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Posts Tagged ‘Friendship’

Have you got a person? You know, someone who seems to have ‘just happened’ into your life, and you are so glad that they did? Someone who you just know was hand-picked just for you?

I expect that most of us have a handful, a bouquet of those persons.

This week, walking down the hallways of school, I saw her out of the corner of my eye, and bee-lined it for her. We greeted one another with a warm embrace, a smile and a laugh. Small blessings that made my day better. We are a similar age (easier for me to say, because I am older by a year or two), have grown older with our sons, love to laugh and pray for each other.

Last weekend, upon entering the house of our friends, I was warmly embraced by my friend, who then introduced me to her mom, who said she was so glad that I was in her daughter’s life. This friend is younger than myself by a few years, and we live very different daily lives, yet a magnetic force seems to have brought us together and I am so glad for her.

A week ago I visited with friend who opened her door, and we reached out our arms for the other, in shared love, sorrow and delight. Though I am the same age as her daughter, she calls me friend. We spent an evening sharing life … tea, chocolate, laughter, stories, prayer and tears. I love her for her gentle strength, and her unconditional acceptance of me.

A woman who shares sisterly love for another woman is blessed beyond measure.

“A friend loves at all times”
Proverbs 17:17

 

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I always get a bit nervous when I get a notification for a comment on a blog post.

Could someone have noticed the horrible grammar? the run-on sentences? a spell correct that resulted in a risqué statement? maybe I offended their political, religious or dietary views? or, maybe it will be a comment from someone who knows me, and they are calling me a hypocrite?

Most of the time, though,  the comment goes like this:

“I so needed that today” or “that is exactly what I am dealing with right now”

These comments are always the most precious to me, for they remind me, over and over, that

I am not alone.

For I can only write from the place of experience, having been there. I can only be sincere, if I have sincerely had the same thoughts, fears and wishes that I write about.

To discover that we share a life of experiences, thoughts and feelings that is parallel to another oxygen-breathy, fleshly human being is to find kinship, commonality, friendship that is soul-deep.

May we continue to experience the birth of friendships from that which we share. So, don’t forget to share your joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses, with those around you … you might just find that you are not alone.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Romans 12:15

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Life carries on …

This was the prevailing thought as I left work today, heavy with the weight of grief in a world that does not cease to spin for anything or anyone.

A colleague for much of the past thirteen years died, after a brief battle with cancer. Though she has been missing from our hallowed halls since before the Christmas break, the finality of death leaves a unexpected shock in its wake. 

We went to sleep last night knowing that our friend and co-worker was experiencing an other-worldly peace that passes understanding, and we awoke today to the everyday battles of work in a high school. 

It wasn’t until the end of the day, when her family were prayed for at a staff meeting, that many of us realized that we had not yet begun to mourn.

And we mourn.

And we know that we will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

Late last August our staff reunited and dreamed of a new school year, none of us aware that one would cease to breathe life’s sweet breath before June’s final bell rang.

And so we grieve the death of our friend and colleague, we grieve for her family, but we also mourn for ourselves, as our knowledge in the fragility of life has been flashed before our eyes. We are not guaranteed four score and ten. We are only given right now. 

On her “about” page on her blog (nodroppedstitches)she shared who she knew she was:

“I am the creation spoken about in Psalm 139:13 – 16 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV)

Our friend was not expected to live, from the moment she was born. Her health was fragile throughout her life, yet she lived to experience so much of what one might dream for … friendships, marriage, children, grandchildren, further education even up to a year ago and gardening through it all. Doctors through the years had hypothesized her end numerous times … but her days were written before her first breath, by the One who breathed life into her.

As is the same for each one of us.

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I love the definition for integration, in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary :

-“incorporation as equals into society or an organization of individuals of different groups” 

In the world I work, (that of working in a high school) primarily with students who have a special needs diagnosis, integration is most commonly associated with incorporation in classrooms, in study, in learning. That is an important part of integration into a school community.

But, in the world I (we) live, integration is most frequently sought, desired and dreamed of in terms of not the academic, but the social, the relational. Those, who live with delays, disorders, diagnosis, and syndromes desire to be incorporated, as equals, into the world around them … they want friends.

“what a person desires is unfailing love …”
Proverbs 19:22

In the past dozen years of working in middle and high schools I have had the privilege of seeing such integration, incorporation, take place. I have observed students who sincerely care for and about their peers, with or without a diagnosis. I have seen parents of kids with special needs, and without, make the effort to model and encourage respect, kindness and equality for those around them.

Certainly, I have observed bullying, ignorance and exclusion, as well. But, more often I have seen the beauty of human care for each other, human love for each other.

This caring, this loving, this including of each other, it is a messy thing to practice. It is messy whether special needs, illness, or disability are present or not.

Lets face it, equality is messy whenever humans are involved.

But, to truly and sincerely incorporate and integrate as equals … what an awesome thing.

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imagesRecently I was asked if I could share with another person what I do when teaching Life Skills to students, and I immediately became self-conscious and intimidated at the thought of having to put what I teach into words.

To teach Life Skills is daunting. There no, one, curriculum to utilize, because each student in a Life Skills class has such very different needs to be learned, comes from a unique cognitive and developmental stage, and has specific behavioral ‘triggers’ to be either avoided or sought. The result is a ‘curriculum’ pulled together from many sources, with extremely specific (and yet, general) goals, and the only expectation (on my part) can be that an allusive ‘something’ will have been learned, that will be useful in the present and/or future life of the student.

So, what are the most important life skills to be learned?

I have come up with an acronym for the word, Life Skills:

L – Learn

  • be willing to learn new things, every day
    (“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance” Proverbs 1:5)

I – Initiate

  • be willing and able to start a friendship, a conversation
    (“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” Hebrews 10:25)

F – Fitness

  • be willing to keep your body active
    (“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” Romans 12:1)

E – Each Other

  • be willing to care for each other
    (“Bear one another’s burdens” Galatians 6:2)

S – Speak

  • be willing to speak the right things to the right people
    (“speaking the truth in love” Ephesians 4:15)

K – Kindness

  • be willing to follow the Golden Rule … do for others what you would love for them to do for you
    (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:22)

I – Irritation

  • be willing to learn how to control yourself when irritated
    (“love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” 1 Corinthians 13:5-6)

L – Living things

  • be willing to have healthy respect for living things, from peers to dogs to spiders (but not mosquitoes 😉
    (“And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good” Genesis 1:25)

L – Love

  • be willing to love and be loved
    (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16)

S – Self Respect

  • be willing to offer respect to yourself … don’t call yourself names, or put yourself down
    (“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” Psalm 139:13)

It is all still pretty general (yet specific), and it may not what works for all, but I am really hoping it is working for the students I get to work with.

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It was not until I was dating my hubby that I discovered what a PK (Pastor’s Kid) was. Now there are three under our roof.

I have written before of some of the struggles of growing up PK (PK’s), but all is not negative of this experience! There are sweet benefits too.

One of the sweetest benefits for our kids is that they learn, from a very young age, how to communicate with people of all ages. They have spent time in homes with younger children, peers, and no children. They have gone to homes that are ‘child-proofed’ and those that have crystal candy dishes and lace doilies.

The best education our children have received from this life our family lives, is from being with those who are older … retired … elderly.

They have learned (although, like all of us, sometimes forget) to speak so that those with hearing problems can hear what they say. They know to make eye contact when being spoken to.

Most important, in this exposure to those much older than them, is that they see them as individuals to honor, respect and treat well.

One day, years ago, hubby took our preschool son to work with him. As the work day progressed hubby got a call about someone in hospital, and he had to go … alone. He was desperate for child care, and dared to call a lady who lived across the street from the church to see if she would mind our boy. She was elated to be asked! An hour after dropping our son off at her home, hubby returned to find the two of them playing on the floor with cars, complete with car noises. This boy of three or four playing with his new best friend, in her late eighties!

Our eldest has been taken out to lunch, taught how to bake special cakes, and given art lessons by sweet-hearted women who have invested their time and gifts into her life.

Our younger daughter has sleep-overs with one of her best friends (in her eighties), and has a gentleman (in the same age range) whose house she biked to (and made cookies for) on his birthday, to celebrate with he and his wife.02b820d10639ee5a4b27ac1c3b030f0c

Our son, although thirteen, knows how to hold a conversation with the lady (same age range) who refers to him as her boyfriend. And he can smile genuinely when she calls him that.

They have done more senior visits than some pastors. They have learned to eat off of handed-down china (this being more stressful for me than for them). They have played games, shared jokes … shared their lives, with these beautiful seniors. Our children have had the opportunity to see these elder members of the community not as old people, but as fellow human beings, with worth, meaning and so much to contribute.

To some, spending time with a senior might, as Russell from the Disney Pixar movie “Up” said, “might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.” And I think our kids will look back, and see the beautiful education on being human this PK experience has provided for them.

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As we walked down the streets of the village, the warm autumn sun shining brightly, stepping into and out of shops that caught our eye, I felt such a profound sense of thankfulness for this friend at my side. At one point, I introduced her to someone as my friend, and a realization filled my heart … I have a friend.

We have only known of each other for a bit more than two years, but my dependence on her in my life makes it seem like we have been friends since the beginning of time. We met through my oldest daughter who coached her kids, and had become friends with their mom, through swimming. I feel a bit like I stole this lady out from under my daughters sight.

I love her wit, her sarcasm, and her passion for anything she sets her mind to. I am excited for her, as she works towards her Masters degree, in education. I love that our friendship is one, not just of female conversation, but of just being comfortable and content to be together, whether over coffee, while grocery shopping or watching our kids swim together.

Her children are still in elementary school, and they bring back the joy of shrieking and giggling into my life. She even has fantastic taste in names, as she has a Little Ben, and I the Big Ben (considering her hubby’s height, I look forward to seeing if their titles stay, or switch, as they grow). Her daughter is a bright and focused first born, who loves books and pretty things. Her hubby is a good man, who loves his family and works a job that exhibits his care for community as a firefighter.

Although I do love their family as a whole (and get that mid-life-crises mama feeling of joy when her son and daughter wrap their arms around my neck), it is my friend who I love the most.

With her, I feel no need to ‘be’ someones mom or wife. My only ‘role’ is that of friend. I am not expected to open up and share my every inner thought and feeling, nor do I feel the need to have her reveal hers. We truly, simply, enjoy spending time together. Although I have never had a sister, I wonder if this relationship is what it is like to have a life-long, blood-related girl sibling.

For years I have struggled with having time for friends. Our life is so busy, that I have often felt as though I needed to guard my every spare moment for my hubby and kids. I have struggled with feeling that perhaps friendships within the church (hubby’s workplace) are due more to my hubby’s role. These struggles, I see now, are mine, and ones that I need to overcome.

This friend is not a friend from church, not a friend from a situation, it is like she was hand placed, at my side, by the One who knew I needed her in my life. I am thankful for her … so very thankful, and believe that we were placed at each others side for such a time as this.

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