Category Archive: Authenticity

Why we Need Girlfriends More as We Mature

Driving alongside a full, flowing river after California’s years-long drought, we saw the pines and grass and rocks, with stunning, snow-capped Sierras in the distance. Water flowed through the canyon, greening up its surroundings. Seems I was constantly saying, “Look how beautiful this is” or “This view is magnificent.”

Just as marvelous was the time spent last weekend reveling in a few days with two close, long-term girlfriends. Such a great time, I missed posting, and apologize to you, my dear readers.

So I’ve been thinking about friendship, and its importance in our lives. I’ve had several precious friendships for more than thirty years, three or four for forty plus. Newer friends add more joy to my life. Friends grace us in many ways.

  • With friendship, laughter, and tears through the stages of life–whether that’s from singles to married and moms; or just the stage we’re in currently.
  • With hearts and ears that listen and don’t try to fix us.
  • With honest feedback and sometimes, correction. “An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.” Prov 24:26 NLT
  • With forgiveness when they’ve seen us at our worst, and encouragement when we’re doing well. “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9, NLT
  • With frequent calls or visits to check on us at times of crisis, from boyfriend or husband trouble, to divorce, death, illness, or family crises.
  • With the freedom to hang out with them even when we are numb and disengaged because of our own pain.
  • With the support we feel because of their loving friendship.

Years ago, when another friend and I were both single, we would call each other if either of us was sick. The non-sickee invariably brought over cheetohs and tomato soup–good recipe for a sick day, and a great friendship!

I’ve been blessed with two terrific husbands. But someone once said, most women will have their girlfriends longer than their husbands. We tend to be widowed first; and sometimes husbands leave for what they believe will be greener fields.

A writer younger than I saw a group of 50-ish women laughing together, and commented on their obvious bond. In an article in the Huffington PostKari Kubiszyn Kampakis relates that one of the women told her:

   “’Don’t ever lose touch with your girlfriends, sweetheart. The older you get, the more you’ll need them.’

   Kampakis continues: “The women in the elevator that day were spot on. And now when I see a group like them having fun, I realize the laughter is only part of the story, what comes after the complicated grown-up stuff. And while we certainly need the wonderful men in our lives, for they play a crucial role, too, men simply aren’t designed to understand us like one of our own.

   “Sometimes it takes another woman to intuitively recognize what needs to be done — then do it. Or to sense what needs to be said — then say it. Or to take the thoughts and emotions we don’t voice — and know what to make of them.

   “Having great friends is largely a matter of being a great friend … girlfriends matter in good times and bad, laughter and tears, and through the highs and lows that reveal who’s with us for the long haul, and who’s willing to share in our suffering so that one day, when we’re laughing again on the beach, there will be a history that makes the laughter sound richer and stirs the curiosity of anyone in earshot.”

The laughter my girlfriends and I shared last weekend is richer because of the history we’ve shared.

What has made your best friendships rich? Are there friends you need to forgive? I’ve had to forgive and be forgiven; and the friendships that have remained are richer for having gone through the fire and persevered.

Friendships. Important? Critical, even?  YES.

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“‘Til the Storm Passes By”

Runoff from our hill 

Bills must be paid, despite stormy weather, mudslides, downed trees. Driving to the post office yesterday to mail those payments, Don and I saw four waterfalls, not there before, cascading down the hills on our right.

California has been inundated with storms recently. Two hundred thousand residents were temporarily evacuated when breaks in the Oroville Dam spillways threatened enormous floods. Flooding has overwhelmed parts of Southern California. Mudslides, power outages, and traffic tie-ups have resulted in several deaths.

Trees have fallen across roads, onto houses and cars, and slid down hillsides. Unsafe. Highway 17 has only two lanes open. Our road, a main alternative to Highway 17, is closed indefinitely north of us. The road has already sunk at least eighteen inches in one area, while a sinkhole took out a fourth of the road in another. Unstable.

The storm offers some gifts. Staying home. Burrowing in with hubby and dogs, writing, reading, cleaning, napping.

It also offers challenges. Don has created a good drainage system under the house, and along the road, so the water will not threaten our foundation. He’s checking it and refining it again today. Early this afternoon, Safeway was quite full, people filling their carts in preparation for the next storm, starting later today.

Storms enter our lives in different ways. Years ago I was seriously depressed. No strength remained in my mind or heart. But I had a cassette (I know – almost prehistoric!) of a melodious male quartet. “My” song talked about the storms of life. Every night for three weeks I crawled into bed, depressed, fearful, sometimes crying, and played that song. My prayer was brief. “Lord, I have nothing with which to hold onto you right now. Please hold me.”

When the long night has ended,
And the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence.
On that bright, peaceful shore.
In that land where the tempest
Never comes, Lord may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

‘Til the storm passes over,
‘Til the thunder sounds no more;
‘Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

Hold me fast, Let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

And He kept me. Storms came, and went, and still do. But my hope is in the God who will hold me fast “’til the storm passes by.”

If you’re discouraged, caught in a storm you don’t know how to get out of, I pray this song will minister to you as it did to me. That it will give you hope, and truth to hold onto until your storm passes over. God be with you.

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Hairpins and Hope

The dual switchback gave us no visibility to what might be approaching on the one-lane road. What if a local driver comes barreling around that corner? We’re on the cliff side of the road! Much of the drive was enchanting. Every change in elevation exposed different flora and fauna.  Some areas were lush, some covered with red dirt. “Look at this plain,” I said at one point. After climbing mountains and traversing hairpins for miles, the flatland was a lovely surprise. We crossed narrow bridges and stretches where meeting an oncoming car required one of us to pull out or back up, depending on the amount of margin on the side of the constricted road.

Don pulled over at one cliff, where we looked down at the lava rocks below, and spoke at length with the artist recreating the pastel ocean scene. Near Annalise, spread over a rock and colored the same, was a wild pig skin. I didn’t realize it until I saw hooves and a tail … and smelled an odor that was ripe. Some “rite of passage,” according to Annalise.

We drove past a picturesque little broken-down church, heavy tile roof falling in on itself, that was once charming. It sat above cliffs that led down to roaring waves, tumbling waterfalls, and a little village. We’d seen a sign earlier for banana bread so we pulled over at Julia’s tiny green shack.

I stepped up onto the porch behind a young woman who asked about banana bread. “Last loaf,” was the reply.

“Oh no,” I spoke without thinking.

The woman turned to me. “Do you want to split it?” Her husband joined her. “We don’t need to eat the whole thing.”

“Really?” I asked. Really!

I thanked them, and we divided the bread and shared the cost. Waving goodbye, Don and I continued on our journey, enjoying the moist sweetness of the loaf, which almost melted in our mouths.

More hairpin turns. More one-lane passages. More  beauty—orange and yellow-leaved shrubs, magenta flowers atop trees, hot pink bougainvillea, and palm to pine trees. And lava rock, and some small rock slides, and cliffs that plunged into roiling waves below.

And I thought, kind of like life. There’s a great deal of beauty, enjoyment, ongoing blessing as we walk with Christ. At times we need to hear a brother or sister say “You want to share?” … or perhaps we need to offer the shared blessing to others. There is also challenge, and difficulty, and pain, and suffering. Sometimes the road we travel is smooth and lined with blessings of health and love and productive work and hope. At other times the road is dark, the switchbacks prevent us from seeing the next step, and we have to move forward in faith, our hand in the Father’s, knowing He has promised never to leave or forsake us.

Julia’s

I’ve had a few big switchbacks in my life, along with lesser ones. Threats of mutilation while ministering in the ghetto; pain following departure from a work I loved; some health challenges; the losses of a nephew, several dear friends, my father, my first husband. But I’ve also seen the beauty of being carried through those hairpins by a God who loves me and would not let me go; of loving and being loved well by two wonderful men, and by family; of the gift of travel; of the joy of ministering to and encouraging younger women in their faith walks.

And sometimes it’s the hairpin turns, the switchbacks where we can do nothing but pray and trust, that teach us most clearly that our Father is always there, loving, guiding, walking alongside as we navigate  day by day.

So, while there’s no way I want to suffer, I also don’t regret the times my road has been hard. Mixed with the joys, the difficulties remind me to trust and rely on God in both good and bad times. I can’t become an oak of righteousness, rooted and grounded in Him, without His love and pruning and deepening, the same One who promises to give beauty in place of ashes.

The prophet Isaiah recognized his anointing from the Lord …

” … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:2b-3)

What’s encouraged you during some of the hairpin turns of your life?

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He Doesn’t Waste our Pain

Healing following the death of your spouse takes time. Allow yourself the freedom to grieve in your own way and your own time. Ask for help from a pastor, therapist or grief support group. No one can tell you how long you should grieve, or that you should be “over it” by now.

Hope Returns

Hope Returns

But over time, you will again choose to move on. After awhile, I began to write seriously, volunteered with three-year-olds in Sunday School, and mentored a younger woman. A few years later I met the wonderful man who is now my husband. But I didn’t see any of that when in the throes of my grief.

And yet, God doesn’t waste our pain.

The late Senator Harold Hughes, an alcoholic depressive who was holding his gun, ready to kill himself when God stopped him, later claimed the promise that “… I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten.” Joel 2:25a (KJV)

My friend Susan, whose husband passed away a little over two years ago, just told me, “God is giving me new things in my life.” Not returning what was in the past, but giving new life, opportunities, interests.

bottle

God stores our tears; they are precious to Him and do not go unrecognized.

And if our God keeps track of all our sorrows, collects our tears in his bottle, and records each one in his book (Psalm 56:8) , they are not wasted. They may make us more tender to the pain of others; they may draw us closer to our heavenly Father who will never leave us; they prepare us to speak into the lives of others. If we acknowledge and consecrate our grief to the Father, not ignoring our loss or pain, we can submit it to Him for His purposes.

A new believer recently told me, “You encourage me because your life hasn’t been easy; you’ve gone through some very hard times, yet your faith has remained strong.” Praise God–He has not wasted my pain–and He will not waste yours.

I find comfort in the words of II Corinthians 1:3-5.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.” (NLT)

How have you seen God work through your pain to encourage others?

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Gatherings

Sitting at breakfast, Don and I watched through the window as a quail flew onto our fence. Another flitted up behind the first; and a third soon joined them. We often see groups of quail, eight or ten little ones scurrying about collecting whatever worms or insects they find, while two or three adult quail sit on the fence, watching for trouble, guarding those focused on the earth.

My dear friend Susan Swain captured the beauty of our need for each other in her alcohol ink painting “Gathering.” (used by permission).

We gather for many reasons.

  • Celebrations like weddings and holidays.  On the July 4th weekend Twin Lakes Church provided a petting zoo, bounce house and slide, hot dogs and watermelon for all. Just a reason to be together as part of the family of God.

    Tents going up for conference

    Tents going up for conference

  • People of Faith gatherings – before moving to the Soquel hills, we were warned that this season was crazy along San Jose-Soquel Road because of the attendees at the Seventh Day Adventist conference grounds just down the road from us. In addition to the many folks who come with fifth wheels or trailers, rows upon rows of camper tents are put up in preparation, along with enormous white meeting tents. But we’ve always enjoyed this time. True, we’re retirees and don’t often have to be somewhere at a specific time. But the conference provides their own people to direct foot and vehicular traffic, and we’ve never been held up long. Rather, it’s lovely to see knots of people tailgating for meals around various trailers, walking in with their Bibles for worship and teaching.
  • Memorials – Last week I mentioned my brother-in-law, Wally, whose memorial we had attended. As family gathered, we told stories, shared memories, and reconnected with each other. We come from a variety of political, faith, and personal backgrounds; but we came together to honor one we all love.
  • And in tragedies like the recent shootings of young black men as well as the five police officers gunned down in Dallas; destruction by earthquake, fire or flood; we gather to grieve, to support, to help where we can, whether that’s rebuilding homes, or walking alongside those who are creating a new normal, changed forever because of loss.

We’re not created to live life solo, but in community. Whether married or single, we need each other–for fellowship, forgiveness, healing, accountability, support, help. “And one standing alone can be attached and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT.

Who are some of the cords in your life?