Posted in Meditations & Meanderings, Thoughts from Life

The Story of Talkative & Friend

We all know those people who monopolize conversations. I know I’m sometimes guilty of it myself. When I get going on a certain topic or thought, I have to remind myself to stop and let someone else contribute to the “conversation.” There are some people, though, who never recognize that they are the only ones talking.

I can’t help but recall a relationship between two people who shared a common interest. Each time the two would get together, “Talkative” would jump into her latest discoveries and activities in the interest. Her Friend would try to interact, but would only get half a dozen words in before being interrupted yet again by Talkative. Before long, Friend would just give up and resign herself to listening.

Here’s the catch. Talkative was absolutely, beyond a doubt certain that she knew Friend well. She “knew” just what her companion liked and disliked and just how to please her.

The reality was very different. The supposed knowledge was not based on knowing what Friend liked but instead on the “conversations” between the two in which Talkative rambled on and on about her interests while Friend listened and nodded politely, knowing she would never have opportunity to comment. Talkative automatically concluded that her Friend was expressing, by her silence I suppose, that her interests were exactly the same. Friend determined that her thoughts and opinions would never be important to Talkative, so she ceased bothering to try to communicate them.

Talkative claimed that she loved and wanted to be an interactive part of Friend’s life. But, when they were together, it was always all about Talkative. There was never give and take. Never companionship. Just the interests of Talkative.

Friend loved Talkative and willingly spent time with her when the opportunity arose. But, over time, Friend became deflated and drained. She needed the opportunity to both give and receive. She needed the nourishment that came from mutual interaction. So, she began to branch out and interact with others who shared her interests and passions. She still spent time with Talkative, but only when it fell into the natural flow of life. She did not avoid Talkative, but she no longer instigated visits.

Talkative noticed, and it hurt her feelings. But, she never attempted to find out why Friend’s interaction with her had changed. She simply made a point to – with every visit – remind Friend of the fact that she wanted them to spend time together, unconsciously increasing the wedge with her guilt trips.

I struggle each time the Holy Spirit reminds me of this relationship. First, I struggle because I have been in relationships like this, and I know what Friend is battling. I know the hurt. But, mostly

I struggle because I know I’ve been Talkative before, even though I try not to be. I am far too often guilty of not listening to and investing in others, focusing instead on what’s important to me.

But, there’s another behavioral tendency that is even more disturbing for me: too often I treat God like Talkative treated Friend.

I talk and whine and journal and let Him know my side of the story. Then, I take my thoughts and opinions and imagine that God is endorsing them. I neglect to stop and listen, instead, to what He wants to say to me. His wisdom. His truth. His guidance. His commands.

And what He wants to say to me is much more important than pouring out my “all about me” thoughts and feelings.

Because here’s the bottom line. It’s all about God. If He monopolizes a conversation, it is not because He is being self-centered like Talkative. It is because He alone has the words of wisdom. He has the answers. And He doesn’t need to hear us talk in order to know us. He created us, and He knows His creation well.

Yet I turn into Talkative and completely ignore Him. And His will. And His people. And His work.

Who will we be? Talkative, or Spirit-minded Friend? It’s a choice. What choice do you make today?

Posted in Marriage

Not My Best Friend

I have a confession: my husband is not my best friend. I’ve called him that before, but when I stop to think about it, I realize there is a different truth.

Now, before I go any further, let me emphasize that nothing I am about to say is intended to be critical of those who say their spouses are their best friends. That is great! It is wonderful! And, once

I share my perspective, you may end up laughing at me and saying, “It’s all just a matter of semantics, Ann.” But, I’m a writer. Semantics are important to me. So, hashing out these particular semantics is important to me.

Doug and I started our relationship as friends. Just friends. I respected Doug, admired him, and appreciated his friendship. But, I did not think of him in any other way.

Then our relationship changed. As we went from friends to good friends to becoming a couple, the way we interacted with one another became very different. And rightfully so. We were no longer in the friend zone. We were choosing to join ourselves together in a way that would always be unique to us.

As my husband of nearly 19 years, Doug knows me in a way no friend ever has. And, although the sexual intimacy is a part of that, it is a knowledge that goes far beyond the physical. It is a mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical oneness that we share with no one else.

Is friendship a part of that? Yes, most definitely. But this is also very different from what we once were as friends.

I’ve had several “best friends” throughout my lifetime. As a child, I had stretches of life when I was close to various other girls. In high school, I experienced my first true close guy friend. In college, there were more – girls and guys – I grew close to. Could trust. I could pour my heart out to.

And I still have friends like that. I still desperately need friends like Doug was to me before we became a couple. I need girlfriends I can trust and interact with freely, comfortably, and safely. I am thankful for the men – often husbands of women I am close to – I can trust and depend on without fear of relational issues. And in my mind, one of the reasons I can enjoy those friendships without fear of relational issues is because my relational definitions mark Doug as my husband and my friends – both male and female – as individuals used by God to meet a completely different need in my life.

I love that there is something incredibly special about the marriage relationship. It is unique. One of a kind. Irreplaceable. An intrinsic, inseparable part of my life.

I am thankful for the difference. The distinction in my head. It allows me to freely interact with friends without contest or conflict. For Doug knows – at least I hope he does – that there is not a single friend on the face of the planet who can be who he is to me.

Not my best friend. My husband. What a glorious relationship!

Posted in What I'm Learning, Work & Life

Walking Away

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people walk away from Facebook or take breaks. I’ve thought about it many times myself but have never actually done it. After all, that’s where my work “office” is and it’s the way I interact with various groups for ministry and productivity purposes. And, in all honesty, there are certain people I only interact with via Facebook because of our distance. Frankly, I don’t think it was the right time for me to pull back before now.

Now, however, it seems to be a different story.

I’ve come to realize three things.

1. When I rely on Facebook interaction for local friends, I am much less likely to interact with them on a face to face level. I’ve already seen their pictures or heard about their week. Why ask? Ouch. Facebook can only go so deep. I need to be face-to-face if at all possible.
2. There is far too much to wade through in a Facebook stream. Too many friends. Too many statuses. Too much time. And the important stuff is too easily missed.
3. When I rely on Facebook to interact, I don’t write. I can look back over the last few years and see this as a proven fact. Posting to Facebook instead of to the family blog reduced my posting there. Facebook posts are short, uninformative, and easily lost. On the blog, however, I have to force myself to explain and give details – and I can easily read and reread the posts as the kids grow! That’s a big deal to me.
I also wrote less on my personal blog because it was so much easier to offer a Facebook blurb than to process my thoughts enough for a blog post. When you can share brief thoughts, why bother to hash them out?

Why? Because I need to.

So, now I believe it’s time to start walking away. I’ve narrowed down my friends greatly and will continue to do so in the coming year. Those who are left will be there for very specific and personal reasons. It’s not that I don’t enjoy keeping up with the people I “unfriended.” I do! I just want to keep up with them more intentionally and personally.

(That word intentional just keeps showing up!)

It’s not easy. I still have Facebook. I still have quite a few nonlocal friends to try to keep up with. But, I have already seen a positive change with local friends as we are more intentional about our face-to-face interactions.

So, if you don’t see me on Facebook anymore, that’s why. I’ll be writing more here and on the family blog. And I’ll be trying to interact with you more personally. I might need help, and it will take balance as I still have to manage a full homeschool, writing, work, and church schedule. But, I look forward to seeing how this choice to walk away strengthens the ability to be more intentional in writing and in relationships.

Meanwhile, here’s my question for you. As you work to walk more closely with the Lord and with your community of believers, is there something you need to or have walked away from? If you feel comfortable, I’d love for you to share either here or in person! After all, I had to wrestle with this decision because other people have mentioned their own wrestling. That’s community, my friends. You are part of my community, and I’d love to see us encourage one another in this journey!

Posted in Marriage

Marriage & Friendship

I opened my stocking yesterday morning to find two huge surprises (in addition to a nice pile of dark chocolate filling the toe!). The first thing I pulled out was a small, finely woven sack. Inside was a braided bracelet with a small tag in the center. On the tag were coordinates.

“Actually, you need the other bag,” my husband smiled, and I reached back into the stocking. Sure enough, there was another bag with another bracelet. The first bracelet held coordinates for my home. The second? Coordinates for the Solomon Island village home of our dear friends the Choates. One bracelet was for me; the other was for my friend Joanna – one more connection across the many miles that separate us.

The second surprise was a beautiful fountain pen with extra cartridges. Not too long ago, I had told Doug that I wanted to become more regular about writing letters – real, snail mail letters, something I used to thoroughly enjoy doing as a child, before the days of e-mail and social media. So, when a friend asked what I wanted for Christmas, my sweet husband suggested she get me stationary. Then, he found this elegant pen to go with my new stationary. His desire was to intentionally support my goal of letter writing.

Both gifts, though, supported something much deeper – they both supported my need for friendship.

Doug will always be my dearest, closest, and most desired friend. That is how marriage should be, and I love it. But, we both know that we need other friends as well. Because we are both introverts – and because we move a good deal – it is not always easy for us to find and build deep, local friendships. But, God is not restricted by distance or time. Sometimes He builds friendships across the miles as easily as He does across the street.

My husband knows which friends I need when, and he actively helps me stay connected to them. He not only supports my friendships, he equips them. He nourishes them. He encourages and helps build them.

And I pray regularly over his friendships. I pray that he will be able to develop the deep relationships he needs and that I will see ways to nourish those friendships as he nourishes mine.

Friendship with one another is such a vital part of marriage. If we allow outside relationships to supersede the one that exists within the confines of our home and marriage, our marriage will suffer. But, it will also suffer if we close out all other relationships or if we allow ourselves to feel as if we are in competition with one another’s friends.

There is no competition. All are needed in very specific ways to meet very specific needs.

I am blessed beyond words to have a husband who is my dearest friend while simultaneously supporting and equipping my vital external friendships. That, to me, is the epitome of friendship in marriage.

Posted in Marriage, Thoughts from Kids

Marriage Monday: Wisdom from the Teen Years

My oldest stood expectantly in her doorway, watching me.

“You don’t want a hug, do you?” I asked.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I am a teenager, after all.” With a grin, she wrapped her long arms around me and squeezed tightly.

My daughter just entered her teen years, and we frequently chuckle over what many teens find to be unacceptable behavior. On this particular morning, a close relationship with Mom was the topic of discussion.

As we talked, I gave her a bit of advice that I learned as a teenager: Never get into gripe sessions about parents.

Negativity feeds negativity.

As a teen, I was blessed with a few older women I could occasionally confide in. Some were journeymen fresh out of college. Others were older single missionaries. Either way, I knew if I had a real problem, they would listen. But they would also not accept any bad-mouthing from me about my parents.

Peers were a different story. If the conversation ever turned toward frustration with parents, conditions could quickly escalate from minor frustration to outright anger. Something that was small could quickly become a wedge between parent and child. I hated those conversations. I knew what they could do to my contentment and attitude, and I did not want it.

So, I made it a point to never bash my parents publicly. If I really needed to vent or seek advice, I knew who I could trust.

As my daughter and I talked, I reminded her that there will be times of frustration for her. She will, on occasion, want nothing more than to gripe with friends about how unfair and cruel her parents are. But, I am praying now that God will provide that safe place for her to vent. I want her to have wise counsel like I did.

Isn’t this a marriage post?

You’re probably wondering why I have spent over three hundred words gabbing about parenting on a Marriage Monday. Let’s just say that my little “never gripe about parents” practice in high school has been perfect training for marriage!

There are times I get frustrated with my husband and I need to talk it out. But, there are very few people who will ever hear me speak negatively about my husband. Why? Because griping breeds griping whether you’re a teenager or a full-grown adult. When wives get together and complain about their husbands, those poor men suddenly have no chance. Their wives discover that they are agitated about things that had never bothered them before, simply because a girlfriend started griping about that particular issue in her own marriage.

When I need to truly talk something out, I go to one of those rare friends who will listen, identify, and then do whatever they can to help strengthen my marriage. Those conversations ease my frustration. Those conversations help me refocus. Those conversations leave me both relieved of my burden and stronger in my love for my husband.

Are you tempted to gripe today? Prayerfully seek a trusted friend who will help you refocus instead.