Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

The Blessing of People Who Show Up

November has been a busy month for me and mine. And by that I mean, ridiculously crazy-busy. But I wouldn’t trade any of it–especially the people that have shown up–for all the world.

Here are just a few things about the month so far:

  • I started posting on the blog more often. (Did you notice?) I’ve already been writing everyday, but taking on the task of posting to the blog more often does add to my work load. But I found that once a week was so infrequent that I missed the blog when I was posting so little. Also, I’m trying out some different styles of posts and would love your feedback about that.
  • I did another author interview with my friend and muse Sarah Bessey about her new book Jesus Feminist. This one was tricky because it was over the phone, not in-person like my first author interview. Plus, due to some insane technical difficulties, it took a lot extra editing to make it presentable–which of course added to the busy. (Again, wouldn’t trade it for the world because, well, Sarah Bessey.)
  • I helped plan and lead a women’s retreat for my synod (a regional grouping of churches in my denomination). The retreat was called Soul Sisters and we emphasized the importance of faith and community in our lives as women.
  • We had our final day of homeschool co-op for the season–for which I planned an extra special craft for the arts & crafts class I teach. And we also had our homeschool co-op Christmas pageant & end-of-semester potluck.
  • And, last, but certainly not least, and right on top of all the other busy, we had lots of company this month–all from Ohio, actually. (See photos below.) My dad and brother were the first to come down–driving all the way from the Columbus area just to see us. Then we had double company for part of the time when friends from Ohio made our place a stop on their driving tour of the south. Finally, my mom flew down for the homeschool co-op Christmas program and today is her last full day with us.

I’ve mentioned before that being a pastor’s wife has meant more moving around the country than I ever, ever expected. I’ve also written about how it was hard to leave Ohio to move to Texas last year because of all the family and friends I have up there.

I have been surprised and pleased by the way that my in-laws, who live here in Texas, have really been here for me. And I love staying connected with far-away friends and family by phone and online.

Still, there is something extra special about my peeps coming all this way to show up in-the-flesh at our home. I am deeply, deeply grateful for my lovely Ohioans who have made their way all the way down here to see us.

I look forward to showing up at my in-laws’ home next week for Thanksgiving and being in-the-flesh with them too. These are special times when we get to gather with loved ones.

Showing up for each other truly is a blessing.

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My dad & brother made the drive all the way from Columbus, Ohio just to see us! Who’s who from left to right–Back Row: Dad, Eric (my brother). Front row: Me, my son, David (my husband).

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These friends made us a special stop on their driving tour of the south. Who’s who from left to right–Back row: David (my husband), Kyle; Middle: Me, my 9 yo son, their 10 yo son, Jackie. Front: their 4 yo daughter, their 3 yo daughter.

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My mom flew down from Ohio to be at my son’s homeschool co-op Christmas program. Who’s who from left to right–Back row: Me, Mom; Front: my son.

What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do

When we need to talk with someone we trust about a situation that is beyond our control, we need someone who will engage with us in active listening mode. First I’ll review what I mean by a situation beyond our control and then I’ll explain a little more about active listening.

In a previous post titled, 3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed, I defined “situations beyond our control” like this:

This can include anything from a major crisis (like the loss of a loved one) to an everyday emotional blow (like getting overlooked for something we really wanted to do). When things happen that we cannot control, oftentimes our emotions are high. Because we may not even know what all we’re feeling or why we’re feeling it, it is not a time for decisions.

Now, I’d like to spend some time talking about the “active listening” that often helps in these situations. Since we may sometimes be the listener and sometimes be the speaker, I am going to write about both listener and speaker in the third person.

What is an Active Listener?

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As the term “active” implies, the active listener is engaged deeply in listening to the speaker. A completely passive observer is not nearly as helpful as an active listener.

In addition to the Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend I posted previously, here are some important observations about what an active listener does and doesn’t do:

  1. An active listener asks clarifying questions when something is unclear. This can help the listener understand the speaker better, but can also help the speaker process the thoughts and emotions involved.
  2. An active listener takes care to key into important details about what the speaker is sharing. This requires a high level of attention to the speaker.
  3. An active listener observes verbal and non-verbal cues beyond the words used to more accurately interpret what is being expressed. Observing the speaker’s body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can all help the listener understand the speaker.
  4. An active listener shows empathy and concern but does not have to adopt the speaker’s emotions about the situation. Simply acknowledging and helping to name the speaker’s emotions can help the speaker process the situation.
  5. An active listener avoids solving the problem for the speaker. The active listener does not try to “fix” the situation or the speaker, but gives the speaker the room to thoroughly process the situation at the speaker’s own pace.
  6. An active listener avoids judging the speaker for negative or extreme emotions expressed. The listener recognizes the extremes as part of the speaker’s way of processing or coming to terms with the situation.

As you can see “active listening” is a more than just sitting idly while someone rambles about a problem. Rather active listening is a dynamic process that can help when situations are out of control.

Note: much of what I have learned about “active listening” has come from my training as a Stephen Leader by Stephen Ministries of St. Louis.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these other posts about “How Christian Community Helps us Face Challenges.” (Please click the titles below to go to the posts.)

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend

3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed

3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed

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When you’re facing a challenge and are ready to talk about it with a trusted friend, it can help to be clear about the kind of challenge you’re facing. Identifying the type of challenge can also help you be clear about the kind of help you’d like.

A classic dilemma in my life has been when I’m dealing with a disappointment and what I really need is just a listening ear. But if I’m not careful, all of a sudden I will get unsolicited advice from a well-intentioned friend who is in problem-solving mode.

I’ve identified at least three different major categories of challenges that we may face and the types of responses that are most likely to be helpful for each. I will deal with each of these in more detail in future posts, but briefly these are:

  1. Situations beyond our control: This can include anything from a major crisis (like the loss of a loved one) to an everyday emotional blow (like getting overlooked for something we really wanted to do). When things happen that we cannot control, oftentimes our emotions are high. Because we may not even know what all we’re feeling or why we’re feeling it, it is not a time for decisions. When we share about these types of situations, we most need someone who will engage with us in active listening mode.
  2. Sin issues: Unfortunately, sin is real and we’re all guilty of it more often than we like to admit. But sins that we hide have a way of compounding, increasing temptation and causing even more harm. When something we have done or something we have failed to do is holding us captive, we can always talk directly with God about it in prayer. Still, talking about it with a fellow Christian can help us unburden our hearts and minds. When we need to share in this way, it is most helpful to have someone who is willing to fully hear our confession and remind us of God’s love and grace.
  3. Practical dilemmas:If a challenge doesn’t fit the other two types above, it may be something for which advice is appropriate. Sometimes the challenges that we face in life are “nuts and bolts” issues that we cannot seem to resolve on our own. Sometimes we’re too close to a project or task and we need a second opinion. When we share these kinds of concerns what we most need is a friend with experience or expertise in that area who can enter problem-solving mode with us.

The more aware we are of the kind of challenge we’re facing, the better we can get the kind of help we need when we share. Hopefully these descriptions can help you direct how and with whom you share about particular challenges.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these other posts about “How Christian Community Helps us Face Challenges.” (Please click the titles below to go to the posts.)

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend
What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do

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Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend

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Having someone to talk to about the challenges you face is a great benefit. Ensuring that your confidant is trustworthy helps you get the most benefit from sharing.

My last post was about the reasons why sharing about challenges is helpful. I hinted at the importance of trust in that post.

I know that in my life when I don’t feel like I can trust someone it is much harder for me to share about difficult things. Or if I do end up sharing with someone untrustworthy, I often end up regretting it because of the “insult” they add to my “injury.”

Because of the vital role that trust plays in our sharing, I want to suggest some traits to look for in a trustworthy friend. People who are worth placing your trust in…

  1. Keep a confidence. There is nothing worse than sharing about something difficult only to have it blabbed to others. Those in the habit of oversharing about others’ secrets are not good candidates for sharing. If you’re not sure if someone can  keep a confidence you can start by sharing a small matter and see if they keep it between the two of you. If the person handles that appropriately you could work your way up to sharing about bigger concerns.
  2. Respect you. These people take you “warts and all.” They’re not trying to change you or place impossible demands on you. They get that life in Christ is always, always a work-in-progress and they care enough to walk side-by-side with you as you progress through yours.
  3. Follow up. Sometimes I have shared hard things and the person I shared with never mentions it or seems to have forgotten I shared it. It matters to me when friends remember details and ask loving follow-up questions about things I’ve shared with them. Their follow-through demonstrates their care for me.
  4. Keep it cool. Whereas appropriate and loving follow-up is helpful, bringing up a challenge to shame you is not. Folks who use your foibles against you are not good candidates for a trusting friendship. Look for people who encourage you forward rather than berate you for where you’ve been.
  5. Share with you. Quite often the best, most trusting friendships for me are the ones where both parties share about challenges they face. When this is lopsided, it can create a sense that the less-open party is superior to the one more likely to share. While my struggles may not be the same as my friends’ struggles, I know they have them too. I feel better about sharing mine when they share theirs. This mutuality is a real gift.

These are a few of the traits that I look for in a trustworthy friend. I hope this list helps you as you consider who you can trust.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these other posts about “How Christian Community Helps us Face Challenges.” (Please click the titles below to go to the posts.)

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed
What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do

I Used to Go Barefoot

20130407-010121.jpgChildhood friends have a way of grounding me, of reminding me of things about myself that make me who I am. Sometimes they remember the strangest things though, things I would never have imagined would make a lasting impression.

A childhood friend just reminded me that I used to go barefoot. She and her sister (both of them younger than me) lived directly across the street from me when we were kids. She recalled how I would cross that pebbly street in my bare feet to go over and play. She still marvels at how those pebbles didn’t seem to bother me.

It’s true, I used to go barefoot. Even as a toddler my mother says she couldn’t keep shoes and socks on me. Throughout my childhood I only put something on my feet when I absolutely had to (no shoes, no service).

In the summer, the days were full with playing and we didn’t have to go anywhere besides each other’s houses. Whole days would go by without anything on my feet at all. By the end of the day the soles of my feet were filthy, dark as coal. I didn’t mind.

As a grown-up, I don’t go barefoot as much. I like my feet to breath though, so prefer sandals when it’s warm enough. If I go too long with shoes and socks on, my feet scream at me to let them free.

I want to be remembered for the Important Things, but going barefoot is such a trivial thing to be remembered for. She is right though, and that thread runs all through my life.

Remembering it fills me with delight. Yes, sweet friend, I used to go barefoot.