Seasons of Friendship

Johnna Myers is a friend of mine from church. Not only is she wise, but she loves freedom just like I do and may be more enthusiastic than me. I’m thankful for her words. She blogs at JohnnaMyers.com.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Seasons—they are no joke people.  We have coffee drinks, candles, and even Spotify playlists depending on the time of year.  And as we peek onto the horizon of an Indiana winter, it is not an exaggeration that I will be wrapped in multiple layers, fuzzy socks, a hooded sweatshirt for the next 5 months.  And then in January, I will ask my husband the same question I do EVERY January… “WHY DO WE LIVE HERE?!?”

Through the years, I have noticed seasons in my friendships as well.  Seasons that come and go…maybe for months or years at a time…maybe they come with the smell of fresh air and bright-colored flowers…or maybe they go with a strong gust of bitter, arctic air.

When I was first out of college, my sorority sisters were my circle.  Riding the wave of independent adulthood, we spent many nights reminiscing about frat parties and stupid decisions we had made.

Then life as a newlywed was spent hanging out with my husband’s co-workers and their spouses. Having the same work schedule and no kids made spontaneity our jam.

Then came motherhood.  Oh gosh—the ever amazing, exhausting stage of being a new mom.  I was so desperate for conversation with an adult, that I didn’t care if my friends talked ALL day about diapers and sleep schedules.  Because we had a lot in common, most of my relationships at this time consisted of other new moms—blurry eyed and sleep deprived new moms who didn’t judge me for forgetting to brush my teeth.

When the girls were elementary age, we grew close to the moms of their friends and spent weekends at school carnivals and swimming in neighborhood pools.  It was convenient for sure, but we also just enjoyed spending time with people in a similar life stage.

Sports friends were next…literally “seasonal” friends….spending weeknights and most weekends at softball and soccer fields, bonding together on the hard, metal bleachers.  All to say goodbye after the last game, knowing you won’t see them again until the next first pitch.

Along the way, my life has been woven together with other people as well—church ladies, gym rats, and partners in ministry.  And although there are ones who are a consistent, lifetime thread in the fabric of my life, others were only there for a season.

For years, I thought it was my duty to hold on to each and every friendship, maintaining a certain level of depth and closeness.  It was a heavy burden to try and keep up and an unreal expectation to think that I could manage every.single.relationship I’d ever been in. I had to let go of the idea that every friendship is forever, and embrace the idea that changing seasons are good. 

As I have gotten older, though, my circles have gotten smaller. I’m no longer desperate to cling to just any warm body who can hold a conversation, and no longer desiring to dive deep with absolutely everyone.  I recognize that life changes.  Values change.  People move on to pursue new endeavors. People move to other communities and a 30 minute drive seems like forever.  But if there’s anything God is teaching me, it’s that every stage of friendship has served a purpose. Every stage has taught me more about who I am and what’s important.  And with each one, I am learning to hold it loosely in my hand, knowing that the Lord may intend it only for a short time.  And I am learning that it’s okay to say goodbye. 

The next part of that Ecclesiastes verse says “…a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to tear down and a time to build…a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing…”

Friendships will be born, and they will die.  Some will have roots that go deep and others only stay on the surface.  Sometimes you will build into a relationship, and sometimes you need to just cut it off.  And as I’m starting to learn, some friendships are ones you purposefully run and throw your arms around….and others are ones where you intentionally keep your distance.

Now that our girls are older, I have the freedom to choose who I hang out with.  I can be intentional about who I want to pour into, and who I want to pour into me.  I want to be a good steward of the relationships the Lord has entrusted me with, and I want each one to point people to Jesus.  So as you consider your current season of life, look for ways to serve your friends and learn from them.  Love them well, but know that they are not yours forever.  For just as quickly as the Indiana weather can change, so too can the seasons of our lives. 

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All is Grace

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The sunset on Wednesday took my breath away. Life is chaos, any day my heart is feeling a million different emotions, sometimes all at the same time. And yet, as I pulled into the Keystone Mall parking garage after driving one mile from my apartment to work, I gazed up at the sky and felt like God had painted it just for me. I cannot change the chaos of my life right now, so I drink in moments of grace, moments when the sky feels like it’s painted just for me. I rest in a God who creates beauty for His children to enjoy.

J.Crew’s December Style Guide came in the mail yesterday. I spent ten minutes of my shift going through it and getting excited. SO. MUCH. FUN. STUFF! Knowing that the next 6 weeks will call for some long days which lead to long weeks, I let myself bounce with excitement over some new clothes for the store, new layouts and new customers. At the end of a long week in the middle of December, I’ll be able to look back on my excitement and giggle. A moment of grace, enjoyment in the job I’m doing and the relationships I’m building in a season of lots of work.

Thursday night’s small group, studying Hebrews 3 and talking through if a person can loose their salvation, ended with girl time – prayer and accountability. As a new friend prayed over me, here was that word again – grace. Not knowing how God is using the word grace in my life right now, she prayed grace over me. Grace towards myself in a situation where my head and my heart aren’t quite in agreement.

Inhale grace, exhale grace. In all things grace. I serve a God who brings grace into chaos. The chaos that stems from navigating this thing called life could drown me, and yet grace saves me. I don’t have to figure it all out, I just have to take the next step, guided by God. Grace in the ordinary and mundane. Grace in sixty hour work weeks, grace in retail life, grace when it seems like I have nothing left to give, grace in exhaustion. Grace abounds. Grace never runs out.

October is over and will go down in history as one of my favorite months because of how God moved in my life to teach me about grace. I am desperate for more grace. Grace to guide, grace to strengthen and grace to fill. Even though the month is over, I’m still learning. All is grace.

Habits & Grace

“Large coke, light ice in a styrofoam cup, please.” The words were out of my mouth before I even had time to think. Once I heard the words come out, I quickly remembered that I have not had a large coke in 11 weeks, from McDonalds or anywhere else for that matter. I had not had any soda for that long. Eleven weeks ago, I quit coke cold turkey in an effort to be healthier. I don’t even miss it, but today, as I pulled up the McDonalds drive thru, the words just came out of my mouth as second nature.
Second nature is a scary thing in my relationship with God, because my second nature is my flesh – my natural response. I am critical of myself and others. I rush around. I start believing that what I do is more important than who I am. I compete. I manipulate. All of this without realizing I’m doing it.
Gods perfection has made me aware of just how easily fall back into these habits of sin and unhealthiness. Compared to his standard, I fall short each day.
God’s grace leads me to a better way, a fuller life. He calls me as I am into relationship with him. He calls me to freedom to be me. And yet how quickly I turn right back into my second nature habits. As I’ve written this month I’ve realized how little I leave space for grace in my life. I plan it in in snipets, but do not truly allow God to move throughout my day. My second nature wins out most of the time. I want to live more fully in the moment, awake to what God has for me. And that requires kicking habits and creating good, healthy habits long term, even when my second nature habit is to order a large coke light ice.

Grace to Slow Down

“Caitlin, if you just slow down and then check your work before you finish, you would avoid almost all these mistakes,” my dad would say throughout middle school when we would review the mistakes on my math quizzes. I was naturally smart enough at math, but I did not do myself any favors when I would rush through to be done on homework, quizzes and tests. Always rushing to be done.

Ten years later and I still have not stopped rushing. Rushing through workouts, rushing through books, rushing through time with the Lord. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I have not gotten a speeding ticket (she says as she knocks on wood). There’s always one more thing I have to get to, or something I’m trying to cram in. The result is reflective of my middle school math quizzes – avoidable errors on not quite my best work. Lackluster performances in relationships, some days at work and in my ability to keep my living space clean.

When I slow down, I am able to give myself fully to the task in front of me, not calculating how quickly I can complete it and move onto the next thing. When I slow down, time with friends becomes more about them and less about checking something off my to-do list. When I slow down, I enjoy my work instead of viewing it as a means to an end. It takes grace for me to slow down. In slowing down, I admit that I am not above time, and that I am not in control. My humanity is demonstrated as items on my to-do list are left without being checked off. I have to trust God in order to slow myself down. I must relinquish control with every passing breath.

As my flesh shouts out, “Do more, just one more thing,” my spirit must learn to whisper back, “You do enough, you have enough, you are enough.” Shifting the priority from more to enough, from rushed to intentional. I cannot sprint a marathon, my pace needs to be slow and steady, one mile at a time, one task at a time, one day at a time.

When I seek God throughout the day, letting Him direct my priorities, the time I have becomes enough and I no longer yearn for just one more minute. Only a heart that is starting to let the truth of grace sink a little bit deeper can remain calm while running late and driving behind a car going under the speed limit. He gives greater grace.

Lord God, I want to slow down so that I can see you more clearly in the mundane moments of my life instead of whizzing past them onto more significant moment. You do not call me to sprint from one significant moment to another, but to walk with You, at your pace. May the pace at which I move reflect my belief in a God who holds it all together, not a woman grasping for control with every single breath. A frantic heart is not a heart full of grace. Build in me a heart of grace and a soul that trusts you enough to slow down. Amen.

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Gratitude, Grace & Joy

“Grace, it means ‘favor,’ from the Latin gratia. It connotes a free readiness. A free and ready favor. That’s grace. It is one thing to choose to take the grace offered at the cross. But to choose to live as one filling with His grace? Choosing to fill with all that He freely gives and full live — with glory and grace and God?” (One Thousand Gifts, 18)

Ann Voskamp speaks of the relationship between giving thanks, grace and joy. She does so in a way that I long to be able to do. Her words about grace midst an ordinary life are why I started this #write31days. Her challenge to live a fuller life where what we have is enough, is speaking to me on a soul-level.

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Grace & Faithfulness

True life, I’m the girl who wants to quit as things start to get hard. I’m not kidding. If it’s getting difficult and I don’t see a great solution as to how to improve the situation, I want out. I daydream about getting out. My senior year of college, in September, I asked the Lord if I could be done with one of my leadership positions. I was 9 months into a 12-month role. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard something from the Lord, but standing in worship on this Thursday evening, I heard God say, “Caitlin, if you think this is the hardest thing you’re ever going to do, you’re sorely mistaken. Stay faithful.” In other words, “I know this is difficult, but believe me, it’s preparing you for harder things in the future. Stay in it and stay faithful.” I wanted permission to quit. To walk away with my dignity intact, being able to say that I did my best, but that wasn’t quite worth it, and God’s response, was, “Stay faithful.” I wish I could tell you the next 3 months were a breeze, but I can’t. In fact, some parts of it got worse. But, God used that experience to bring reconciliation. I look back on at experience and think not of the bad, but of everything good that came out of it, and it is worth it.

I had a similar experience this fall. Things were tough. A great friend told me to honor a commitment I made to the Lord, and some days, I did not know why I was even doing that. There were tears. There were phone call vent sessions. There was fear, insecurity and yuck coming out of my heart during the month of August. It was dark. And yet, in the midst of all of it, I remembered the Lord’s previous words to me, “I know this is difficult, but believe me, it’s preparing you for harder things in the further. Stay in it and stay faithful.” God is faithful, I must be faithful. Today was one of the best days I’ve had in my 13 months of living in Indianapolis, and to think it was great because of something I almost walked away from. Stubbornness, entitlement, frustration and exhaustion are the worst combination. They are the enemy of faithful endurance. They work against the perseverance God desires to cultivate in me and in you.

There are times when the Lord calls us away from beautiful things, and times when He calls us away from bad things. The hardest are when He calls us to stick it out, to finish it out, even when every part of our flesh is screaming to walk away, with our dignity still intact. If it’s ever a battle between my dignity and God’s glory, the likelihood is that God wants to remind me that humility is valued in His kingdom, not high accomplishments. He is the God who endured torture and humiliation to declare that love wins.

I do not deserve to see the fruit of sticking with something that I wanted to walk away from. Instead, because of God’s grace, He allows me to see the benefit because He strengthened me enough to get through it. Staying faithful always proves worth it because He has called me is faithful. God is faithful, I must be faithful.

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Grace & Adoption

I’ve been hit hard this week by the weight of adoption, and more significantly the love between a parent and a child. It’s not hard thing to search for when I go looking, especially as I work a job that I eat, sleep and breathe the plight of the world’s most vulnerable children, but this week was on a new level. This week, I looked through photos of some of our kiddos waiting for families and I also saw someone close to me accept their family’s first foster placement. This week, I did not leave my job at the door, and instead carried it around with me, praying and wondering how else God would help me meet needs.

Early in the week I read an article of a sweet kiddo who the system failed. He went from foster family to foster family, never having the opportunity to land in a solid family setting long term. By the end of his short life, he got caught up with the wrong crowd and died at an early age. The author of the article did an excellent job, and the line that has stuck in my head and is breaking my heart is, “A child should never have to prove that he is worthy of love.” Amen. Each child is a gift, is special, is worthy of love. Yes, they are a sinner in desperate need of a savior, but no more than another.

As I’ve been processing through the different situations that I’ve encountered this week, the truth of the Gospel has gone to a deeper place in my heart. If I had to prove that I was worthy of God’s love five years ago, I would have failed. If I had to prove that I was worth of God’s love five days ago, I would have failed. Today I would fail at proving that I was worth God’s love. Thankfully, I do not have to prove a thing. Because of God’s grace, I do not have to prove a thing.

This special truth does not mean that my heart does not break for the over a million children in the foster care system throughout the United States tonight who are in the midst of feeling like they are unlovable. It does not mean that my heart does not break for the 163,000,000 children globally in need of families, it simply deepens my gratitude for Jesus’ work on the cross two thousand years ago, and affirms my greater belief in missions. I want to share the testimony of God’s grace with the world, and with those who feel unlovable.

Because of Christ’s work on the cross, none of us have to prove ourselves worthy of love.

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Places of Grace: Indianapolis

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Unlike some of my friends, I didn’t spend my four years of college planning for the job I wanted once I graduated. I was focused on everything but graduating. Looking back, I think it had something to do with not wanting to graduate. Come senior year spring and suddenly I did not know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. Every one kept telling me that there were endless opportunities and yet I could not even decide what to pursue. Many tears were cried in the month leading up to graduation and the month after. I cried an entire drive home from Indianapolis to Cincinnati one Wednesday afternoon as I returned from a job interview feeling hopeless and confused, unsure where I was headed. Perhaps it would have served me better to plan better for the future throughout college, including picking a more practical major. I did love my sociology major though, and most importantly, it was an easy enough major that I was able to spend a majority of time doing everything besides schoolwork.

By crazy twists and turns, I ended up in Indianapolis working at a really cool job and living with two awesome roommates four months after graduating from IU. Indianapolis was partially one of the first grown up decisions I made, but it was also an opportunity I just stumbled into. Once God said, “go,” I took a huge step of faith, accepted a job offer, packed up my CR-V and moved. Today, as I drove down Fall Creek Drive and headed into work, the leaves were a pretty fall color and I thought about how thankful I am that I ended up here. In Indianapolis.

When I think about God’s grace and how He reveals it to me, my life in Indianapolis is Exhibit A. I did not do anything to deserve the church, my jobs and the community I have here, and yet God has gifted them to me. All I can do is offer them back at His feet, acknowledging that they are all a gift.

God has shown up again and again in this sweet city I call home. As I’ve learned my way around the North side, ran a half-marathon, experienced Indy 500 weekend, found some favorite restaurants, planned happy hours, tried out a couple churches and found one church home, I continue to praise God for the life I am able to build here because of His grace.

Instead of dwelling and wondering what would have happened if I had picked a different major or walked through open doors instead of redirecting when doors shut, I can be confident of God’s goodness in leading me to Indianapolis – for His glory! His grace does not and will not mislead us.

 

“And he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out to him and find him, though he is not far from each of us.” -Acts 17:26-27

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Grace in the Waiting

Do I believe that God will show up?

How about a year in when things are more difficult?

How about three years later, still struggling with similar issues?

I want to say that no matter how long I’ve been waiting for whatever it may be – healing, freedom, reconciliation – that I will not waiver in my belief that God is a god who provides.  Reality check: I want to bail when things get tough, or when He doesn’t show up on my timeline. I want to throw a party – a pity party. I wallow. I cry. I’m just like Sarah, who when God did not prove faithful on His promise to her and Abraham on her self-created timeline, went out and fixed the problem on her own, messing everything up further. Waiting creates an idolater out of me. I long to put myself on the throne, especially when I am not confident that God will prove faithful to His promises on the timeline that I have set.

A sweet friend paraphrased a workshop she was listening as we chatted on my drive home yesterday. She shared that the speaker said, “Get your eyes off the clock and onto Jesus.” When my eyes focus on the clock, I get so tunnel visioned, I cannot see what is going on around me. I also become obsessive, and am irritated on how long God is taking to fulfill His promise to me. There is no timeline for getting over heartbreak, staying a job that is difficult, or kicking an addiction. We can simply take each day at a time. I know that God is good and He desires to fulfill His promises to me. He wants me to live a life of true freedom, but on this journey, I am my own worst enemy. I want to know when. When will the tears stop, when will the frustration end, when will I be able to always resist the temptation. Instead of growing weary, I must shift my focus. From when, to who. Jesus.

I know how the story ends. Jesus will be victorious over all. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. In the midst of everyday struggles that seem to go on and on, I can shift my focus to the one thing that truly will endure forever. From the clock, to the King of the Ages. Around me, in the midst of the heartbreak, loneliness, frustration, despair and confusion, God is fulfilling His promises to me, on His timeline. If I can shift my focus from the clock to Jesus, I will be able to see everything that He is doing around me, and rejoice in those provisions, even if they aren’t exactly what I’m waiting for.

Not only is He fulfilling His promises to me, but He extends grace to me in the waiting. When I am frustrated and want to run in the other direction, His grace strengthens me. In the middle of trials, God is gracious enough to empower me to shift my focus from the clock to Himself. God has been faithful 100% of the time, but not always, or really ever, on my timeline. As soon as I can look away from the clock and focus on Him, my priority will not be my messed up timeline, but instead rejoicing in His faithfulness.

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