To my friends: It’s not you, it’s me.

Friendship: It’s complicated. But it shouldn’t be, right? In my friend-related experiences throughout my life, there have been more than a handful of difficult situations, and it took me dozens of years to realize that I was a major part of the problem! (I know, call me dense… I am.)

The epiphany began when I realized that I expected perfection from my friends. In the past I told myself that I just had high standards, that I just wanted friends who were willing to put in the same amount of work I was willing to put in. Never mind the fact that I made mistakes (such as choosing guys over friendships, lying to spare feelings, etc.); my friends were held to a higher standard. It was almost as if I had a three-strikes, you’re out rule. I had this fierce love for my friends but also a strong sense of loyalty, and if I felt that trust had been breached, well, goodbye to them. There have been two major friendships in my life that I have walked away from because I held them to unrealistic expectations, and when they failed to measure up too many times, I walked away. Yikes. I cringe when I think of the friendship faux-pas I’ve made, and the feelings I’ve hurt in the process. While it is TOTALLY true that there are toxic friendships no person should tolerate (someone who puts you down constantly, abuses your trust over and over, etc.), we also have to remember that our friends are HUMAN just like us, and they make mistakes (just like US!). Is it fair to walk away because we feel we’ve been wronged a few times? In my case, I look back on my early friendship years and realize it was I who just needed to toughen up, forgive, and forget.

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Now that I’m 30, a lot has changed; you could say I’ve finally started to grow up, even. (Sad that it took me this long, but I’m glad it’s finally happened!) There is a special person whom I think about with fondness, a person who I actually walked away from years ago for a time because of something I perceived as detrimental to our friendship. (It wasn’t. I know now I was the one with the problem.)  Once I realized my mistake, she forgave me easily as the breeze, but after turning my back on her even for that short time, our friendship was never quite the same. There is no way I can ever completely fix what I essentially shoved in the dust. I created a permanent rift. It’s barely there, something someone on the outside wouldn’t even notice, but I know its’ presence, and I know it’s my fault. The funny thing is, after my divorce and my mini friend exodus (you can read about that more in a previous post if you are so inclined), THIS friend was one of the few who actually stood by me and with me in my muck and mire.  Ironic, isn’t it?

These days, friendships are harder to come by for me. I’m a different person after my divorce; I’m much more cautious about who I let into my life. Sometimes I miss the old, social, bubbly, talkative me, who would let anyone in and love them with abandon. But whether we like it or not, time and life experience change us, for better or worse.

These realizations have actually helped me to change for the better. Understanding my own strengths and weaknesses can only be beneficial for when I enter a new relationship, for I know now that when things get tough, I need to open myself up to freely give out God’s grace, and spread wide my arms instead of closing them tightly.

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Duck Culture

I went to my first Oregon Ducks game last weekend. Not really being a football fan, or a sports fan in general, I just wanted to go for the experience. And let me just say wow, an experience it was, indeed! The stands were packed with Duck fans in green, yellow, and black. Apparently there is a theme color every game which the fans are supposed to wear. Who knew? The Duck fans knew the same cheers and songs, they gave out high fives like parents give out candy on Halloween, and they danced like they were backing up Beyonce. Being a Duck fan is like being in this exciting, exclusive club, like the Babysitter’s Club except with adults, and beer.

It was amazing to watch and be a part of for those few hours, but guess what?

I don’t want in.

Attending a Ducks game helped me realize I am an even bigger dork than I ever realized. I think I watched the people around me, the cheerleaders, and then band more than I watched the actual game. When everyone was cheering and clapping, I didn’t feel compelled to join in, I felt compelled to watch the human interactions around me. I spied the Cougar fans around me and wondered if they felt out of place, or even a little uneasy as they were outnumbered easily ten to one (but probably much more). I stared at the young children sporting Ducks gear and painted face and wondered how young their parents had started conditioning them to love “Our Ducks.” I looked on as grown men threw tantrums when refs made a call they didn’t like. I also gazed at young love-struck couples bonding over a shared love for sports, and old couples with walkers and canes snuggling together, sharing what has possibly been a dating tradition of theirs for decades. I watched college students find a place where they felt they truly belonged, and friends bond over tradition. And the few times I actually watched the game, I saw a team of men who were dedicated so strongly to a cause that they put their sweat, heart, and possibly even their soul into it. So please, don’t get me wrong, I think that the sports culture in America can be fun and healthy, and a great place to seek unity. It’s just not who I am.

I do have one major issue with American sports:

In a moment of clarity, my mind was put at unease when I realized that I might be safer at a Ducks game than a child (or adult) in an American public school. THAT is what really got me thinking about our American values. When I walked into that stadium, my purse was checked. There were police officers and security guards stationed EVERYWHERE. I felt safe. I want my kids to feel that safe when they go to school.

America, do we love our children as much as we love our sports? Just a thought I’m mulling over…

A Spirit Not of Fear

It’s a desperate place to be as a mother, knowing that my children are not safe in this world. There are always dangers, have been since the beginning of the time– but the dangers of living in this present world seem bigger, scarier, and less predictable.

In light of the recent shooting at Umpqua Community College, which happened just an hours drive from the where we live, I just want to hug my children close and never let them go. In my extremely illogical moments I wonder if I can create a huge, armored body suit with one big body but 14 arm holes, 14 leg holes, and 7 head holes that we can all wear in order to never, ever be apart. I want to be like Sally Field in Steel Magnolias and break down, screaming “I wanna know why! Why, why, whyyyyyyyyyyyyy??” Why is there so much hate buried deep in the hearts of so many people? Why is hate able to grow organize and gain strength, and why does hate think it has the right to break laws?  Why are there so many people with mental illness going without help and support? Why is it a trend in America to shoot up schools? Why did he think he had the right to rip ten innocent lives from this earth?

And the scariest question in my mind is, Where will it happen next?

My days since the shooting have been a mess of fear, sadness, and anxiety.

But I know it will not help me or my children to live in fear and paranoia. I will not live in fear, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control. (2 Tim 1:7)

Power. I have the power to make the best decisions I can regarding the safety of my children. I vow to know where they are and who they are with, and I vow to keep them safe to the best of my ability. I have the power to prepare my family the best I can for whatever might come our way. I have the power to live my life in such a way that will remind my children and those around me that God is still at work in this scary world.

Love. I will love my children fiercely and forever. I will read to them, sing with them, play games and do puzzles with them, be silly with them, listen to them, hug and kiss them, and teach them about God, goodness, love, light and truth.

Self Control. I will not let my mind wander down rabbit trails of worry and paranoia. I will  cast my fears at Jesus’ feet. I will do something productive when I feel anxious.

As a mother and as a woman of faith I cannot let this tragedy scare me any more. The spirit of fear is not helpful or beneficial, and it’s not of God. Lord help me and all the mothers of America live in your spirit of power and love.