Category Archives: Friendship

3 Things I Learned From Playing Tennis

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3 Things I Learned From Playing Tennis

Tennis takes a significant level of athleticism. Getting back into the sport after a long hiatus is a whole different ballgame. Literally. Tennis-after-40 or tennis-after-having-babies or tennis-after-knee-and-shoulder-surgeries? Not as pretty as tennis-at-17.

I’ve never been known as the athletic type. I do my best to stay active enough to play with my kids, but I am not graceful on my feet or with equipment or while moving fast. God placed me on this earth for some purpose, of that I am certain, but it does not involve games with things flying at me. Keep your eye on the ball, make contact, follow through? Not my love language.

But, at the invitation of a close friend, a trusted friend, I joined the beginner tennis clinic at my local club. I had not played much since high school and found picking up the racket brought back many teenage insecurities. Since this is tennis-after-40, however, it was high time I squelched those unkind voices and just played.

Turns out, I love it. After the first few (very ugly) lessons, I caught my groove and could happily play for an hour or two. The other students and I chased one another’s rouge hits across the court, all the while laughing at our mistakes and learning a few lessons about women, specifically women-over-40 (give or take).

1. We are excellent cheerleaders. With each pong! of a solid hit, for every match won (our own or our opponent’s), at all the successful serves, there is always a “great job” or “nice hit” from the other gals in the group. Isn’t this what women do best? When we set aside the crazy mom-petition drive to prove ourselves, we shine at the opportunity to support one another. When we realize the other women in the room have our backs, we can accomplish anything.

2. We apologize too much. “Sorry!” “My bad” “Oh, that was my fault.” Yep. I heard (and said) it all way too much. And guess which group didn’t say it? Across the board, I didn’t hear the guys apologize like the gals. Sorry ladies, but we need to cut the crap. Mistakes are part of life. A ball hit to the wrong side of the court, a serve into the net? Just pick up the next ball and try again. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in this, but obviously I haven’t learned it enough to preach it. Sorry.

3. We struggle to be assertive without being, ya know, bitchy.  Sharing the court while playing doubles can be tricky. It takes clear, quick communication to be sure you don’t bump into your partner or miss the ball. “Yell ‘Got it!’,” our coach instructed when my partner and I politely defered to one another and lost the point. We kindly apologized to the coach and each other before offering encouragement for the next shot. So many of us were taught that to be assertive is harsh and unladylike. Rather, to be commanding, to speak your mind, to stand your ground all takes confidence, not rudeness.  And confidence is quite possibly the most beautiful asset, the most ladylike attribute a woman can wear, on or off the courts.

Thanks to a racket and zippy little yellow ball, I found a great workout, lovely friends, and a few more things to love about being woman who is “over-the-hill.” Ha!

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Better Than a New Car

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Friends are like little gifts from God. Or not.

“Little gift” implies something small, inconsequential. A pack of stationary, a bracelet that is just your style, a $5 gift card to Starbucks – just enough for a pumpkin spiced latte. mmmm… Okay, maybe not entirely inconsequential. Little gifts are delightful, we’ll all agree.

But I’m talking about great big, knock-your-socks-off, here’s-a-key-go-look-in-the-driveway sized gifts. Presents with gigantic red bows!

When God created us to have relationships, he didn’t just mean man-and-wife or mother-and-baby, he gave us FRIENDS. Seriously, this was His idea! Oh so beautifully.

Your friends are beside you to laugh, cry, scream, tell you to change your shirt because you wear too many stripes, beg you not to leave because there is a snake in front of your house and you cannot move, send you a message to ask after your child. Those seemingly small, inconsequential acts that all add up. That’s friendship. That’s love.

Friendships are a reflection of the love we pour into others. You are drawn toward self-sacrificial acts for another just because she matters to you. It’s easy to pick up the phone and call a friend to ask if her interview went well, to make dinner for a friend when she isn’t feeling well and her husband is traveling, to drive hours just to share a meal with a friend. We do this, not out of obligation, but because we want to. We are created to love, created to have friendships.

And what a magnificent lesson our friendships are for us! We do for others, without thinking, only asking for their love in return. We don’t expect to be compensated in act. We pour out because our friends’ hearts matter to us. This act comes so naturally to us because we are made in the likeness of the perfect example: Jesus. He called you “friend” then laid down His life in sacrifice. He doesn’t guilt us into returning any favor or want us to write notes of thanks, just as we wouldn’t ask so much of a friend. He merely wants us to remain as close to Him as our hearts allow, to open our deepest wounds to His loving touch. And He is there. No guilt, no shame, not even a mention of the lettuce stuck between your teeth.

True friendship is non-judgmental, always cheering from the sidelines, making me laugh until my guts hurt, bringing me cups of nourishment and joy, enjoying sunny days and walking close in rainstorms, reminding me I am beautiful even when I’ve put on a few pounds, challenging me to live better because I deserve it, hugging holding cherishing uplifting on the darkest days. Each of my friends, my better-than-a-new-car friends, gives this to me. But none so much as my Truest Friend.

Thank you, good and gracious Lord for the gifts you have given. Friendships modeled after your unconditional LOVE for us and our desire to return the same to one another. You are so good. And so creative!

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:12-15

Cast Your Net Wide

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Over the past two years, my friends and I have helplessly watched one of our own beaten and tortured by the ravages of melanoma. A young woman with two very young children she has been too ill to enjoy. A wife to a devoted husband who vowed to stand by through sickness and health. A daughter who, just four years ago, lost her own mother to cervical cancer. A sister, the only sibling, of another young woman who is suddenly bearing a burden too large for her shoulders alone.

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, and thereby all believers, to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-20), I get the feeling He didn’t mean fly fishing, for us to wade into a quiet stream, cast our line thoughtfully to and fro, then wait for a bite. Jesus called us to cast our nets wide and draw others unto ourselves. To cast wide the love of God, bringing the masses into the embrace of the family of Christ. After He was raised from the dead, Jesus found the disciples fishing again, but without much luck. He instructed them where to cast their nets. When they obeyed His command, their faithfulness rewarded them a bounty too full to lift. (John 21:1-6)

Nets. We are to use nets. Cast thoughtful and faithfully where God leads.

Mareeka has suffered countless surgeries, though I’m sure she could tell you the exact number. How many hospital bracelets she has worn, how many books she has read to “take her mind off of things,” how many times she has said goodbye to her daughter and son. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t recount the horrors. Every time she shares her heart, there is no doubt how firmly her rock-solid faith is anchored. She stands strong, knowing and proclaiming that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Shortly after she was placed in hospice care, Mareeka posted on her blog, “I don’t understand how it all works, but I won’t question or diminish the Word of God just because I can’t figure it out. Neither will I give God any less power or grace just because I haven’t seen it, yet.”

Every time she opens her heart, she casts her net wide, wider, wide open! In her solid faith, Mareeka has valiantly fought death and in her fight, she has cast God’s love wide among the nations. My sisters, my friends, my Bible study group, they don’t know Mareeka personally. They didn’t meet her as a wide-eyed high schooler visiting her sister at college. They didn’t sit in her dorm room, listening to her talk expectantly about her nursing courses. They don’t carry guilt for having lined up with her on the beach, soaking up the sun’s dangerous rays. My friends, and hundreds like them around the world, don’t know Mareeka, but they know Mareeka’s God.

Come hell or high water, Mareeka’s God is by her side and she will never forsake Him. Mareeka has been faithful to take Him at His word. She cast out her net, she shared the living, breathing Word of God, she spread His truth in this world.

Mareeka, in your faithfulness you have cast wide the net of Love and drawn countless into the embrace of Jesus. Keep the faith. You ARE God’s favorite kid and He WILL complete a great work in you and through you. Thank you for every little thing you have taught me.

Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
Philippians 1:3-6

Everyday Goodness

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Yesterday, December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela passed from this life to the next. He was 95 years old and probably ready to retire his body. He had used it to the fullest, as a husband, father, heavyweight boxer, and most importantly, as a promoter of peace.

Upon his death, media outlets and social networking sites were ablaze with the news, pictures, quotes, and postings for the icon to rest in peace. People are posting about Mandela as they would a close friend, someone who intimately touched their lives. And, perhaps he did. This man who promoted peace, justice, and the antithesis of hate, Love.

But why did we wait until now to talk about him so much? If we really believe in his life’s work to spread peace, why haven’t we been sharing his quotes regularly? Nelson Mandela lived in such a way as to prove one person really can make a difference. One person can start a movement to change the way the world thinks. Several generations were able to witness his work firsthand and now we will pass his legacy to the history books. If we were to truly honor and memorialize this man, his work, his passion, we would live for peace and goodness everyday.

Isn’t that the way of it, though? When people die, we often idealize them, remember stories of how great they were, gloss over their failures and faults, and share how we knew them intimately. Why wait? Shouldn’t we treat one another today the way we will talk about each other after one of us is gone? Be it friends, family, acquaintances, or cultural icons. If you mean so much to me, I should put you on a pedestal now and tell you directly how I feel, rather than wait until you’re the very audience who will miss my message of how great you are.

If you have inspired me to live my life differently, what an honor it would be to show you by acting on it now. My dad would probably rather his daughter live a life of integrity and hard work while he can see it from this side of heaven. Instead of submitting a beautiful eulogy for the English teacher who inspired me to write, I should express my gratitude to her now. To the elderly gentleman who sings in my church choir, when you pass away, I’ll surely be sad and remember how kind you were; how good would it be if this Sunday, I look you in the eye and remind you how very loved you are.

Mr. Mandela, thank you for your message of peace. Thank you for giving of your heart and your life to bring about real and necessary change in this world. As we honor and remember you, I hope we all stand behind your words as we quote them. May peace, God’s peace, pour over this earth and reign forever.

“If I had my time over I would do the same again.
So would any man who dares call himself a man.”
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

It’s Been A Busy Week

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As I reflect on the past ten days in Honduras, I thought it wise to chronicle my week before I forget a moment.

What I did in Honduras (hotter, sweatier, dirtier, and happier than I can remember ever being) turns out to be quite a lot…

Held babies that don’t belong to me. Not only orphans, but the children of shopkeepers. Every baby and child I found, I wrapped my arms around or touched their heads, praying over them in my heart.

Organized storage rooms. Dirt-covered floors, jumping spiders, bags of donations, soccer balls, and more all needed to be put in their places. I spent several hours making sense of a space no one wants to enter due to the heat; it had become so disorganized, it was barely functional. Enter my mother’s daughter.
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Played UNO, backgammon, frisbee, jumprope, and basketball among the heat, dirt, and bugs. For a mother of girls, hanging outside with boys aged 5-16 was a rare treat!
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Adonis and Kevin
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Luis, Guillermo, Ezekiel, and Frazen gave me a run for my money at backgammon

Fought off attacks by fireants and pesky no-see-ums.

Filed paperwork for a teacher so busy I don’t know how she keeps her grace. A woman who’s preference is to homeschool her own 4 children, Stephanie lives at an orphanage with 90 kids and manages a classroom of 35+ young teens.

Colored, playdoughed, and stickered with preschoolers. Just like home.
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Estafany loved making a paper selfie.

Made popcorn and poured cold Pepsi for the kids who earned movie time at school. We almost burned out the school’s one small microwave while popping dozens of bags, one at a time.

Sat through Honduran rush hour, was awakened by gun shots, and cuddled in bed with a stranger. Goodbye comfort zone!
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Chopped veggies and chicken, cracked dozens of eggs, and patted cornmeal into pastalitos to feed a small army. Working alongside the tireless house mommies, I learned much about the Honduran culture. 20131004-203138.jpg
Worshipped and sang praise songs in Spanish while attending two very different church services.
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Cried. Every time I have thought about leaving Honduras, I have been overwhelmed with sadness to say goodbye to the people, their culture, and this country, all with which I have fallen in love.

Held children whose parents have abandoned, neglected, abused, and otherwise given up. Some motivations were pure, some were purely selfish. Whatever the cause, their children are left craving love. And for a moment, I was able to give them just that.
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Me with the birthday boy, Carlos.
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Loving on Nicol

Watched a video of my daughter rock climbing in the United States. Technology is awesome!

Shopped at a tiny country grocers, a city tourist shop, and a busy mid-size grocery store. In each, the proprietors were welcoming and kind. I dread going back to my local Safeway.

Rode on a school bus with a hundred sweaty kids and smiled the whole way.
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Ate chicken, rice, and beans until I was chicken, rice, and beaned out.

Started my days with early morning devotions and steaming mugs of Honduran coffee. Through the various perspectives of my team members, I gained a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

Took a half-dozen teen boys to dinner. Our group feasted on grilled beef, pork, chicken, fish, and chorizo, sided by spicy cabbage slaw and chips and beans. Mmmm!

Helped as an assistant teacher for kindergarten through eighth grade classes. We read, sang, learned, and scored together.
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Music time in Beka’s Second Grade class
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Marylin and Dimas trying a fun clapping game I taught Brenda’s “prepa” class (kindergarten).

Brought sick children to a clinic.

Rocked a sleeping baby girl for three hours. With numb arms, back, and bum, I prayed God’s provision and grace for Naomi and her siblings.

Left my son. Guillermo holds a place in my heart that seems carved out for him alone. I was honored and humbled to meet him, hug him, look him in the eyes, but I could not say goodbye. I will be back for that child, in one way or another, God willing.
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Indeed, this has been a 40th birthday celebration unlike any other. Thank you for your prayers of encouragement and support. It has been an honor to journey with you!

Travel Insurance

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You people are amazing!! Thank you for all the messages, Facebook posts, texts, phone calls, cards, hugs, and smiles across the room and miles. I have heard you loud and clear and I am encouraged! Through your varied experiences, you have opened my eyes to sights unseen. Through your strengthening words, you have girded my confidence. Through the verses you’ve shared, you have sent God’s word with me. Through your offers to support my family, you have reassured me. Through your prayers, I am covered.

I will take these words, and the many others you’ve sent, with me!

We are praying for your heart, which will never be the same.

He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, so this trip cost is chump change to Him! Keep trusting Him to provide!

High five to your supportive husband and to you both for giving your daughters this fantastic lesson and for giving these children a chance.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.” John 15:16

“I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13

No need for our eyes to be on the other stuff, the Lord’s got that!! “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

!Vaya con Dios!

!Vaya con Dios, indeed! I will go with God, my thanks to YOU!

The Burden of Prayer

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Like most, I experience times when I struggle to sleep, be it from the full moon, hormones, too much daytime caffeine, or just an overly stimulated mind. The insomnia will last a couple or several nights, then pass until the next season.

The most reliable antidote to my stress-induced sleeplessness is spending the time praying for others. When I set aside the things that trouble me and instead lift others’ burdens to God, I find my own peace and, eventually, some rest. Many difficult nights have ended in a few hours of blissful sleep after I have prayed for those who are hurting, fighting health concerns, or struggling with financial troubles. My midnight lamentations have included friends who are recently widowed, facing a life-changing move, dealing with a difficult pregnancy, or battling infertility. Without knowing it, you, too, have probably been visited during my nighttime ritual. Although I cherish a good, deep sleep, I am grateful for these lunar retreats. In a world filled with noise and distraction, what a blessing it is to have some quiet time alone with the author of our days.

These last few months have provided me some extra prayer time. With many of my own concerns pressing in, stress is indeed inducing wakefulness. But, for the first time, I find myself unable to think of others; my own burdens feel so heavy, I cannot lay them aside. The worry both distracts and consumes me. I need release. In the same way I have lifted the burdens of others, I am asking you, my friends and partners, to lift mine.

Will you share my burden and pray with me? Then, help me turn my focus away from myself by telling me how I may pray for you…

Follow Through

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People might call me a lot of things, but “athletic” is not one of them. Yet, somehow I got snared into playing softball for many years of my youth. I was pretty horrible at the sport since I could never master that hand-eye coordination bit. During many games and practices, I heard my dad holler from the sidelines, “Follow through. Follow through the ball when you swing!” I just wanted to make a hit, let alone keep swinging!

Then there was golf. What a mess I was! In retrospect, I feel bad for my father. His wife and first two daughters joined him in the game from time to time. But there I was … defective. “Follow through. Follow through the ball when you swing!” If I followed through anymore, I could have dug to China for all the grass I scooped on my swings. But that blasted ball just sat on its perch, taunting me.

Learning to follow through turned out to remain an elusive lesson for me in life, as well as sports. As I neared the end of my college career, rather than firm up relationships for the long haul of life, I pulled away from the friends on whom I had depended for so long. Saying goodbye was hard enough; I suppose my subconscious tried to protect me from the impact. A couple years later, I packed up my belongings as I left behind my New York City apartment and roommate. But in an effort to steel myself for the departure, for weeks prior to my move I had closed myself off to the city and friend I so dearly loved. I quit early on the relationships and experiences because I was unable to follow through.

It took many years for me to recognize and address this personality flaw in myself. I caught on in time to follow through at the last job I held before my second child was born. I prepared myself to walk away from my career with a sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing I had done all I could do. It felt great … my personal home run!

Right now, I’m once again having trouble following through on life. I am so ready to be in Honduras, I’m not focused on the present. I find myself immersed in projects for the trip, rather than interacting with my children. Knowing I’ll be gone for almost two weeks, I should be planning and preparing freezer meals for my family, but I have not even committed to filling our refrigerator now or making meals for us to eat this week. I should be folding my children’s laundry so they have fresh clothes to wear, rather than worrying over what I will pack for the trip. I’m riding along, thinking about being there, so ready to get to the next place.

If I give my attention to now and neglect the thought of leaving, I won’t be ready when the time comes. How does one strike a balance between being present and being prepared to move on? How does one make contact with the target while pushing the momentum far past the field of vision? Suggestions welcome. In the meantime, my wrinkled family will eat cereal for dinner, again… (I’m exaggerating. Sort of.)

Send Me a Life

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I admit it. I got sucked into the current popular online game of choice. Divine! But, you probably already knew that; half the people I know are connected to me via social networking. Sweet!

At first, I allowed my daughter to download the game after I dragged her to a ladies jewelry party. A college-aged friend of mine showed it to her and well, I caved for the sake of “Can we go yet?” Then I decided to see what the fuss was all about. Now I am hopelessly stuck on Level 79. Might as well be Level 666 for all the fun I’m having trying to beat it. And for what? So I can move on to Level 80? Woo.Hoo.

As my husband tried, unsuccessfully, to have a conversation with me this evening, I lamented about having too much to do. When he left the room to watch football alone, I decided to spend “just a minute” playing the game. An hour later…

A notification popped on the screen during the game; a friend “sent a life.” Whew, that would keep me going another round or two. But wait. She sent me a life? What about the life I’m living? What am I doing with it? Sitting on the couch, staring at a screen, accomplishing … nothing. Sure, it’s entertaining. But is it productive? Does it get me closer to the goals I have for myself? Does it build, mend, or reinforce any of the relationships that mean so much to me?

All this swapping lives back and forth in the game, does that really connect us? Several of the friends with whom I’m connected online are folks I’ve been trying to visit in person, but we have been too busy to schedule time together. Busy. Stacking candy and waiting for our lives to be refreshed. Hmmm. Maybe we need to look at this differently.

Much to my daughter’s chagrin, I believe it’s time to delete the game from my device, to look at what I really want to accomplish this day, and to give myself a life. A real life of living.

Now that’s Divine!

Edited to say: This isn’t just about the silly game. It’s about Wasters. Those things that waste my time, my energy, my life. Sure, I will delete the game, the Waster du jour, but in my boredom and weakness, I’ll eventually find another. Here’s to deleting the Wasters and saving life for living!

DCA to SAP

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One non-refundable ticket purchased. Washington Reagan (DCA) to San Pedro Sula (SAP).
I’m going. I’m going! I AM GOING!!!

This fall, I am traveling to Honduras with a small group from my church! We will serve at Heart to Heart Children’s Village (www.h2hcv.org), a home and school to about 90 children and youth, ages 2-20. The children come from the streets, undernourished, abused, and unloved; H2H changes their lives by raising them in a Christ-centered family atmosphere. It is my heart’s desire to spend time with these children, serve them tirelessly, and pour love upon them, though I have been warned it will be me who receives from their abundant goodness.

Christ called us to go into the world and share His love. I believe that when we serve and care for the “fatherless and the widow” as He commanded us, He is able to minister to us in our own brokenness. You already know I feel called to go. I want you, also, to be present and active in this work if you desire, so I plan to share the journey here, on my blog.

Please join my friends and me in praying for our group as we prepare for and embark on this trip. Let me know if you want to join my prayer team so I can count on you and pray for you, also.

Current/ongoing prayer needs:
– complete healing for my shoulder and knee to be prepared for the physical demands.
– that I am able to raise the balance of the $1,600 financial requirement for the trip. (If you want to participate financially, let me know. It would help tremendously!)
– for one more person to feel called and empowered to join our group. (Is it you?)

I am thankful to all those who will take this journey with me. I truly believe that through this experience of blessing others, God will bless us in ways we never expected!