The Yellow Brick Road

Sometimes things can look very nice on the outside, but they are, in fact, a mess on the inside.  Sometimes, we are making progress on the inside, but you really can’t tell on the outside quite yet.  Still looking rather messy.  And, sometimes you are a hot mess both on the inside and the outside.  It just depends.

The last few weeks, I’ve been working very hard to cover many bases, at work and at home.  In the midst of working hard, I am battling some anxiety.  Just when I level the anxiety, I realize that I am experiencing super high energy, which I assume is adrenaline.  I am basically going from high anxiety to high energy.  I really don’t know what that looks like on the outside.  Mainly because I am preoccupied with tending to the inside (and the circumstances).  But truly, I had the sense that I still looked pretty good on the outside.

It was either the fact that I forgot my make-up bag under my desk at work or I truly looked weathered, but three friends who would know the difference reached out to me with the same message.  You are not yourself.  You’re troubled or preoccupied with something.  I can hear it in your voice.  Yes, yes, yes, this I know.  But I didn’t think anyone else did.

Like you, I don’t have a lot of answers.  I have guts when I need to.  I cry when the Spirit touches me.  I try to have a heart after God’s own heart all of the time.  I dig my feet in the firm hold of faith when the horizon is looking bleak.  I ask for help.  I let go of having all of the answers.  I just do the stuff I know He calls me to in the best way I can.

My faith tells me that if I both hold tight and take action when He calls me to, the ending will be the result He had in mind.  We can’t argue with the result He had in mind.  Because it is always good.  Not often easy or what we had in mind. But always good and usually better than what you and I could have come up with on our own.

Like you, I don’t have a lot of answers.  But I had a moment of clarity this weekend.  My horizon is looking bleak lately.  I figured that if God painted a picture of my circumstances, and if I’m honest, maybe even me, it would look like the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma.  My version of what a war torn community looks like.  Trees down, grey coloring.  Silence all around you.

In my moment of clarity, God showed me the Emerald City and the Yellow Brick Road and the pack of friends walking and singing along the way to their Beautiful Destination.  He let me know that He sees the flower patches along my road.  He sees the friendships being made along the path.  He sees that, in community, I’m moving along the path to the Emerald City.  He sees what, right now, I cannot see.

And, now, thankfully, I can see what He sees.  He sees what my world is looking like on the outside, but in His wisdom, has shown me what He sees on the inside.  In our human ways, we can’t always judge what the inside or the outside really looks like.  Some days, the inside and outside don’t match, sometimes they do and sometimes they shouldn’t.  I’m just glad that we serve a God that always sees, always believes in us and always shows us the way down His Yellow Brick Road.

Getting Built by Encouragement

There is so much to learn.  It comes from deep.  It comes from wide.  Learning comes from choosing compassion, connection and sometimes pain.  It comes from being humble, bold and brave.  I am constantly encouraged and inspired by great men and women around me.  I hope to become more of who I am by God’s truth and by the path others are walking.  I am getting built by Encouragement.

What I Learned as a Friend: It feels like the stars have come out when you share with your closest friend what God puts on your heart for this season of her life.

What I Learned as a Parent: It is essential to treat your kids equally and to teach them the value of equality.  That way, they will know that nothing is impossible by their own experience and by definition.  Inspired by my own mother and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Malala Yousafzai.

Verse:   Therefore encourage one another and build each other up just as in fact you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Deep Thought: Driving on the expressway a few weeks ago, I pushed back on making a phone call.  I finally made a deal with myself that I would make the call when I got to my exit.  The call stretched me and caused a certain amount of relational tension.  Later, I see that change does not happen without connecting.  Without bringing about a certain amount of tension with the eyes of compassion. Change does not happen without being bold and brave.  Thanks in part to Seth Godin’s keynote message at Leadercast 2015.

Quote: You don’t have to be an extrovert or fearless to be a bold leader.  You don’t have to have a specific gift or talent.  You don’t have to be ultra smart or resourced.  You need clarity around an unreasonable commitment to what should beParaphrase from Andy Stanley’s keynote message at Leadercast 2015.

Book(s)/Blog(s)/People that Shape Me: Roarke Denver, US Navy Seal Commander, I love the way he speaks about his family with gentleness, shares his combat experiences with humanity and the way he defines the path to bravery.

My Prayer to You: I pray that we would trust the way God speaks to us and that we would share His insight when He calls us to.  I pray that there would be no sweeter moment than putting words into God’s Book of Remembrance.  I pray that we would remember that all of us are conduits of bravery and capable shaking fear.  I pray that we would remember the call on humanity to equality.  And, that there is no greater cause than laying down your life for your friend.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Get Inspired

Do you ever get inspired by people?  I do.  I gather these little gifts of inspiration that are passed to me all of the time.  I hold them in my heart.  The inspiration feels like it was made for me and travels into my heart like it has a key to the chest holding my dearest treasures.

I get inspired by God stories.  I get inspired by girlie stories.  I get inspired by books that I read.  I get inspired by movies about real people.  I love inspiration because it is something I can pass on.  When I am inspired, my mind starts rolling through its rolodex of whom I can share the treasure with.  My deepest desire is to pass on the right kind of inspiration at the right time.

James, the half brother of Jesus, is an inspiring gentleman. This morning I was thinking about James’ ability to intuitively gather all of the bias, motivations and intentions of those around him and, through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, deliver a resolution that loops up the group in uniformity in Christ.  (i.e., the Jerusalem Council).  Wow.  I’m inspired.

Have you ever see the movie Miss Potter?  The life of Beatrix Potter gives me the idea that I can choose to do anything with the inspiration that resides inside of me.  I love Beatrix’ imagination and determination to be who she was made to be.  Or, have you read The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis?  I love the idea that God reveals to each of us the unknown in our own stories.  The knowledge of the invisible work He has done is for our own marvel.  “No one is told any story but their own.”

As for girlie stories, have you ever gotten a call in the night from your best friend where she shares in an intimate way how God moved through her in a powerful way against all odds?  This kind of inspiration draws me to be on my knees in prayer for my friends.  The knowledge of her experience builds my faith in a strong way.  I desire to see His work in her life and I want to be a part of her victories.

As for God stories, you are one and I am one and your neighbor is one.  We are all walking God stories, either already told or waiting to be written.  I can’t help to think that He made us this way so that we can take each other from glory to glory.  I hate to think that we all are guilty of hiding or sometimes smoldering our light.  Don’t do that.  Keep your heart open to what is meant to inspire you.  When the moment is right, write inspiration into the heart of someone else.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16.

18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.  2 Corinthians 3:18.

You know you’re best friends when…

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

You know you’re best friends when you ask your friend if your butt looks big in an outfit, and she responds by nodding her head with an emphatic yes and suggesting your butt applies for its own zip code…and all you do is bust out laughing in return.

You know you’re best friends when you can let your friend see you do the “ugly cry.”  You know, the one where your face gets all contorted like you’re seriously constipated and your nose turns redder than Rudolph the red-nose reindeer.

You know you’re best friends with someone when the first thing you wanted to do is call that person after you got engaged or found out that you’re pregnant.

You know you’re best friends with someone when you’ve allowed her to see you in spandex. Ever.

You know you’re best friends with someone when you let them see you without makeup on.

You know you’re best friends with someone when they remember the days you didn’t even need makeup.

You know you’re best friends with someone when you don’t lie to them about your weight or your real age.

You know you’re best friends with someone if that someone knew you in the days before your age was in the double digits.

You know you’re best friends with someone when you tell them you’re fine and they know better.

You know you’re best friends with someone when you love them enough to tell them the truth and not just what they want to hear…and they don’t hold it against you.

You know you’re best friends with someone if you trust them enough to take them swimsuit shopping with you.

You know you’re best friends when you can sit together in silence and still have had the best conversation.

You know you’re best friends with someone when all you have to do is give that person one look and they know exactly what you’re saying.

You know you’re best friends with someone when you can tell them the ugliest, dirtiest little secret and they never bring it up ever again to anyone, including you.

You know you’re best friends with someone when you want to go on a vacation with that person.

You know you’re best friends with someone when you’re willing to do something for that person without expecting anything else in return.

You know you’re best friends with someone when…now it’s your turn. How do YOU know someone in your life is your best friend?

So what are you doing just sitting there thinking about it? Go tell them/call them/email them/text them/Facebook them/tweet them…there are  endless ways to do it these days…but however you do it, let them know you’re so grateful they’re in your life and that your life is better because of having known them.

And then send them a link to this blog so they can get a smile out of it!

Happy Hour Buddies to Best Friends

By JMathis

Pam and I are toying with the idea of becoming “best friends”.

Yes, you heard me right: best friends—a social construct that is beloved by five year olds and sorority girls alike.

Except that we’re inching towards our 40s, which makes the idea a bit creepy, if you ask me.

I think that’s why we’re so hesitant to take the plunge. After all, how do you go about becoming someone’s best friend after a certain age? Frankly, it’s not that easy.

Sure, in your 30s and 40s, you might have Happy Hour buddies, casual work friends, bible study friends, or even ‘mommy and me’ friends, but unfortunately, there is a huge divide between those kind of friends and the friends who will come over to your place at the drop of a hat because you suddenly realize that your marriage is over. A huge divide between those kind of friends and the friends who are willing to use their hair as your snot-rag, as you sob and dry-heave on their shoulders because your seventh round of IVF has failed.

It’s too late to make friends like that, right?

Once you hit your 30’s, life takes over and increasingly it becomes more and more challenging to develop new and lasting female friendships. You’re drained from work, you have kids to carpool, and you barely have time to connect with your spouse, much less devote any time for yourself.

I mean, at this point, if you haven’t made any permanent, snot-wiping friendships, you’re certainly not going to make them now, right? When you’re feeling this stretched for time?

Maybe it’s time to revisit that paradigm.

Pam and I, for example, started off as Happy Hour buddies, and we were really good at that for five years. Everything remained at surface-level—good ol’ slap-sticky kind of fun, gossiping about co-workers, dishing about celebrities, trying new hot spots.

Then, her mom dies on the other side of the world, leaving her dad dazed and helpless. She had to leave town for a month to be with her dad, and I agreed to take care of her dogs while she was away. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Fast forward a year later and I’m in the throes of post-partum depression. She immediately senses it and encourages me to see her doctor. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Her marriage falls apart six months afterwards, and I connect her with names of people who can help her get her life back on track as a single person. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Sometime later, my business gets whacked by the economy, and she buys me coffee every week, while providing me with invaluable financial advice to get me through that period of time. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Now zoom over to six months ago, when she realizes that she has developed a substance abuse problem. I start going to Al-Anon and Narcotics Anonymous meetings with her. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.

Wait a minute.

Maybe that’s not what Happy Hour buddies do (at least not most of them anyway). Happy Hour buddies wouldn’t do any of the above, because their whole existence is predicated on getting away from all of the Debbie Downers of this world.

You see, Pam and I never had the intention of being anything more than Happy Hour buddies. She had her circle of lifetime good friends, and I had mine. For quite a long time, we kept things very superficial and most of all, convenient. We didn’t burden each other with our sob stories; we didn’t wear out our welcome.

We were happy to swim in the shallow end of the pool for life.

But somewhere along the way, Pam and I crossed the line. It took 10 years for us to realize that we were more than just Happy Hour buddies, but recently, we awkwardly admitted that we were embarking on some “new type of friendship” that we weren’t really expecting from each other. We finally acknowledged that somehow, despite our insanely frenetic schedules, we always managed to be there for one another, and that we would continue to do so for the long haul.

Crazy, huh?

So, maybe you can make new best friends in your 30s and 40s. Yes, it might be easier to do if you spend all night on the phone together in high school, or lie sandwiched on top of each other in a dormitory or a sorority house.

But, maybe, just maybe, it still is possible in your 30s and 40s to find that special friend you either lost, or never had in the first place.

Perhaps if you just open up your heart wide enough to allow someone in to see your vulnerabilities and your shortcomings, you may just be surprised at who shows up on your doorstep with a shoulder for you to cry on…along with your very own pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

Of course, not everyone will want to see you through your problems, and you may very well face rejection from people who don’t really want to become invested in your life or your excess baggage.

But, wouldn’t it all be worth it if you could find a new best friend at this age? Maybe your snot-rag of a best friend is somewhere out there, just waiting for someone like you to pull out the Kleenex.

In fact, like Pam, she may be someone sitting right under your nose and you just never realized it.

Put away your pride. Put away the broken heart that has been trampled upon by friends of the past. If only for just a moment.    

After all, that moment may be just enough time to let her know that you are there, and that you’re not planning on going anywhere.