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Friends

I recently received a sweet thank you card from a friend and it set me to thinking about all the wonderful friends I’ve accumulated over the years. Each one has something special about them that drew me to them. Vee has been the one I appreciate for her bold honesty. When I was going through some very difficult ministry moments, she was the one who boldly supported me to the extent I would always walk away confident and felt understood. God used her to help me sleep at night when I knew all was lost. I could depend on her to state it like it was without embellishing or covering up to be “politically correct.” I have another friend, Jamie, who is the same way. I would always think of Jamie as someone I needed to be more like – I couldn’t put my finger on what that meant until recently when I read the book, Boundaries. She loves intensely and is fiercely loyal but if you annoy her, she tells you so, and won’t hesitate to bop you on the head to keep you in your place. She complains that this is a negative characteristic, but I wish I could be more like her. I could have avoided a lot of painful situations if I had some of her fire. The book showed me what it is about her that I was missing in my life. She is very good at putting up her boundaries and not letting others step over them. This is something I’ve been working on successfully as of late. It is that quality in her that makes me admire her so and enjoy her company.

Being a loyal and “safe” friend is very important. This is a rare quality, but one I must have in my close friends. Take Pam, for instance. She and her sister, Linda, became my sisters because they latched onto me during a time of crisis. This cemented our lives together like nothing else. Linda was the kind compassionate one who didn’t want details; she just spread out her compassion on me like a warm blanket. Everyone needs someone kind in their lives – it reminds them of our forever loving Savior.  Pam on the other hand makes me feel like a little a little kid hiding under the blanket with a flashlight giggling at night when the lights were turned out. We laugh, we commiserate, and we laugh some more. We turn everything into an amusing tale after all is said and done and we must put it behind us. She wants details and she wants them now! She makes me smile when I don’t feel like it. We agree and disagree, but she always ends with, “It’s just my opinion and you are my sister and I love you no matter what.” So this is what adoption is like!

Then there is Laura. She was the one who saw how wicked my “interesting” children could be but loved them and me anyway. She was the one that would observe or suspect things and come and tell me. She did it right. She sandwiched the telling with support and kindness. I never felt condemned like so many others made me feel and I knew she was filling me in because she knew I needed to know – yet she never took joy in the telling like so many others. I was never fearful when she approached me because I knew she wore the robe of caring. She demonstrated the Savior’s love for my kids in a way few did. Her husband is just like her.  This is what a “safe” friend is like. You know you’ll not suffer for anything you shared with them.

Chris is a friend who is pursuing godly living and is very vocal about it. This is someone I can tell things to and know that she’ll take the time to sort it all out and apply biblical truth to – no matter how it turns out.  She believes in fairness and remembers we are human and need compassionate forgiveness – especially for “interesting” children! She “gets it.” She can see a bad situation and waits for the explanation before jumping to conclusions!  She is a student of the Word and I enjoy debating with her over biblical concepts and how they’re to be applied.  I would want her by my side if I ever went into war! She still has that spark that so many have lost – a desire to grow. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to friends. I’ve only named a few but have dozens of others I consider kindred spirits. I am blessed to be able to make friends and keep them regardless of time or distance. I was recently telling my boys why I considered Belinda to be a forever friend. I told them that I know every time we went somewhere she would be my protector to the death!  It makes me smile to think of one time she told me, “You never need to worry about anybody messing with you when I’m around!”  She is the type of friend that time and distance will change nothing. We can pick up where we left off without missing a beat.

I have some new friends, Denise, Deb, Nancy, MaryMargaret and Linda who I call healers. They listen, they show kindness, and then listen some more – always ready to rejoice over each little triumph.  They suggest books, give hugs and praise God for my answers to prayer with me. I came to them a little over year ago with a ton of heaviness and over time they were used to administer the balm of acceptance, enabling me to come out of a dark pit that I had been thrown into.  Our friendship has centered around studying of the Word. They are transparent. I like that.

As I look over the descriptions of my friends, new and old, I see a common thread. It is also a list of the qualities I enjoy in my Lord – loyalty, kindness, understanding, empathy, safety, etc.  It’s not very hard to see why I consider them close friends.  Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother – and so are they.

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Musings

Known By Our Compassion

Love – putting others ahead of ourselves

Faithfulness – consistently being available to those we love

Compassion – faithfully loving others especially through a trial

Godliness requires us to faithfully love others by displaying compassion even to our own hurt.

Christ faithfully loved others by displaying compassion – He went to the cross for us.

Some people think love is a warm fuzzy feeling – a feeling that can be hidden. Some think faithfulness is a state of mind and compassion is empathy or a kind thought toward others. I say love, faithfulness and compassion are all actions. Christ faithfully loved us by having enough compassion for us to suffer and die on the cross and shed His blood so we might be free from sin’s penalty. He could have sat up in heaven and had a warm fuzzy feeling for us day in and day out throughout eternity. He could have even felt bad that we all would die and go to hell. But what good would it have done us? His love, faithfulness and compassion were proven by His actions. I am very glad He did. And I feel that I must do for others what He has done for me. In my actions I need to love faithfully using compassion toward others – to support them as they walk through this life. Sometimes it will hurt me. Sometimes it will be inconvenient, tiresome or annoying. Sometimes I will have to stop what I want to do, what I need to do, to help someone else who needs a helping hand.

Life is hard. Life is really hard. We’ve found it to be really hard lately. But it’s so much harder when you have no one that you can reach out to, no one who cares enough to take the time to be compassionate. When I look over my past 25 years, I can recall many who have made a difference in my life. Each person’s face that I recall made that difference by their faithful love and compassion. It was inconvenient. It took effort. It may have been painful for them. But they did it anyway – because that’s what Christ would have done. The trials that we’ve experienced lately have been made more tolerable by those who have chosen a compassionate path in life. I’m really glad they chose to walk by me and take me along with them on the journey.

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Musings

Job’s Friends – Part 2

…continued from 2.5.09 posting, Job’s Friends Part 1.

Now, you know what I’m going to say next right? Job’s friends – that was the subject of this posting wasn’t it? I have some “Job’s friends.”  These are the types that caused the saying, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” 

I have had wonderful friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin, off and on through my lifetime. I wish it had been more “on” than “off,” but God knew when we needed someone with “skin on.” God planted them in the right place and right time to offer that helping hand – as if it were God’s hand itself, just to pick us up and dust us off. We got pretty dusty and dirty in the trenches day in and day out. They just loved us and left it at that. He provided friends here and there during the times that were too much for us to handle or in the midst of battle where we couldn’t see our way clear. I wish I could say we had someone by our side through it all, but for the most part it hasn’t been that way. Of course, like I’ve said many times, my mom was always there for moral support. But besides her, Mark and I were pretty much alone to figure things out.

My “Job’s friends” have come in the form of friends, relatives, teachers, co-workers, advisors, pastors, doctors, neighbors, etc. that have felt they had that magical message to bring us that would make everything work out. They are the ones who throw Scripture at you or the “I think that…” advice that so freely flowed out of their mouth without solicitation.  Or they’d discuss our family with other people, voicing their opinion about how we should do things. Of course, they had no personal experience or any type of proof to back up their advice, yet they freely gave it anyway. They wouldn’t get to know us before offering their advice, nor would they stop to think that it was unsolicited. It is seldom that I will ask advice simply because someone inexperienced in our type of ministry just isn’t given any credence in my mind. That may sound harsh, but it is our reality.

The only exception is the occasional led by the spirit pastor or friend whos life is saturated with Bible principles and is very good at making application. He’s the one who starts out with, “I can’t speak from personal experience, nor do I know your entire situation, but have you considered…” They don’t begin to understand but care enough to provide Biblical principles to aid in our decision if we indicated we needed advice. They don’t tell us we’re doing it wrong, or are responsible for their behavior because they realize they just don’t know everything like “Job’s friends” do.  Besides, if he is led by the Spirit, then certainly Satan wouldn’t be able to sway him into being judgmental. Sometimes God uses their comments to give us an idea on how to handle a situation or simply to encourage us to continue being faithful. The critical comments or unsought for advice only caused us to walk away discouraged, realizing how alone we really are. I had a niece recently send me a very encouraging email that was so compassionate that it sounded like God wrote it Himself. Many times when a friend and I would be talking about something in our life, one of us would say, “I just wish God would send me an email and let me know what to do next.” I can honestly say I finally got an email from Him – because someone spoke out of the heart, a heart that was owned by God. That is what I strive to do – because I have learned out of personal experience what heartache is and what it’s like to be judged unfairly by another.

To be continued…

 

 

 

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Musings

Job’s Friends – Part 1

In times of trouble, most people tend to reach out to others for comfort or assistance. Over the years we learned not to even try, for there was none to be had. I can’t count the number of times we’ve gone to evangelists, special speakers, Bible teachers, pastors, etc.  for advice on how to raise our difficult children and been met with the same ol’ answer, “I don’t know what to tell you.” It never failed. So we just quit trying. Now this is not to say that the people weren’t kind hearted or knowledgeable about Scripture. On the contrary, they were usually very learned, compassionate people. That’s why we went to them to begin with because we sensed in them a good heart. But what we were asking was out of the ordinary.

I remember one time in particular when we were at Northland Family Camp, there was a speaker there that outlined the four steps in discipline: a look, a word, discipline, separation. First we’re to give them “the look” to let them know they were out of bounds in their behavior. Many children stop here and change their behavior. Some require the next step: verbal correction. If the child continues on, then we are to administer correction, whether that be spanking, time outs or whatever is deemed necessary and appropriate. He went on to say that if nothing works and the child seems to be unable to take any type of correction, then the parent must consider other means – whether that be kicking the older child out of the home, or finding a children’s home for the younger child. There is Biblical basis for his message, but we wanted to know what to do with children who were like ours, the mentally or emotionally damaged child who don’t seem to have the ability to learn through conventional “disciplinary measures.” It’s not unusual for a Fetal Alcohol Affected child to either not understand or remember a disciplinary measure. These children live in the moment and struggle with reasoning and personal application of instruction.

To them, “the look” was a challenge to be more crafty or sneaky. It’s affirmation that they are slipping up and need to be more careful about how they plan their next gig. The spoken word is just fluff in their eyes – it’s another warning that they were caught and need to be more careful next time. It’s a warning that they’re about ready to be punished and have pushed the limits, to back off and try again later when no one is looking. The third step, the discipline, is something to be endured and tuck away in their memory that no adult can be trusted and they must just endure so they can get on with their life. It doesn’t change or teach them, it’s just another bump in the road. They look at it as an expression of just how dumb adults really are and affirmation that they are to be hated. It didn’t matter that we weren’t the adults who failed them prior to coming into our home through adoption – all adults were alike in their eyes.

We were in a whole different ball game than most parents and were seeking advice on how to throw the next pitch. But no one knew, so we stopped asking. We grabbed our Bible and tried to glean as much information and wisdom as we could find. It withstood the test of time, obviously, for it is the beginning of all things and the hope in all situations. But it wasn’t necessarily an easy path to take. There were no true stories or parables that fit. We couldn’t find any verses that dealt with raiding the food pantry at night to steal food or what to do when a child drew pictures on the bathroom wall with their own waste. It didn’t tell me what to do when a child’s head turned around in circles…OK, that never happened, but I was expecting it to!  It didn’t tell me how to deal with the every day things that are so absent from normal households. Yet it gave me principles to go by and the assurance that our loving Father was there to guide us. We had to learn to walk in the Spirit and hear that still small voice in the din of everyday life with 15 little ones all vying for my attention – good or bad, it was all the same to them!  Of the 15 children, 13 are adopted and 12 were special needs. That means we only had three who had a proper view of life, untainted from the world, and the rest, well, you get the picture.  Needless to say, if the preachers and teachers didn’t have the answers, who would?   To be continued…