Alone With Sickness

My mother miscarried me a few months into her pregnancy.  The amount of blood loss confirmed her Doctor’s suspicions, no more baby.  Except, I wasn’t gone.  My delighted parents discovered that wonderful news a few weeks later.

Unfortunately, developing systems, deprived of nutrition for a time, did not develop correctly.  From birth, my digestive tract started raising a ruckus.  Since 90% of our immune systems are in the gut, a malfunctioning one also opens the door to other annoyances like chronic bronchitis and pneumonia.

Throughout my life, I’ve been separated from my herds by health issues.  Three hundred third graders enjoyed a week of Bible camp in the Pennsylvania Poconos.  I was rushed from the camp to a hospital, with pneumonia, during a gorgeous July.  In elementary school, I raised my hand for restroom privileges more than any other kid.  In Junior High, I carried all my books all day, so I could use the restroom at every break. Chronic stomach pains became daily companions and made field trips interesting.

In high school and college, I added colon, liver and gall bladder attacks to my repertoire.   On my honeymoon, at a marina, I found myself curled up in the fetal position on the cement floor of the lady’s bath house, unable to move.  A terrified woman ran from boat to boat until she found my husband.

Thank God, in the last twenty years He steered me towards doctors and homeopaths who understand my unique challenges. I’ve learned much about the best way to keep my engine tuned.  In fact, this winter is one of the healthiest I’ve experienced in many.  I’ll never forget, though, all the times I’ve missed life, sitting home alone while others enjoy.  I also remember many times I directed shows or choreographed large events, and then collapsed with a flu or respiratory illness afterwards, sometimes lasting for months.

I’ve met many folks in leadership who suffer from debilitating, chronic health issues.  Like me, only their closest friends and family know their backstory.  The expectation on a leader is for strength and virility. We’re loathe to share our situations with too many people for fear we will be perceived as weak or unreliable.

In the quiet aloneness of many years, God educated me about chronic pain and illness and how to cope with their isolating effects.

  • Ask and believe for healing. For some reason, I used to think it was presumptuous of me to ask God to be my doctor.  What a goofy idea.  “You have not because you ask not.” James 4:2 NIV “For I will restore health to you and heal your wounds, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 30:17 NIV
  • Healing is usually a process.  I’ve experienced a few miraculous healings but most of my restorations have taken time.  God simply doesn’t count the way we do. He’s also more interested in my character than my comfort, which is a hard pill to swallow sometimes.
  • Consistently operating beyond your energy creates more problems. All leaders need to delegate and share their responsibilities.  Be realistic about what you should do and then ask God to send people to partner with you for the rest.  A quarterback doesn’t play when his defense is on the field.  He rests and prepares for the next time the offensive line is called out.  If you insist on playing non-stop in every quarter, you WILL let your team down when they need you.  Additionally, you are preventing others from developing their leadership skills.
  • Be truthful about your health with a trusted circle of people.  Your whole organization doesn’t need to know every detail of all your fights, but you need trusted confidantes and prayer warriors on your team. Having said that, though, the more I pour my heart out to God about the day’s health challenges, the less I feel the need to talk to anyone else.  I choose to let prayer partners come alongside me for combined faith power, not sympathy.
  • Believe the truth that in our weakness, He is strong. “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’ve seen God do great things, amazing works, at some of my weakest moments.  He and I are the only ones who truly know all the behind the scenes stories of healing and strength He’s given me in the face of daunting tasks.

  • Listen for God’s insights about your body.  Remember, the Great Physician also created you and He knows what it will take to set you to rights.  He will lead you to answers and people with answers, if you listen.  Sometimes He’ll remind you of simple things you may forget, like drinking enough H2O each day.

Are you sitting home alone right now due to sickness or pain? Are you plowing through something that simply must be done, barely able to hold your head up?  I understand but He understands better.  Listen, learn and obey.   Rest in the truth that before something touches you it passes through your Father’s hands.

“For, I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, NOT to harm you.” Jeremiah 29:11

The Loneliness of Failure

I wanted to clamber onto the stage and get up in the grill of some choir students, who were behaving like Philistines during a concert. 60 out of the 65 students sang their hearts out.  The other five flicked people’s hair, purposely and loudly sang wrong notes, shouted to friends in the audience and made obscene gestures with their hands.

I took over a chaotic high school choir program in a tough, inner-city school one January day.  The previous vocal music teacher simply walked out of class a month earlier, never to return.  In four years, four teachers tried to wrangle these students. I was the fifth.  My new students home stories broke my heart every single day. Their complex behavioral issues left me drained.

On top of my most motivated students being dysfunctional, my choir classes received consistent dumps of students with severe behavioral problems.  They didn’t bother to meet with guidance counselors  to choose electives they liked.  When those classes filled up, everyone else got dropped into my class.  Most days, 7-8 students fidgeted in various time out locations.  With zero interest in music, they were incapable of sitting by other students.

As our concert approached, I gave the anti-choir bunch the option of writing a paper rather than perform.  When they all chose the concert, I reminded them they would be tested individually on the concert music along with singing in the actual performance.  We all discovered that two weeks of paying attention doesn’t compensate for seven weeks of tomfoolery.

Even if every student sang their best, that concert would have been sketchy.  With all the discipline problems and staff changes, students never learned to sing.  The few naturally talented singers couldn’t overcome the earnest sounds of everyone else.  The polite golf claps after each song spoke volumes.  The next day choir students endured mocking in the hallways.  My first concert in a new school went into the fail column. I felt a dreadful loneliness as I listened to the successes of other classrooms during my lunch breaks in the teacher’s lounge. I seemed to be the only failing teacher.

Feelings of isolation often accompany failure.  It seems that our eyes fall on others succeeding in the areas we are failing.  I went to a music teacher’s conference shortly after that concert and left half way through.  Everyone but me was winning awards, growing programs, hiring assistants, etc. etc.   I’m guessing some of exxagerated.

It’s not failure that keeps you from success.  All successful people experience failure.  It’s what you do afterwards that leads to either achieving goals or settling for less.  For example, I went from  top music dog in my high school choir to a college freshman who couldn’t land a single solo or dramatic role. Nevertheless, I kept on auditioning until I finally scored some great parts.  It took two years.  That’s like an eternity when you’re in college.  Why didn’t I quit or change majors or something?  I credit my parents with some of my success principles.

  • Failure is no reason to abandon a passion or talent.  When my father first entered the greenhouse industry, at the age of forty, he lacked knowledge and experience. Consequently, he authored several crop fails initially. The sickening sight of hundreds of plants tossed on our dump pile is still unforgettable.  In the face of that, his passion and gifts for growing beautiful flowers propelled him to learn from his mistakes and adjust.  Today people will drive 45 minutes past other greenhouses to buy his products.  Whatever passions and gifts God places in you must endure the tests of failures to be fully developed. Gain knowledge, make course corrections and keep moving.
  • Successful people get up, overcome obstacles and do something towards achieving their goals every day. My mother endured moderate to intense back pain from childhood until the day God took her home.  It would have been understandable for her to stay at home and rest.  She didn’t.  She wanted her three children to attend college, for she and Dad to pay off our house and to have great health insurance.  To reach those goals, she worked outside her home for over fifty years.  All successful people must find their way under, around, through and over obstacles.

So, what happened with the choir?   The concert fail pushed me to gain knowledge and adjust my course.  I didn’t give students the paper or concert choice again.  They either made honest attempts to learn and perform or they failed the class and took a different elective.  I sought knowledge about behavioral problems and learned to put enforceable boundaries into place for example, “I only teach when students are listening.”  Fairly quickly, unruly students figured out that creating music together was a lot more fun than spending the whole hour messing around and failing a class.

At our next concert, applause was enthusiastic, students excited and parents grateful. Most of them had never experienced a successful choir performance.

God places passions and gifts inside you.  Expect some failures as you work to turn them into life goals and then achieve them.  That’s the nature of the fallen world we live in.   Don’t allow the heartbreak and loneliness of failures push you into a mediocre, unfulfilled life.

 

 

The Buck Stops Here

The look of consternation on my husband’s face caught my eye as I glided past his office, located next to mine.  I doubled back and sat down in one of his office chairs.  His eye roll told me volumes about the conversation.  The angry soul on the other end spoke so loudly it, I could hear most of what they were saying.

“It just speaks poorly of our church for our lawns to look so bad! You should be doin’ somethin’ about that today, Pastor Ken!”  Due to a rainy spell, our church’s lawn service allowed our grass to grow a bit longer than usual.  One irate parishioner decided the senior pastor should solve that problem immediately.   I think they secretly hoped Ken would fetch our lawn mower and jump right on that.  He didn’t.

Ken’s transition from associate to senior pastor came with opportunities for him to use his primary gifts of teaching and administration to a greater degree.  The move also came with the responsibility of all bucks stopping at his desk.  When our youth group did jello wrestling in our church fellowship hall (true story), many bucks landed on Pastor Ken’s desk.  When bulletins sported typos, some people couldn’t wait for a Monday morning phone call and grabbed him in between services.  Somebody thought the price of the lady’s guild’s pig in a blankets was way too high and decided that was a senior pastor problem to solve.

Any upward movement comes with more responsibility.  When a job title starts with senior, vice president, lead, manager, supervisor, and such, it comes with a real or imaginary desk where bucks like to stop.  Jesus experienced that sensation many times.  When a hungry crowd stared up at the twelve, they all pointed in Jesus’ direction. Most significantly, the abrupt and brutal end of Jesus’ ministry didn’t wind up with all his disciples on crosses, just Him.

When I start to feel the weight of problems to solve or mistakes to correct and sometimes apologize for, I remind myself that this is what leaders do.  If I don’t want this stuff, then I need to be a follower who allows others to forge the paths.

God didn’t gift me with administration and leadership, though, to keep it on a shelf, unused.  If I’m not using those gifts in some arena, I won’t be fulfilling my destiny and will probably feel frustrated.  Don’t let the challenges of leadership stop you!  Don’t avoid disciplining your children because you want to be their friend.  Don’t allow students to run your classroom with poor behavior. Set and enforce boundaries.  Don’t shy away from a promotion you are deserving of and skilled for because you don’t want to deal with the criticism and jealousies.  If God has given you any kind of leadership gifts, you won’t be content unless you are using them.

Here’s a few strategies for handling all the stuff that lands in your inbox.

  • Refuse to take up a spirit of offense. Getting chewed for the failings of someone under you is never pleasant.  Remember, you are the problem solver, not the creator, so don’t let yourself get all huffy.
  • Keep your voice and demeanor steady and kind. This is tough to do with a screaming parent or customer up in your business but I have found it to be an effective calming technique for myself and others.
  • Take a few beats before dealing with the one who originated the problem.  You need time to respond, not react.   Sometimes I’ve watched folks handle a complaint beautifully then go off the rails when they confront the individual that prompted it.
  • Make the tough choices.   If you’ve got someone under you that generates a lot of action in the buck department, it’s up to you to administer consequences that help them and your organization.  If you are taking heat for someone, they need to feel some of it or there is no motivation to change their behavior.

There is such a joy in leading people to conquer mountains and achieve group goals.  Expect complaints and criticisms to land at your feet because you are the guide.  Use them as skill builders instead of permanent road blocks.

 

 

Jack Of All Trades

The smell of cedar returns me to my childhood church, working with my father in his custodial duties.  I sprinkled the cedar shavings on floors and together we swept many a dusty room in our century old building.  Although these are pleasant memories for me, I suspect they are less so for Dad.  The custodial hat was one of many he wore during that time.

Not only did my father function as part-time janitor for Oreland Baptist, he also served as part-time minister of music.  Well, that doesn’t sound so awful, you might think.  It wouldn’t be, except that those jobs were piled on top of a full-time position in the parts department of a large car dealership.  Add husband, father, son to that and I don’t recall the man having much free time.

I know single folks who work full-time, parent alone and care for aging relatives.  Pastors we’ve met are in small churches where they preach, visit, answer phones, clean bathrooms and type up the bulletins.  I’m also thinking of friends whose titles are administrative assistant but spend work time grocery shopping, wrapping gifts, caring for their boss’s children, picking up dry cleaning and a host of other tasks far removed from their job descriptions.

The speed at which we need to swap hats and roles can by dizzying at times.  Often this can create feelings of isolation and loneliness.  We perceive other people’s lives as far more simple and focused than our own.  It can seem that peers with similar positions are taking mountains and checking off goals far better than we are.  Sometimes I’ve felt exhausted from spending my resources on things that seem completely unrelated to my life goals. How about you?

Multi-tasking and flexibility are terrific strengths to develop. They are qualities employers seek, along with flexibility.  So, what can we do to get over that sensation that we are constantly breaking dishes while everyone else is keeping all theirs up in the air?

First, it seems obvious but I will remind you anyway; take your stuff to Jesus. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’”  Matthew 11:28 NLT   I like to put the emphasis on me.  If we run to people first, they can help us to some degree.  If you do this continually, they will dread seeing your number on their screen.   Jesus never wearies of us and he’s the only one with the might to change our circumstances and our energy levels.

“They that wait upon the Lord SHALL renew their strength; they SHALL mount up with wings as eagles; they SHALL run, and not be weary, and they SHALL walk, and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31 NIV   If you are shortchanging personal time with God, you are keeping from yourself the very thing that will enable you to withstand this season of life.

I’ve wasted these periods in the past.  Don’t just grit your teeth and plow through your juggling acts grimly.  This is an opportunity to learn so, so many things, like peace during chaos or joy above negativity.   Remember, the trip to the Promised Land was an eleven-day journey.  God kept those sillies  in the wilderness for 40 years because they refused to listen, obey and grow.

The second thing to consider is that isolation is the enemy’s strategy, not God’s. Our Father created us for relationship.  Be apprised that Satan will endeavor to construe your vision.  He wants you to believe that you are a failure while others in your line of vision are crossing finish lines. After you’ve carried your troubles to God first, find a key person or two to share your struggles with.  Your goal should be prayer support and wisdom not sympathy.  Watch out for that victim mentality that Satan wants to saddle you with.

Jonathan not only gifted David with friendship, he also possessed wisdom as to how to best to deal with his looney father, King Saul.  Wise friends can view our situations and offer fresh insights.  Give them permission to point out things that you might not see.  For example, you could be in bondage to perfectionism.  You’re not happy even when your plates are all up in the air if some are wobbling!

Frequently we are juggling plates that aren’t ours or should be shared. I overheard a woman complaining to her friend about her siblings not doing their share caring for aging parents. When her friend asked if she had spoken with her sisters she said, “No!  But they should just know, shouldn’t they?”   I seriously wanted to jump into that conversation.

Another occasion, a woman complained to me that she didn’t know how she could continue to work full time and keep up all her housework, grocery shopping, etc.  After a few questions, I discovered that she assigned no household chores to her three teenagers!  That’s loco folks!  Put those moochers to work at home!

Only God contains every resource, every bit of wisdom and strategy you need to navigate your circus.  He alone can grant you supernatural strength beyond your own.  Cast all your hats and dishes at His feet every day.

 

 

 

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

I spent the summer of my fifteenth year enduring the worst job I’ve ever experienced.  I didn’t muck out horse stalls or wash toilets.  I sat alone in a room, eight hours a day, cutting up books of quotes and poems and organizing them into notebooks by subject.  It was a made up, thrown together job.  I knew it and so did everyone else in the organization.

Earlier that Spring my father connected with family friends who ran a parachurch ministry.  He inquired about a place for me working with children, one of their main missions.  A key director assured Dad that I would be interviewed as a formality but should plan on spending my summer days at their facility engaged with kiddos.

Weeks passed. No one called. Finally, I phoned the personnel director.  She not only didn’t recognize my name, she informed me that all summer positions had been filled.  When Dad phoned the director himself, the embarrassed man hemmed and hawed and muttered some things about miscommunication.

I had turned down other job opportunities due to the promise of this one. Angered, my father firmly stated that the director would be a man of his word and that I would  be working there that summer.  He seemed angry that my father didn’t just go back down. Instead of finding a solution involving children, he created the job I described above.

Another branch of this ministry involved a popular radio show.  The host loved to use quotes in his opening monologue but struggled to find them in a timely manner.   It was decided that I would spend my summer being his human google search engine.

All summer long I sat at a table cutting and pasting, listening to the sounds of children and the other young staff through the open windows.  Struck with a guilty conscience, I believe, the director came into my little prison every single day to either thank me for my “very important work” or say something encouraging.  He sounded like some of the syrupy quotes in the books.   Never once did he apologize.

At home, I never said a word about my misery.  I didn’t want to create trouble between my parents and this ministry which did great work.  And since they raised me right, I did not spread an evil report about the unfairness of my situation to the other junior staff who I ate lunch with every day.  The loneliness of feeling jerked around by someone else’s mistake and attempted cover up, ached inside me.

That certainly wasn’t the last time I was manhandled by an authority. The pain of being messed with by someone above you can be isolating.  When the same person refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing, it makes for a tough situation.  As believers, we know it’s wrong to be running to co-workers with gossip and complaints concerning our bosses. On the other hand we are fearful of confronting a boss for fear of making our situation worse or losing our job. What can we do?

  • Discern whether to stand your ground or shake off the dust.  In 2 Chronicles 20:17 and Exodus 14:14, God tells his people to stand their ground and He will fight for them.   In Matthew 10:14 Jesus tells his disciples to leave towns that don’t receive them.  In some situations, I’ve been a tenacious terrier, refusing to allow a difficult superior to drive me out.   Other times, I’ve left situations where I was tolerated, not celebrated.  The only way I knew whether to dig in or bug out was by listening to God and gaining clear direction.   I ask Him for specific verses. I fasten myself to them so I can endure the headwinds of staying in a difficult circumstance or the fallout from leaving.
  • If you stay, ask God to change you and the one above you.  I grew in grace and patience under difficult people.  I learned to hold my tongue and refuse to take up offense.  Sometimes God changed the people above me or just removed them entirely.  A few times he led me to stay and deepen my character through unchanging, unmoving folks.
  • Seek counsel from mature believers outside of your circumstances.  It’s good to find someone who has no dog in whatever hunt you’re running in, to talk to.  Please be warned, it’s easy to flow in a victim mentality and paint a grand picture of how villainous your boss is.  Try to just state facts and share how you feel.  Assassinating a character is not kingdom behavior.  Besides, we need to consider the fact that some of our behavior might be triggering the negative responses in our superiors.  An objective outsider can help us see that if we will be truthful and fact-based.  Sometimes we think others are the problem when it’s us.

God allows everyone to encounter a bad boss at some point in their lives.  How we handle that challenge can either set us up for our next success or hold us back in spiritual elementary school.

Making the Tough Calls

Firing a friend stinks no matter how you phrase it.  My husband let several people go during our years as business owners.  We hired many brothers and sisters in Christ, many in transition between ministries.  Some we knew quite well.  Most of them worked hard and diligently learned the skills necessary for their positions.

A few never mastered key tasks critical to the detailed insurance industry.  Our agency paid fines to the state due to incorrect information on individual policies.  Angry customers barked at our customer service reps because their coverage wasn’t what they requested. This discovery often occurred at accident scenes. Sometimes customer records were stored improperly or completely MIA.  Our csr’s, again, would take the hit when clients called for specific policy information.

Sleepless nights always proceeded the wretched task of “giving someone the opportunity to succeed in a different company,” as my husband phrased it.  The pain of knowingly removing someone’s income and reason to get up in the morning weighs heavily.  In the early years we tried to salvage employees that simply lacked skills or work ethics.  This approach damaged the morale of employees who did their job correctly.  We forced our star workers to carry the weight of other’s poor performances.

We learned to speak the truth in love and execute hard decisions.  A couple folks were so shocked and lacked self-awareness that they left angrily and then trash talked us.  Their bitter attitude, after so much mercy, hurt.  Making tough choices is a harsh reality of leadership.

I’ve observed leaders and pastors who abdicate their responsibility in this arena.  Bullies and complainers are given way too much play and cause substantial damage when a leader won’t do their job.  This applies to families, businesses, churches and governments.

Great leaders rise to occasions and make wise decisions in the face of conflict, criticism, and even danger.  Everywhere from battlefields to businesses, from churches, schools and homes, the world is crying out for courageous, skilled leaders.  You must decide in whatever arena of influence God has given you, what kind of leader you will be. If you desire to be a world shaker and functioning on the forward lines of the kingdom, you will suffer some personal losses.   Here’s a few:

  • Losing the popular vote- This is when you must choose to do the righteous thing even when it flies in the face of majority opinion.  We’ve lost some relationships over these kinds of decisions.
  • Losing your life- When you are willing to lay down your life, resources and dreams for the sake of God’s will and purposes, you are an exceptional leader. Trying to advance your own cause and expecting God to bless it, is a doomed endeavor. Please recall Jesus’ admonition that folks who try to save their lives will lose them. Discover how and where God is moving and blessing and join Him in His work.
  • Losing peace, temporarily-  Holding employees to a standard, correcting straying church members or disciplining a rebellious child are not cuddly moments.  In general, people don’t like to be told they’re missing the mark. Most don’t receive it well.   Just remember, there’s a difference between making peace and keeping the peace.
  • Losing pride-  At times, leaders must recognize that they are the source of a problem. This can be due to us trying to excel in too many areas, instead of bringing other skilled people along with us.  Sometimes we ball up the works clinging to systems and methods that use to be successful but are no longer.  Other times we roll out change too quickly. The point is, a great leader acknowledges when they boggle things and seek appropriate solutions.

If you’ve been avoiding a tough call, face up to it and deal with people in a straightforward, kind manner.  If a dying program needs to be cut, do it.  Need to change processes or personnel, then seek God’s wisdom and make the alterations.  Stand firm in the face of the blowback.   If someone needs some loving confrontation and consequences, get it done and don’t expect a thank you.

It’s resting on you as to whether your family, ministry, business or whatever soars towards it’s God ordained destiny or languishes in a puddle of unresolved problems and unmade decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Loneliness of Leadership

“It’s friendship, friendship, just the perfect blendship.

When other friendships have been forgot,

Ours will still be hot!”

One of my favorite episodes of “I Love Lucy,” is one in which Lucy and her best friend, Ethel, independently buy the same evening gown for a show they will perform in together.  When they realize their predicament, they both promise to return the formals and buy new ones.  Unfortunately, their passion for fashion temporarily eclipses their love for one another and each one keeps their purchase, betraying the promises.  The episode ends with the two ladies on stage, in the matching gowns. They simultaneously sing a song about the wonders of friendship while tearing one another’s dresses and hairdo’s apart.

The theme of relationship problems is a universal human experience.  When you are in a ministry or leadership role, friendships can be tricksy.  In a recent survey done among pastors and leaders by the magazine “Ministry Today,” loneliness landed in the top five list of problems.  During the month of January, I’ll be focusing on different reasons leaders can feel isolated.

Being the lead dog of anything can be lonesome.  Anyone from a single parent all the way up to the president of a giant corporation can experience this at some point.  So, how can a leader build a circle of confidantes?

Ken and I received a wide range of advice during our early years.  One pastor warned us to never, ever engage in friendships with people you pastor.  Others told us you can never successfully maintain social associations with anyone under your authority.  Over the years as pastors and as business owners, we learned how to forge our own path to creating and tending our relationship gardens.   Here’s some of our tips based on our triumphs and failures.

  • Find someone similar to you, outside of your environment.   If you’re a single parent, find another one or two.  If you’re pastoring a tiny church, find another small church pastor, etc. etc.  This seems obvious, but I’ve been amazed how many people in leadership do not prioritize building friendships.  They become so overly engaged in their life or ministry, they do not cultivate relationships out of their immediate sphere.

 

Ken and I worked to spend time with pastors of other small churches and business owners. Spending time with other teachers saved my biscuits and gravy in my classrooms numerous times.  Do not make the mistake of allowing your entire world to consist of wherever you are planted right now.   God has a way of turning over apple carts to move us in different directions.  If you don’t know any other apple trees in other orchards, you will achieve a new low on the loneliness meter.

 

  • Befriend people underneath you, with boundaries.  Ken and I maintained close relationships with people inside both churches we pastored.  At our best, we shielded those friends from dark situations that occurred in both congregations.  At our worst, we poured out our hurt and frustration on them.  Don’t do that.  Friends on the inside should only know what anyone can know.  Burdening them with the details of conflicts is selfish.  The struggles  you face as a leader should first be poured out to God.

Secondly, for large challenges, seek counsel from trusted advisers outside of your situation.   The relationships we maintained with other pastors, teachers and business owners were invaluable during a crisis.  Their objectivity helped us to see our weaknesses better, affirmed our strengths and consoled us with the knowledge that our trials were common ones.

 

  • Don’t lose heart.  It takes time to find just the right folks.   Sharing a meal or a cup of coffee should usually reveal whether you share enough common interests and values with someone.   Don’t take offense, though, if you enjoy someone who doesn’t reciprocate.  It happens.  Move on.  Trust me, everywhere I go, one of the most common concerns I hear from people is their lack of true friends.  Just keep inviting people to engage with you and God will connect you with the ones that will celebrate you, not just tolerate you.

 

  • Tend your garden.   All relationships are work.  We are old enough now that some of our friendships are 30 and 40 years old.  They’ve grown through the years with shared meals, vacations, side by side ministry and just doing life together.  They’ve endured geographical moves and numerous life crisis, simply because we prioritize them.  We put dates on the calendar.  We celebrate life events together.  These things don’t come easily as all of us are still heavily engaged in life on top of grandparenting and caring for aging parents.

 

As a gardener, I hate to see a neglected yard. The weeds overtaking the flowers, paved walkways buckled, a look of chaos and disorder, are all very disheartening to me.   In the spiritual realm, some of our relationships appear the same way and  we wonder why we are lonely.  Hmmmmmm………

So, go plant some new seeds if needed, or fertilize, weed and water what you’ve got if you’ve been careless.  Friendship is God’s idea so be assured that He wants your life graced with significant people.