(photo credit: TJ)
"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.. Ecc 4:9,10a)
When we first moved to West Africa, I thought, “I can do this. I can make friends. I feel confident in who I am and what God is doing in me.” Our first week or so, I was more outgoing than usual. At least more outgoing than I usually am. I made an effort to connect and get to know people. Then I got tired of all the new and just wanted to retreat. Some days it seemed easier to just read a book or fiddle around my kitchen. It was getting hard. Thankfully God didn't let me just give up. He gave me glimpses of hope in invitations for shopping or coffee but also used a book I am reading to remind me of my part in making new relationships.
In her book, Girl Meets Change, Kristen Strong gives some great advice on making friends in the chapter titled Because We All Need Friends in Low Places.
She says “We do three brave things: open up, show up, and lift up.”
1. OPEN UP
We open up when we let other people into our lives-we invite them into our homes. I have a friend who now lives in Bangladesh who is a great example of this. She is always reaching out to others by opening up her home. It is a vulnerable place to be. What if they don’t come? What is the food I am serving doesn’t turn out right? What if??
We had our first dinner guests last night. I decided to make pizza. The only problem is that I really have only one cookie sheet but I needed two pizzas. So I decided to make the first pizza and then slide it off the cookie sheet. Then I would just put the second pizza on the same sheet. It worked. Thankfully, my guests were gracious that both pizzas were not done at once. Sometimes we think we have to have everything perfect but really it is okay when we don’t. Most guests are happy to not have to cook and worry about the cleanup. Waiting on the second pizza gave us a reason to linger over the food and continue getting to know each other.
I need to open up more. The more I open up, the easier it gets. For me, it is the asking that is hard. Once that is over, the rest usually falls into place.
2. SHOW UP
We need to show up where other people are. I am not going to meet and get to know other people if I never leave my house. For me, it means going to devotions at the office every morning which is helping me get to know the staff better. Each day more faces look familiar, and I am more comfortable chatting with the person beside me. It also means going to the weekly ladies’ study even when I am feeling unsure if I fit in. Feelings can be fickle which is why we need to keep showing up even when it gets awkward at times.
This morning, it was just getting out and going for my morning walk. I was starting my walk at the same time as a lady I have been getting to know, and we ended up running together along the beach road. It was good to have someone to talk with as we did our morning exercise.
For young moms, it might be showing up at a playground or another place where moms with kids go. I once had a McDonald’s friend. One day I just needed to get out of the house so I took W to McDonald’s for lunch and to play on the playground since it was too hot to play outside. She made friends with another little girl on the playground, and I soon found myself chatting with the other mom. This became the beginning of our friendship. You never know what will happen when you show up.
3. LIFT UP
We need to lift up our needs including our need for friends to the Giver of all good things. He knows what kind of friend we need and also who might need us to be her friend. I remember before going to college how nervous I was about my new roommate. At two different summer camps, I had bad experiences with roommates. I remember my family praying that God would give me a good roommate. I am so thankful that He answered that prayer. My college roommate and I are still close friends today. She was an answer to prayer.
But it is also important to note (and Kristen in her book points this out) that sometimes our prayers might not be answered like we think they should. This could be a season where we need to invest and have time with our family. Or maybe it is season where we need to be alone with God. My first year of being a stay at home mom felt like that. I didn’t have a good network of friends that also stayed at home. On top of that some of my friends that had been staying home went back to work leaving them less time to get together. My husband was working long hours, and I found myself alone a lot. Looking back, it was a season of growth in my walk with God. Each afternoon, I had appointment with God in my chair when my kids were down for their nap. Evenings when my husband had to work, I often used that time to journal and spend in God’s word. It was a hard season but one I look back to with an appreciation for that time with God.
So as I make friends here. I am thankful for the people who have reached out to me. I am thankful for those I have connected with that I have a feeling will be life- long friends. But I also know this is just the beginning so I need to keep…
Opening up. Showing up. And Lifting up.
What about you? Do you need to open up, show up or lift up?
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