Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Mixed Tapes and All Night Marches

Do you have some great girlfriends?  Did you know God’s word teaches us about biblical friendship? I’ve been learning that it takes time.  It takes pursuit.  It can be learned.  It can be earned and lost.  But most importantly, when it is Christ centered, it can be really, really good.  Good for the soul.  Good for the head.  Good for the heart.

Last October, I shared with friends and our missional community at church that I felt God was prompting me to write.  As I continued praying about it, I felt it was going to be more like a bible study or devotional.  I’m not going to lie, this scared the crap out of me.  

1.  I’m not a writer
2.  I’m not a bible scholar
3.  I’m much better at math

But, because God is ever faithful and equips those He calls, all the pieces started falling together.  I was in a season of missing some close friends of mine.  Some had moved.  Some had life happen to them and they just didn’t have much time for me, and vice versa.  At the same time, God put a specific idea in Cara’s head: she wanted to start a Girls Club.  We continued talking about what that meant; what she might have wanted out of it.  She really wanted to get together, do ‘arts and crafts’ with her friends, and pray.  I was able to share that I had felt God prompting me to write, and as I prayed about it, I kept having the word friend or friendship come up.  I asked her, “Would you be willing to set aside 5-10 minutes of your Girl’s Club for me to share a short devotion on friendship, and then we’ll do a craft that coincides?”  She jumped at the chance, and I hit my knees in prayer that I wouldn’t screw this up.  That God would use me, teach me, mold me as He molded these young hearts.  

We had our first meeting in November, and decided we would meet twice a month.  With the holidays and travel, we’ve met 6 times and it has been so good for my soul.  We have public school, private school and home schooled friends that Cara wanted to invite, so we do it after school.  We’ve learned about prayer, beauty, Christ’s love for us, our different gifts, and love for each other.  And I say we because I mean it.  God has taught me so much in preparing to teach these hearts.  There have been so many amazingly cool moments watching my daughter and her sweet friends play, learn, laugh and create.  And I will share some of those in a different post.  

Along the way, I have had a handful of great friends praying for this journey.  They know I’ve doubted my abilities and have had to fully rely on God’s grace.  One of those friends who has taught me SO MUCH about biblical friendship for women in the church is Jackie Hooks.  I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing her for almost 2 years.  I’ve enjoyed following her faith journey, hearing her story, and watching her YES to Jesus feed children, clothe teen moms and babies, feed terminally sick adults, and love the unlovely, all while being a real person.  Very real with her own struggles.  And it has been extremely refreshing.

She is in the process of writing her story: another big YES for Jesus.  But this involves pursuing management, having a book pitch, and a host of other things we as consumers never consider.  So I wanted to give her a chance to use my blog to increase her name recognition, through proclaiming Christ’s name.  She asked me to pray about a topic and almost immediately, I knew I wanted her to write about friendship.  So Jackie, let’s hear it!
I am 38 years old.  I am 38 years old with four kiddos and a husband and a fish that came from a rodeo carnival.  My 20 year high school reunion is this September.  I want to lose close to 950 pounds before I go, but that would require me to stop eating 7 meals a day.  I totally dropped my kids off at school today in my cheetah print footie pajamas.  It was cold.  They are so warm.  Yes, my children were embarrassed.  But I stayed in the car for Pete’s Sake.  My house is a mess.  I can’t figure out why I clean it once a week.  These crazy children mess it up daily.  And no one knows where to keep their shoes so, today, while breakfast was happening (cereal…in the big bags that cost less and are all knock off brands) I had to look for two different missing tennis shoes, and plead with everyone to dress warm because Mommy is wearing her footie pajamas in the car not to look good but because it is 27 degrees outside!!!  The recycling seems to move around the kitchen counter, and then to the garage on occasion.  I sometimes find wet towels in random places in my children’s room.  Our “art bin” has moved into like three art bins, and taken over some much needed shelf space in the pantry.  But the art bins randomly make me feel like a better mom because maybe some creative things are going to happen in our house instead of just TV or Minecraft.  All the laundry is clean and in a huge pile in the laundry room/pantry/art closet and I totally see it often, and wait to fold it for no good reason at all.  

This is my life behind closed doors.
Yours might look a ton better.
Maybe worse.
No judgment from the Mom who fed her kids brownies at 9:00pm last night…
And then got completely annoyed that they were super hyper.
My oldest and dearest friend for the past 30 some odd years is Judah.  We met in first grade at Ruby Ray Swift Elementary.  Both of us were living through way too much life for 6 and 7 year olds.  Both of our single moms were trying to keep their heads above water.  Over the next 12 years, we walked home together from school.  We told each other secrets.  We cried together.  Weathered bad hair cuts together.  Went out of town together.  Spent the night together constantly.  Shared clothes so much that it was ridiculous.  We drank coffee together every morning at her house during high school.  We shared a locker.  We hoped for classes together.  We skipped school together.  We got in a lot of trouble together.  We stayed up all night talking on the phone all the time.  We listened to the Indigo Girls, Dave Matthews, The Cure and made mixed tapes constantly.  We sang at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down and cried over boys together.  Oh My Goodness!  I miss those days…there was never an insecurity if she liked me, or if she wanted to hang out with me, or if she would pick me over everyone else, or if we would go to each other’s birthday parties…nope…we were the very best of friends.  If she pulled up, right now, to my house, I wouldn’t pick up a thing or even feel embarrassed.  She wouldn’t care.  She would not be here to see how clean I keep my house or how well my life is managed.  She would be here to see ME.  That is friendship.

I am 38 years old, and as I am nearing my 20th reunion and walking slowly down memory lane, and looking at my crazy messy life today…I miss those days.  There were some really hard days.  There were some really easy days.  Some days you just sat and talked about what you would do with your life, and all the hopes you had…and I am living out some of those hopes…and some have long since been forgotten.  There were plans made and broken.  There were arguments.  There was tremendous loyalty.  There were parties in fields and parking lots.  There were Friday night football games, and wearing your boyfriend’s jacket.  There was summer, and driving to the lake, and riding around in our friend’s jeep.  I could pop in at any time to Judah’s house, and the door was always open, and it was always the most fun, and I was always wanted, and I was always myself…and that was really really really good.
Today I am 38 years old and Making Friends is Not that Easy.
Making Friends that are Allowed to See My Messy House Seems Even Harder.
Making Friends that Wouldn’t JUDGE My Messy House Seems the Hardest of All.
It’s not supposed to be this hard.  It really isn’t.  I don’t know when it gets this hard…making friends…somewhere along the way between 6 and 38…we are hurt…we are injured…we have so many knife wounds in our backs that it is unbelievable.  And we all walk around like we are just fine.  Like we are ok being alone or scrambling to clean our house if our friends are ever coming over.  Trying to seem ok in front of everyone else.  And some of us are living way too much life for 38 year old moms.  Some of us are just trying to keep our head above the waves, and sweeping our floors is at the bottom of a list that includes a million precious little things that we would give our life for…and floors didn’t make the cut again today.  Some of us would just love a friend.  Just one.  Who would want to just see us…the really real us…with no make- up…no fancy…no fake…And  sit and talk for hours about what we want to do with our life, and things we wish had never happened, and how we still think songs were written just for us.
I am hanging out today in the Book of Joshua.  If you know anything about me, you know how much I love this book.  Today I am in Joshua 10:1-15, and I am thinking about you and I am thinking about me.  Joshua 10:1-15 is the account of Joshua and the Israelites and they have made a peace treaty with the city of Gibeon.  Five Amorite Kings became really angry that the Gibeonites had decided to make that peace treaty, and take up all of their armies combined and attack the city of Gibeon.  The city is surrounded by five armies, and they are scared, and they send word to Joshua asking for help.  And you know what Joshua does?  He gets his entire army, including “all the best fighting men” (10:7) and marches all night.  Joshua and his men march all night to save the Gibeonites.  All night.  That is an unbelievable rescue effort.  They surprise the opposing armies, and defeat them in a great victory.  They don’t just defeat them, though, they continue to pursue them.  Then Joshua asks God to let the sun stand still so he can completely destroy his enemies. What a crazy request!!!  And the sun stands still. As he fights for his friends.  And the enemy is defeated.  And Joshua fought on behalf of the city of Gibeon because they had made a peace treaty with the Israelites.  They were friends of the Israelites.  That is friendship, and loyalty, and no questions asked…that peace treaty meant something.
We all want the march- all- night- to- come- to –my- rescue type of friends. 
And at least try to stop the sun if it will save me.
We all do.
Admit it.

When we moved to Katy, we were starting over.  Three years ago we walked into this enormous suburb, and I was forced to make new friends amidst the impeccable landscaping and never ending master planned communities.  And I would have to hope that these friends would become dirty house friends, laundry all over the floor type of friends, my kids don’t always behave type of friends. And I didn’t have twelve years to cultivate this type of friendship.  I just needed it.   And it started to seem like everywhere I turned there were only clean houses and there were only perfectly behaved children and people swept every day and only fed their children healthy breakfasts.  And I began to feel that horrible feeling, like I didn’t belong and there was no one who would get me, and that I would just endure my time here…that I would just pretend that everything was fine.  And there were some false starts, and painful moments in the beginning.  But God is good, and over the past three years He has brought women into my life that I cannot live without.  Women who check on me in all of my insanity, women who watch my kids (even when there are four kids) just so my husband and I can have a night out, women who drop by, women who have morning coffee available, women who text me scripture and women who make me a mixed tape.  Because mixed tapes still rock in case you wondered.
Today I went to a friend’s house; we had plans to eat lunch there.  She was wearing sweats, and had her hair pulled back and laundry was on the dining room table.  As Joshua began to roam around, she said that she was sorry, but she hadn’t swept the floors.  And I said that I didn’t care because you know what?  I didn’t care at all.  It was music to my ears.  She loves me enough to NOT clean.  She knows I love her enough to NOT care.  I am there to eat lunch with my friend.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  We talked about our kids.  Our struggles.  Parenting.  Being married.  My high school reunion.  Her 40th birthday.  Her house.  Decorating.  The weather.  Jesus.  And an hour went by in the blink of an eye.  And I had to get home, and she had to get going.  And I needed this today.  I needed this friendship in my life.  
God does not want us to be alone.  
He does not want us to be lonely.  
 He did not create us so we could languish in isolation and acquaintances.
When the city of Gibeon cried out for help, Joshua got up and went.  There was no complaining about inconvenience, there was no why can’t you just save yourself, there was no pretending they didn’t notice.  Joshua got his troops and marched all night.  When the enemy was defeated, Joshua asked God to let the sun stand still so that the people who surrounded, and threatened and tried to destroy the friendly city of Gibeon could be eradicated.  There is a place inside each of us that longs to be that type of “worth it” to someone else.  For it really to be ok to make the phone call in the middle of the night.  For it really to be ok to ask for the extra mile or two.  For it really be ok to just stop by whenever.  To not always have to be running for mayor where ever we go…with a fake handshake and some campaign slogans and a few clean jokes…For it to be ok to be boring, or silly, or overly inappropriately hungry in a buffet line…To just be ok just like you are.  I believe inside each of us is a 12 year old girl going to a junior high dance.  And it gets tiring trying to figure out what everyone else is wearing.  And everyone else is trying to figure out the same thing.  We need each other plain and simple.  We need people to see us in our everyday ordinary life and still believe that we are extraordinary.  We need to be loved like Jesus would love us.  
So, here is the really hard part:  you have to be the one to start loving people like Jesus.  You have to be the one to uncross your arms, and quit waiting for your friends to miraculously walk through your door on any given Wednesday, and you have to love big.  You have to trust that Jesus is putting the right people in your life, and open your door wide and just be yourself when people walk in…let your guard down…take your mask off…And then when they need you, be there.  Be there big.  March all night for someone, because that is how you want to be loved.  We are loving our neighbor as ourselves y’all, and it is dang hard.  And then just live life with them.  And invite them to live life with you.  And talk all night if you can…or at least for an hour.  And sing at the top of your lungs, share clothes, cry together, and stop sweeping your floors for your friends…
Or maybe just make them a mixed tape.
Because mixed tapes still rock y’all.
And an all night march might change someone’s life.
“After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise.” Joshua 10:9

And that my friends is why I love Jackie Hooks!  If you would be so kind in helping her reach one of her goals, go like her official "Author" page on Facebook right here, and if you were blessed by her writing, share, share and share!  Thank you!

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