The Burden of Friendship?

I am a social person. More often than not, I want to be around friends. I want to go for coffee or lunch or a walk and chat with people. I want to hear about their lives and tell them about mine or just talk about the weather (a favorite topic in Ireland). If I can’t be with people, I like chatting on Facebook or via text message or on the phone.

Some of my closest friends, I contact without a second thought. I know if they can’t chat when they receive the message, they’ll leave it until they have time to respond. I have no doubt that if they don’t have time to get together in the next few weeks, they’ll let me know and not feel pressured to fit me into their busy schedule. I know we’ll hang out when life gets less crazy.  

I have recently begun to realize (with the help of a good friend), though, that with many of my friends, I second guess myself when initiating communication. I assume people are busy and I will be interrupting them if I send a message on Facebook – maybe even more so if I send a text message. I’m afraid if I invite them to coffee or lunch, they’ll feel pressured to squeeze me into an already packed schedule and it will be an imposition for them.

In short, I find it easy to assume that I will be a burden to others simply by initiating a conversation. I am realizing that this is a subtle and effective tool of the Enemy to isolate me and others.

Recently, I timidly mentioned to a friend at church that when her life slows down a bit, we should try to go for ice cream or something. Her response surprised me. She said, “You call or text me. I actually have a lot of time free right now, and just hadn’t called because I thought you were busy.” Each of us was waiting for the other to get in touch because we feared interrupting the busyness of her life.

How many times have I sat at home feeling alone and unloved simply because I was afraid I would be a burden? Why do I assume I am an inconvenience? Why do I believe those lies so easily and so often? Am I the only one who falls for this?

I’m learning to initiate communication and invitations. I’m beginning to trust that if people don’t have time to hang out, they will simply be honest and tell me. I am determined that I will no longer allow myself to stay quiet for fear that I will be a burden. When someone comes to mind, it may be that God knows they need a friend to listen just then. If I stay quiet for fear of burdening someone, I may be keeping both of us from the blessing of friendship in a time when it’s most needed.

No more.

From now on, I want to reach out instead of waiting for others to reach out to me. Completely one-sided relationships are no fun, and they are not healthy. However, sometimes we have to reach out beyond our comfort zone and make the first effort.

Is there anyone you need to contact today?

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Celebrate!

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and I must be having a blast! How is it nearly July already?!

I love July. Independence Day is fun with fireworks and BBQs (when you’re in a place that celebrates that particular day), but the main reason I love July is my birthday. I may be turning 36 in a couple of weeks, but I’m still like a kid when it comes to how excited I get about celebrating every year. It’s a little hard not to be with family to celebrate most years, but I’m grateful for the friends God always brings to celebrate with me wherever I am in the world!

I know some people who hate to celebrate or even acknowledge their birthdays. Others just don’t pay much attention. Maybe I’m weird, or perhaps I just like an excuse to splurge a bit and go out with friends, but I like to think that there is more to it than that. No offense to those who ignore or even dislike their special day, but I believe life is something to celebrate. Sure, we don’t have to wait for one specific day each year, but why not take the chance to mark the occasion and thank God for another year of life? It is a chance to reflect on what has happened in the last year (or over the course of your life), to dream with God about what the next year might bring, and to thank Him for the great things that have come so far and for bringing you through the hard times.

Some of the people I know who do acknowledge and even celebrate their birthdays are hesitant to share their age. I’ve never quite understood why that might be. I know that aging may not be the most enjoyable thing there is, but it certainly beats the alternative! While my life looks nothing like what I thought it would by the time I reached the second half of my 30’s, I have lived a pretty incredible life so far, and I believe that the best is yet to come.

I don’t know exactly how I’m going to celebrate my birthday this year. I know it will include friends, food, and fun. I also know that I intend to make the most of it and celebrate another amazing year of life. It has been a hard and confusing year at times, but I wouldn’t trade it in for an easier one because I am grateful for the growth it brought. There have been a lot of tears, laughs, late night talks, prayers, encouragements, disappointments, surprises, and adventures, and I am so thankful to God, my family, and my friends for being with me through all of it!  

You may not have a birthday coming up in the next couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some time today to thank God for the years you’ve lived so far and dream about the future too!

When “Helping” Doesn’t Help.

I enjoy helping people. I love to listen, share wisdom, and “fix” things for others who are struggling. I am an encourager, and I find satisfaction in bringing life to others with my words and actions.

I am learning, though, that there are times when “helping” doesn’t help. There are times when taking action on behalf of someone else can actually hurt that person, times when they need to be the one to take action. Taking that step for them enables them to remain where they are at instead of growing and walking on their own to the place where God wants to lead them.

We are supposed to love one another, but how often do we take time to realize that doing the loving thing may look different than what we think love is? Sometimes, the loving thing may involve allowing someone to fall without intervening. Perhaps it involves discipline. Maybe it means speaking things that make you uncomfortable. It could mean separating yourself from them for a while. Maybe it simply means being silent for a time.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to love our neighbors – family, friends, significant others – because true love means not “helping” them this time. It goes against my nature to be quiet when I feel someone needs encouragement, but sometimes it isn’t me they need to hear from. If my words keep them from seeking God’s words to them, I’m not doing anyone a favor.

Why is it so hard to stay still or quiet when I think I should be “helping” someone? Unfortunately, I must admit that the answer to that question is often about my own needs. I find my identity in helping others. I know that God has made me to be a conduit of His love to others, and I forget that my worth doesn’t come from how well I carry out that function. I get my eyes firmly fixed on myself and what I can do for others, and I forget to ask God if what I think will help is truly what those people need. Too often, I find my value in being able to “help” someone instead of in being the daughter of the King of Kings.

When my own need to feel valuable drives my “love” and “help” for someone else, I am being the opposite of loving – I am being selfish. The only way to truly love others is to keep our eyes fixed on God and to see ourselves and others through His eyes. He may lead us to encourage others and help them in practical ways, but He may also ask us to pray for them, stay silent, and allow Him to draw them out of their comfort zone.

Is there someone in your life you’ve been “helping”? How can you best love those around you? What might “tough love” look like for those you care about? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

It’s February…

Hello friends. Welcome to February 2016!

I used to really dislike February…. Or at least the first half of it. It seemed a month designed to rub in my face the fact that I was single. All of the ads, displays, flowers, chocolates and other sweets, hearts, and talk of romance coming at me from every side were just reminders that I would get none of those – unless I bought some sweets for myself or my mom gave me some (which often happened).

I know a lot of people still feel that way. They have just survived and recovered from a holiday season filled with parties they had no date for, a million engagement announcements on Facebook, and loads of moments they would love to share with someone special if only there was someone. And then, BAM, Valentine’s Day stuff is everywhere, once again hitting them with the reality that they are alone…

But the fact is, we aren’t alone at all. Romantic love is not the only or even the most important kind of love in life. Jewelers, chocolatiers, and Hallmark may try to make a fortune by selling romance, but what about the friendships we have? All of us have special people in our lives we can celebrate and encourage this month.

Who can you encourage this month? Is there someone who makes your life better? Why not tell them and celebrate your relationship – whatever it is? What about yourself? When was the last time you did something special for you? You’re pretty great, and as nice as it is to have others acknowledge that, sometimes it can mean more just to remind yourself that you are worth being treated to something special.

Yes, I look forward to romance one day. I look forward to the day that someone will choose me, to love me in that way. Until then, though, I want to celebrate the love I already have in my life – the love of family, friends, and most importantly, the One Who is Love itself! I want to love others and remind them that they are special. I want to love myself and recognize that the most important Person in the universe thought I was special enough to give up everything for – and still thinks that.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating love this month… whatever that looks like in your life today. It’s okay to long for the things we hope are to come, but let’s not miss out on all that we have by lamenting what hasn’t arrived yet!

A Day for Thanks

In two days, millions of people around the globe will celebrate the day known in the USA as Thanksgiving. I’m not in the States for the celebrations, but that isn’t stopping me from making 10 kg of mashed potatoes and some gravy to share with nearly 60 friends… 🙂 (The first on my list of things to be thankful for this year is that the rest of the feast will be provided by other cooks!) 🙂

Instead of actually giving thanks, Thanksgiving is so often just equated with eating way too much, napping, “American” football, and plotting the route to various stores for Black Friday deals. I must admit that I am not sad to be missing out on those things this year… Well, okay, maybe just the nap. I will miss being with my family, but I will be surrounded by friends that have become like family during the year and a half I’ve called Ireland home.

I thought, as Thanksgiving Day is coming so quickly, I would be rather unoriginal this week and make a list of a few of the things I am most thankful for. This will be only a small sample because trying to list all, or even most, of the things  I’m grateful for would take far too much of my time and yours…

  1. My infinitely powerful God who loves me intimately enough to care about the details of my life. He is a God who creates new realities with a few spoken words, and yet He cares enough to speak to me daily. That is something to be truly grateful for!
  2. My family. We are spread across the globe, and I miss them all! I am so grateful for the part they have each played in shaping who I am, and that I can count them as not only family but friends as well!
  3. My friends. I have friends on nearly every continent, and I am thankful for all of them. God has blessed me so much with the people I get to do life with on a daily basis!
  4. My life. It doesn’t look anything like I thought it would by the time I reached this age, but I wouldn’t trade it. The opportunities I’ve been given, places I’ve visited and lived, people I’ve met, and things I’ve learned have brought me to a place in my relationship with God I never dreamed of and given me a story to tell that can change lives.
  5. My hopes and dreams. Perhaps more than ever before, God is pouring hope into me for the days that are still to come. Dreams that have seemed far away for so long suddenly seem closer than ever, and the hope that accompanies the anticipation of fulfillment is something that I cannot put into words, nor can I adequately say thank you to the Author of that hope and the Giver of the dreams.

That is just a fraction of what I am thankful for this year. I don’t believe that once a year is often enough to say “Thank You” to the Giver of all good things, but I’m glad for the reminder to stop and count my blessings. May you have much to thank God for on this Thanksgiving Day (whether it is a holiday in your home country or not), and may we all remember to recognize and be grateful for all the good things in our lives more than just once a year.

Hello, Goodbye

I said goodbye again last week… maybe for the last time in some cases, though I pray that’s not the case. After being back in the States for four weeks, I made the long trip back home to Sligo. I had an amazing time with family and friends, and I was blessed in so many ways by my time there. Then the time came to come home, and as hard as it was to say goodbye to those I love so much, I am glad to be in Ireland again.

My homecoming was filled with many hellos from those I know, but it has also been full of new voices greeting me. The team I work with here welcomed a new staff member and 13 students that I now have the privilege of getting to know. I love the chance to get to know new people. After just a few days with this group, I know there will be some lifelong friendships that come from these next few months I get to spend with them.

I can’t help but think about all the groups before though, and wonder how many hellos and goodbyes my heart and mind can handle. As exciting as it is now to put in the hours of chatting and engaging with people, I know that for each new hello will come, at the very least, a see-you-later if not a goodbye.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it to put in the time, to engage deeply with a new group of people that will inevitably leave or be left in the course of our journeys with Jesus… And then I think of all the past hellos, those friends I have made throughout my life, the ones I never see and rarely hear from, the ones scattered across the globe that I may or may not see again during my time on this planet. Each of those people has impacted my life, and I would not be me without their influence. I like to think I’ve also made a difference in their lives as well.

Goodbyes aren’t fun, but the hellos are always worth it. We weren’t designed to do life alone, and every person we meet has the potential to change our life. Engaging with people, making the effort to really know them is always a good idea.

I am so grateful for every person I have had the opportunity to know and influence and learn from over the years, every student I’ve taken on an outreach or had as a one-on-one. I am excited to see what God does in this new group, and I am honored that I have the opportunity to be a part of their lives for this season. So, HELLO Sligo 2015 trainees, and welcome…Let’s do this!

Is God Enough?

I have been struggling with this question for the past couple of weeks. As a single woman in my mid-30s, I have been told numerous times that God is all I need.

Is He though?

I have spent years going through seasons where I am content, happy even, with my current station in life, knowing that “God is enough”. During the seasons where that does not seem like the case, though, I spend anywhere from hours to weeks or even months feeling like I must not be spiritual enough or close enough to God because of the ache of loneliness that threatens to smother me.

As I hit one of those more difficult seasons recently, I began to really think about this “truth” that I am so often told, and I am now convinced that it’s a bunch of hooey (for lack of a better term). One day I was suddenly smacked in the face with the words of Genesis 2:18 “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone…'”

Um… The man wasn’t alone. He had God to walk in the garden with everyday. Why, if God is supposed to be enough for me, wasn’t He enough for Adam?

Do I think that this means God intends for us all to be married immediately when we feel alone? Well, no. If I thought that, I’d believe something was seriously wrong with me since I’ve wanted for be married for more than a decade and a half… I do think though that there are some valuable lessons here – both for those who hear that phrase and those who say it.

Let’s start with those of us that hear this “encouragement” so often. Is God, on His own, enough to satisfy every deep desire of our hearts? I don’t think so. He made us in His image as relational beings and we need other people. To feel lonely doesn’t make us less spiritual than anyone else. We should not allow ourselves to feel guilty for experiencing the need for companionship.

However, we should also recognize that a romantic relationship isn’t going to fill that need either. I will be the first to admit that sometimes it is difficult to reach out to others when I’m in this place for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it hurts to hang out with people who have everything we think we want, especially if it seems like all they do is complain about those things. Sometimes it seems like people are so busy with their own lives, we don’t want to interrupt or can’t imagine that they would have time to hang out with us. Perhaps we’re enjoying a pity party, and inviting others in might ruin it – especially if they try to encourage us with heartfelt sentiments that “God is enough”, or the ever popular “it will happen when you stop looking”, or “marriage doesn’t fix your problems because of xyz…”

Despite all of the excuses I can tell myself to justify isolating myself, I am learning that isolation only makes it worse. Imagine that… Isolation makes loneliness worse! DUH!

It’s true. We need other people, but that doesn’t have to be a spouse or even a significant other. So, let’s put ourselves out there and reach out to people instead of wallowing in our own misery. It really isn’t good for us to be alone, but God has put us in a world with millions of others who can help us through the rough times whether we are in a romantic relationship or not.

We are also in a world with millions of people we can love and serve. Let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and live our lives fully, no matter what our relational status.

Now, for those who may say this, (whether married or dating or whatever), I’m guessing you have days where you feel lonely, where it feels like no matter how close you draw to God, it’s not filling every need in your heart. Maybe there are days when you look to your husband or wife to fill the longings, and they let you down. I understand that marriage isn’t the fix-it that many singles seem to think it is.

If you have days like that, try to imagine how a single person might feel. Yes, we probably complain more than we should about our longing to be loved by another person. After all, we still have the freedom to go and do what we want when we want much of the time. Our life probably looks like a dream to many of you, but your life looks like a dream to us sometimes too.

The truth is that there are blessings in every season of life, and too often we don’t enjoy them as much as we should because we are too busy being jealous of what someone else has.

Sorry, that was a slight detour. The truth is, most of the time, when we are complaining about being single, we don’t need to be asked if we’ve tried online dating sites. We don’t need to be told that when we stop looking it will miraculously happen. We don’t need to be told how good we have it. We certainly don’t need to be told that God is all we need.

In all reality, we might just need a hug. We might need to be told that we’re great, and that you appreciate our friendship. We may need to be included in a family dinner or contacted even when you don’t need a babysitter, simply to say hello. We might need to be asked out for coffee. We might need to know there is someone we can call when we get a flat tire. We may need some to just listen. In short, we need a friend. We need to know that we are not alone, that we are loved, that someone cares.

God never intended, even from the beginning of creation, to be enough for us. He is certainly the One who will meet every need we have, but He often wants to meet those needs in community. No one relationship can ever be enough for us. We need each other, and most importantly we need God.