[This post is part of a collaborative series on Friendship, hosted by Cara over at Little Did She Know. To read more on the series, check out her page, here].
I have a mommy friend who challenges my thinking every time we visit. She doesn’t do this intentionally. She’s comfortable sharing her opinions and often she’s given more thought to a topic than I have.
We found ourselves at McDonalds Playland once. Don’t judge. (If it makes you feel better, tell yourself we threw away the play clothes after and then immediately threw our children in the bathtub.)
Anyway, we got on the topic of homeschooling. She does. I pray I never have to. She had researched area co-ops to see where they might want to get involved. It bothered her when she discovered many of the groups required a statement of belief before considering an application.
She wondered, as Christians, if this was too exclusive when it could potentially be an opportunity for outreach. A service to the communities where we live.
I’m not here to debate whether her opinion is right or wrong. I’m not here to give you my own opinion either.
What I want to write about today is where this conversation ultimately took us. We started talking about the various people who could be reached by a homeschool co-op. And she admitted something to me:
“I don’t personally know anyone I could extend an invitation to in this case. I don’t really know anyone who isn’t a believer.”
This blew my mind. I have so much respect for this friend of mine. I consider her a great thinker. I have never caught her making a statement she can’t support with a well-thought-out answer. I asked her about this once. How is it she became such a critical thinker?
She knew right away. Growing up, when she’d gone to her father, a pastor, for an answer about something she’d had on her mind, he never just gave her an answer. They talked it through. He might have her look up the answer herself or find Scripture addressing it.
If there was anyone who could effectively share her faith, my friend could do so. Nonbelievers needed her as a friend!
But often times, this seems to be the case. Christians befriend Christians. We get so immersed in our church bubbles, we don’t even know anyone who isn’t a believer. Let alone forge friendships.
Let’s take this thought one step further. Inside our church. To do so, I’ll introduce you to my good friend, Cody. She became my sister in Christ five years ago at a Monday morning Bible study. I wasn’t there that day. Someone else prayed with Cody as she asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior. Not just a God she’d heard about somewhere. Her God.
But I do have the privilege of walking this faith journey with Cody now. She has attended our Wednesday night Bible study for years.
Cody was nervous about Bible study at first. Afraid she’d say something wrong. Truth be told, I was afraid I would say something wrong as well. Christianity can appear to have an awful lot of rules. And rules can be a turn off.
One time in particular, Cody shared a part of her story in response to a study question. It started off something like,
“I remember one time when I was high....”
Cody and I are different. But we’re sisters. Family of God. We have created a bond where we can safely be ourselves. Believe me when I say Cody doesn’t really worry about what she says in Bible study anymore.
She’s also my friend. We have so much in common. We both raise farm animals. Our daughters enjoy playing together. We have many of the same friends. We like to cook.
I often wonder who Jesus wants us to be friends with in our lives. I mean, really f-r-i-e-n-d-s. We’re good at mission trips and coat drives and collecting food and filling shoeboxes with toys. And we should be! The question that won’t leave me is this:
Do you have friends who aren’t, for all intents and purposes, just like you?
There’s another person I can blame for all this thinking. Sara Miles. I’m reading her book, Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion. She’s radically different from me. But we are sisters. In Christ. Her book challenges me.
With every page, I keep hearing this little voice asking the question,
“She's a church girl too. Would she like you?”
In the flesh, probably not. Without a doubt, I know she’d make me nervous. We have completely different lifestyles and backgrounds. But I also know, because I believe in the power of Jesus, we could find our common ground. We could serve our Savior side by side.
She knows this too. Read what she’s discovered:
[I realized something] listening to Christ’s voice in other churches, through the middle-aged woman with the annoying nasal whine, and the self-righteous homophobic radio evangelist, and the conservative African bishop. I was not going to get to sit by myself and think loftily about how much Jesus loved me in particular. I was not going to get to have dinner, eternally, with people just like me. I was going to get communion, whether I wanted it or not, with people I didn’t necessarily like. People I didn’t choose... the people God chose for me.
One year ago today, I became a blogger here. A real writer. A title I struggled to accept for myself.
I started some social media pages as well and received such warm encouragement from my friends. They read the first few articles and things moved along quickly.
Right away, I started following other bloggers on social media. Something I had never done with any regularity because I just didn’t take the time. I discovered a great deal of talent and calling among the blogging community.
I also continued to write posts to let my readers get to know me a bit better. Ways I could trace Him at work in my life. Like this one about going to court with a friend.
So much of my writing invited others into the story. Because I quickly discovered that God surrounded me with people who lived faith-filled, remarkable lives. Even when they seemed ordinary. I could trace God at work in their every day lives too. I’ve written many articles saluting them. Like this one: In Which I Salute The Ordinary Christian.
In the spring, I had the privilege of attending the Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College right here in Grand Rapids. Although I’d only blogged for four months at this point, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to rub shoulders with other writers. The lineup of speakers was remarkable. After one session, I found myself face to face with none other but blogger of all bloggers, Rachel Held Evans. I introduced myself, rattled a few insignificant words, for I never know what to say when I find myself given three seconds in the presence of one famous.
She said hi and asked me a simple question. One I have thought about almost daily ever since.
“What’s your blog about?”
One of my personal favorite posts comes from this month as well. During the season of Lent, as we turned our focus towards Resurrection Sunday. Does Amazon Sell Holy Water (I'm Asking For A Friend)?
A few months into blogging now, I started to get a feel for my topics. I began to realize which articles would meet with a relative popularity. Topics like family, recipes, mothering. However, I knew my heart often needed to express my musings on the church, God’s Word, our religious heritage. I try to balance my time between what’s popular and what I need to process. So, in one month, you might find posts about motherhood. And also posts reflecting on the Sabbath.
At the six-month mark of my blogging, I wanted to write a piece that looked back on how much I’d learned in just a few months. About how much goes into blogging. It’s good to look back.
A dear friend lost her stepdad just before Independence Day. I was out of town on vacation and a part of me wanted to get right home so I could walk in grief with her. God has taught me so much about grief and loss through these few years in ministry. Many of my posts explore this topic. Here’s the one I wrote as a tribute to her.
In addition to writing about friends and family myself (with their permission), I also had three guest posts in my first year of blogging. This one by my friend Sara reads raw and real. I love that today she’s happily married! Her article, “When Divorce Changes Everything,” remains the most popular post to date.
Also in mid-August, I began a partnership with Family Christian Stores. They work with various bloggers to market different products, in-store promotions and community events. This group is new and I am honored to be one of their first blogging partners. Here is an example of one of the many pieces I’ve written with them.
I turned 40 this fall. Years don’t mean that much to me. I’m thankful to be healthy and happy. But I had a lot of fun preparing the piece I shared on my birthday. “40 Life Lessons from 40 Years.”
I had found a real blogging rhythm by this point in the year. I did book reviews, I had discovered a group over at Kate Motaung’s blog that wrote Five Minute Friday pieces. Every week, she gives a word prompt and bloggers write a piece, unedited, unplanned, in five minutes. It took me right back to high school English class and I loved that. By this point, I was posting about three times a week. And interacting with a lot of bloggers through Facebook and Twitter.
I continued to feel led to share the stories of those people I saw living solid lives of faith. Those who showed the world a real need for Jesus. I wrote this piece about Krista and Kelly, two friends who battle breast cancer with a beautiful bravery.
Blogging amidst all of the holiday hustle and bustle was a bit challenging. By this point, though, I had discovered that writing equals processing for me. And this time of year, as always, left me with so much to reflect on. I also had a little fun with the blog too. I wrote this post about our annual holiday baking extravaganza and shared it with other blogging communities in the Countdown to Christmas Project.
And if you’re still reading, thank you! Your Facebook likes, Twitter shares and all the online comments mean so much to me. I’ve run out of space with this one-year anniversary piece. I knew I would. I have so much to share with you.
In closing though, I want to address the question Rachel Held Evans asked me way back in April. A million blogging months ago, it seems.
“What is your blog about?”
That question has altered in my mind slightly. Instead, I often ask myself,
"Who is your audience?"
I’ll give the Sunday School answer first. My audience is Jesus. An audience of One. I write to give Him glory. In all things.
I have a dear friend who isn’t on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Which I admire in an Amishesque kind of way. I email her each and every blog post. And, in all her kindness she reads every. single. one. I cannot express what that means to me. She comments on the vast majority as well. She is my encouraging sister in Christ. I told her recently that if it came right down to it, I’d write just for her and Jesus. Because it feels good to feel read and encouraged.
Finally, though, I write for you. I realize that’s a rather broad audience. But I place my answer right in there with the sweeping generality we find in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world [insert your name in place of the world] that He gave His only begotten Son, that [if insert your name here] should believe in Him, [insert your name here] shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
I want to move each and every one of you, my readers, one step closer to Jesus. I want you to realize His love for the whole world. That includes you. I want to help each of you go through your every days and trace God at work in your own life. I want my articles to show you how active He is in my own journey. I want to tell you stories about how He lives in so many around me.
If I can be so bold, I want to do as John the Baptist did. We read in John 1:15:
“John testified concerning Him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’”
We dine at a specific restaurant for special occasions. You know – anniversaries, birthdays, when our friends are in town, to share this amazing place with our neighbors, after we drop our daughter off for a sleepover at her grandparents, in the summertime when we happen to be in the neighborhood.
Who am I kidding? We frequent this place every chance we get.
Salt of the Earth. Fennville, Michigan. Add this one to your list.
My husband and I ate there a few years back for a date night. A couple of ladies sat at a table next to us. When they placed their order, one of the ladies said, “Oh, I have to come in here every few months for your Brussels Sprouts. I crave them!”
I wrote this article as a guest post for Jen over at Halfway Homemaker. For more of this article (and the recipe), click here. Enjoy!
I didn’t know a single person in the group. I only knew they were a bunch of moms. That pretty much put us all in the same boat. Right?
My daughter was eight months old the first time we attended the mom’s group at the local Baptist church. From the moment we walked up the sidewalk, we received a warm greeting. A sweet lady held the door open for us. We got signed in and received our nametags. I took her to the nursery door.
A grandma-type smiled at us. I gave her my baby and she immediately started singing to her.
That’s when I knew. I found myself among angels.
I received an advanced copy of "Hope for the Weary Mom: Let God Meet You In The Mess," written by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin, from NetGalley for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Authors Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin understand the need for groups like the one I attended. Christian sisters to call friends.
Not just when our children are babies and toddlers. All through life. For while our feet may grow weary chasing after the little ones, our hearts grow weary helping our older children make decisions. Our knees grow weary praying for the families of our adult children.
That same four year-old is now a teenager. The physical weariness I felt during her toddler years has faded and been replaced with an emotional weariness I feel almost daily. We are making decisions this week that will most likely affect the rest of her life. (Stacey)
The authors take turns writing chapters in this book. They share a lot of their stories so you get a chance to find things you can relate to in the lives of both.
Brooke is a counselor. Early on, she writes a chapter about the type of person you are and how that affects your mothering style. Also who you’ll tend to be in a friendship. She gives strengths, weaknesses and examples of each. The categories are as follows:
I found myself in this description:
Introverted Relaters can often be found leading small group Bible studies, writing blogs, serving on the women’s ministry team at church... As a mom, the Introverted Relater thrives on helping her children understand their own hearts. Communication is her best asset.... (Brooke)
She encourages us to look at our friends and see where they fill in our gaps. Whether than seeing our weaknesses as downfalls...
I could spend my days being thankful that God has surrounded me with friends who bring variety to my life. (Brooke)
Stacey, mom to four girls, admits:
The truth is, being a mom to four girls has been a humbling work for me... I stumble and fumble all day long with an audience of four watching. (Stacey)
She shares how she reached a point where she couldn’t do it anymore. And when she cried out to God, He provided. Good friends. More of Jesus.
From mommy guilt to grieving over the death of a child to dealing with teenagers, there aren’t many mommy topics this book doesn’t cover. And it offers some practical answers!
I believe the answer is laying down the habit of weariness and embracing a heart of worship for the Lord. Because anything less than the very presence of Jesus will never satisfy. (Stacey)
For you procrastinators, I’ve done the hard work for you way early. Mother’s Day falls on May 10th this year. Gifting this book would make you look like a rockstar. Click here to buy it now.