Adult Friendships: Better than Waffles?

Many of us spend a significant amount of our younger adult lives overcoming our childhood for a variety of reasons, while a smaller percentage must continue to strive to feel well-rounded, put together, and somewhat whole well past our 30’s. It’s sometimes difficult for those in that smaller percentage to even feel like you’re really an adult despite the number of candles on your cake when you have those moments, those days, or even sometimes those weeks where you feel small, insecure, and insignificant. Honestly, I often wonder if any adults ever really feel whole or grown up. There are some that certainly seem like it and I admire them immensely….but does everyone get these moments where they just can’t seem to figure out their role or their place in a world of people that seem to be thriving?

I have my moments certainly where I do some amazing rockstar things and feel unstoppable. Those times where I just can’t help but smiling when I think back on them because for those moments I used my God-given strengths to shine and it felt amazing. I hate that those moments feel unbalanced on the scale against the weight of doubt. Am I making the right choices in this season of my life? Am I where I am supposed to be or did I take a wrong turn somewhere? What more could I be doing that I am not doing? Do the people who seem to care about me really, genuinely care or do they just need something from me?

That last one especially plagues me.

It’s hard to be the one who chooses to be open when it’s so ridiculously hard to remain open. Safety is in closing off. Remaining guarded. Keeping a safe distance. Weighing risks. Approaching slowly. To choose to open yourself up to someone is to willing subject yourself to the highly likely risk of hurt or rejection.

I had a thought this week that sometimes my struggle seems to result from feeling like I oscillate between being a Leslie Knope and an April Ludgate (Park and Rec show for those of you who don’t know. Stop reading this and go watch it! It’s incredible).

Aside from our shared love for breakfast foods, Leslie Knope is the epitome of confidence in action, being an inspiration, and being an amazing friend.

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The thing is….Leslie is the friend everyone wants, but also the friend no one knows how to be or how to let in. She is unashamedly passionate about her friends and doesn’t hold back how she feels.

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I 100% agree with her philosophy on friendship and yet she is the mirage of friendship – completely fictional! Friendships don’t really work this way do they? (especially in our 30’s and beyond, amiright?) For me, being that open comes at a very high price. I have taken this gamble before and lost big time, which makes it exponentially harder the next time to get up the nerve to take that risk again.

Which is what brings out my inner April Ludgate.

April despises small talk, all things unauthentic, and prefers animals over people.

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She shys away – like we all so often do – from genuine intimacy. It makes her feel uncomfortable so she closes herself off. The thing we – and I – want (genuine connection) makes us uncomfortable because I think we either question if it’s truly genuine or because we’re weighing the amount of effort and risk it may require to form the connection.

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I will be honest… The combination of past wounds and a few gasoline-drenched, burned bridges have left me wondering if the effort and risk it takes to form long-lasting genuine connections with people is even worth it. It doesn’t help at all when you remove forced social situations like high school, college, and other venues where friendships are easily forged. The older we get the harder making genuine connections with people becomes; it honestly becomes awkward and makes me feel awkward. Isn’t there a happy middle place out there between the unattainable friendship bar Leslie Knope sets and the people-hating, closed off persona of April Ludgate? Or am I the only one that can’t seem to find that middle ground?

Whatever the answer, I am thankful for the genuine connections I have been lucky to find and the depth of friendships that have come out of those connections. When forming new connections, I will continue to feel awkward and insecure as I approach the risk the openness required for those connections necessitates…. But I can handle a little insecurity, a whole lot of awkwardness, and even some hurt if it means that there’s a chance that those connections can begin to form with the people who are worth it….

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The Rain

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The Lord is doing something in me that is difficult, painful, and more precious and beautiful than I deserve.
I know He is because for the past several weeks I have felt on edge and highly unsettled.

I have been anxious and sensitive.
Not that the struggles of the past 3 years hasn’t made me more sensitive already, but this is a little more than that.
The slightest things that I would have easily shaken off in the past have sent me running to my car on a lunch break to choke back tears, lecture myself on the art of getting it together, and reapply my make up.

One misinterpreted look or the lack of acknowledgement altogether.
One single word unknowingly misplaced and insensitively delivered.
One minute too long to sit and dwell and gradually begin to hear the not-so-subtle whispering lies to my heart that strike cords with my deepest fears and insecurities.

The past several weeks I have felt shaken and I haven’t really been able to pinpoint the moment or circumstance that started this process. I just know that because of it, I haven’t felt like myself lately. I sometimes feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Maybe it is because I started a new job and I am still trying to figure out where I fit/belong and where I can find some consistent intrinsic purpose in my work as a lowly admin.
Maybe it is the fact that my sweet Granny isn’t here anymore and any time I think of Christmas, hear an Elvis song, or walk into a craft/fabric store my eyes instantly well up with tears.
Maybe it is because I am navigating the waters of a new friendship and those waters are both simultaneously joyous and murky.dancing-in-the-rain (1)

Or maybe… perhaps a big part of it… it is just because ever since I found out that it would most likely be a long and difficult journey until my achingly empty arms would be filled only by God’s faithful gracious mercy, I have struggled every single day of that journey to feel like I belonged somewhere….. anywhere.

Yet, this is the tender place where I find my heart and my thoughts with God. When I come to Him in these moments of restlessness and insecurity….I am realizing once again that my sense of belonging shouldn’t be in tied to these roles I identify with.
I may be a wife, sister, daughter, or friend, but when it comes down to it:  I am HIS. I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.

The roles I identify with are not the true me. They are only the costumes I will wear for a short time in this life. The type of wife, sister, daughter, and friend I am to others matters, but only because other people matter.
Love matters.
These roles do not define me and should not determine my happiness.
Jesus and who He is determines that.
He determines everything.

It will take a significant amount of rain to wash away all of my expectations, my perceptions, my needs, my wants, my entitlements, and my identity.

“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” – John Updike

The struggle over the past several years has been to let go of my identity as a mother. Not giving up on the dream, but not letting the lack of this role define me.
I have wanted to be a mother since I was 3 and carried around more baby dolls than I ever did Barbie dolls.

Every single day I battle an onslaught of reminders that reinforce the fact that I am not a mother.

The onslaught on my heart includes things like not being invited to a friend’s house to hang out because it is more of a ‘play date’ and I am not a mother. You have nothing to contribute or offer.
It includes people at church wondering why I volunteer in children’s ministry if I don’t have children. What could you possibly know about children?
It includes Facebook photos and updates for everything child-related under the sun. Look! I am living the life you can only dream of.

And so much more.download

But I hear my Beloved whispering over the sound of the storm…You are mine.

I am His.

I spent most of my 20’s trying to discover who I was and why I am the way I am. I spent many nights journaling every single heartache, confusion, and question in my soul. I spent hours talking with counselors and mentors, trying to navigate from the rocky waters of my childhood, so I could discover who I was and how to successfully join society. I learned so much about who I was, my personality (INFP!), how to love others well, and where I fit in. I felt confident and whole for the first time in my life.

Now that I am working my way through my 30’s and battling infertility, all of that confidence and self-identification is being stripped down off of me. Not that I am back to where I was in my early 20’s necessarily, but more so that Jesus is lovingly – yet painfully – peeling back the layers of who I am so as to make room for more of Him.

As backwards as it may seem, I can see God using even something as broken and ugly as infertility to birth peace, wholeness, and life in me. Infertility has made me realize (slowly!) more and more that this life does not matter as much as we act like it does.

I am learning little by little that I do not love people because I have learned how to be a good friend.
I love people because Christ loves them: passionately, vulnerably, whole-heartedly – no matter what it costs.
(And You know what? Loving people is not for sissies! Loving people is raw and real and requires so much of you with the expectation of so very little in return. The truth is…. people don’t owe you their time, their gifts, their support, or their love. But love gives and gives anyway and Jesus fills those spaces in us that we have given away, so that we can give more.)

I am learning that being a friend/sister/daughter/cousin/niece/etc may be much different and more difficult than what I wish it was, but my Savior wants me to be His hands and feet to others no matter what I receive in return.  So if that means lonely weekends, chronic family conflict that never seems to heal, and never feeling quite like I belong, then so be it. I belong to Jesus. Starting to learn this doesn’t fix the issues, but it makes the burden a little bit lighter.dancing-in-the-rain

I am learning that being a mother is so much more than physically birthing a child. Maybe in this life that is what defines it. Maybe in this life people will say, “You can never understand what it is like until you have had your own.” Well, maybe that is true and maybe it isn’t. But I do know that Jesus created the heart of a mother and He can create one in me. I may have babies of my own one day and I may not. I may adopt as many kids as our budget can handle and I may not. What I can do right now is wait and trust and hold onto hope with fists clenched tightly while I am a mother to the kids in our church nursery, our AWANA ministry, my friend’s kids, my nephews and niece, and any other child in need of a hug, a laugh, or a listening ear.

I am learning that none of the things we view as important that have so much to do with us, us, and US even matter.

I still don’t know how my life is going to pan out.
I don’t know how or when or if I will ever see my dreams come to fruition.
I don’t know how long God will continue to strip me of myself and replace the broken pieces of me with the sustaining pieces of Him.
I don’t even know how much I have left to give sometimes.
I have never cried so much in my life.

But…. I know He is faithful.
I know He is mine.
I am His.

So Jesus, wipe away my tears when life is just too much and people don’t seem to notice or have time to care.
Hold me when I have gone too many days without a decent hug.
Remind me that I have worth and a purpose and that I belong when those things seem to elude me too often.
Give me courage to face whatever you have in Your plans for me.

And let the rain continue to fall relentlessly and wash away every broken piece of my heart and my identity until you have it all….until all I desire is You.

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On Risking Intimacy

Intimacy has been on my mind more than normal the past several months.
Not intimacy in a romantic way, but intimacy in friendships.

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Intimacy is something rare, precious, and beautiful. Obviously it can take time to forge, but it also takes something else that people so often distance themselves from: vulnerability.
Yet, as so many of us know and C.S. Lewis so eloquently said, “To love is to be vulnerable.”

It means that at a deeper level, I want to share with you who I really am.

I want to share:
My flaws,
My hang ups,
What makes me deliriously happy,
My dreams for the future,
My discontentment with things in my life that I wish were better,
What God is teaching me,
What God is really trying to teach me, if I am truly honest,
Where I’d like to be in 5 or 10 years,
What things hurt me the most,
and more…

There is so much to be said that goes past the noise and the cacaphonic clatter of small talk and perpetually shallow topics.

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But do you want to know the hardest part about intimacy? The part that is even harder than raw vulnerability…?

Intimacy at its core – every single time – must be consensual.

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I cannot be singularly vulnerable and raw with you and suddenly we now have intimacy.
You cannot pour your heart and soul out to me, while I am holding back and expect to feel the deep connection of an intimate friend.
Unfortunately, this is what makes intimate relationships so rare.
It is also what makes it precious and beautiful.
How cheap would intimacy be if we handed it out freely to everyone?

I have had maybe a handful of people in my life with whom I have shared a deep, intimate connection in friendship.
Those friendships have been and, in some cases still are, some of the most precious treasures of my life.
To connect on a real level means to be known, to be understood, and to be loved exactly where you are and for who you are.

Lately, I have found myself wanting more with my friendships in KC.
I need those deep, intimate connections.
Because of being new the area 4 years ago, it took some time to get to know people first.
Now I know and have quite a few friends and I am still finding it difficult to usher in the intimacy that I crave.
I crave it because I have experienced it before and anything less just seems lacking.

I need friends that I don’t just get together with when we have cook outs or birthday parties or game nights, but friends who I can text at a moment’s notice and bare my heart. Friends who can ask me how I am and I can respond, “Well, actually lately I feel like shit and I think I am battling some kind of temporary clinical depression.” Friends that I can ask, “What is going on?” or “How are you?” and they will tell me the things that affected them deeply over the past week, month, or year. Friends who are honest and friends who listen honestly.

Being vulnerable is so difficult because it literally leaves you open and raw to deep hurt. You have to choose wisely who you let in, but once you find someone you love and trust – don’t hold back!
They may be able to have access to the deepest parts of your heart, leaving you open to potential hurt, but by having access to those deep places of your heart you also invite the opportunity for deep love and deep connection. It is unimaginably worth it.

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Many of my friendships are beginning to scratch the surface towards this type of intimacy and I love it, but some are holding back in certain ways.
I can tell.

  • The first group of friends that are holding back don’t want to share. They’re great listeners and I know, in that moment, they are there for me, but they don’t want to expose their true hearts or thoughts in return.
  • The second group of friends share with me freely and vulnerably, but find it difficult to listen to me when I have something I need to share.
  • And sadly, the third group of friends show a desire for a close, connected friendship and then suddenly disappear altogether – lost in the flow of life and busyness and responsibilities.

To the first group I say this: When you’re ready, I am here. I am willing and ready to hear your heart and accept you for exactly who you are. You can trust me with your innermost thoughts and feelings. I am a great listener, 100% non-judgmental, and loyal to a fault. Take all the time you need.

To the second group I say this: I need you to listen because I may not have many people I trust to share my life with. I need it more than you might know. I am sorry if some of my struggles seem repetitive, since some of them I have been struggling with for a long time. Please give me a chance to share anyway. I love you honestly sharing your life with me; let me share mine in return.

To the third group I say this: You’re so incredibly busy and you may not realize the extraordinary benefit of an intimate friendship. It can bring so much joy, peace, reassurance, and even clarity to the pandemonium of your life. You don’t have to have this deep connection with me, but please find someone in your life to share a deeper connection with. You will be amazed at how taking the time for some deep, connected friendships can bring harmony to so many areas of your life.

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To you reading this blog post.
Share your life with someone!
Find someone to trust and really trust them.
Be real and honest and vulnerable because without those things, what is the point?
Find someone you can cry in front of without embarrassment.
Find someone who stops everything they’re doing to listen to you.
Find someone you care for and listen to their heart with nothing but a smile, a hug, reassuring words, and love to give back to them.

Love people.
Be vulnerable.
Find treasure in intimacy.