Monday, September 15, 2014

How to Avoid and Not Be a Toxic Friend

When I was young making and keeping friends was so easy.  It was as simple as common interest and luckily, we all went to the same school so we had seven hours a day to invest in each other.  Then we had all the extra-curricular time too – band, choir, drama, trips across the state and continent.  Time was there.  All conflicts seemed to be settled relatively easily.  In fact, I am still friends with most of my high school friends. 

But, as I get older, as I move around a lot, I find making and keeping friends is so difficult.  There are less and less things like school to bring adults together.  There are more and more distractions to keep us from investing in each other.  Work, community service, kids, even family all seem to be obstacles to developing mature healthy relationships.  Sometimes we get so depressperate we even let toxic friends into our lives.  But it shouldn’t be that way. 

Friendship is good for the mind, body and soul. One study shows that people with the most friends over a 9 year period cut their risk of death more than 60% (Source: Dr. Dean Ornish, a pioneer in reversing heart disease, states no other factor in medicine, “not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery – has a greater effect on how often we get sick than the healing power of love.” (Source:  In a study were women saw volunteer friends regularly throughout the year; they had a 72% remission in depression.  That is the same success rate as antidepressants  (Source:

But friendship is good for the soul.  People with strong social networks are more likely to survive major illness like cancer or heart attack. It reduces the effects of stress on the body and helps us heal. (Source:  And all of this was DESIGNED that way.  Gensis 2:18 states: “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  So why do we stop investing as we get older? 

Life gets complicated.  That is the true reality.  And when life gets complicated and hard it is easier to stop letting people in and try to do things on your own.  But that is not the example we have been set.  Christ began his ministry by finding and investing in 12 close friends – what we know now as the apostles.  But more than that, he had 3 close friends - Peter, James, and John - the inner circle friends, friends of the circle of trust.  

Christ followed Proverbs 13:20 – “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” When Christ started his 3 year ministry which would be tulmultous and difficult, he found the company of wise men.  But more importantly, they found the company of a wise man.  In the course of these three years, these men would heal the sick, raise the dead, anger the political and religious leaders (in today’s terms the President of the United States and the Pope).  The were kicked out of towns, barrated, and eventually beaten and publically killed.  If wisdom was ever needed it was in these times. 

Although perhaps more extreme than what you or I might expereince today, the principle is the same.  Deciphering when to become intimate with a person, what happens if you made that decision to young and the consiquences that follow, perhaps it is a question of drug use or where to go to college or whether to join the service.  All of these life altering decisions need wise counsel.  So it is SO important to surround yourself with wise people.  They will help steer you away from the stupid mistakes while supporting you in the situation you are presently in.  

Proverbs 18:24 states, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
  but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” and Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”  Here is a true life example of what this looks like. 

My kid brother was a senior in high school and went to a bachelor party of a life long friend.  This friend was not wise by any stretch of the imagination.  All the guys got drunk and my brother found himself giving it away in the back of a car to a girl he had broken up with numerous times with because she was unstable. 
One year later, in a happy relationship with the woman who is now his wife, he got a call from the one night stand, and was told he was the father of a bouncing baby boy.  In the utter shock and confusion of the situation he tried to do everythin on his own. In the processes, he alienated people who cared about him and unknowingly signed away his rights as a father and the child was illegally adopted. 

When people found out, he was kicked out of youth groups, Bible studies, and some community organizations.  Life was, to say the least, hard.  But he learned a valuable proverb – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”  In this process both he and his then-girlfriend, now wife, learned what real friendship is.  Being loved at ALL times – even when we make gargantuan mistakes.  The friends he had made that choice with ran away when life got hard, but some of the true friends stuck around and helped him through the very tough situation.  But he discovered what brotherhood was too.  In the process three of our siblings offered to adopt the child as their own, and all of us came around him to support and uplift him.  We all make stupid decisions, but the people who stick with us through those stupid decisions are the ones we know are our true friends. 

Healthy relationships are impotant, but we can’t just stop at having those friends in our lives.  We MUST  BE those friends to others.  Ephesisians 4:2-3 states, “
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”  Plainly speaking – be nice, even when it is difficult, be kind – even when you want to wring their necks, be  considerate – even when you just need to focus on yourself sometimes.  Never be the voice of dissention – unless it is to stop hurt and damage.  Always work in love, speak in love, and interact in love – even with strangers. 

Relationships are hard.  You are not always going to make the best decisions in them, but with a firm foundation you have a hope of it. Christ picked 12 close friends he walked with for three years.  One of them betrayed him into the hands of his enemy, sealing it with a kiss.  Juddas brought armed men to arrest the peaceful Christ and sold his best friend for a mere 30 pieces of silver.  Yet, Christ, knowing the betrayal would happen, still died to forgive his sins (had Judas asked).  After all, as John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Say what? He PURSUES me!?!

If you are like me, and maybe you are not, but if you are what keeps you awake at night is not my circumstances or my looks and body image.  What keeps me up, and has since I can remember, are my relationship – those with my friends, my family, and most especially with God.

Questions like: How could I have done that differently? I hope they hear my heart…but what if they don’t like me?  Am I being a reflection of Christ’s love for me?  When I was younger,  and in the dating game, questions like: will he ask me out?  Am I coming on too strong? Not enough?  Does God approve of dating?  Should I be pursuing a romantic relationship or just focus on God? All of these are relationship questions and our focus the next couple weeks.  Today, we are going to talk about our relationship with God.

1 Samuel reminds us, “God does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  How comforting I have found these words growing up.  Being an introverted band geek and drama nerd who doesn’t get on well in large groups, how people view me was always important.  Add on to it, I am the middle of 7 and the daughter of not one, but TWO pastor’s – eyes were always on me – to be perfect.  Now that is pressure.  But when I read this, I am reminded that it is not about image or personality or how many likes I have on Facebook or followers on Twitter.  It is about my heart.  God cares about me.  Just me.  The way I am.

Jesus confirms this in Luke 12:7 confirms this when he says, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  At first glance, this seems like nothing, but when you look at the bigger picture, it really is amazing.  God cares enough about the insignificant sparrow and provides him food and clothes the flowers in brilliance when all they do is fade and die tomorrow.  How much more, does he care for me?  How much more does He want to know me?  To talk with me? To walk with me?  How amazing is it that the Almighty, the very creator of the universe, Heaven and Earth, wants more than just to watch me from afar, but knows the very hairs on my head? 
But it gets better!  Psalms tells us that His “beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.”  His love CHASES us. The very word means to pursue with intent to catch.  He is pursuing us – working to catch us and embrace us in everlasting love. 

So when I think about relationships at the end of the day, before I fall asleep, I can go to bed in complete confidence that God not only knows who I am, but knows me intimately and loves me.  He actually wants to be in my life so much, He PURSUES me!  How awesome is that!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

10 Things I Learned Driving Across the Country

1.       ALWAYS use a Garmin.

I have spent most of my life using hand written directions and maps.  My daddy taught me how to read a map when I was ten (thank goodness for that!) But having that handy-dandy Garmin to use on trip was AMAZING. 

Garmins will tell you directions (quite literally they speak to you and you can set the type of accent they use…so much fun!) Garmins will show you maps, can re-route you for anything in under 60 seconds and can save your locations.  But that is not why I think you should use a Garmin over Google or Tom Tom.

My mom told me this story, just before we left on our cross country adventure, of when she and my dad went to the D.C. area for work.  She had a rental car and was crossing state lines (you do that a lot here…I know crazy for you Californians).  She was pulled over almost immediately for speeding.  Here is the kicker – the speed limit change had NOT been posted.  When she asked the officer when the speed limit had changed, his answer (in East Coast fashion) was, “About 60 years ago!”  Needless to say she paid the ticket and we got a free lesson. 

On EVERY state line we crossed the speed limit changed by 10 mph every time…without a change posted.  How did we know this valuable bit of information?  The Garmin.  It tells you when and to how much the speed limit changes…AT the change!  Saved us multiple times!

You have to get one:

2.       NEVER eat at a fast food restaurant on base.

About the second or third day, after a ten hour drive, we pulled onto a base (I won’t say which one) exhausted.  It was by far the most friendly base we have ever stayed on…and we have stayed at a lot! It was about 9:00 p.m. and we were hungry! So we stopped by the McDonalds on the way to lodging.  Now neither of us like McDonalds, but it was what was open.  We order a chicken wrap, and because it was almost Christmas and it is a Black Family tradition to have Egg Nog, I ordered an Egg Nog shake (first one ever).  It tasted great too!  Until about 1:00 a.m.  Then for the next 24 hours my body expelled it and anything else I tried to put in it.  Needless to say, our two days with my Austin family was quickly shortened to one.  So bummed!!!

3.       Certain states (at least part of them) don’t want you to flush soiled toilet paper…GROSS!

Because I got so sick, I used a lot of bathrooms as we traversed across New Mexico and into Texas .  A couple caught me off guard.  One was the Pizza Hut (I can’t remember if it was in New Mexico or Texas) but I can remember that we will NEVER eat Pizza Hut again.  We didn’t even eat there, but the smell from outside all the way in was VOMIT.  Awful!  So we let the dog out to pee and we headed on.  In Texas, however, we stopped at a Dairy Queen (only thing open on Christmas Eve).  If you are ever as ill as I was, their toast was a perfect thing to keep down…that was all I ate.  But, they don’t want you to put spoiled paper tissue in the toilet.  I found that icky and strange, but I bet it has something to do with their pipes.  Anyway, it made me pity the trash guy.

4.       Take a driving buddy.

I cannot tell you how helpful a driving buddy is!  Of course a trip like this is only half as much fun if you go alone, but with the driving buddy it is wonderful! Robert and I were able to take turns often, which made us always fresh…except on day one when I drove 11 hours from Yuba City, CA to Phoeniz, AZ.  Robert had just spent 24 hours flying to Georgia and back so he was in no condition to drive.  By the time we got into our hotel at near 1:00 a.m. I could not say it was too soon.  That was also the nicest place we stayed at the whole time…so bummed it was only for 10 hours. But, the rest of the trip was made much easier because there were two of us.  It also meant we could keep making progress even when I was decommissioned for a day. Aside from banter and shared experiences, the help driving is a MUST!

5.       See as much family and friends as possible!

I cannot stress this one enough! Especially when you traveling across country for a move, this one is essential.  Half way through our trip I got to see my Austin family.  Oh how I miss them! It was a blessing to be with them on Christmas Day and more to just hang out with my little buddies.  When you think you are done driving and know family is on the other side, that is what keeps you going.  Two days later, we got to see Robert’s family in Georgia.  It was a nice  connection before we headed on to our new home in Maryland.  That is a great way to keep you driving across deserts and no-wheres-villes. 

6.       Don’t drive through the country during the holidays.

NOTHING IS OPEN THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS OR NEW YEARS!!!!!  Just so you know.  That made it hard to do anything fun anywhere.  But, we did come across the biggest trading post I have EVER seen in Texas (they really do all things bigger).  This post was quite literaly in the middle of nowhere, but it was boasted easily 600 square feet of wall to wall product – blankets, carvings, purses, etc.  And they really are super friendly! We also stumbled across a General Paton Museum we had no idea exisited (though it was closed).


7.       The state of Florida is on TWO DIFFERENT time zones.

When you spend a week plus on the road you find little ways to keep entertained as you drive across nothing.  One of those ways is to check changes in time zones.  If you are from California, like I am, you have spent your entire life believing Florida is on East Coast time.  And you would be right…for half of the state!  Half the state is on central time and the other half is eastern.  It blew our minds! Especially because we expected it to change at or near the state line. 

8.       Georgia believes in killing its drivers…especially in the rain!

Ok, that really isn’t fair to say.  I cannot say with definitely that the entire state of Georgia believes in killing its drivers, but I can make a fair guess.  I drove the entire state of Georgia, in the rain and in both night and day.  In my experience, a state that does not believe in lighting even their highways, does not use reflectors on the road and doesn’t bother to re-painted their very, very faded lane lines, wants to kill drivers.  You can barely see in the dark for all the forests and swamps in Georgia, and you can barely see in the day for their lack of road repair.  But, add in torrential rain and you can see for anything.  I was never so happy to cross into a new state as I was to cross into South Carolina!

9.       South Carolina is beautiful in architecture and nature.

South Carolina gets a bad rap because they made some decisions way back to hundred years ago and are still paying for it.  But I will say this, it is BEAUTIFUL!  It is by far one the most beautiful states I have ever driven through.  We even stopped off in Camden as an unscheduled stop to see some history.  They have painstakingly incorporated modern with historical.  Everything is well taken care of and planned out. The drivers are wonderful too!  Nowhere else will you find drivers getting to the slow lane so quickly when you are going faster than them, no one cuts you off, everyone uses their blinker, it is wonderful (and the complete opposite of Maryland). I cannot wait to spend more time there!

10.   It would take a life time to get all the history out of the colonial states.

We were lucky to spend a day in Yorktown, VA (another not planned trip).  We spent one day at one of its historical sites and still had not taken in all that little town has been through.  It is part of a historical triangle (Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown) and we could easily have stopped at each.  But time just didn’t allow it.  It was our first introduction to the rich history here on the East Coast, and gave many plans for future visits (those towns are only 3 hours away from us!) So come visit!