Guest Post: What Takes Friendship To The Next Level?

Friendship. It’s one of those special, almost magical things in life. When you have real, honest, genuine friends, it feels as though you can go through just about anything in life and still come out sane, and maybe even with a smile on your face. And without those people, you feel like a plant that hasn’t been watered in a really, really long time. Perhaps even one that has lived at my house, deprived of water, oxygen, and love, and then thrust outside thinking a little sunshine will revive it, only to char it to death.

Currently, I am a plant living somewhere other than my own house. I am thriving. I am flourishing. I feel loved, supported, encouraged on a regular basis. I am surrounded by a community of women that I cherish. I am part of a mom’s group that meets every Monday and leaves me feeling refreshed in my heart and soul and ready to face the week. I live 10 houses away, from a soul mate of a friend. I am part of an accountability group/goal setting group of women who love Jesus so deeply and fiercely that every time I’m with them I desire to grow in my relationship with Jesus. And other dear friends, who also live close by, who regularly make time for play dates with me and my kids, girl time, family dinners, and drop anything to help and support me.

And I am moving. Far, far way.

It’s been a slow and gradual thing, something we’ve been talking about for the last few months. The job sounds amazing. We are going to start a water well drilling company. (Let me clarify, we equals my husband and his current boss.) The company will be a for-profit company, but with the purpose of providing first-time access to clean water for communities by using the company profits to create a price point for not-for-profit organizations, churches and ministries that is affordable. We will be importing world-class water-well-drilling equipment, employing first-world drilling techniques and be undertaking hydro-geological investigations and site-specific surveys. We are really excited to be bringing a different business model to Nicaragua and impacting a different segment of society for Christ through our mission, approach to business, treatment of employees, and quality of goods and services that we provide.

We are both pumped. Like for real. And we’re moving back to a country we used to live in, Nicaragua. So the whole scary-moving abroad-thing isn’t as scary since we know and love this country very much.

Jessica with her husband Brandon and children Eliana, Hudson and Audra

However, despite that, I’m not handling this move very well. I’ve moved before, if fact, I’ve moved a lot. Specifically, eighteen times in the last fourteen years I’ve been married. But this time, I’m a hot mess. Like a, I had to cover my face while at the park with a friend, because I was crying such an ugly cry I didn’t want her to see my face mess. Jessica.get.it.together. But I can’t.
I recently heard a woman, Tonya Esler, speak on friendship, and some of the things she shared were so poignant, I have been mulling them over in my mind and heart all week. I have to share just three of her points with you:

~We all need trustworthy friends. (Can I hear a TRUTH to this?!) Look up Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

~A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9

~A friend is dependable. Romans 12:10

As we sat around our small group to talk through this, our leader asked a great question, “What, in your opinion, takes a friendship to the next level?” And immediately I knew my answer.

Letting your friends help you.

There are so many reasons why I don’t let others help me. Sometimes it’s simply because I don’t need help. Or rather, I’d love help, but I don’t know in what particular thing to ask for help. Perhaps it’s also because I don’t like asking. And, of course, it’s messy. It’s complicated. It has the potential to be slightly awkward. That is how I feel. And, put all those excuses together and tie them up with a pretty little bow of guilt. A sparkly one. Right on top. Tell me, how can I ask my friend to help me do anything, when I know her schedule is full? Or she also has a gaggle of kids so how can I ask her to watch another for me? Won’t that make life hard on her if she helps me?

Maybe.

Or, think back on the last time you helped someone out. How did you feel after? Pretty amazing, am I right? The last time I helped a friend we were at the park and her son hit the back of his head so hard he was gushing blood. As she applied pressure to her son’s head, I offered to take her newborn home with me so she could go to the ER. But after she pulled away, and only then, did I realize I wasn’t sure I could actually fit another car seat in my car. Gulp. So I calmly placed my three in their seats. Then I just sat there looking at the car seats jammed in there and as I looked closely, I realized I could probably fit three across in the middle. All I had to do was yank each car seat away from the empty middle seat and his infant carrier slid right it! I buckled him up and away we went. I was smiling to myself, knowing my friend could focus on her other child and I could handle FOUR kids. (Okay, true confession, it was only like 1 hour.)

When we allow others into the messy part of our lives, the part where things are hard or hectic or so wild that we need someone to help us, it has the potential to change us. I know this to be true because it changed me.

I honestly didn’t even know I had a problem with this. Clueless. It took a good friend to say to me, ever so lovingly, “Hey there, let me help you. Like for real. I wanna help, and I wouldn’t offer my help if I didn’t mean it.” Ooooo, she hit on something there. Often times I wonder what if the person offering to help didn’t really meant it, and they are annoyed that I actually took them up on it. Well, this same wise friend also told me, “You are not responsible for how other people feel.”

Boom! Game changer right there.

So for the past year I’ve been working on letting others in. More specifically, letting them help me. Because I’ve always been fairly good at pouring my heart out, being genuine and real and honest about life, my struggles, my marriage, my kids, etc. But what good does it do to share with a good friend how undone I am after my husband has been gone for a week, when if she offers to help and I respond, “thanks, that’s so sweet, but I’m ok.” Right?! It’s ridiculous. It’s like not putting a band-aid on my four-year old’s knee when she’s scraped it up. There is a problem, and I have the solution to help her wound heal (hello love me some Neosporin) and make her stop crying (cue Dory band-aid), and forget she even fell (lots of kisses and tickling).

And a funny thing has happened. I have done things I never dreamed of, or thought I could accomplish! Primarily because more hands really do lighten the load, and also my friends have different gifts and talents than I do! I’d love to share a few every-day examples that have made life more full, along with bigger examples of what I’ve seen come to fruition because I’ve allowed dear friends to help me.

~I launched my own Esthetician business in my house. This required the gifting of several different friends to help me decorate, chose which products to carry, create a menu and business cards, and one even hosted an opening night party for me!

~I called a neighbor friend crying so hard all I could squeak out was “You home?” to which she arrived one minute later. My son had busted his head open and dripped blood all around the house trying to find me. She watched my other two (because my husband was out of town) so I could take him to the ER, and even programmed it in my phone so I could find my way through teary eyes!

~Through the encouragement and prayers of many dear friends and family members I finally starting writing the book I’ve been dreaming of writing for over 7 years. (And because of them, I even went to an incredible conference called She Speaks (where I met the beautiful and delightful Heather!!), which put my butt in gear and got me writing!

~I “let” friends bring me dinner when my husband is out of town. (I’m telling you this was a hard one for me, to actually say, “yes, dinner would be amazing, because otherwise we’re having nuggets or eggs again).

~I let dear friends watch my kids. Sometimes so I can sleep, other times so I only have to take one sick child to the doctor (a huge, huge help!!) And once, a friend watched my kids so I could go get a pedicure!! (I was on day 9 of my husband being out of town, and she offered to watch my two kids so my 10-month-pregnant self could be pampered!)

I guess what I’m getting at is this: we’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village.” But I’ve realized I don’t need a whole dang village. I just need a few. A few rare and beautiful gems. And for me, some live close, while sadly, others are far away. But they are women who lift me up and point me to Jesus. They are women who love me unconditionally. They are women who ask me hard questions, and hold me accountable in many areas of my life. They are women who I laugh the hardest with and cry the ugliest with. They are women who have taught me how to let them in deeper still. Women who aren’t afraid of the sleep deprivation, the tantrums, the ugly, and the messy. Women I cannot do this fun, wild, hectic thing called life without.

So when was the last time you let someone help you? Are there people in your life that you have truly let in? Do you have a support system surrounding you? If so, perhaps consider sending them a note telling them just how special they are to you. And if not, I understand. I’ve been there. I’m about to be there again. So join me in praying. Come boldly before the Father, as I am. Let’s ask Him to provide amazing friends we can do life with, or maybe we just need to ask Him to show us how to go deeper with the friends He’s already put in our path.

A Little Thought From Heather:

When I think of the phrase “chance encounters,” I think of Jessica.  It’s why I’m not a big believer in “chance encounters” but rather in “divine appointments.”  

She and I thought we were just staying at a hotel close to the writers/speakers conference we were attending.  And we both thought we were just grabbing a bite to eat at the end of the pre-conference meetings.  I actually planned to take my food to the room and work on blog stuff while I ate.  But the Lord orchestrated our meeting along with three other women.  Hours later we had transitioned from the hotel cafe to the hotel lobby where we had our own prayer meeting for one another’s needs, callings and visions.  

My heart was prepared to meet Jessica.  Our family had recently returned from our very first foreign missions trip and here I met her, learning of her and her husband’s history as missionaries and their amazing miraculous journey through infertility.  It was one of those things where you just don’t want to ask, but then again you do.  I’m not sure how it eventually came up, but she proceeded to share with us the births of her two children and that in fact, she was expecting again (accompanying miracle number three as shown in the above photo).

Jessica is working on composing this beautiful story into a book, all while raising her three little people AND transitioning back to living in a foreign country.  In the meantime, you can gain nuggets of joy and inspiration as she shares her life through her blog. Please take some time to visit her at jessicastone.org   ❤ Heather

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Just Forget It

When we built our house in 2001, we chose to complete the room over the garage. It has served several purposes over the years. At first, it was somewhat of an office, with our inherited-from-my-parents, thirty-year-old, rinky-dink desk where our computer set along with our printer. We also kept our first set of living room furniture up there; two recliners and a sofa to relax along with our treadmill and weights to exercise.

As the kids continued coming along, the area transitioned into a much-needed playroom. In such time, the playroom has been forfeited to become a bedroom, giving each child their own space. Stay in one place long enough and you’ll see the scenery change time and time again. Something similar happens to us in our walk with the Lord. We develop and change as He uses us for His effectiveness.

That’s one reason we make goals for each New Year, isn’t it? We want to be a little different than we were the year before. We want to demonstrate growth in our character and spiritual maturity. Not that we weren’t fabulous and wonderful last year, but God’s picture of fabulous and wonderful may look a little different for us this year. Remember the office turned playroom turned bedroom? Same wonderful room. Different fabulous function.

Let’s talk about those goals. In nursing, we make goals each and every shift. Those goals are specific and measurable. For instance, if our goal is improved gas exchange, we will measure the outcome based on three “as evidenced by,” like decreased work of breathing, improved blood gases, and decreased need for supplemental oxygen. This approach to setting goals can definitely be beneficial for our personal lives as well.

Stepping into the New Year, each individual person in our home set the following goals for themselves:

Educational
Physical
Spiritual
Financial- a giving goal, a saving goal and a purchasing goal

These goals, and how we measure the goal, looks different for each of us, from the six-year-old, to the nine-year-old, to the twelve-year-old, to the nearly fifteen-year-old, on up to the mom and dad. Nevertheless, we each have our goals written out with our game plan to attain them for one another to see.

Here are a couple benefits to writing them:

–keeps us on track
–keeps us accountable

Our Pastor use to say, “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Proverbs 29:18 informs us having vision, divine guidance, and revelation keeps us disciplined, in return, bringing wisdom, joy, and happiness. *see translations: NLT, NIV, ESV, KJV

So, if we understand the benefit of setting goals and having vision, why do we have such difficulty following through with our goals?

I suppose there are more reasons than one blog post could contain, at least there are for me. But if I may share a piece of my heart with you today, as we dive into that question, and continue on with the topic again in another post (because again, that question is too deep for one post).

Maybe you identify with lack of focus; lack of self-discipline; a negative mind-set. Those are all detrimental to achieving goals. Another vision killer is feeling overwhelmed. The task seems too big, you don’t know where to begin, you feel ill-equipped for the dream. So what happens, you may be familiar with the phrase, “just forget it!

I’ve seen it. Remember the playroom? The space provided such fun and creativity, such joy and a level of carelessness….for a time. It’d all come crashing in when I’d holler, “It’s time to pick up!” I believe the kids wanted to pick up and put things away in an admirably orderly fashion, however, when every toy is on the floor, they just didn’t know where to start. It’s that whole, “how do you eat an elephant?” kind of question (which by the way, always grosses me out, I mean, who would even think about eating an elephant?).

You know how to pick up a crazy mess of a playroom, just like you know the answer to that icky elephant question. One toy at a time. (Or one bite at a time, if you choose to go that route).

I wrote down some crazy big dreams this year. And let me tell you, they scare me. I’m so afraid of failing or disappointing (my family, my Lord, and really myself too) that I almost didn’t even want to write them down. But it’s one toy at a time. And if I get close, it’ll be that much closer and I’ll be that much more of who He wants me to be than I was on 12/31/2015, because by writing them down I’m exercising obedience and trust in Him. Aim for something with me, even if you don’t hit the target, you’ll get closer than you were before.

That room over the garage is close to a studio apartment for the kiddo who calls it, “my room.” The other kids have vision for the room too though; a vision that includes a ping-pong or pool table when the room is one day vacated. That growing-closer-by-the-year event is one Dad and I don’t want to envision yet.   Nevertheless, whatever the future holds, we’ll have a room over the garage, and it’ll be used. It’ll be the same room with a potentially different use, effectively illustrating our heart’s desire for the Lord to continue doing the same with us.

Hebrews 13:21 NLT
may He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you,through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen.

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