Hunting for Friends

 

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There are two types of friendships—friends who are planted into your life and friends you have to hunt for.

Planted friends are the ones God graciously buries into your life without your consent. These are the friendships that bloom effortlessly; the ones that seem to fall from the sky and develop in a comfortable way. Just like all friendships, planted friendships still require work and selflessness and conflict resolution, but they begin with a seed you never had to plant.

It’s your sister. Your mom. Your cousin. It’s the little girl who moved in next door when you were two, and twenty years later you look up to realize she is closer than family. It’s your potluck roommate in college, who turned into your best friend.

As an introvert, I am especially thankful for planted friendships because they blossom without forcing me to go outside of my comfort zone. They are safe and comfortable and natural.

It seems that as I grow older, there are less opportunities for planted friendships to form. In school, there were plenty of chances to meet new kids – a new class, a group project, cheer practice.

Now—in grown up life—making new friends takes work. It can be difficult, discouraging, and scary.

That’s where the hunting comes in.

Hunted friendships are the relationships you must go looking for—they most often begin when you step out of your comfort zone.

I’ve learned the best way to begin a new friendship is with brave vulnerability.

Rather than waiting for a friendship to start itself, some of my very best friendship began after I took initiative, risked rejection, and dropped the façade to reveal my true self.

Last year I attended Allume solo as a newbie.

To say I was nervous is an understatement. Every time I walked into a session and scanned the room for a seat, I wanted to throw up. This was definitely out of my comfort zone!

The first morning, I worked up the courage to introduce myself to Tiffany. Since that breakfast, Tiffany has become a treasured online friend. From afar, I’ve gotten to cheer for her as she bought her first home, and pray with her as she waits patiently for her husband to return from deployment in South Korea. More than a few times, Tiffany’s encouraging comments have pulled me out of a disheartened blogging rut. It makes me sad to think of what I would have missed out on, had I not been brave enough to introduce myself that morning.

The last night of Allume, I noticed a group of women laughing together in the corner of the lobby. I circled the lobby several times before I finally convinced myself to ask if I could crash their party—what if they say no?

I’m so glad I risked rejection and crashed anyway! It was that night I got to know inspiring women and kindred spirits like Carey, Kristin, Ginger, and Krista.

Jumping on a plane to South Carolina to attend a conference with 400 women I’d never met before, took effort. It was scary and uncomfortable and I’m so glad I did it!

Do you find it intimidating to seek out new friendships?

If you haven’t figured it out by now—I do! But I’ve also learned the reward is much greater than the risk.

Dear friend, I pray that you will treasure the friendships God has planted into your life but not be afraid to load your quiver with arrows of vulnerability and hunt for new ones!

A few practical tips for friend hunting:

1. Ask God to hunt with you

God cares deeply about your playmates. He desires His children to be surrounded by a supportive, life-giving community. (See Proverbs 13:20, 27:5-6, and 27:17.) So, invite Him in as you bravely seek new relationships and continue to grow old ones! Your friendships are never too small (or too big) for the Lord to be intimately involved in.

2. Forgo the camouflage

The best friendships are formed when we are courageous enough to be ourselves. When hunting for new friends, it’s best to take off the façade of perfectionism and dress in humble authenticity.

As the Velveteen Rabbit said, “Once you are real, you can’t be ugly except to those who don’t understand.”

3. Take risks

Is there a woman at church/work/the gym whom you’d love to get to know? Ask her to coffee!

Are are thinking, She’s too important/busy/popular or Why would she want to be friends with me?

Take a risk—ask her anyway! (She’s probably thinking the exact same thing about you!)

Some of my favorite friendships were born from an out-of-the-blue email or text to someone I wasn’t sure would respond:

  • Two years ago I read about the COO of a Fortune 500 company and founder of 4word Women in a magazine. A shot in the dark, I sent her an email to see if she would meet me for coffee. Today Diane is a dear friend and invaluable mentor!
  • Once, my boss met a passionate worship leader on a plane and suggested I reach out to her. He thought we might enjoy meeting one another. So, I drove across town to meet a stranger for iced tea. Today, Julie is one of my best friends in Dallas and an amazing ministry partner!
  • And a few years ago, I learned about a woman from Minneapolis who shares my passion for discipleship. I was nervous, but I called her. Today, Stephanie is like a sister. Since that phone call, we’ve visited one another’s hometowns (multiple times) and have made tons of memories.

What risk will you take to connect with a new friend this week?

It will be uncomfortable, but I promise you won’t regret it!

 

Where Kindred Souls Gather

Blogging Connects Us

From across the room, I watch the girls hover together. Shoulder to shoulder. As if the most fascinating discovery lies in the middle of their circle.

Their laughter pierces the air with a familiar pang — another reminder I’m not one of them. Their voices rise and fall like the crescendo and diminuendo of a well-rehearsed sonata.

A similar cadence of critics echoes from within, saying I’ll never fit in.

This scene isn’t reserved for the hallways of high school either. Long after we graduate and move on, we discover this same scene being played out in a thousand different ways. But its effects are still the same.

Circles gather. Groups form.

School.
Work.
Neighborhood.
Online.
And sadly, even at church.

The table we want to sit at never seems to have enough chairs. Why is that? And why are we plagued with this innate desire to belong?

Because our human hearts crave connection. It’s built into our DNA. To know and be known.

Everyone wants to be liked.
Everyone wants to be accepted.

It’s only natural. We want to fit in.

But popularity alone cannot fill our need for community.

This is also how blogging can get a little sideways. Because popularity and community are two different things. But it’s easy to confuse the two. They look the same on the outside, but they’re vastly different on the inside.

Popularity is about a quantity of connections.
Community is about the quality of connection.

That’s not to say they’re mutually exclusive, but popularity by itself can shortchange its pursuers. Because a mere quantity of connections can never replace the quality of connection we long for. Even the most popular among us would say they find community, not in the masses, but in the friendships they’ve made over the years.

So as a blogger, I want to grow a community. And a community is comprised of friendships. Real relationships with real human beings.

I admit that I used to distinguish my “online friends” from my “real life friends.” But that distinction has dissipated over time as I’ve come to realize how my “online friends” are now regular ole’ friends.

Friendships are the greatest blessing to come from blogging. {Tweet this!}

Who knew that blogging could connect our hearts across countries and continents? But it does. Time and again.

And our “long-distance” friendships require the same care and nurturing that our “local” friendships require. So the following principles for friendship apply to all FRIENDS, both near and far.

F is for find.

Friends find things in common and build from there.

R is for respect.

Friends respect each other’s differences too.

I is for invest.

Friends invest the time necessary to get to know one another better.

E is for encourage.

Friends encourage one another in their unique gifting and calling.

N is for navigate.

Friends navigate the inevitable ups and downs that accompany any close relationship.

D is for delight.

Friends delight in one another’s successes and joys.

S is for savor.

Friends savor the gift their friendship truly is.

The friendships I’ve made through blogging is the biggest reason I enjoy attending Allume. I’ve met so many friends there.

Allume is a gathering place for kindred souls. {Tweet this!}

A true community will continuously look to create spaces of welcome, to invite others in. And that is what we desire at Allume. To make it a place where all feel welcome. And to save a chair at the table. Just for you.

How has blogging connected you
with friends you might not have ever met otherwise?

Mentoring Our Daughters

Billowy gray fills the southern sky, blowing the hot breath of summer across the lake. Pinecones hit the metal roof then roll down onto the deck, causing everyone to jump, then laugh.

My daughter and I sit on the porch swing watching the storm roll past with all of its fury. Lightening crackles as thunder chases the wind. We tuck the old blanket around our hips as one-foot rocks us keeping rhythm with the song in my head,

“Sitting on the porch swing listening to the light rain…rockin with the rhythm of the rain”, by the Judds.

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My daughter is my best friend, and I am hers. We have been seated on the first row of many of storms of life. Talking things through, at times with a great passion for opposing points of view. We can be brutally honest with each other. At times our words can draw emotional blood, yet we are fierce if anyone else speaks unkindly.

During most of her growing up life, I was a single mother. She saw how I put her needs before my own, and how hard I had to work to keep a roof over our head. She did her part as she learned to wash clothes and start supper for us. I was her first example of womanhood, showing her how to navigate life, though she has had several mentors other than me as she went through college and then her career.

A mother is our first mentor helping us navigate life.

Moms are the ones, who first teach us to make friends, understand the actions of others and set the example of a godly woman. Setting a perfect example in front of our children is not the most important example we give our daughters. Living authentically in front of them is more important.

Life is not easy or perfect. They need to see the good, but they need us to teach them how we handle our mistakes. They need to see what to do when a mean girl gossips about them or what to think when life is not fair.

Things, such as, when the coach’s daughter is chosen for All-Stars when your daughter has the better stats. Or when someone talks unkindly about her and she overhears. This is when you can share your stories. Let her know you have been through a similar situation. Let her know how you handled it – even if your response was not ideal.

Laugh and let her know that you might think about putting superglue on the cell phone of a gossip. Then set the example of praying for your enemies, and showing kindness when anger kindles.

We want to show our daughters the perfect woman, but they learn so much more when they see how we respond to our brokenness and the brokenness of those around us.

I have yelled, broken promises, used words that should not be used by a mom, forgotten to send money or was so late she was the last one waiting for her mom. But in it all, she knew without a doubt she was loved. She knew that no matter where I failed her, that I was trying my very best.

God gives the grace needed in parenting when love is the rule. 

In God’s own miraculous way, He is able to use our failures for good. I don’t know if I will ever cease to be amazed at the magnitude of His mercy, grace and redeeming power. He took a child bent on rebellion, and a mom soaked in the sorrows of single parenting, to create lives for His glory.

Mother and daughter by birth, forever friends by choice.

Heavy rain now pelts the tin roof, as her head rests on my shoulders and we gently swing.

Carey and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Allume.

carey and theI remember being absolutely terrified to attend my first Allume (it was called Relevant) in 2011. I knew no one. I had found my roommate via Twitter and was just crossing my fingers that she was legit. I had a blog but I wasn’t some super serious blogger. I was mostly attending because I was watching Christian woman connect via the interwebs and I liked what I saw. Sure, there were also selfishly motives. I wanted to learn how to get the word out about my daily devotional for moms, grow in my writing skills, be challenged by new view points and maybe (just maybe) create some new friendships with people who liked things I liked.

The shuttle ride from the hotel to the airport set the tone for weekend. It was filled with people “I knew” or had at least seen comment or guest post in cool places. In my head I had a zillion questions to ask and while I wanted to be chatty and connect that just wasn’t in my nature. I am shy. Plus I am an introvert. Not a great combination for an overcrowded van of women and their luggage.  It felt as if I was sitting on the outside of a glass enclosed room, watching all these woman be fully capable of diving right into diverse conversations, and I was unable to get it. It was lonely and I knew I was in for a long few days. I was totally wishing I was moving to Australia. Arriving at the hotel I watched as women hugged, squealed and did the happy dance all over the place for each other. It looked like such fun. Women gathered in groups and took silly pictures in the photo booths and sat in circles on the lounge floor having deep and meaningful conversations and while I longed to be a part I really wasn’t sure how to do that. I mean seriously, do you just walk up to a group of strangers and say “you sure look like you are having soooo much fun. Can I crash it?” I remember being thankful that the lounge was filled with lots of decor so I could walk around looking at the walls and not just seeming desperate and wishing someone would have asked if I wanted to join in their floor gathering. (I was having horrible flashbacks to the 1st day of 6th grade lunch room. Ug!)

I can remember standing in the stairwell of the hotel texting with my “in real life friends”, tears streaming down my face, and just wishing that someone there knew me so I didn’t seem so invisible. It was terrible, horrible, no good and I was definitely having a very bad Allume. I promise, I don’t mean to scare you! Hang with me.

friendship 3

As we enter our new July series: Friendship I wanted us to take some time to examine friendship in the context of the conference. For some, attending Allume is a reunion of friendships that they look forward to all year. Girls stay up all night and have oooh so0000 much fun! Others meet their table mates at Thursday night dinner and have instant new buds that become lifelong friends and then there is the “me” type. Are you the “me” type? Are you coming alone, desiring to be brave, but needing a little kick in the cute jeans to get there? If that is you will you allow me to provide you some ideas so you don’t wind up in the fetal position?

friendship theme verse

1. Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer!

After the 2011 conference I had zero plans to attend again. I mean why would I fly across the country to spend 4 days feeling insecure and crying in a stairwell? But as the 2012 tickets went on sale I found my heart wishing I had a “do over”. I wanted to try again. This time with my best foot forward. I bought a ticket. A few weeks before the conference I saw a tweet that said if we wanted to help volunteer with decorations we should email this gal named Logan. I sent her an email and told her that I was happy to help. In my mind it would give me something to do rather than sit around wishing someone was going to invite me into their awesome pow-wow circle. When I arrived someone pointed me towards Logan and it was clear that there was LOTS to get done. I could tell she had a plan but she wasn’t sure if she could trust me to execute it to her liking. Attending to details of decor was something I knew without a shadow of a doubt I could handle. So I grabbed the face of this woman I just met, looked her straight in the eyes, and said “I can do this! Just tell me what you need.” The rest is kinda history. After the 2012 conference Sarah Mae gave Logan ownership of the conference and Logan asked me to come along side her as the Creative Director. What a ride! If you have any fears about connecting at the conference please choose to volunteers. It gets you outside your own head and it is super helpful to us!

P.S. If there is ever a moment of loneliness for you at the conference will you make me a promise? Will you come to the registrations tables, ask someone to point you towards Carey Bailey and then grab me by the face and tell me you need a place to volunteer. I will 100% get it.

2. Create a Be Brave Moment. 

At the 2011 conference I can remember listening to Sara Sophia share during one of the writing panels. I was enamored. I connected with her style and wanted to know more. Despite the whirlwind of insecurities happening inside me that weekend I decided to send her a private message via twitter thanking her for all that she had shared during the session and I asked her if she might have any time to connect. To my surprise she replied back and said “sure!” We sat in the lounge and I got to have some one-on-one time (much more my comfort zone) to just explore more of what she had said during her session. We didn’t become new found BFF’s and she probably doesn’t even remember that but for me it was a brave moment in which I took a risk that I look back on fondly. What will your be brave moment be?

3. Do Unto Others as You Wish Others Would Do Unto You.  

Are you wishing someone would invite you to jump into their photo booth shots? Then invite someone else flying solo to jump into a shot with you. Are you wanting to dive deeper into some of the topics hit on?  Then ask some of your meal table mates to meet you at a certain time to keep the conversation going. Are you longing for a buddy to sit with at meals? Then ask the person next to you at Friday morning breakfast for their number, let them know you will save them a place for lunch and then text them where you are sitting. I have learned that no one is intentionally trying to leave anyone out and that the famous lounge floor circles are open to any and all but for those of us who don’t excel in the land of lots of people we either have to be willing to tap on a shoulder of someone we don’t know and ask to come in or be okay with alone time. Allume can feel like a terrible, horrible, no good , very bad weekend for those of us shy people coming alone or we can be willing walk forward in confidence trusting that God will put the right people in front of us at the just right time.

This will be my fifth Allume and that is coming from a girl who swore to never go back again after my 1st year. Every year I learn something new. Every year I grow.  And every year God pushes me way out of my comfort zone. And for that I am thankful.