A Drought of Friendship

Over the past 5 or so years I have been living in a drought of friendship.  I’m not sure how it happened, because I had many close friends in my late teens and early twenties, but as life happened and people moved around I found myself without much fellowship.  I had a few people that I would call on the phone or talk to online, but I lacked in person female bonding.  I remember traveling through Oklahoma and spending a few days with a friend from school there, and we spent the whole time curled up talking about life and God, watching sappy tv shows and drinking cocoa.  My heart needs that connection.

I worked with women that I talked to a lot, and I married and had a beautiful baby, so my life wasn’t devoid of human interaction.  But something is different.  Sometimes you need a friend that clicks with you at the heart.

Something that I had taught myself years ago was to go to God first with my feelings.  I am apt to emotionally vomit on people and never get around to prayer, so it is good for me to work things through with God before I talk them over with someone else.  During the drought I went to God a lot, and I worked on investing in my relationship with him.  I prayed about this lack of friendship and asked for him to fill the dry cracks that I felt in my life because of it.

Another thing that I struggled with was overlooking opportunities for friendship because they didn’t fit my preconceived mold of what I was looking for.  God has always paired me with weird people, but for some reason it is hard for me to let go of wanting “cool” friends.

Eventually, I reached out.  I stopped hoping for a friend to come to me, and instead I decided to be that friend.  I realized that I have a lot to offer, and that my strengths are perfectly suited for deep and meaningful relationships.  And I stopped looking for friendship where I expected to find it.

I now have a few women that I see regularly and consider close friends.  I also have a few women that I see infrequently but I have purposed that when we visit I ask intentional questions and share my true heart because I love them and refuse to live in a shallow place with them.  I have also let go of a lot of past insecurity and am trying to build relationships with people that I was intimidated or irritated by before.

If you are going through a friendship drought, be encouraged.  First, you have the ultimate friend in Jesus, and maybe this is the time that you need to build your reliance on him.  Secondly, stop looking for the type of friends you want and start praying about being a friend to the people God has put around you.  The weird ones always make the best friends.  And when you find that person that your heart clicks with, it is like a drink of fresh water in the middle of a long drought.

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How To Find Contentment In The Real World

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I think one of the craziest things about our culture is marketing. This pervasive industry is built on the goal of destroying contentment — because if you are content with what you have, you aren’t going to be buying anything.

That clickbait title is designed to make you discontented with your current level of knowledge. People analyze titles to see which ones generate the most traffic, and try to utilize the wording that gets results. Who doesn’t want to see what brought tears to the eyes and made the jaw drop in amazement? Why not see what we are missing?

All the magazines, most of the blogs, and every piece of advertising we are exposed to is designed to make us discontent with our current state so that we enter the sales funnel. That funnel may begin with getting on an email list or liking a facebook page, but the idea is to generate income eventually.

The problem isn’t in people wanting to be paid for what they provide, but in the discontent generated to make us dissatisfied with what we have so that we get something new. This new thing could be a purchased product, an experienced activity, or a new level in a relationship. But it doesn’t keep us satisfied — it doesn’t bring the lasting contentment we think is being offered.

I am terrible at this, because it is easy for me to surf for fun eye candy instead of taking care of what already is in my life. Amazon knows how often I look at that Chromebook and will drop the price like a dangling worm on a hook. Etsy is like the Molasses Swamp in Candyland, sucking me in for many turns while I look at removable tiles to update my backsplash. I am pretty sure I am not alone.

Why not take an honest look at what we already have? In Christ, we have more than we realize: Philippians 4 — …I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Notice some things here: 

  • Contentment is a learning process
  • There are things like being brought low and facing hunger in the contentment category
  • The famous “I can do all things” verse is in context of learning to be content in any situation

Hebrews 13 — Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Thoughts to ponder:

  • Love of money, not money itself, is the potential problem
  • What we have is Jesus and He will never leave or forsake us

1 Timothy 6 — But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. Perspective:

  • You are not going to take it with you
  • If you have something you could eat (not if you like it) and something to cover your body, that’s enough

I have been thinking about the food/clothing thing a lot lately. When the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, they had God’s presence guiding them day and night. When they were hungry, God gave them manna (which means, “what is it?”) and told them not to stockpile unless directed to do so. Their clothing and shoes never wore out, so they never needed a new wardrobe. Later on, He brought them to a land of plenty, with many things to eat and many riches. He warned them that it would be easy to get sidetracked by all the stuff they could accumulate.

Many years later, Jesus would tell a group of people on a hillside that there was more to life than food and clothing: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6)

When I was a young believer, I trusted God to dress me. I knew I didn’t have a good handle on what would be appropriate clothing, so I used these verses as a challenge to trust His provision. He was really good about providing many things to wear, and things to eat, over the years. I have learned that there are seasons in contentment. Sometimes I have had very little, but most of the time I have more than I realize.

I am still being challenged to trust His provision, but when I put my list of wants in His hands, it’s been interesting to see how He provides. For example, I have been eyeing some very cool market baskets made in Africa for a few years but never could justify spending the money. At the local Rescue Mission Thrift Store I found one for $3 and gleefully bought it with thanksgiving in my heart. It’s a reminder to me that I don’t need to buy stuff immediately — and that it’s a good idea to wait on God’s provision.

The illustration that continually reminds me of contentment is the way my hand feels when I hold it out the window as I drive. If my hand is relaxed, it feels full. If I try to grasp it, there’s nothing to hold. I see contentment as relaxing my hand so that God can fill it with the temporary things that are best for me at the moment. These things will change like the wind and they will feel full of promise. If I relax my grasp, I enjoy the moment. If I try to hold on, my hand is empty.

From Winning the Bread to Baking it

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I came into marriage with a well established job in a cushy office and a decent paycheck.  During the first year Jason’s job fluctuated, but my steady income kept us afloat during the rough patches.  Then, when our daughter was 7 months old, I tried to make a career change and ended up unemployed.

The situation had done a number on my confidence and I felt completely inadequate to jump back into the workplace, but I knew that we couldn’t function on one income.  I finally decided to try starting a home daycare, and have slowly been establishing that.  But it has been crazy, going abruptly from dressing for success and rushing the baby to daycare every morning to wrangling rambunctious children and finding the best recipes for homemade bread.

In one sense, I am happier.  I feel like I actually live in my house, the dishes get washed, I make supper most nights, I actually spend significant time with my daughter that I felt cheated of before.

In another sense, it is really hard to go from consistent paychecks to sporadic families paying for childcare.  It is stressful to know that I’m not yet making enough to fill the gap that my old income left.  I am the type of person who will ruminate and agonize over money until I am wallowing in a miserable pit of despair.

There are days when I snap at the kids because I am so busy wondering how we will pay the next bill, there are days when the parents don’t pay me and won’t answer my calls.  How can I find contentment here?

There are days when I have no idea how to be competent at being a homemaker, when my brain is completely blank and I get nothing productive done all day.  How can I accept the grace of God to be sufficient for my inadequacy?

There are days when I feel that staying home was a selfish decision and I wonder why I ever thought I could make enough money without a traditional job.  How can I recognize that my worth is not in what I can bring to the table?

I stumbled upon Psalm 127 and read this:

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

I felt God speaking into my heart and reminding me of who he is.  He is the one who establishes my steps, he is the one who sustains me.  He does not need my anxiety to accomplish his work in my life, he needs my daily discipline, my cheerful obedience.

He promises to give me rest.

And so, when I am living in this day and I feel like I am failing at adulthood, I set aside my anxious toil and I bake bread.  I gather the kids and we make cookies.  I pull out the crayons and the play-doh.  I wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean my house and cook dinner for my husband.  I make sure that my daughter’s life is full of love and laughter.  I sit quietly and read my Bible, turning every aspect that I am not able to control over to the Father.

And in this daily obedience, I find that he gives me the rest and contentment that elude me everywhere else.