You’ll Always Be My Friend…You Know Too Much

I received a birthday card this year that said, “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears; your actions louder than your words; and your faith stronger than your feelings.”

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In the basement of a sweet little church last week, I stood up in front a group of women and let my dream of saying something intelligent be bigger than my fear of choking on the spot and dying a very public death.

For sure, leading a gym class and gaining perspiration would’ve been easier than leading a Bible class and gaining inspiration.

And as it turns out, when I stood in front of these beautiful women, my faith wasn’t in my own abilities to speak, but rather in their intentions to listen. I had to believe that somewhere in my ramblings, each of them would hear something that spoke directly to her own heart. Something gloriously small and explicit. Something, I hope, that made them glad they were sitting down with enough time to enjoy the new thought.

The title of my classes, “On the Care and Feeding of Your BFF”, was chosen by a group of girlfriends months ago, as they were lounging pool-side. I actually asked them to vote on what I should talk about in Canada.

I’m cool like that. (I’m also sadly unfocussed like that.)

But, as every writer knows, all bets are off when you sit down at the keyboard.

Martha and Mary of Bethany kept butting into my notes and no matter how hard I explained to them that they had lost the vote, they would not get out of my face.

So I let them take the floor, and Class 1 was born.

They showed me how to behave like a “best friend forever”. And how not to. And what happens when you let Christ take over your heart. And what happens when you don’t. They both looked me in the eyes and reminded me that the Good Samaritan hadn’t seen his choices coming, but when he saw a wounded man, he didn’t see danger or calculate a backstory or contemplate excuses.

He just reached into his bag and pulled out a massive can of instant and lavish compassion.

“Let’s do this,” I hear him think.

End of story. But also the beginning of ours.

The ladies in Ontario played along with me as we explored the many languages of love that feed and nurture those deliberately connected relationships.

We had soul-warming soups for lunch, and faith-building, hand-holding conversational comfort food; the kind made of good old fashioned face time, bubbling along with laughter, our individual flavors melding together.

Later, we went deep into the pits with Jeremiah and up to the mountain top with Elijah.

Caring for your friendships needn’t stop when one stumbles into a pit.

For the girlfriend who suddenly doesn’t know what to say or do, this class held tools for building ladders out of pits and ways to hold on to each other when life gets real.

It does get real, doesn’t it?

How wonderful to know someone has your back.

Amazing things happen when women gather together.

Their love for each other is so tangible.

I am thankful for the prayers and encouragement, the mentoring and editing that countless women supported me with as I walked this road to Canada.

It’s changed me in ways I haven’t yet put words to.

And I know that, one BFF at a time, we are going to make it through this crazy life of ours, holding hands, pressing onward, and yes – very likely – giggling a lot of the time.

Bend In The Road

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” wrote the poet, Robert Frost.

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I recently accepted an invitation to speak at a women’s retreat in Ontario.

Yep, Canada.

It’s slated for the end of September when, I am informed, “there’s an eighty percent chance of beautiful fall colors and a zero percent chance of snow on the ground”.

Which is, as you know, terribly attractive to weather wimps such as myself.

As close as I can figure it, the ladies there were reading my blog this spring, and in a fit of desperation born of an eternal winter, decided I was just the one to join them over a hot cuppa and lead a few discussions on life in the trenches.

Well.

When paths diverge, what’s a girl to do?

This particular path smells briskly of moose and pine and possibilities.

It’s delicious.

Although I have not yet met these lovely ladies, if they’ve had a child explode a loaded diaper in their lap or a meal explode in their microwave, we already share the kinship and camaraderie of Girlfriends.

I could lead an entire class on the pros and cons of using a single closet to hold nothing but canned goods (labels out!), but that’s not why I’m going.

I’m going because I know that Life in the Trenches can get seriously messy.

And awkward. And stupid. Sometimes things happen that we definitely didn’t sign up for.

We all have days when we feel lost, overwhelmed, underpaid, and darn it, our feet hurt. We want to sit down and have someone rub them.

We’d like to just sit down, please.

We see two roads diverging in a yellow wood and can’t for the life of us figure out which one we are supposed to take because we still have the grocery shopping, soccer practice, bills to pay, and the dog to worm, and already we’re suspicious that the yellow wood may be yellow for a reason.

Especially if snow and kids are involved.

With multiple paths wandering around shadowy corners to destinations unknown, we face decisions all day about which way to turn next.

Moving always onward, our choices are making all the difference.

And if today is the current sum total of every choice we ever made, then might it be possible to choose our next bend in the road with slightly more intention?

The path that seems rockier but holds a little more brightness? The path that heads uphill, but gives a little more grace? The path that scares me but feels more compassionate? The healing path that feels like laughter could be possible, even through tears?

When I tell this story of Canada, with a sigh, ages and ages hence, I will say that I chose the road that felt most like God calling me.

And also, I will say with a smile, my paths were full to overflowing with Girlfriends!

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost, 1916

So You Want to Date My Kid

Dear Person Applying to Date One of my Teenagers,

Congratulations.

You’ve recently passed a pre-test that included your family background screening, personal financial philosophies, character quality check and views on personal space.

You obviously have amazing taste and a great deal of courage, therefore I am offering a trial period where we can all get to know each other better.

Because, of course, if you date one of us, you date the whole family.

I’m not much of a seamstress, but if you arrive for your date with sloppy clothing, I will gladly apply enough duct tape to ensure your pants don’t accidentally fall off during the evening.

Ladies, if you show up dressed in clothing four sizes too small, I totally understand. The economy is so bad, most young ladies can only afford a half of a wardrobe. I will loan you my Snuggie. Zip up!

When I ask you where you are going and with whom, you only get one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Don’t forget: I’m a mom.

I will find out.

Appropriate places for a date include old folks homes, ice skating rinks, hospitals, movies featuring chain saws and explosions, church services, daycare centers, and crowded stadiums.

Be afraid of the dark…very afraid.

When you are together in our home, please accept my complete responsibility for the siblings placed strategically in corners. They are well paid and have one job: maintenance of personal space.

We own an electronic two-foot-long sharpened meat thermometer. It has settings for chicken, beef, turkey, and boyfriend. If we test you and your temperature is too high, you will be “done”.

And we will take you out.

Make curfew by a solid ten minutes. If you’re not early, you’re late.

Do not dally in the car saying ‘Good night’. Exit the vehicle promptly upon arrival and keep both hands in clear view. Announce you have returned my child safely and early, and drive on.

There is no need to linger on the doorstep because I will join you, and after a group hug, will explain that it’s past my bedtime, slam the door in your face and turn out the light.

Our kid is not your ATM, your therapist, your decoration or your doormat.

Facebook, phone calls, tweets and texts will be monitored for quality assurance.

You are not in charge of her, I am.

You cannot change him. Believe me, I already tried.

Some day I will morph from world’s meanest mom into world’s best mother-in-law.

But this is not that day.

Family is forever, and most dates…are not.

Sincerely,

Mom

Girls’ Night Out

A second grade teacher, a superior court justice, and a certified public accountant walk into a sushi bar.

“Three?” asks the hostess.

The CPA laughs and says, “No, ten of course, I calculated.”

The judge laughs and says, “You have the right to remain silent, we’ll find our way.”

The teacher says in a soothing voice, “But you’ve been very helpful, thank you,” and hands her a sticker as they pass by.

The women march straight to the rear of the restaurant because the ICU nurse, the mom of five, the high school parenting teacher, the motorcycle chick, and the RN have already grabbed a table.

The waitress walks up but gets shooed away because the two heads of HR have not yet arrived.

One represents wild animals (who gets a cheetah at her wedding, who?) and one represents pancakes (she’s on TV looking fab, and I know her!) but at Girls’ Night Out, we are all just friends, ready for our monthly round of catch-up.

You’d think we’d run out of things to talk about.

When pigs fly will women run out of words.

We’ve been closing down places for years.

“What’s new?” we ask each lady in turn.

“Nothing?” I challenge, “Then make something up, I’ll believe you.”

These particular ladies and I share matching high school diplomas. Beyond that, we are as diverse as a box of Jelly Bellies; each brings her own flavor to the table and we are never bored.

We range the political and religious gamut. Some married very young, others found Mr. Wonderful the year we all turned 40. Some are divorced and regale us with dating stories. We are home bodies and globe trotters. We’ve all ridden the monetary and health roller coasters.

There are deaths and births, haircuts and holidays to discuss.

And after all of these years, we still have issues with our parents.

Mostly, though, we are real. We can trust the group with secrets. We can count on them to care, even when the issue is quite far from their area of expertise. We leave our labels at the door and discuss stress, motivation, releasing the past and hopes for the future.

“You would not believe the mess Common Core is making at the school,” begins the teacher.

PTA President leans in and says, “Oh, our school helped to write part of that. How is it working?”

Plates of sushi rolls are landing on the table; the Ministries Coordinator hogs two just for herself.

“The Lord helps those who help themselves,” she giggles, “I think this one is called the Panty Dropper.”

Motorcycle mom is showing off her new tattoo to mom-of-five, “Just got back from our weekend to Vegas, this is my souvenir.”

Mom-of-five, recently promoted to blogger, inquires about motorcycle mom’s five kids, one of whom was just fitted with a new wheelchair, and another recently enlisted in the army.

The nurses are swapping funny patient stories and the wild and single lady is explaining the differences between Plenty O Fish and Match dot com, and her latest overnight shift on SDPD Crisis.

Our layers of labels are smashing together like funky sushi ingredients, rolled in a tight history together, with a zesty freedom flavored sauce on top.

Meanwhile, the waitress has taken the paid check, asked to refill the water glasses five times, taken a group photo for us, and cleared the table.

Don’t you hate when your guests won’t leave?

When all else fails, they put chairs up on tables and vacuum.

Then they put out the lights.

As the restaurant doors are locked behind us, we are still chatting and hugging and making plans for next month. Some of us will make it, some will disappear into the daily whirlpool and resurface a few month’s down the road with good stories to show for it.

When I finally get home, Hubby is waiting up.

“How’d it go?” he asks, “What’s the news?”

“Oh, not much,” I reply, “same ol’ same ol’.”

It’s hard to reduce a lifetime of conversation into a bento box.