A Reason A Season or a Lifetime

Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold. Make new friends, but keep…” Do you hear the music? Are you singing along? (It would depend on your age, I guess)

As a young girl, I learned this song in music class. It’s sung in a round. This simple folk song sums up my friendship experience nicely. The theme of this song runs through my entire life. I’ve always made new friends and kept the old ones.

I like to relate to people and connect with strangers. Like my dad, I’ll speak to anyone, but I LOVE making friends much more than merely making acquain- tances. The investment pays huge dividends.

People collect many different things. I don’t mean to say that people are things but rather we invest in people and gather them around us in the same way. We carry them with us. I think I collect many different people.

On one of his summer road trips, my son Andrew collected a friend named Gabe. Gabe came to stay with us at Christmas time and for a few days in the summer too. One summer morning, Gabe and I were talking about life, faith and relationships. We sat on the back deck and soaked up as much vitamin D as the summer sun provided. We both chomped on a crunchy cereal blend, “You know Mrs. Inouye my uncle always says, ‘People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.’”

I really liked that perspective: a reason, a season, or a lifetime. It was succinct and it resonated with me. Over the years, I’ve seen God provide friends for me and I am truly grateful. Some for a reason, many just for a season and others for a lifetime! Or at least so far, I’m not dead yet! I’d like to highlight a couple of gems.

My dear friend Lisa is a southern belle. We met at Grace Church shortly after my move from the Chicagoland area to Minnesota. Immediately I knew, if I got to know her better, we’d be friends. I was given her number for an upcoming church formalized dinner group. I didn’t wait. I called for a recipe, or some other silly fictitious reason, just so we could chat.

We were both young moms. She had a traveling husband, a pilot, and I had a husband who worked in retail and often worked late shifts. The friendship was rich. We explored our different back- grounds and discovered our places of common ground. We’d talk about anything and everything and nothing. Our time together included a great deal of laughter because Lisa can turn a phrase! For example, when I asked her if she liked to go camping, she said, “Girl, my idea of being outdoors is to be inside with the windows open!”

Lisa and I spent multiple days and extended evenings together. We both lived close to the Minnesota Zoo, so we’d meet there then let the play continue wherever the day took us. Our children spent many summer nights in the yard playing while we moms made dinner. In my mind, a meal shared together is always better than alone. Afterwards, I’d put my son’s pajamas on him and lay him in a play pen while she’d ready her two girls for bed.

We would often pop popcorn and collapse into the couch to watch a “chick flick” together. This routine and rhythm was only the start of hours, even years, of “doing life together.” At that time, we had three children between us and now we have fourteen, counting the married children’s spouses. Which, of course, I do!

We are doubly blessed because our spouses like each other too! BONUS! The two of us, our children and the men bonded. Our children have strong “growing up together” memories and, in a sense, Lisa and I grew up together too. Our friendship is PURE GOLD.

Lisa possesses the gift of empathy and, as we’ve lived life together, I’ve been the receiver more than once. I have a vivid memory of myfirst miscarriage and Lisa’s was the first face to appear at my door. She wondered what I needed and asked how she could help. “Do you want me to take young Michael for you now or is that the last thing you want?” Lisa brought something with her, I believe it was a lush plant in a dark, woven basket, but that is not what stays with me all these years later. I just see her face! It left an indelible mark on me. God sent Lisa. She came. She showed up at my door. It was her presence with me that ushered Jesus’ presence in too. She brought encouragement and sweet healing to my sad, mama heart.

Lisa has continued to empathize with me throughout the years. Not long ago, I stood in an Iowa funeral home and I visited with people who came through the line. I was strong. It was my father- in-law Bob’s visitation. I loved him. He was easy to love. I knew he loved me back. I felt it. He died five days after a cancer diagnosis. It all happened so fast. A constant line of people streamed through the door and it was a comfort to see how many people loved Bob. But my feet still stung, hot from the continual standing. My back rebelled with a dull ache in the lower section, proba- bly the high heels, and I felt drained. I rubbed my back with the palm of my hand, stretched my neck from side to side and rotated my ankles one at a time. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw three of the dearest people on the planet to me. Lisa, her husband and one daughter. I cried. I couldn’t believe she’d come. In that moment, I felt so honored and supported. Not until that moment did I realize how much I needed my friend.

Isn’t that what God gives us friends for? To love, support, encour- age and help us. He gifts us with friends with unique strengths. I have another friend, Stefanie, who is refreshingly honest and re- minds me of the Proverb “an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” Proverbs 24:26. She shoots straight and doesn’t sugar coat any- thing. She gets straight to the point. Her thoughts seem to be without clutter and so is her house. Bonus! She is incredibly clean! So, when I clean my house, shuffling piles of paper from one counter to the other, I often think of Stef. What would Stefanie do? I wonder. I have watched her clean her house. If she found “junk,” she’d march right over to the garbage and throw it away! She doesn’t hem and ha about whether to keep it like I do. She doesn’t think of ALL the ways that item could be used, or whether it could be fixed to be functional, or how to repurpose it. No! She throws it away. Maybe that’s part of the secret to why she is so clean!

When Michael and I visit the Twin Cities, we often stay at Stefanie and Brian’s house. We are so grateful for their long-term friendship and hospitality. One night, while staying in their home, Michael and I crawled into our guest room bed. As I pulled the covers up to my chin, elbows akimbo, I turned my head to the left, looked into his eyes and lamented, “Honey, when we’re here at Brian and Stef ’s, I feel like we’re pigs! I mean seriously, the closets in the kids bedrooms are nearly empty, there’s no dust in any of the rooms, and everything is in its proper place.”

The next morning, I told Stefanie what I had said to Michael. In an attempt to make me feel better she said, “It’s clean because we are selling! For last-minute, spontaneous house showings, it needs to be super clean, clutter-free and ready.”

As true and comforting as that was, the truth is she’s very clean and it’s one of her strengths I celebrate. Her cleanliness is a chal- lenge and great reminder for me. But it’s easy to be jealous of that strength instead of celebrating it. Jealousy twists up friendship and we end up comparing and competing, especially in the age of Facebook. So I’ve learned to celebrate her instead of compare my- self to her. Stefanie has challenged me with the way she lets God’s word stand for itself and I love this dear friend and sister in Christ. I celebrate her and her giftedness. Don’t compare. Don’t compete. Celebrate!

In friendship, remember this mantra and practice it because it keeps the relationship healthy and encouraging. Don’t compare. Don’t compete. Celebrate! Don’t compare. Don’t compete. Celebrate!The mantra needs to be repeated and rehearsed because it is so tempting to forget and slip back into the comparison mindset. I encourage you to practice right now. Don’t compare. Don’t compete. Celebrate!

The comparison game is insidious, dangerous and particularly prevalent in the lives of women. When tempted to compare, I use the only antidote available. I rejoice in my friends’ giftedness and celebrate them. This encourages them and brings glory to the God who created them. It’s a paradigm shift, a conscious choice and deliberate action to celebrate. Instead of feeling small, insignifi- cant or incompetent, feelings that create fertile ground where jeal- ousy likes to wiggle its way in and pollute or destroy the friendship, speak aloud words like “Wow!” Audibly exclaim, “You amaze me!”

When we celebrate one another, we create a safe community where we can belong. And belonging is crucial! God pairs and groups people perfectly together and that’s part of His plan. He wants us to connect so that, through friendship and community, He can cause our connected wires to create even more “electricity” for His glory and the Kingdom’s advancement. We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Romans 12:5-6 ESV). Here Paul is describing the church and how our unique strengths combine and complement one another to better everyone.

Comparing and competing steals away the richness of community. But when we celebrate individual’s gifts, Lisa’s empathy and Stefanie’s honesty (and cleanliness) for example, we reap countless benefits. Because of my involvement with friends, my love for God and for others has grown.

My friends have helped shape my understanding of worship and encouraged my devotion to Jesus. And that’s how life should be! Whether the friendship is for a reason, a season or a lifetime, we are rich when we connect as friends and do life in community. I know I am rich in friendship because I seem to collect real gems and they’re also gold. “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”

Questions for Reflection

What one thought stuck with you?

Read Ephesians 4: 32 and 1Thessalonians 5:11

Think of one friend who you would like to celebrate today. What do you appreciate about her/him? Do something to celebrate them.

Pray and thank God for the friends you have and those He’s going to bring into your life.

 

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