Category Archives: friendship

An Eye for an Eyebrow

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev. 21:4) NKJ

It was clear when looking in the mirror not too long ago that it was time to do something about my eyebrows.  I am always disgruntled when this revelation greets me in my reflection because I know that inevitably, it will involve some pain. Not nearly brave enough to conquer my own necessary eyebrow maintenance, I weighed my options-some things after all are better left to professionals.

Headed to the mall that day, I remembered that I had previously noted that in one of the small retail kiosks in the midst of the mall there were vendors who offered the service of “eyebrow threading.”  Apparently this is a skillful art perfected in India, where a professional takes a single thread, twists it around your eyebrow hairs, and yanks them out from the root.  The results are supposedly more favorable to waxing because it offers a “cleaner” look with longer lasting results. As well, the sign which proclaimed “less painful than waxing” caught my eye as I passed by.

Already there, I took a moment to stop and purposefully observe the customer who had chosen to utilize this service at that very moment. I noticed that there was no flinching when the thread bearer quickly yanked, accomplishing the necessary task.  In fact, I didn’t notice any of the pained grimacing or tearing up that I was so familiar with in my own personal eyebrow maintenance routine.  Actually, I was amazed and began to become ecstatic at the thought that this peaceful eyebrow grooming experience could actually be mine! Next thing I know I was cheerfully sliding into the cool black reclining faux leather seat, leaning back, and  preparing to experience a peaceful, painless-perhaps even pleasant experience.

It only took a few moments however, for me to begin to contemplate whether the previous customer had either had sensory receptive issues or had been paid well to lure other potential customers into this seat of torture by looking so tremendously at ease during such a tumultuous experience.  The professional “threader” who initially greeted me with such a warm and welcoming smile was now looking rather irritated and frustrated with me as she inwardly grunted, shook her head “no” and had to repeatedly push my hand back down from covering my right eyebrow in an attempt to have a brief reprieve from the immense pain which she was inflicting upon me.  I experienced only a moment of relief when she held the mirror up for me to see the results of her labor..and then the tears came because I realized that I that I still had to sit and endure getting the other eyebrow done.  I was trapped, it was going to hurt-I KNEW it was going to hurt- and all I could do was sit there and suffer with the audience of anyone who happened to be shopping at the mall that day.  I was feeling helpless, vulnerable, and exposed, and all of my feelings were validated by the look I was getting from my new “friend” as she inched toward me preparing to complete the work that she had begun.

There have been many times when I have felt helpless, vulnerable and exposed as I have faced difficult circumstances and walked through hurt as a Believer.  Being part of the Body of Christ means that when we hurt, we do not hurt alone.  Personally, I have the tendency to want to run and hide.   To isolate, so that no one sees me in my weakness.   Those whom we journey with however, who encourage us during the “good” times are there as well when we struggle, when we mourn, when we our hearts are aching. And the truth is, that is exactly the way that the Father intended it to be.

I think that those who love us best during these times are the precious ones who quietly slip their hand in ours and squeeze, letting us know in their gentle and loving way that they are there- for whatever we need- when we are ready. This is the type of friend that I need when I am hurting and hope to be when someone that I love is hurting.

Abba Father, help me to effectively love those in my life who are hurting.  Help me to have wisdom and discernment to know how to encourage, minister to and stand beside those in my life whose hearts are aching.  Help me Father to be a true reflection of you as I gently and quietly listen, encourage and minister hope and truth to those with whom I run beside in this race of life.

 

 

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Shelf Life

           But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.     Heb. 13:16

            I walked into the “Family Room.”  Centrally placed on the Floor surrounded on all sides by the Pediatric Critical Care Unit, Intensive Care Unit and General Unit, it smelled of antiseptic mixed with take-out.

Over the last several days I had grown very thankful for the free coffee supplied in the family room.  Starbucks? No.   Coffee nonetheless though that was readily accessible greeting me each morning and helping me get through many difficult nights.

As I approached the automatic coffee machine I was surprised to see so many people in the room at such an early hour.  One man sat, with his head in his hands at the end of the too short couch covered in germ resistant plastic.  A woman, his wife I assumed, lay all scrunched up with her head in his lap.  Each of them sporting the Visitor tag from the Emergency room that I recognized all too easily.  They had had a rough night. It hadn’t been too long ago that I had experienced a night like that.

When I walked into the room he made eye contact with me.  I smiled and while his head nodded in response his lips turned upward slightly.  His exhaustion was evident…he was just too tired to smile back.

I could feel his eyes as I approached the coffee machine seeking its hot comfort within.  When I requested, by pressing upon the required lever with my cup, I was dismayed by its lack of response.  I turned around to meet his eyes.  He had known there was no coffee…and he had been watching me go through the process of figuring it out for myself.  “There’s no coffee?!”  I asked, as much shocked as sympathetic.  With eyebrows raised he shared his own disappointment while despondently shaking his head no.

I turned, frustrated that this little comfort had been neglected for people who so desperately needed a little comfort.  Something so small that had grown to mean so much.  I did an about face planning to head downstairs to purchase some coffee from a vendor.  As my hand reached the door handle, I paused.  I turned back around to the man, elbows resting on knees to support his head which he had placed back into his hands.  I walked closer to speak in a softer voice as to not disturb his still sleeping wife.  “I’m going downstairs to grab some coffee…would you like some?”  From his pocket he quickly offered a  $20.00 bill.  “Just a cup for my wife would be great…thank you so much.”  Finally a smile broke through.  In his “thank you” I could hear appreciation that surpassed that which would normally be offered for a cup of coffee.  It was appreciation for an unexpected act of kindness, by a stranger.

I marched downstairs on a mission.  In a very small way I had an opportunity to bring comfort and kindness to someone who was at a place I had been a very short time ago.  For the first time in weeks my heart felt joyful as I prepared the coffee as requested.  At a point when I was feeling pretty out of control and powerless in my own life I felt empowered by this simple act of kindness to someone else.

Does life have you at  a place where you feel set on a shelf?  Perhaps your normal ways of  living and giving are not feasible at this time.  It may be difficult,  but I encourage you to continue to offer others “life” in some form even as you sit on the shelf.  For when you offer life to others through love, kindness and compassion, you bring life to yourself.

Father, help me be a vessel through which you pour life into others. 

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Being Neighborly

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-3(NKJ)

I was late! Grabbing a cup of coffee and a breakfast bar I jumped in the car, backed full speed out of the driveway and was on my way.  Inwardly I groaned when I saw my neighbor from several doors down waving at me.  It wasn’t a casual, friendly wave, but instead a more demanding beckoning kind of wave directing me to pull into his driveway.

I glanced at the dash in irritation that now I was going to be even later and obediently pulled in. Rolling down my window with a forced smile to see what he needed I began our conversation with “Good morning! I’m late so I only have a sec, how are you this morning?”

This elderly gentleman had been one of the first  of our neighbors to greet our family when we moved into the neighborhood several years ago.  Always eager to talk, each time the kids and I would take a walk  he would typically intercept us at the edge of his yard both coming and going.  The weather, gardening, our dogs….the topics of conversation varied but consistent was his desire to engage.  Two individuals on opposite ends of life we only had the “generals” in common.  Obliging when possible my heart hurt for him recognizing that as an elderly widow his social opportunities were limited.  When my younger children would later express frustration at these unintended pauses in our agenda I would try to help them understand.  They became skilled at smiling and waiting patiently while I talked to “the old man.”

Although we probably exchanged names the first time we met, we never used them again; a smile and a “hey” were all that were necessary in our informal neighborly acquaintance.  We made him cookies at Christmas.  He bought chocolate bars from my son to support Boy Scouts.  In the summer we exchanged goodies from our garden.  Over the years we spoke less and less as life became busier for us and the children’s sports teams, lessons and social engagements replaced our leisurely strolls around the neighborhood.  Our “relationship” had become one of simply waving and smiling as we drove down the road.

This made this morning’s events unusual.  “I’m sorry to keep you, I just wanted to let you know that I have cancer….I’m dying.”  I was completely unprepared and sat, staring at his humble frailty in stunned silence.  “I’m so sorry” was all I could muster.  He went on to tell me what the doctors had shared, the medical difficulties he had been having for months, and how long they said he had to live.  I hadn’t even known he was sick.

“I made my peace with the Lord, I heard Him tell me everything was gonna be okay.  My preacher told me to make peace with the other people in my life…so…I just wanted to tell you if I have ever done anything to offend you– I’m sorry.”

Conviction washed over me.  My own heart’s contradiction slapped me in the face as I contemplated the fact that I was so initially irritated by his interruption because I was going to be late….to intercessory prayer.

Having gone on to be with the Lord only a few months later, my neighborly friend left me with a gift.  He served as a tangible reminder of what I would have already said that I knew.  In the Kingdom of God relationship trumps religion every single time.

Father, help me to love my neighbor as I love myself.

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Amish-y

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2 (KJV)

I’m not sure what I expected exactly…something primitive perhaps?  I felt shy and awkward as we entered the quaint yet beautiful home. Lingering in the doorway I stared back at the colorful array of flowers in the well manicured yard.

My dear friend greeted them as dear friends; smiling, embracing and laughing all at the same time.  I stood back tentatively feeling a little awkward; a stranger in an unfamiliar place concerned I was going to do or say something out of place.

Formal introductions were made.  I was “Tanya, the girl from Virginia who is fascinated by the Amish.”  The room erupted in giggles emerging from the five very Amish women before me.  Every bit of shy within me took over causing my face to fill with color. Genuine Smiles were coupled with their quiet and confident gentle presence.

It was true- I was fascinated by the Amish culture.  Fascinated that they chose to live so very different than the “rest” of us.  Fascinated that in a world full of conveniences they chose to live without them.  Fascinated that they would purposely forgo that which was modern, current and easy for the beauty and simplicity that their lifestyle seemed to represent.

I had spent the week visiting heart friends who just happened to live in the heart of Amish Country.  Knowing of my particular fondness of all things Amish, they had gone out of their way to give me the full tourist treatment.  Red barns nestled among beautiful rolling green hills,  clear blue skies, fresh country air and a town so small that there seemed to be no strangers.

Around every corner there was a surprise that delighted my soul. To my friends, the clip clopping of horse hooves was nothing to get excited about yet I would stop just to listen and watch in anticipation of the soon to be approaching buggy .  Beautiful Amish children clad head to toe in their well known garb walking to church behind their parents was a splendid sight to me, but simply commonplace to them.

Not only had a real Amish buggy ride been arranged by two sweet sisters earlier in the week, but now this very special traditional Amish luncheon had been planned in my honor.  I was simply overwhelmed not only by the kindness of my friends, but by the kindness of strangers who would go out of their way to bless me with both their time and hospitality.

Sitting around the table for five hours-which felt like 5 minutes- we enjoyed sweet fellowship.  We ate, talked and laughed.  My hosts were so very gracious opening up conversation with the invitation to ask anything I cared to or was curious about.  What an education I received!  Marriage, family, church and everyday life were among our topics of discussion.  Answers were offered in a down to earth and honest manner.  At times we laughed till we cried.

Later, thinking of each sweet woman of God I had had the pleasure to meet, I marveled at our likeness… wives, mothers, women.  We faced so many similar life experiences.  And yet, clearly, those places where we differed were profound.

Summing it all up however I decided that never had I seen a more tangible example of being “in the world but not of it” as these women’s lives offered.  There was something beautiful in that to me.

I pray too that my life can speak beauty to others as I demonstrate this characteristic.  That the way I live will speak of  difference in the places that matter.

Father help me to live a life that is set apart for you.

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The Naked Truth

but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— Eph 4:15 (NKJ) 

It had been years since I had been to an OB appointment.  After the birth of my second child and my husband’s gracious and sacrificial act of permanent birth control assurance, I had no trouble finding ample excuses for years of why I couldn’t go.

Somehow this became the topic of conversation among a group of female friends all sitting at the same table.  As I jested at how long it had been since I had been, the dear friend in front of me countered with a stern look containing both gentle disapproval and genuine concern.  She “encouraged” me, on no uncertain terms, to call her the following week with the name of the doctor and appointment time at which they would be seeing me. She shared of someone important in her life whose life had been saved due to the early detection of cervical cancer as a result of a pap smear.  In all of my taking care of others, she assured me, it was necessary that I take care of myself.

I can’t imagine that a Pap smear falls among the “top ten favorites” of any female’s list of life. Due to a childhood filled with traumatic sexual abuse however, I seem to struggle more than most when it comes to this unpleasant yet admittedly necessary task.  I did make the appointment but only penciled it in on my calendar and commenced contemplating my options.  Briefly, just briefly, I thought that perhaps I could just lie about it to my well meaning friend… I mean after all she wasn’t coming with me.  Feeling sick guilty at just the thought, I scratched that option off of my list.  I could accidentally forget…I mean, I do keep a very busy schedule.  I knew however that that excuse would fly about as well as… well…something that doesn’t. I would only be postponing the inevitable.  Deep down inside my friends’ words held much value to me because, like it or not, I knew that they were filled with truth.

The day arrived.  Dread was waiting beside my bed staring me in the face as I woke up.  Before my feet hit the floor, my mind cycled through old familiar emotions of sadness, anger, self-pity… frustration that the choices of others still had the ability to impact my life as they did.

I cried all the way to the office.  It was the normal routine.  I was thankful that the doctor came in to meet me for the first time before I was required to remove all of my clothing, drape the ugly, drab green, too thin hospital gown over myself and lay flat on the uncomfortable examining table with my feet in the stirrups.  As I shared my history with her the tears began again and refused to stop.  Exposed, vulnerable, and uncomfortable only skim the surface of the depth of my feelings.  The doctor was gentle, kind and understanding.  I was most thankful when at the conclusion of the exam she asked me if I would like to slip out of the back door of the office so I wouldn’t have to deal with a waiting room full of people. I’m quite certain that, at that moment, she could not have offered me a more gracious gift.

Good friends are the friends that are willing to speak truth, even the hardest of truth, in love.  They are the ones that are willing to bear the brunt of your response to truth for the sake of your well-being.  These are the kind of friends we should be most thankful for.  These are the kind of friends we should strive to be.

Father, help me to always speak the truth in love to others.          

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