visiting someone as well as reminiscing my own adventures, feel very purposeful to me.

I think highly of my family, so spending several days with my brother was a treat. Not only because he has a sense of humor I envy, but he’s a cool guy and an awesome cook. We spent most of the trip in the kitchen baking and cooking. To be honest, food has tasted quite bland since I returned home.

We spent one day visiting DC, so I could see places I missed, and hug a few important people. There’s something about that city that brings out the best in me. It’s so full of intelligent, motivated people that even riding the metro makes me feel like I have the strength to change the world.

I have an account on Eharmony. A service which I refuse to pay for and, therefore, has been completely unsuccessful. One of the questions in the profile that I enjoyed answering is a common one, “The most influential person in my life has been ____”.

Here’s the problem with the English language. The verb, “to be” means different things. I could say, the most influential person in my life has been strong, courageous, a mentor, happy, sad, or to Russia. That’s not what people want to know. I’m supposed to answer with the name of the most influential person in my life.

How literal do we want to be? I mean, my mom is pretty influential. Without her, I wouldn’t have life (thanks, mom). Then you have the “Christian” answers: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, my pastor. Or there’s the person who showed me a certain career path, or helped me understand love. I could even include people I don’t like, who taught me the kind of person I don’t want to become.

Spending time with my brother and visiting a city that played such a crucial role in my becoming an adult, reminded me how thankful I am for the influential people in my life. I can’t narrow down the number of influential people to ten, much less one. For this, I am extremely thankful and yes, blessed.

Last week I spent time with the person who taught me to think creatively. I also hugged the person who taught me about career and calling, then the person who opened my eyes to my value and worth, then the one who taught me about work, courage, and adventure. One day, I saw the person who taught me to laugh until I cry, and the next, a person who took a risk with me and changed the course of my life. Six people who directly influenced the moment I’m living right now.

I returned from that trip feeling:

  • purposeful
  • whole
  • happy
  • powerful
  • strong
  • courageous
  • refreshed
  • assured
  • confident
  • motivated
  • hopeful
  • peaceful

The many people who weave in and out of our lives shape us and teach us. We also do the same for others. I will never know my sphere of influence – the amount of people I’ve hurt or helped. I hope that I continue to follow good people, because the lives of those I follow are reflected back onto those who are following me.

 

Community, Grow

What does it mean to be healthy and whole?

Things I’ve been thinking about this Valentine’s week:

What does it mean to be healthy and whole?

I think it means that we know we’re free to give and receive dignity.

It means that as women, we know our worth and value, and don’t wait for someone else to determine that for us. It means that when we know our worth and value, we pass that along to everyone we meet. We give dignity and respect to others.

It means that as men, you know your worth and value. You give dignity and respect to the people around you. Your actions and character remind people of their own strength.

Dancing in the street

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Women: Look for men who give you respect and dignity. Men who, on days when you forget, remind you that you are valuable.

Men: Look for women who give you respect and dignity. The type of women who, when you have a bad day, remind you of your strength.

Women: Run away from men who treat you like you are disposable. They will not fight for you. Look for a man who will fight to win your heart, and who will fight to keep it.

Men: Run away from women who are seductive and lonely. She will not want you when she remembers who she is. Look for a woman who admires you, and speaks highly of you.

Women: Remember your worth. Remember that not only are you free to give dignity, but you are free to receive it.

Men: Remember your strength. Remember that you are free to share respect, as well as accept it.

For a great reflection on the purpose of Valentine’s Day, buzz on over to my friend’s blog, The Outpatient Monk. Reading his blog is like opening Christmas gifts. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Grow

My Take on Valentine’s Day

I currently know five close friends who are pregnant. A sixth friend gave birth last week.

Valentine’s Day is this week and while some think it’s just another consumerist holiday, I’d say that many of us appreciate the holiday and wake up in the morning hoping someone is thinking of them a little more than usual.

As a single, childless woman, I could approach Valentine’s Day a few different ways.

1) Act crazy. I love Valentine’s Day! It’s the best holiday Ev-ah! I give cards and candy hearts to everyone, wear pink and red, and reveal my secret crush.

2) Be apathetic. It’s just another day dedicated to consumerism. We should tell people we love them every day of the year, and send flowers on unexpected occasions. February 14th means nothing.

3) Slink around in bitterness. Woe is me; I don’t have a partner to bring me red roses or children to write me cute poems. Nobody loves me, I’ll never get married, everyone else’s life is better than mine.

4) The Kyla method. I look for the middle ground of #1 and #2, and fight #3.

I never want to be a bitter person, blaming God for the things I don’t have. Life is full of joy and gifts at every moment, waiting for us to see them. I’ve met too many women who are bitter with God for not giving them a husband, children, or the perfect “this or that”. I refuse to accept anger and bitterness, especially when I’ve been given so much.

If, on the other hand, I flip to the opposite extreme and “act crazy”, I’m usually just acting out some form of denial.

I can’t pretend I don’t want a romantic Valentine’s Day. Shoot, for the chance to smell flowers at my desk and cook a fancy dinner for a man followed by making out with a cheesy movie playing in the background, I’d absolutely give in to wearing pink and acting like a fool.

The reality of Valentine’s Day, for me, is that I sincerely appreciate the reminder that love is beautiful and fun. That includes all types of love: friendship, romantic, etc. I am happy for my friends who have given birth or are preparing to (I include children because love tends to produce them), and for the friends who are engaged and cuddling on the couch with someone this Valentine’s Day. Yet while I appreciate love and a day to celebrate it, my heart also aches at the search for the romantic version of it.

During this week of Valentine’s Day celebrations, I hope those of you celebrating will be renewed in your love for the people around you. For those of you who long for a Valentine, I hope you express that longing in healthy ways. It’s okay to admit unmet desires, but please don’t let them control your life. Life offers many gifts; I don’t want to miss them because I was focused on something else.

Go

The Greatest Gift We Can Give

About six years ago, I declared myself a Vegetarian. I chose this for multiple reasons, none of them having to do with a dislike of meat (I love meat. Especially of the venison variety). I made the switch to pay closer attention to what I put in my body, to be a good steward of the world’s resources, and to support my then-14-year-old sister whose new-found vegetarian lifestyle was negatively affecting her health.

Three years ago, when I was unemployed and technically homeless (my home was the homes of friends), I lived day-to-day, trusting that money and resources would be available as I needed them. I’m thankful that I only stayed in that situation for a few months, and although I lived those months entirely confident that God would care for me, I experienced a few days when I wasn’t sure what I would eat.

Sticking to a vegetarian diet became less of a priority that summer. Granted, I’ve never been a strict vegetarian. Strict anything becomes an idol for me, and takes away from relationships. If a new friend invites me to her home for dinner, not knowing I’m vegetarian, I won’t sit at the table and eat only the bread. If a family spends an entire week’s wages to feed me, they won’t hear the words, “thanks, but no thanks”.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

That phrase carries a great deal of weight. On a day when I had ten dollars in my pocket and needed that ten dollars for something other than food, I would gladly accept any meal no matter the contents.

This applies to any situation. Physical, emotional, or spiritual. When a person is left in desperate longing, even bad options seem miraculous. And in that moment, they are.

The greatest gift in life is the gift of choice.

When choices are taken away, we become slaves to our needs and desires.

Many of the people we ignore every day, or, dare I say, all of the people we cross paths with each day, are contemplating choices. Some people have so many choices that they become overwhelmed with the options. If you’ve ever stood in the cereal aisle of a supermarket in a prosperous country after living in a third world country, you understand the emotion of too many options.

Others have no options at all. If you are a starving vegetarian and someone offers you a hamburger, you’re going to eat it.

The greatest gift you can give a person is the gift of a choice. We tend to think that choices are a thing to be earned, but that thought is a trap door leading us to claiming power we should never own.

No. Choices are a gift. Not to be given recklessly, but to be given freely.

Give

Birthday gifts and a video blog

Friday night video blog for you!

(Please ignore the jump in the middle. Yes, I edited this.)

(Please ignore the loud sound at the end. I have no idea what that is.)

(I’ve never uploaded a video to  youtube before.)

(Enjoy)

Give