Reading a book on friendships, in the middle of another move, made for interesting emotions. Here in Arkansas I was delighted to be so close to friends I had from years ago when we lived near there. It was comfortable to connect with them as I ran around all of NW AR for errands and appointments, and we were authentic and real with each other, but not entwined in each other's lives. I was close enough to people we knew during our 18 years in Missouri, women who became deeper friends through time on Facebook, sharing prayers and stormy nights together online from afar. Of course my heart friendships from other places (back over 35 years of friendship) came with me wherever I went! These women know my scary, messy places and all the failures in my life and loved me anyways.
Still there was the group of women that I met through a church in Branson, MO that most of us ended up stepping away from in my short time in Arkansas. These women had a deep friendship group going, and they were brave enough to let me (and a few others) in. We did Book Clubs, and shared prayer requests and laughed a lot. They have been a huge blessing, even though it took me a while to find them (we tried churches for months before attending that one, and then a few months later things just didn't work out, and we all scattered! It was as if God allowed us to all attend church there just long enough to become friends!).
And then there were the women in my neighborhood that blessed me every time I went out to the mailbox, reminding me that they were just a few steps away. I can't count the number of times that we stood there at the curb, holding our mail and sharing the latest on our kids and grandkids, how God was working, how we could pray for each other.
We walked through a lot, these neighbor-friends and I. Sickness and health, loss of life, family problems, great celebrations of grandkids' milestones, and restoration of family.
Good neighbors don't just happen on accident.
Could I really trust God to open doors to friendship after such a rich season of GOOD friends like family?
The book Never Unfriended (Lisa-Jo Baker, B&H Books) brought all those thoughts (and more!) to the surface.
On the heels of the compilation book Craving Connection ((in)courage community, B&H Books) comes Lisa-Jo's second title, with her wise and whimsical way of sharing her struggles with friendships and all the feelings that go with being left out. She cheers us on to be the first to say hi and still shares her heart about all the things that can go wrong when you do. She honestly and openly lays out what God has to say about friendships, and relationships as a whole. She doesn't hold back by putting a pretty bow on a bad situation, but calls it as she sees it, and then tells us to move forward anyways.
She advocates hospitality, telling us, "If I wait for my house or my life to be perfect before inviting someone into it, I might never let anyone come through the door." She tells us to check comparison at the door. I loved the chapter on "Live Like the Kingdom is a Co-Op, Not a Competition." It's easy to fall into that realm over and over again. No coveting allowed in Kingdom friendships!
I feel that I've been living these examples over the past few years of us moving around, and can relate so much to the things she's writing. She and I are in different ages and stages of life, yet I think we've experienced the best (and worst) of friendship—as kids in lunch rooms and school clubs, to being left out from mommy gatherings, and even middle aged events. Today my friendships are healthy and rich, but as a kid I was awkward and didn't fit in. There's some of that still hanging around my edges, but women who have come to know me accept me as I am; flawed and imperfect and broken. I'm so grateful and thankful for my girlfriends.
I stop my writing when my husband walks in the door and we run to sign some papers at the realtors. Upon returning home, I walk up the steps to the mailbox, in the off-chance mail has found us (it hasn't). Out of the corner of my eye, I see Heather, our upstairs neighbor, walking to her mailbox too. We've only met a few times, and don't know each other well, but we're friends already. She greets me with a smile, arms wide open, welcoming me into her friendly hug. We talk for a bit, and exchange phone numbers, making a plan for staying in touch through the expected storms hitting us this afternoon. I welcome her to "not be afraid alone" when the storms hit. I tell her that I'll leave my door unlocked should she need to come down to my place, just a tad safer.
I return to my husband in our apartment, he's wondering what it was that took so long. When I mention Heather, he understands, I've been reaching out. I may not know much about things, but I know how to make a neighbor into a friend.
I don't know if Heather knows how she's impacting my life; she's an answer to prayer. I'm not sure if she'll come hang out in my bottom apartment during a tornado warning, or come to share a cuppa before we move out of this temporary housing, but I'm praying that we can continue the friendship long after we've moved into our home. Despite all our differences, we are sisters in Christ, and I want to hear her share her HIStory, learn her laugh, know her favorite cookie, and how she takes her coffee or tea. After all, that is what friendship can be all about.
©2017 Marina Bromley for Marina's Kitchen Table. I received a copy of the book Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker, from the publisher in advance, for my honest opinion in review. I loved it! You can purchase a copy for yourself through your favorite online or Christian retailer.