Over-the-Top

“I heard something on the radio this morning,”  my Grammy said. “If you have one good friend, you are blessed.”

I nodded silently. This, I knew. But I had forgotten. After a while, the world has a way of jading. Being others-centered tends to be a blessing, and a curse, simultaneously. Serving as a way of life can be awkward for some who are not accommodated to it. It appears forced, or fake. Or, in the case of its genuineness, it creates a sense of guilt from those who do not feel they can compensate or repay the grace-giver. And so, they usually accept the first gestures with sincere appreciation. But after a while, as is the case with human nature, they become complacent. Where gratefulness used to be expressed, entitlement at its ugliest (and passivity at its best) takes over. If there is anything that mocks me at the deepest level, it is being overlooked. Not having worth. Not being valued. I have spent too much of my life believing that lie.

I wasn’t going back. And I wasn’t going to let anyone take me back there.

“But, if you have two good friends, you are,” she paused as she tried to remember, “over the top.”

I smiled. The sadness in my spirit melted. I often thought a lot about the friends who had maligned me, or equally hurtful, forgotten about me. Not the friends who call once a year and we pick up where we left off. The ones who ignore. Who don’t respond to attempts at communication. Who pretend to be too busy.Who keep saying, “Yeah– I’ll check the calendar!” and then never get back to me. Who don’t show gratefulness or write thank you notes. The fact is, I do serve for my own good. But I also do it for them. I have come to appreciate the most insignificant of joys, and it bothers me to see blessings overlooked or unidentified.

But what I didn’t spend enough time thinking about were the ones who were there for me, through thick and thin. I began naming people in my head as she continued to talk about the seasoned friendships she had maintained for over 50 years. It was incredible to think of having friends for that long. And I thought continuing to talk to college friends 6 years later was a huge win.

One thing about my Grammy? She is the friend that she would want to have. She has weekly phone dates with her closest buds and she prays for them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I know this because she remembers even the least of my requests and asks about them. She sends cards and packages. She hosts people for dinner even when she’s had a long day of babysitting. She loves people well.

My other Gramma is another example of a person who loves others. She is always helping, always busy, always doing. She visits the “least of these” and calls them on their birthdays. I remember going visiting with her when I was young and loving it. She doesn’t have a bad thing to say about anyone. I have a legacy of people who go beyond exhaustion to go above and beyond for others.

This is what I want to be when I grow up.

The friends that I have had the longest are the ones I never expected to go far. In fact, the friends I am closest to now are people I have thought in the past, “We will probably never be friends.” God has a sense of humor. One such friend is now my accountability partner, and I can’t imagine life without her. She has broken off numerous chains of bondage off my life because of her prayers. She asks me the hard questions no one else wants to ask, and she constantly sharpens me to be a better person. The Lord knew way-back-when that I would need her, and she resurfaced in my life at exactly the right time.

In the past, I’ve always tried so hard to force friendships, spending way too much time obsessing over why they didn’t like me as much as I liked them or why they always ignored my attempts at forging relationship. But the friendships that have meant the most to me seem to happen so effortlessly. I met a lady at a Bible study last spring and we were instantly friends. I call her my mentor– she calls me her daughter. She has walked me through seasons of despair and celebrated with me through victories. Her advice and walk with the Lord so inspires me. And I can truly say she does far more for me than I could ever do for her.

I make new friends every month. I’m never so comfortable that I am not looking for someone else to bless or be blessed by. I know the people God has placed in my life have made me the person I am today, and I don’t take that for granted. So now, I don’t wait for the invitation. I introduce myself and initiate conversation and extend the invitation

I saw a quote today: “A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit.” {Greek Proverb}

That’s what my new 80-year-old friend portrays to me. She is a valuable member of the Kingdom, having chili dates with 28-year-olds and inviting people to rock on her porch and share her mountain view and talk about Jesus. She listens to their discouragements and encourages their gifts, watering those young plants and watching them grow strong and tall. I can only pray that if the Lord leaves me here until I’m 80, I will be about the business of planting, nurturing, and watering small trees under which I will never find shade or pluck fruit.

The thing is? We may never get anything back from the friends we choose to bless. We may feel that the relationship is entirely one-sided. But isn’t that how Jesus was? Constantly pouring into people, healing them and speaking words of kindness to them, knowing full-well that they would reject Him? He was about His Father’s business, reflecting the Father to each person He encountered.

Jesus pursued me and I want to love people the way He loved me.  I want to pursue.

I am fortunate to get frustrated that there are not enough days in the week for coffee dates with each of my friends.

And you know what? I think that puts me BEYOND over-the-top.

Resurrection Family

This article is such a beautiful description of the season of Easter that not just any article will do. As soon as I laid eyes on it, I knew I had to feature it here. Lori Manry is an Instagram friend of mine (search environmentsofgrace) and hosts the blog http://environmentsofgrace.com. Please do yourself a favor and follow her!




WHAT NEEDS RESURRECTING IN YOUR LIFE?

spring

How good of Easter to come right after winter. For those cold barren months burrow in us an awareness of death, a humility to that which we cannot control. Instead of the obvious of vibrant colors and the fullness of foliage and the singing of the animal world, when we surrender to a season of dying we must look harder to see life in forms less visible. Like the whispers of wind that foretell change. And the provision of a thick coat that miraculously appear on the deer that winter in our woods. Like the glistening of snow that makes the bare branches sparkle. And the winter fellowship that happens when a family hibernates in their den of togetherness.

There are glimpses of life in every season of death. You just have to let grace be your vision.

But the hardest for me is right now. These days stuck in the in-between. None of the beauty of Winter, with few signs yet of Spring. It’s a holding place that makes me restless.  I yearn for the resurrection of colorful days, of the songs of the birds, of the warmth of the sun. I ache for the way it all breathes life into our bones and we begin to dance instead of huddle.

And this rebirth, this resurrection, is only possible because we endured the season before it. The one that taught us how to be still. The one that tested our patience. The one that made us tuck under covers. The one that brought the dark. The one that stirred in us a fervent longing for what’s to come.

And it has me wondering what needs dying in my life and what needs resurrecting. For when death is happening all around, you can’t help but also notice the winter in your heart. The starvation of control. The dullness of cultural conformity. The infertile nature of judgment. The suffocation of perfectionism. And how God is taking these territories of my heart and making them barren in order to resurrect the abundant life he intends for me. One of surrender. One of intentionality and mission. One of grace.

After death, God always resurrects. This we can be certain of. For it’s His story, and ours. But resurrection happens only after surrender, only after “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” This artist God of ours is always re-creating in and around us, springing forth new life, raising from our graves of flesh a life and spirit that embraces more fully our purpose on this earth.

What needs resurrecting in you? And what must die in order for God to raise up new life?