Oh! The Anticipation!

All throughout the month of April anticipation for May bubbled up and spilled over. The little ones would eagerly ask me if May was “after this day?” and my reply would be, “Not yet but soon!” Can you imagine their delight when May truly was “after this day”? Why the excitement? Because Baby Pover (‘puh-ver’) is arriving in May.

The last night of April was an eventful one- between restless leg syndrome, head-to-toe itching, painful contractions and a little one throwing up I got very little rest. But as I tucked everyone back in bed after cleaning up the sick one, our oldest son eagerly whispered to me, “It’s almost May!” I went back to bed and let my mind dwell on that fact and the thrill of anticipation that comes so naturally to children. It’s true! This new baby is coming any time between today and May 27th. I can bemoan that it will probably be later than sooner; I can be frustrated with all the false starts and stops (telling a mom at this stage in pregnancy to not analyze every sensation as labor possibly beginning will be as successful as telling a golden retriever not to wag his tail); I can dwell on the ever increasing discomfort and lengthening days (at this point one day is the equivalent of a week); or I can embrace the anticipation! Any day now because May is here!

And so it is with Jesus. The Bible tells us that He is returning to gather up His own and there will be a new heaven and a new earth! The Bible makes frequent references to the travail of labor and the delight of new life. It makes mention of birth pangs and the earth groaning like a woman in childbirth. Just as I am ready to be free of pregnancy pain and to behold my new child, so am I ready to be free of the burden of daily sin – my own and what surrounds me – and to behold my Lord and Savior. But rather than bemoan the waiting I want to rejoice in the anticipation and make the most of every opportunity to live well and prepare for His return.

This month’s blog series will be focused on Heart and Home. I would like to share with you little peeks into our family’s daily life and also share spiritual reflections that Jesus has placed upon my heart. We will chat more next week (if Pover hasn’t appeared yet!).

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Risks and Rewards

Four weeks of blogging on friendship cannot encapsulate the many nuances of this topic: the types, styles and dynamics. Reflecting upon the many people I have called friends through the years brings a smile (and some tears) to my face. My friendships have crossed cultures, world views and generations. They have opened my eyes to the value of vulnerability.

Leaving my home state and subsequently, my comfort zone, to settle in another left me wondering if I could possibly establish community where I had no prior connections or history. Upon moving into our new neighborhood, my family and I did the following:

  • Found a church: it wasn’t until we connected with the family of God that I really began to feel at home. My husband insisted we get involved with the church right away and soon fresh friendships were forming.
  • Waved to our neighbors: there is something about waving and smiling to the people that pass by every day on walks or drives that builds connections which lead to conversations.
  • Bread and tea: at Christmas I made bread for our neighbors that we delivered in person. Doors and hearts always open to freshly baked bread. In the months and chats that followed I put Tea at Two on my social calendar, as well as a Hobby Night, and now a few of my neighbors come over regularly to chat, laugh, pray and support one another.

The rewards of friendship are countless. There’s the intrigue that comes with meeting lovely people in unexpected ways and listening to their profound life stories; there’s the joy and love that come from building new connections and being embraced by folks you never knew existed a handful of years ago; and there’s the security that comes from not being invisible in your own community. But the risks are also real.

I have had my share of hurt in friendship- some being quite fresh. To have friends, one must be vulnerable and real and that provides ample opportunity for rejection and betrayal. Friends know your history, your weaknesses, your hopes and dreams; you assume they are a safe place. But friends are also human and susceptible to misunderstandings, offenses, jealousies, the comparison game, and a myriad of other weaknesses that destroy relationships. How does one navigate these risks?

As I conclude my friendship series, I wish I could provide a succinct answer. Unfortunately, I’m no friendship expert. All I know is that in a world of chaos and evil I am thankful for the people I call friends. I am blessed by their life experience, their kindness and their availability. I am inspired by them to be a good friend and a true friend- someone that people depend upon. But because I am just as human as the next soul, I know I can’t be a friend without Jesus. I have to lean into Him for the wisdom and guidance needed to multiply the joy and process the sorrow of friendship.

How do you navigate the risks and rewards of friendships?

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Even From a Distance

Having been raised in Hawaii long distance friendships were normal for me and correspondence became a way of life. My pen pals ranged in age from 80 to 5, some I had chatted with in person and some I had never met before, some were in other countries and some were just states away. I learned about friendship cultivation through these letters.

  • Share the details. The friendships that flourished were the ones where our letters were filled with every day tidbits, decorated with stickers and doodling, and even had jokes going back and forth. We moved past the mundane facts and chatted in pen as if we were in person.
  • Share my heart. It takes effort to open up long distance but the sharing of struggles and emotions crosses the miles. Friendships do not deepen without vulnerability.
  • Take the time. I really tried to make my correspondence a weekly priority and had set days when I replied to my letters in the order they came. I wrote to my elderly penpals weekly, regardless if they had written back. Sometimes I would surprise my friends with little gifts in their letters.

With the advancement of technology, letter writing is a fading practice; even emails are becoming obsolete thanks to text messaging, Facebook messenger, Marco Polo, Snapchat, Instagram and all the other social media sites that connect people. In my opinion though, social media requires us to work even harder to cultivate friendship.

As we inform the masses of our life happenings we lose the personal closeness that comes with sitting down to write to ONE person or picking up the phone and having a chat with ONE person (something that I’m terrible at initiating since I have a phobia of phone calls. LOL!) The tidbits I learned so long ago about cultivating friendships across the miles may have been learned through letter writing but are still relevant in this social media driven world. We still need to share details, share our hearts and take time to be a good friend.

What is your preferred method for cultivating long distance friendships?

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The ā€˜Iā€™ in Friend

Selflessness is at the heart of friendship but there is also value in simply being yourself. I genuinely struggled with this as I exited the blissful oblivion of childhood and became more self-aware. Through my childhood and teenage years I experienced significant rejection from my peers which resulted in the majority of my friendships being with those older and younger than myself. I longed for social circle of peers but God opened my eyes to the richness of friends in stages of life that differed from mine.

My husband was the first peer who sought me out for who I was (so of course i married him! lol!). He invested great effort in learning about me, valuing my thoughts and ideas, and delighting in who I am as an individual. It took me a while to believe that someone as amazing as him would enjoy my company (and sometimes I still can’t believe it) but through his cultivation I discovered a confidence in friendship I had never before experienced. Thus began a new and exciting season of friendship for me.

Since our marriage I have developed a handful of intimate friendships that have grown and challenged me. These women offer support in the hard times, celebrate the victories and offer accountability in weakness. Our friendship isn’t without ruffled feathers and emotional outbursts but we have learned to trust one another’s hearts. And I am recognizing that when I am honestly me we grow even closer because they can be honestly them. There is humility and freedom in being yourself, isn’t there?

In a nutshell, friendship begins with me being me. This doesn’t mean I can glory in self-absorption or expect everyone to cater to my whims and fancies; rather, it means I am not ashamed of my strengths; I’m honest about my weaknesses; I don’t apologize for my convictions; and I celebrate my interests. In turn, I encourage my friends to do the same.

What holds you back in friendship?

In the weeks ahead I hope to share about cultivating long distance friendships and beginning new friendships in new communities. (I’ll be blogging until Baby comes)

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Building Sound Friendships

Is it already a new month? Wow! And a new month means a new theme of blogs. I would like to take time to focus on friendship. Friendship is vital for a socially fulfilled life and it refines us as we strive to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Without friends, we would have fewer opportunities to practice selflessness.

Background: over the past two years I have experienced friendship in fresh ways. I went through a decently traumatic ending to a friendship, made new friendships and cultivated continuing ones. At the same time, my oldest two children entered the stage of desiring friendships of their one and observing them make their entrance into the social community has been fascinating for me.

Looking ahead: I have come to recognize that while I am the common denominator in all of my friendships I am still only responsible for my own words, actions and attitudes. I can not force others to see things my way, respond the way I want them to or live their lives according to my value system. I am not responsible for who they are as individuals. This is simultaneously freeing and challenging concept for me, and I hope to explore it in more detail in this month’s blog series.

I welcome your thoughts, reflections and personal experiences along the way.

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Facing the Truth

The beauty of the gospel is that it reveals the evil within us, declares our need for a savior and points us to Him. This month and this journey through the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have found me pondering the impact of the gospel in my daily life more than I ever have before.

Yesterday I had an invigorating discussion with my gentle neighbor regarding our sinful state and just how profound it is to know that the Creator of the Universe put such thought and sacrifice into providing a way for us to be reconciled to and have a relationship with Him, even before we even desired such restoration! And I am thankful for this!

You see, despite having repented of my sins and embracing Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I continue to sin each and every day. This week has been particularly hard. Last night I was in tears over the impatience in my heart towards my children. I love them beyond description and yet even that great love does not prevent me from sinning against them. And that prompted me to ponder the love of Jesus. It was His great love for me that moved Him to endure a brutal death before I showed any sign of repentance. It’s humbling. It’s freeing. It’s beautiful.

March is drawing to a close and so is this theme of blogs. I pray that I will continue to bring the gospel into all that I think, say and do, that my gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice will prompt me to be bold in sharing the truth with others and that I will humbly show grace and forgiveness every day just as they have been shown to me.

How will the gospel impact you today?

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Fear or Faith

Does fear define you? What are your top five fears: fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of disapproval, fear of…?

My husband and I were chatting about what prevents us from sharing the truth of the gospel with our friends. Oftentimes it is the fear of losing the friendship that keeps our mouths shut. Dare I say this is a valid fear? After all, isn’t religion one of this topics you don’t discuss at a dinner party? People rarely jump at the chance to talk about their sins, their eternal destination or their standing before the Almighty God. It is human nature to put God in a box and when someone dares to open that box it is rarely met with applause.

However valid our fear may be of sharing the gospel does it condone our silence? Only if we do not genuinely believe in Jesus; only if He is NOT God; only if He did not actually live, die and resurrect; only if our sins do not need to be forgiven; only if Jesus is not worth living (and dying) for; only if today matters more than eternity; only if our temporary comfort is of more pertinence than God’s glory.

Trust me, I am no pro at sharing the gospel with everyone I meet. My prayer is that as I grow in my love for Jesus so will my love grow for my neighbors and that love will compel me to share the hope that is within me.

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