Finding the Friendships You Deserve.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17b-18)
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Last month, I was feeling so insecure and discouraged about friendships. I ended up calling one of my best friends in tears, feeling so vulnerable and in need of advice.

I had been feeling like as soon as I would get close to a friend, we would grow apart. Or that they would find other, cooler, more fun friends and suddenly vibes were weird.  I honestly couldn’t figure out if something was wrong with me or if I did something to screw up friendships. I’d look online and see pictures of cliques and feel even more isolated. I would hang out with friends and watch groups of girls taking selfies, but usually would be the one taking the photo. It would hurt, it would make me feel insecure, and discouraged.

There have been times in my life that I would try to bend and contort myself in whatever way I could just to fit into a group. But no matter how many times I tried to bend and contort, it never really seemed to work.

Friends, if you are struggling to feel like you belong or if you’re having trouble with friendships, I just want to encourage you.  God did not design you the way He did just for you to bend and contort His design to fit into some group or clique it wasn’t designed to be a part of. And you’re not weird or strange and there’s nothing wrong with you if you grow apart from women you have cared about for awhile.

Because you know what? All things are redeemable. And at the end of the day, God delivers who you need, right when you need them, to stand by your side. Some of the girls I honestly thought would be life-long friends (maybe even in my wedding one day) have been some of the friendships that drifted apart. Some of the girls I thought I would grow apart from years ago are the same girls that have invited me to be a part of their special wedding day. And often, those  friendships that continue to build and last throughout the years are not friendships you can fake. They’re disorganized and crazy and a little bit messy — but they’re real. They take time to build.

I think, sometimes, we avoid friendships that require much of us because we are afraid of the risk. When we’ve been hurt or walked all over, we begin to close up and control our environments. I mean, who wants to be hurt again? Trust me, there’s wisdom in guarding our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in isolation. Though isolating can be tempting to do when friendships haven’t gone our way in the past, there’s a problem with that logic. The truth is, the greatest satisfaction comes from the greatest sacrifice.

Although I haven’t solved the friendship puzzle, I do know that REAL friendships can empower us and bring out the best of who we are.  Real friends won’t judge you for your messy hair days, they encourage you, challenge you, make you better, push you closer to Jesus, support your dreams, they love you through the hard times, and they pray for you. Life is so much better, and easier, and certainly more fun when we walk through it together. I am so grateful for authentic friendships. For raw, real, tough but gentle love.

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Obedience. Not An Easy Thing.

Truth Moment: I’m a procrastinator.

I know the things that I should or need to be doing, but I always put it off- at least for a little while. I have even learned how to procrastinate while I’m in the middle of procrastinating (pretty sure that’s a talent). 

Over the years of growing closer in my relationship with Jesus- I have learned that He is not a dilly-dallier. One thing that accompanies being a follower of Jesus is a little thing called ‘obedience’. Real obedience, like immediate response type of obedience. Not the kind of obedience that you put on the shelf until you can get around to it.

I have learned over the years that our obedience to God is not optional (even thought at times we would like it to be). The more we grow in our relationship with the Lord, the more we see His greatness, and then our response to His commands become more immediate. Obedience to Him becomes a reflex. It becomes who we are, not what we do.

Obedience can begin to feel like a burden if it’s just something we have to continuously stay on top of. But obeying Jesus isn’t about making sure we do one thing and don’t do another. He tells us in John 14:15 that obedience is the result of time spent with Him and flows naturally from our love for Him.  He says, “If you love Me, you will obey Me”.

Over the years I’ve learned that there are different stages of obedience.

First, submitting our lives to Jesus.

This is the start of our relationship with Jesus. Of course, submission is always voluntary. Jesus does not force us to follow Him, but He invites us. And what I love most is that He will never stop inviting us to have a close, intimate relationship with Him. But in order to have that relationship- we need to be willing to submit our lives to Him and His will for us.

Secondly, getting to know Jesus.

A strong relationship with Jesus can’t be built overnight. It takes time. And we get to know Jesus by spending time with Him in prayer and in reading His Word. Even when times are tough and uncertain, the Holy Spirit is there to remind us of how much Jesus had to endure on earth; how He dealt with all life’s struggles and decisions. The more we get to know Jesus, the clearer we can hear and understand His desires for us.

And thirdly, obeying Jesus.

As much as we try to be consistent, we will continue to find it impossible to obey Jesus in our own strength. (Trust me, I have tried). It’s Jesus and His strength that does it for us. Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Our life of obedience is the result of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the fruit we bear from our relationships with Jesus. This fruit shows everyone around us that we belong to Him.

As long as we (the branches) remains in Jesus (the grapevine), we receive the nourishment we need in our lives to produce fruit. Obedience is supernatural evidence of what abiding in Jesus looks like. All of our good deeds and true successes come from His nourishment, not from our own natural abilities, good sense or cleverness.

In John 15:1, Jesus calls His Father the gardener. While I don’t know much about gardening, I do know that a good gardener reaps a good harvest only after putting in hours and hours of work. Rocks need to be removed, weeds pulled, and plants watered. But then there is also pruning. Pruning is when the gardener has to cut away all the dead and overgrown branches. Jesus goes on to say in John 15:2 that “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Pruning can be painful, but it’s necessary in our walk with the Lord.

Obedience was honestly a tough lesson for me to learn; and immediate obedience even more difficult. We all have our moments and seasons of rebellion.We yell out when God wants to get rid of something we are holding onto so dearly; whether pride, relationships, dreams, etc. But God’s ultimate goal is for each and every one of us is to be fruitful. So when those tough lessons, moments, and seasons arise- remember to submit, listen, and obey.

God’s grace is abundant and it’s through His grace that we experience the fruit of immediate obedience.

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