Are you Best Friend Material?

A need for a best friend is written on our hearts by our Heavenly Father, and He convicts me to focus on the kind of friend I am. Am I best friend material?

Am I best friend material? I’m a good person. I’m loyal and kind. I would have said yes to this question a few years ago.

And I would have been wrong.

God has been walking me through a deeper understanding of friendships and relationships because part of ministering to women is knowing how to love them. I knew how to teach them, how to speak to them, but I needed to learn to just love them.

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Do you have a best friend or two?

Friendship and acceptance are basic human needs written into our hearts by a loving Heavenly Father, so why does it seem like making friends so challenging?

For me, I had to stop worrying about what kinds of friends I wanted to have, and start thinking about what kind of friend I wanted to BE.

I had to stop worrying about the friends I have, and think about the friend I want to BE.… Click To Tweet

When everyone on Twitter is trending #BestFriendDay, do you instantly know the friend you will tag in a glowing social media post? She will be awed by your eloquent words and laugh because she was going to post the same picture of the two of you?

Yeah, that won’t be me today. I wasn’t one of those girls who made a best friend in kindergarten who is still my best friend today.

In fact, I’ve struggled to build deep friendships since leaving my last job. Maybe, the challenge is partially this transient military life, partially my introverted nature. Also, this season of young motherhood and deep parenting limits my time and energy for others.

But I long for those kinds of friends.

I’ve also become convicted that God didn’t give me just one friend, but many if I take the time to really look around my life. And some of the silly social media games we play, end up hurting those who we exclude, even if that was not our intention.

And I’ve realized I have different best friends for different areas of my life.

I have friends who need my wisdom more right now. I have friends who make me laugh more right now. Some friends are super encouraging cheerleaders! Some friends convict and push me deeper in my walk with Christ. Some are just slugging through the trenches of marriage and motherhood with me.

God has planted several women in my life who are not my one and only best friend, but are the best kind of friends, the ones who will drop everything and pray for me with just a text message.

A best friend will stop and pray with you. Are you best friend material?

Over the past couple of years I had to examine my friendships, especially those real heart sisters, and ask myself . . .

Why is she my best friend?

  • I can always call her, no matter the time of day.
  • She is supportive, cheering me on when I am full of self-doubt.
  • I can count on her to take time for me, even when her own life is boiling over.
  • We don’t let trivial stuff interfere with our love for each other.
  • She encourages my walk with Christ.
  • When my life is falling apart, I know she’ll listen, offer to punch someone 😉 , and give me gentle advice after validating how I feel.
  • She genuinely celebrates my joys and successes.
  • No matter what is happening with her, she always leaves room to talk about my stuff.
  • She will drop everything and pray with me or for me. She prays for my children.
  • Grace comes first in all our interactions. She is honest with me when I hurt her feelings, and we work through the issues to untangle our conversations.

A need for a best friend is written on our hearts by our Heavenly Father, and He convicts me to focus on the kind of friend I am. Am I best friend material?

Proverbs 18:24 ESV “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

The number of friends I have that meet all these criteria is tiny, one hand kind of small, but they are my tribe.

It’s taken me a long time to realize that not everyone has TV-sitcom friendships. Women come in and out of our lives for a season. But knowing what I’ve learned about friendship recently, I am convicted that I have missed the chance to build deep friendships with some women around me.

I was too busy looking for a best friend. I missed chances to be one.

Being consumed with being a wife or mother, I’ve overlooked someone who needed a friend. Or I let small hurts or slights be a barrier instead of seeking unity and peace within the body of Christ.

Today, instead of feeling rejected, I want to feel convicted.

#BestFriendDay Instead of rejected, I want to feel convicted! Am I best friend material? Click To Tweet

Am I best friend material?

I want to stop worrying about how many friends I have and focus what kind of friend I am.

Proverbs 17:17 ESV “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

  • Am I a friend people know they can call?
  • Have I learned to let grace season all my interactions?
  • Do I forgive small hurts and continue to seek out friendship?
  • Am I encouraging and supportive?
  • Have I learned to listen as much as I speak?
  • Am I willing to love someone who can’t love me back right now?
  • Do I draw people to Christ because they see Him in me?
  • Do I love them as much as I lean on them?

Deep friendships take cultivating to produce fruit, lots of grace and forgiveness, and devotion to Christ first, then the relationship.

Cultivating Friendships takes hard work to produce fruit. Are you best friend material?

I thank God for the friends I have, because that small handful of ladies make me a better friend, better woman, and better Christian.

And I’m going to continue to seek women who need a friend, whether they can be one or not, and work on being the kind of friend God asks of us as part of His family, whether the relationship is for a season or a lifetime.

Being used by God to love & reach people is always right where I’m called to be.

I think I might just be best friend material, yet.

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Day 366: Night Before Goodbye

I am an Army wife, a milspouse. I have been with my husband through three of his four deployments, and saying goodbye before deployment is always a bittersweet sorrow.

I am an Army wife, a milspouse. I have been with my husband through three of his four deployments, and saying goodbye is always a bittersweet sorrow.

During his last deployment, I began to write about our daily experiences at home, waiting for his return and surviving without him. I realize that this old blog might still be encouraging or helpful for someone, so I dug it out of the archive.

I will also add any new thoughts or things I’ve learned in the years since at the end.

*          *        *         *          *          *          *

August 2010
Day 366  (the night before good-bye)I am an Army wife, a milspouse. I have been with my husband through three of his four deployments, and saying goodbye before deployment is always a bittersweet sorrow.

So . . . here it is. After months of looming, the day is finally here. His last day at home before leaving for Iraq, AGAIN.

I try not to cry when I ask if I can leave a few minutes early today. Supportive smiles are good, but the pitying looks at various levels of understanding are hard to face.

We live near a military base; people, for the most part, get it, but unless you have gone through it and sometimes even unless you’ve gone through it more than once, the nuances of this military life escape even the most sympathetic friend.

By the end of the school day, I am ready to race home, take off my heels and see my husband, but there is a heaviness surrounding our exchanges. So many words hang in the air, unsaid but felt.

Dealing with deployments-the night before goodbye is full of unsaid words and not enough time. Click To Tweet

He wants to tell me so many things, but his mouth can’t seem to juggle the marble ideas in his head and spit them out. Instead he grasps my fingertips with my arms wrapped around the baby and whispers, “I love you.” And takes her, wanting his last few minutes with her too.

By the time he sees her again, she will be crawling, maybe even walking. Today she smiles and is working up to giggling, but is still very much a newborn. When he comes home, she will have celebrated her first birthday and be several months closer to the next one.

How do you fit an entire year into one last night?

I watch him feed and snuggle her. Her whole faces explodes into a Cheshire grin when he smiles at her. I am worried that his deployment will subconsciously make her feel abandoned by men or sad.

Even though, she will never remember this year without her daddy, I will have each day etched across my heart.

He wants to eat at his favorite sushi place. I think raw fish should still be swimming in someone’s tank, but I concede. He is deploying to a place he affectionately calls “the armpit of the world” or “prison” depending on his mood. I can give in.

We have sushi and spend our last precious evening on the couch watching TV, because even though, I have raw and deep emotions, I don’t really know what to say. If we haven’t loved each other enough all year long, the next ten minutes or just the right phrase, won’t fix it.

Saying goodbye before deployment is standing on the edge, leaning over just enough not to fall. Click To Tweet

Saying goodbye before a deployment is almost dangerous, walking a fine line between rich and hopeful and breezy belief that this is just see you later. I feel like I’m peering over a cliff’s edge, leaning over just far enough not to fall.

We stay lighthearted as we start to discuss the most ridiculous news headlines of recent days. The laughter pulls us together. We laugh and want to fall asleep, but he has to go inspect barracks, so we kiss goodnight.

His goodbye is only for a few hours yet, but the word tastes bitter on my tongue. I fall asleep and wait to wake up for the real good-bye. My dreams are frantic and jumbled, some with him and some in which he is already gone.

At some point, I reach across the bed, and he is there. I am tempted to stay awake just to memorize the safe warmness of him, but drowsiness wins and I slide back into slumber.

He wakes just before four, and I get up to say goodbye.

Some wives will spend the morning sitting in the gym bleachers, listening all the speeches, etc. but it’s the second day of school. I shouldn’t miss work and can’t see waking the baby this early will help her adjust to this new routine, so we decided that good-bye is the same whether we say it now or in two hours.

Besides, I don’t have to have a brave face for anyone here at home. I cry ugly sobs when the minute comes.

Despite really trying here, I can’t quite capture the horrible lead-weight-in-my-chest feeling with words.

Quietly, I tell him to come home and be safe.

Then, he is gone. I stumble around the house picking up cast off items that didn’t make the final duffel bag. I finally drop back into bed for an hour or so before my first day as a temporary single, working mom commences.

*          *         *        *         *         *

I haven’t had to say goodbye like that in a long time now. But just reading it, I remember every feeling like it was yesterday.

I may yet have to do it again. It’s important to realize that the letting go and saying goodbye is a process that starts with his orders.

You start mentally preparing a world-wind family visit, vacation tour, and a slew of honey-do lists that will help you start this year alone.

You start measuring every moment against, “What if he never comes home,” which is the pendulum swooping ever closer that hangs over every interaction until he leaves.

I watched every second between him and the baby. As Mom, I wondered if these small moments and a picture or recording would be enough if it were all she ever had of her dad.

Definitely helps me be more mindful of the blessings I have now. Even when life is hard, it isn’t deployment hard, today.

Please let me know if you enjoyed this flashback army wife diary post.

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50 Shades of Green Valentine’s Day

Do you picture a 50 Shades kind of Valentine’s Day?

Are you doing Valentine’s Day wrong? I was for years and didn’t realize it until recently. The gift that made me realize just how much I’ve changed wasn’t really for me and involved new socks. And real love isn’t 50 shades of grey; it’s one shade of dark green, trust me.

This year my husband has to work late, may not even make it home for dinner, and will probably barely drag himself through the house and to bed after the week he’s had, and I’m okay with that.

In fact, when my husband “warned” me he has to work Valentine’s Day, I calmly replied, “Uh, okay? But we can celebrate another day, right?” He looked at me like I had two heads. That is just not the response I would have given a couple of years ago. 50 Shades of Green Valentine's Day - Heaven Not HarvardBecause I had gotten Valentine’s Day all wrong, caught up in the hype, the commercialization, feeling like this one day had to measure our relationship or how much he loves me.

And it sucked .  .  .

. . . all the joy out of celebrating our relationship. My husband got stressed about not disappointing me. He didn’t feel loved by worrying about whether I really wanted flowers even though I said I didn’t. He didn’t know if ‘I’m on a diet’ meant ‘don’t buy me chocolate’ or ‘you better buy me really good chocolate worth the extra treadmill time’.

So what changed? I did. I learned that I’m worth loving because God loves me. I learned to let God be my true love every day.

Psalm 73:26b (ESV) “. . .  God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

I started searching out and focusing on the promises of God’s devotion, paying attention to the times I see God at work in my life, then I started to worry less about getting love and more about being loving.

Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

When I started hoping in the Lord, I stopped placing unfair expectations on my husband.

I EXPECT him to be faithful. I EXPECT him to have a job, work hard, help care for our family.

There are many things that I might like or hope for, but don’t expect, because 1 Corinthians 13 says nothing about rigid expectations in what loves is and does.

In fact, my new attitude gives him permission to relax, and that is when he is his best romantic self. He took me out last week for a surprise trip to the theater to see a musical because he was going to miss Valentine’s Day.

But you know what got me really all week in the knees? He bought himself new socks. THAT ALL MATCH.

Heaven Not Harvard - 50 Shades of Green You may not understand the joy of this if you’re not a military wife. This will save me the weekly headache of matching ten pairs of socks by discoloration, wear, and amount they’ve stretched out.

But what made me happy is that he listened to me. I once told him how much frustration matching his old nasty socks caused me, and he remembered.

And Thursday, when errands kept me out later than he had to work, I came home to a clean house. He mopped, vacuumed, cleaned the counter tops, straightened up. I almost cried.

Our baby girl is sick. We’re going to spend the night home, on the couch, and maybe do some hot hand-holding after we germ-x each other.

Besides, the best way I can celebrate Valentine’s Day now is demonstrate what love should look like to my daughter, not expensive gifts, but true love, the real, hard, messy, wonderful stuff of folding army socks and kissing snotty faces.

This 50 Shades of Green Valentine’s Day beats 50 Shades of Grey, because real love will say, “I want to do disgusting things with you!”But you won’t see any of them in that movie.

Real love will say, 'I want to do disgusting things with you . . . like change diapers.' Click To Tweet

Real love asks you to wash someone’s dirty underwear, clean up puke, stay up all night rocking a feverish baby, drive him to work in yoga pants with no make-up, and other things so disgusting you couldn’t imagine doing them until the person you love needs a bandage changed or help after surgery doing even the smallest things for themselves.

But real builds a love so deep and lasting, you’ll forget what greeting card love ever was.

So whatever you do this weekend, don’t get the two confused.

Fairy Tale Proposal and Happily Ever After

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Eleven years ago today, I got pulled over by the sheriff. I couldn’t imagine then how one “traffic stop” would change my life.

Last year, I was so excited to sit in the very spot of this momentous encounter with our sheriff with my daughter and watch this video of her daddy’s surprise return from Iraq which had a bigger twist than I realized.

I was stunned. I had no idea what was happening. I wasn’t even sure what I said until I watched the replay – on NBC, MSNBC and now YouTube!

Now I can say, even with all the challenges we have behind us and all the challenges we have before us, I would say YES again.

April 6, 2006 felt like an ordinary Thursday, not a Fairy Tale Proposal.

Today, reflecting on where we’ve been, I can see how much God has grown our marriage since that day. And we’re so blessed to have had it filmed to share forever, and have such a wonderful start to our lives together.

When the sheriff pulled me over, I couldn't imagine how this would become a fairy tale proposal. Click To Tweet

Struggling with a terrible surgery, disability, and recovery, I’ve had a really rough year. And my husband stepped up. Despite working early mornings, long shifts, and short weekends, he has selflessly given to me when he has been home to do so.

He has cooked and cleaned. He even shooed me away from doing chores a couple of times. He said, “I’m trying to take care of you! Would you just let me?!” Sometimes, in order to be a blessing, we have to let others be our blessing. And what a blessing it is to have someone offer to care for you not out of obligation, but out of love.

Sometimes in order to be a blessing, we have to let others bless us. Click To Tweet

I have felt my husband’s ‘thank you’ for all the times I’ve served him quietly, and I felt God’s love through my husband. Even in the worst moments of the past few months, I’ve had reasons to be grateful instead of complain.

I live in a country which has wealth more abundant than 90% of the world can imagine. I have the luxury of being sidelined and sick because we have a stocked freezer and pantry. And internet to allow me to visit friends all over the world from my couch.

And my husband has sacrificed his time, his energy, and his hobbies to be home to care for me. He spent all day Sunday (during Turkey season!) making a gourmet feast because I’ve been stuck on the couch for months and haven’t been able to go to our local Mediterranean restaurant for my favorite dish – fresh from scratch fettucine Alfredo with wood fire grilled steak in a balsamic reduction sauce with fresh homemade bread.

Why did I originally share this post on Veterans Day?

My husband is a soldier. He has served overseas many times in various capacities during his time in the Marine Corps and US Army. He spent four years of his life in Iraq, trying to defend our values and nation from those who spread hatred. While not untouched by war, he has come home alive and unhurt. Not everyone can hug their veteran today.

Also, Veteran’s Day is our wedding anniversary. We’ve been married 10 years last November. Six months prior, he came home from Iraq and surprised me with this outlandish proposal.

I thought I was getting arrested, but instead I was getting a fairytale proposal.

Military life isn’t easy. We can spend time complaining or be grateful. We live in a country so free people can scream from the top of their lungs ideas that are completely opposite of what our nation stands for, and a soldier will say, “but I fought for his right to say it.”

Eleven years ago today, I got pulled over by the sheriff. I couldn't imagine how one "traffic stop" would change my life with a soldier's fairytale proposal.

My marriage isn’t perfect, but it is growing stronger. We have enough. We have each other, a lovely home, and amazing kids. I get to choose my perspective. When I choose to focus on God, the complaints die away unsaid, my heart turns from bitter to blessed.

Every low moment in our lives is a chance for God to whisper His perspective into our hearts. Every small joy is a gift to us. Every challenge a chance to grow and overcome. Even in moments that destroy and devastate, God shows up. He is present, giving us rest, using people to love us.

I am supremely grateful for a husband who has given me so much, I honestly couldn’t think of anything I really want except to grow closer.

The fairytale isn't having perfection, it's having perspective, God's perspective. Click To Tweet

James 1:2-4 ESV  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

I’m counting it ALL JOY, learning to be complete, realizing in Christ, I am truly lacking in nothing. And that is how our fairytale proposal turns in our Happily Ever After.

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Secret Service: the key to unlocking a bitter heart

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which, in turn, saved our marriage.

We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team.

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By the time we tried to communicate, we were boilers ready to explode, harboring so many hurts and slights.

My marriage was failing!

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying so hard to be a “good” wife while he was such a selfish jerk.

He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. He used the last of the milk, broke my favorite dishes with his carelessness, and left me home with the stomach flu and toddler to go hunting. If I ever dared to complain, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

The train wreck of our marriage was hiding so many broken pieces, I didn’t know where to begin.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I could live the rest of my life with this awful person who hurt me at every turn. Guarding my heart from him, I walked on eggshells whenever we were together. Often, I went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would start being what I needed.

What a selfish creep .  .

I was.

Wait, what?

Yep, I’d been angry and bitter because I’d been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the places God should be. I was bitter from my selfish, unmet desires.

I began seeking God’s answers for my life. At first, when I read about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept reading my bible and praying about it.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Over time, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my need for grace, and understanding God’s love for me. It unlocked my heart. A veil lifted.

I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and hurts.

I stopped seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function.

Then, I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall between us.

Can Secret Service tear down the brick wall of bitterness?

Even when I had been doing the right things, I’d had the wrong heart. I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful chores I had done for him during the day and wait for his gratitude. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing things to serve or to get something from him?”

Even when I did the right things, I had the wrong heart. I wasn't serving. I was showing off. Click To Tweet

My motives weren’t pure. I wanted his love, recognition, respect.

A lesson from my Bible reading came to mind, about how we are to serve those in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Was my husband needy?

Maybe not in the traditional sense, but what if his poor attitude was because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs?

Through the lens of God’s grace, I suddenly saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion.

As God’s word poured grace and forgiveness into my heart, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine. Click To Tweet

I began my secret service.

I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to. Our Father sees what we do in secret.

Quietly, I began doing things without his asking, like noticing his toiletries need replacing, making his lunch, preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been frustrating.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret service for him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

One job I would never have considered before surrendering to Christ was picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the bathroom floor.

Every morning – He walks past his closet (where his hamper is) to leave the house, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor under the edge of the vanity. Previously, I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

But God was working on me. Before, I would have nagged him about being so lazy for leaving them there. My nagging would have become an infection between us.

Even several years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Then three years ago, I began to pick them up with a grateful attitude. “Thank you, Lord, my husband is not in Iraq.”

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that all my service is for You ultimately, and is about humility and serving without drawing attention to myself.”

One secret of my service is remembering that my service is ultimately in HIS service. Click To Tweet

I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. Mostly, I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. And I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When service filled my heart, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. My focus shifted. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. When his work day had been awful, I gave him some grace to find his peace so he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

It’s humbling and real. And every time I have shared this story with women whether 2 or 100, I’ve seen tears and nods. We all have our own dirty underwear mountain that we need to surrender.

So, I share in case another wife needs to hear my story. Nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return.

and Secret service is counter-cultural . . .

Our culture asks what’s in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude.

I’ve never been more joyful than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity underwear because I see how God has moved in our marriage and in his heart through my tiny acts of obedience.

And sometimes we need reminding that we’re not supposed to blend in.

Besides, the underwear was just a start. Once joining the Secret Service, I found so many ways to quietly serve people. Those services are treasures I hold like sweet pearls, knowing I’m seen by my Heavenly Father from whom nothing is secret.

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