story

Growing a Friendship: pt 4 in finding community

   October 9, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 Day 9: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 

Once you have found friends with whom you can share your heart, how do you grow a friendship?

In the past year or so, these are some of the things I have learned (and am still learning) about growing a friendship.

This is my sweet friend. Shelley. We met when our sons were in the same class in second grade. For five years we said, "We'll have to go out for coffee sometime." Instead, we would just chat in the school parking lot, or when the kids had sleepovers, or if we saw each other at church. 20 years later, we are still friends.

This is my sweet friend, Shelley (she’s on the left, that’s me on the right). We met when our sons were in the same class in second grade. For five years we said, “We’ll have to go out for coffee sometime.” Instead, we would just chat in the school parking lot, or when the kids had sleepovers, or if we saw each other at church. Twenty years (and two grown children) later, we are still friends.

 

You must be purposeful.

Relationships rarely just happen on their own. You need to be purposeful and plan at times. Set regular times in the calendar. Call when you haven’t heard from someone in a while. Send a text, or better yet, a card or a letter to let them know you are thinking about them. Ask how they’re doing, and really want to know.

You must be present.

In the screen age, I find that this is more challenging. We are used to texting rather than calling (even I prefer a text to a phone call). But there is nothing like face to face, sit down for coffee heart-to-heart chat. And put the screens down. If you can, turn off your ringer so you’re not checking notifications every two minutes. I know it’s hard, because our phones have become an appendage, but try. I read last week that the message you send if you’re looking at your phone while talking to another person is “You are not enough for me right now, at this moment.” Even if that’s not our intention, is that really the message we want to send? Look people in the eye. It can be disconcerting – people don’t look each other in the eye any more. Try active listening – ask open-ended questions, and really listen to their answers instead of planning what you’re going to say next.

You must be vulnerable.

Take down your guard. I’m not saying that you have to do this all at once, but piece by piece, share your story. Share your flaws and your imperfections. As you open up, they just might open up, too. If you’re scared, it’s okay to say it. We are all just garden variety humans trying to get through life together. Don’t pretend that you are something other than that.

You must have grace.

Have grace when your expectations are not met, or when you’re disappointed. It is scary to put yourself out there, and being rejected, or feeling like you’ve been rejected, hurts. If someone is late for a coffee date, or if they don’t return your phone call or text, give them grace. Lives are busy, and we don’t know what is happening in their lives. Maybe they’re just forgetful. Maybe they’re just flaky. Maybe they are trying to scrape together every last bit of patience to deal with their kids. Maybe they just got in a fight with their significant other. Be forgiving and show grace, and don’t take it personally. It’s not all about you. Life happens. Move on and try again.

You must show up.

The most important thing you can do is just show up. Even if it takes you seven coffee dates before you can share your story, show up. Being vulnerable is scary, but just show up. Be there. Be available. Not just physically, but emotionally. Be present. If you know you are both going to be dropping your kids off at school, buy an extra coffee and just talk in the school parking lot for five minutes. If their child is sick, bring over some crackers and ginger ale. I love the phrase that author Bob Goff uses in his book, Love Does. “Be love with skin on”.  Just show up.

What does it mean to JUST SHOW UP?

Shelley just finished her last round of chemo and radiation. When she had her surgery, I came over to help her shower, empty her drains and give her injections in her stomach. Sometimes you just show up. Because LOVE. (She is the silly one on the left.)

Shelley just finished her last round of chemo and radiation. When she had her surgery, I came over to help her shower, empty her drains and give her injections in her stomach. Sometimes you just show up. Because LOVE. (She is the silly one on the left.)

 

* There is one more thing –

You must have FUN.

We’ll talk about the importance of fun in the next post.

The Importance of Stories: Part 3 of Finding Community

October 8, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 8: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 
 

 Being in community with others helps bring balance to our lives. Sharing our stories helps us develop community.

I was just looking over my notes from the Storyline Conference I attended in San Diego last February. Donald Miller has been one of my favorite authors since I first read Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. But it was his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that really made an impact on my life. In the book he compares the making of a movie about his life to the story that we are writing in our own lives.

Are you living the story you want to live?

Is your story purposeful?

If not, what needs to change in your life to write a better story?

Here are some quotes that I wrote down (I think it was during Donald Miller’s opening talk).

Jesus is calling us into meaning. God didn’t create us to live in reaction (to the things happening around us) but to be co-creators of a meaningful life (with Him). God gave you a blank book. Together, are you writing a meaningful story?

And my favorite

What will the world miss if you don’t tell your beautiful story? 

As a hospice nurse, I see the value of stories every day. The stories I carry of the patients that I have cared for make me a better nurse. The story I lived with one ALS patient and his family will make me an even better nurse when caring for my next ALS patient. When I meet with a family whose loved one has just been told they have weeks to live, they have a need to share their story. When I meet with dying patients, life review and sharing their stories is some of the important work that people do at the end of life.

Sharing our stories as we build friendships is also important, but it should be a give and take. You share part of yours, I will share part of mine. And piece by piece, the picture on the puzzle becomes clear.

And believe me, EVERYONE has a story.

Why it’s important to share your story:

Sharing your heart with someone, telling them your story, is how we get to know one another. Beyond just the “How are you doing today?” “Oh, fine, how are you?” To be brave enough to tell your story is to take off the mask and show where you came from, how you have grown, who you are now, and who you hope to be. That is the beginning of a reciprocal, heart-to-heart friendship.

Why it’s important to listen to another person’s story:

Of course there is the obvious, because that is how you get to know them. But it goes much deeper than that. When someone shares part of their story, they are giving you a little piece of themselves. If you are flippant or callous, or even if you just aren’t fully present, they may not share again with you. If we treat the gift of their story with an open heart, a present being, and hands of gentle grace no matter what they tell us, we build trust, which paves the way for friendship and deeper community.

Why EVERYONE’S story is important:

I have learned in the past few years that if I have an instant dislike for someone, or if they rub me the wrong way, one of the most important (and difficult) things to do is to take time to learn their story. In the past I would be more likely to just avoid difficult people, especially people who seem purposely cruel or who treat others poorly. But I found that as I took time to listen to them, to ask questions, to spend time with them, little by little, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, they would give me bits of their story. (Trust is very hard for difficult people). And as I started putting the puzzle of their story together, it helped me to love them more. As they shared ever so cautiously about the pain in their lives, it helped me to understand their anger, or their refusal to help others, or their habit of lashing out. From there, even if I don’t like their behavior or the way they treat others, I can try to understand where they are coming from.

Hearing the stories of difficult people helps me to give them the gift of grace.

So, what kind of story are you writing?

What do you need to change to write a better story?

With whom will you share a piece of your story this week?

Who’s story will you listen to this week?

Tell me your beautiful story