"A friend loves at all times." - Proverbs 17:17
Girls, no matter what age, need a close friend. Ever since receiving a little red plaque displaying this verse at five years of age, I've often reflected on this truth. I think about it even more so now with two daughters...one of whom is a week away from turning fifteen. Let's face it, ladies, even when our husbands hold first place in our hearts, we still need our faithful friends. Our hubbies have a hard time understanding and keeping up with the feminine roller coaster of emotions!
Because of the impact of this verse, I've tried to pay close attention to the friends in my life. As a mom, I've made intentional efforts to teach my daughters to do the same. Though I don't do friendship flawlessly, here are five principles that have been crucial to friendship-buildng for me:
Friendship is a Gift
Though I very much enjoy alone spaces that allow me to get the items on my to-do list accomplished, I also cherish conversation. It's just not nice to ignore people! So, despite my need to accomplish, I often choose to make conversation with others instead. Well, I'll never forget my first year at the gym where my girls' last trained. There were many times when in a group of other team moms, I spoke and no one responded. It made me feel like a wall flower. I remember the moment I decided that I'd had enough; that maybe I should take my girls and leave - UGH!!! It was at the end of that exact thought that His still, small voice whispered to me, "You're not here for them to love you." And I fully understood what He meant: I was there to love them. I was gently humbled with that reminder, and my confidence returned with a renewed sense of love from my Heavenly Father who knows just what to say to me and when. The truth is that not everyone will like us; not everyone will be our best friend...and I don't say that in jest. Each of us holds a gift of friendship to share with others. It's a gift that gives without expecting a return. Well, two months ago, we made the difficult decision to go to a new gym. I cried till my eyes and head hurt. It was so hard to leave people that have become like family to us...
Friendship is for a Lifetime
About five years into motherhood, I stood in my kitchen and thought about the many wonderful friends I had been gifted with, but also realized it had been years since I remembered having a best friend. That was when I knew I had to choose to be more intentional about my friendships in order to develop that bond. I thought about the women in my life who knew me as I was and still loved me; then made a decision to be more purposeful in making phone calls and spending time together. I believe that for each of us, girls, God has set apart at least one or two other girls with whom to walk the journey of life. However, like any relationship, friendship is a commitment. Because no human being is perfect, as each of us experiences highs and lows in this life, our friendships will also go through the same. We'll feel like jumping ship when we feel ignored, misunderstood, or even hurt. But, real friendship is for a lifetime; this means that in our close friendships, especially, we stick the tough and sticky moments through. We choose to believe our friend always means to have the best intentions at heart, then pray our friendships through the valleys and back onto the plateaus.
Focus on Similarities, Not Differences
I often find myself in new places or with varying groups of people. One of these groups is among the women of my town. Because I homeschool, I am not regularly with these ladies outside of our kids' sporting events/commitments. So, I very much look forward to when I can share a moms' dinner out with them at a local restaurant. However, because I am the only homeschool mom in the group, sometimes I get caught on the outskirts of a conversation because I'm not living their same school life. Like anyone else, I have been tempted to cave into our differences and mentally retreat...in fact, I may have once or twice. In general, however, here is what I keep at the forefront of my mind and what I often reiterate to my kids: we are as different as what we choose to focus on. We have some details that make us different AND others that make us similar. Focusing on differences creates separation; focusing on similarities encourages connection. After all, aren't we all looking for someone to relate to in a friend?
I know that I am living through the busiest season of my life: parenting through adolescence. My kids (and therefore I) are busy with school, activities, their friends; and my husband and I balance our family life in the midst of work and ministry. As the last year and a half has become busier with our oldest starting high school, I realized that I made a conscious choice to be more intentional about what and how I use my time in order to do this season of life best for my teens, and for me. While I am feeling more confident about my relationships with each of my kids, lately I find that I am missing something about my friendships. I miss breakfast/manicure/shopping trips, long phone conversations, bagels at Panera's with little ones in tow, and the list goes on. As I've contemplated these, (and believe me, I never did these often...just more often than I do now) I am beginning to recognize that what I miss is the sense of basking-in and celebrating friendships. I've come to the conclusion that because this adolescent-raising season truly does require more of my attention, celebrating friendship will just look a little different; it will happen in smaller, more intentional spurts. But, because our souls will always need a break, aka - a little time of celebration to help keep us going through the ups and downs of life, it's important to cultivate the habit of somewhat regularly giving our friend(s) a little focused attention, too :-).
And When We Disagree....
Who likes conflict?!! Yet, the truth is that disagreements are a part of life. The key, in my opinion, is a simple perspective on conflicts, in general: they are opportunities for growth. Every strong friendship will walk through a troublesome issue or even a season of trouble. It could be in the form of an outward disagreement or an inner-conflict. (I tend to struggle with inner-conflicts.) So, the question still begs to be answered: what do we do when a conflict arises in a friendship?? These are my short go-to steps: 1) Pray for God's hedge of protection around my friendship as well as eyes to see Truth; 2) Think it through, in light of "who I know my friend to be not who I think she might have become"; 3) Go talk to her about how I'm feeling and what I think I see; and 4) Pray some more. It is highly likely that this valley moment will produce greater security and trust between you than you thought you had before.
Bottomline: real friendship (according to Google - a state of mutual trust and support) is SO worth the effort!