One Another Friendship

Last week a beautiful thing happeneda friend dropped by. No planning, no consulting our schedules to pencil in a playdate in six weeks pending the weather, possible illness, and the unforeseen mishaps that are bound to happen. Just a knock at the door.

As we sat amidst my laundry, watching little ones play we chatted about what was going on in life. As we took breaks to feed children or put a grumpy baby to bed, we coached the littles on friendship 101. Don’t pinch. Give her space. You can play with it when she is done. Gentle. Be slow to anger,she didn’t realize that hurt you. Yelling isn’t how we talk to our friends.

Friendship Holly HawesIt is good advice for us all.

Later, they will learn to keep confidences, cheer one another on, and be includers. To care for one another’s broken hearts, and forgive one another.

One another is really what friendship is about. As Christians, friendship is not simply based on common interests or places in life, but on the fact that as followers of Jesus we are family. Beyond stage of life, race, or ambition we are called to relationship. Because of this the one another includes the other.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with {Sisterly} affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

While the Bible doesn’t have a top 10 list of friendship do’s and don’ts, when I think about the way a family should treat one another, I continue to gain more insight into how redeemed sister-friendship works.

Come as you are

…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

There is no need to clean yourself up to join the family, and we shouldn’t permit the facade of perfection to remain within our friendships. Family gets to see all sides of you. Morning bedhead. Messy room. Struggling and succeeding. There is vulnerability in sharing your real life, and this is exactly where we begin to connect deeply with one another as sister-friends. Past the Pinterest projects and small talk is the part of your soul made for real inter-dependence.

Confess

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

I vividly remember the first time I sat across from a friend and confessed an area I’d been struggling that I hoped to never say outloud. Years later, I don’t remember even what I actually confessed, but I remember the deep relief and healing I felt as she said outloud that God had already forgiven me and she forgave me as well. We need people in our lives who can tell us the truth, hear us out, and pray for us.

Holly Hawes FriendshipMartin Luther famously said, ‘All a Christian’s life is of repentance.” Indeed, we are people who not only say we are in need of the change God can bring in our life on day one of following Jesus, but  also on every day after that. In our relationships this means  we are to be sisters and friends who are real about the places we are struggling and are pointing one another back to the good news of the gospel.

Forgiveness

…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Friendship has a certain quality of commitment that is never stated in vows, signed on a legal document, or even agreed upon in a conversation. Instead, day in and day out we begin to do the things that make relationships last and slowly a foundation is built. Part of that foundation must be forgiveness or the relationship will not stand the test of time. People do fail, and no one but Jesus is perfect. We are able to forgive one another because we know that God has forgiven us.

I’m With You

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

As sisters we hold front row seats to each other’s life. We must cheer each other on both in times of joy and pain. I find that most people are great at half of this verse. We have the encouraging cheerleader party thrower types who celebrate well when a friend gets a promotion, begins a romantic relationship, has a baby, or is just excited for the new hobby she started. On the other hand there are the mercy-filled empathetic type who sit and weep with those struggling with illness, infertility, loss of a job, disappointment, or marriage trouble. We default to one side, but miss out if we don’t learn to give both rejoicing and weeping.

You Have a Gift

For as in one body we have many members,and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them Romans 12 :4-6a

For some reason, it is difficult to see in ourselves the ways that God has made us and gifted us. We need our sisters to point out how they see God at work through us, and how our gifts are needed. So next time you see a friend excelling at something, let them know. Because we are not alone in this journey. We were designed to encourage, help, and serve those whom God loves, those He created in His image.


Holly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time holly-squareas a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

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My Husband’s Legacy

I know this wonderful man. A man that believed his efforts were good enough on their own, who thought he could determine his own destiny. He had prayed a prayer inviting Christ Jesus to enter in and take control of his life, but didn’t let go. Not fully understanding how that prayer he prayed would actually change his life he stayed in his sin. So this young man grew in the confidence that his self-efforts were making him successful. And he tried to find rest in his achievements: business owner by age 17, plus a husband, homeowner, and rescue dog by age 20.

Brian Bradley (3)While this man knew all along that sin broke the heart of God, but had a hard time being affected by that. The man believed he knew what was best and that surely God would agree with him. He carried on until the day when temporal triumphs crashed in, and all he thought secure threatened to fail. At age 22 he felt the severing cut of divorce, while business struggles constricted around the life he had built. To his knees he fell as he bowed before God, desperate for Him for the first time. He placed the motives of his heart on display to the God who already knew them, and got real. He literally cried out to God, questioning His goodness in this life. The man came to the place that God had wanted him to be all along, completely at his end and unable on his own.

There are many facets at work in this man’s journey and his learning to utterly depend on Christ. It is beautiful to see the incredible and deep healing that Christ did in his life, turning him around completely. This man has now led several people to the redeeming grace of Christ, and has discipled many in the ways since his own surrender.

I know this story well, for this man has been my husband of almost 7 years. The things that God has done to change his life have been a blessing to me and our children. He is a loving, devoted husband, a fun, caring dad, and leads in our church as one of the church’s pastors.

Two years ago my husband and I sat down with his grandparents to talk about the family tree. As we peeled back layer by layer of his paternal family’s history, we learned something that still brings us to tears. After years of feeling like the only pastor type in his family. My husband discovered what he thought to be true was a misunderstanding. In the retelling of generations past it was revealed to us that there is a long line of preachers in his ancestry. A great grandfather, a great-great grandfather, and many great uncles generations back. I think we may have lost count after seven different small town pastors / preachers in the family line emerged from the pages of his descendants. That day we inherited an old Bible that was preached from and written in by his great grandfather, a man who most likely planted seeds of prayer for those who would someday be born into his family line. Stories of joy and loss were listed on the front page, and it was absolutely incredible to read about the journey of faith that had been hidden from our knowledge, but that still wove a legacy.

Prayer for childrenAs I think about the legacy we want to leave for our children and their children and down through the generations. I think of all the things I want to be known for. In actuality, it’s a little bit vain when I base the hopes on myself and what they will remember of me. However, when I look back down the line and see that people in my daughter’s ancestry, even hundreds of years back, loved Jesus and devoted their lives to serving Him, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude, and I too begin to pray for generations to come.

My husband is a living example of a man who lays down his life daily for his family, taking sacrifices upon himself for our well-being. I love that my children get to look at his life, and see Jesus reflected. I am deeply inspired that it is not just his life, generations of the faithfulness of God are intertwined with in their bloodline. It encourages me to dream about how the story of God at work in our lives will be told to those who may never know us. How curiosity may one day lead a young man or woman to look back with wonder about the works of our Mighty God.

Come what may, my prayer for my children is that they will surrender to Him who loves them most. That they will use the gifting God has given them in a way that will glorify Him as they follow fearlessly in the calling He has for them. And that they would open their Bibles in times of sorrow and joy to proclaim to the generations, “Look what God has done!”

 

“That the generation to come might know,

even the children yet to be born,

That they may arise and tell them to their children,

That they should put their confidence in God

And not forget the works of God,

But keep His commandments,” Psalm 78:6-7


Readers, Thank you for going through this series on legacy with us. What legacy would you like to leave?

britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 3 girls (so far) Ruby, Cora, and Lily, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.

Embracing Vulnerable Beauty

Author: Kate Franken

“Do you have children?”

“Are you married?”

I get that these are questions most women often ask as a cordial attempt to get acquainted. Their success rate in forging a connection amongst my female counterparts is high, but their ability to alienate someone in my current stage of life is just as steep.

beauty-vulnerableMy 20-something self detested being asked such questions. With each passing year, as I became more and more the minority, my reflex to cringe upon hearing them became quicker. I hated how they made me feel vulnerable. Because once I revealed my single, childless state, the magnifying glasses seemed to emerge from in front of puzzled faces. Attempts would be made to put the pieces together as to why I fell short in growing a family my own. Suggestions would be made as to how I could fix the problem they found in me. Some would even be so bold as to ask, “What’s wrong with you?”

I sought to avert situations that might turn into an  exposé of the supposed truth of my circumstances, so I clung to the safety of masks, walls, pretenses, hermit-like living and the lie “I’m okay.” A hard heart became my shield. I thought it would protect me.

Fortunately, God grabbed a hold of me. He knew there was more for me than a hidden life. He placed His love over the clenched fists that were wrapped around my semblance of control and tenderly loosened my grip. He squeezed me tight until I could finally see He was everything I needed. He taught me to sing a new song, one of surrender. He revealed the beauty of vulnerably giving one’s life.

He led me through one story to the next and spoke to me through the printed divine wisdom locked firm and true in the pages of the Bible.

David

David confronted Goliath, the towering 9 foot something  Philistine beast, with five smooth stones and a sling. David stood before this man, known to be the strongest of warriors, without any protective covering to shield him, having previously declined the King’s armor. He relied solely on his faith in God to deliver him and he victoriously prevailed (1 Samuel 17).

Paul

Paul identified himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16) to point to the saving grace of Christ. He remained fervent in preaching the good news of Christ, knowing it would inevitably result in violent persecution.

Jesus

Jesus came in human form, sharing in the sufferings of humanity, to pave a path for us to follow. In the years that He walked this Earth, He sacrificially gave of Himself to the needs of others. The most vulnerable moment in all of human history was His crucifixion, in which He gave of His own life so that we may have life eternal.

A theme was evident. When they chose faithfulness to God, they made themselves vulnerable and it pointed to the beauty of God’s faithfulness. Then God carried this theme from the pages, I loved, to the existence I lived.

His Disciples

The lyrics of this new song God was teaching me penetrated my heart all the more as I sat again and again across the table from godly examples both married and single. I entered into community and found my heart ministered to by the stories of others. They sat unmasked before me, drawing my eyes to Jesus. With their vulnerable words, they were His disciples and they were doing the work of the Great Commission.

God knew just how to prod me into being vulnerable myself.  He knew I was drawn to beauty.  He created me that way. And beauty is what I saw in the women across the table from me, in David, in Paul, and in Jesus.

vulnerable-beautyI now look at vulnerability with new eyes. When I see vulnerability, I see courage, unthwarted by imperfections. I see a resistance to the chains of fear and shame. I see a softened heart. I see a confident trust in what God has done. I see rest with a rightly placed hope in Jesus’ perfection and not one’s own. I see a healing agent. I see love shining through. I see an expression of who God is. I see it to be altogether beautiful.

God did not leave me the same, once He got ahold of me. He freed me. He told me I was more precious than jewels. He wrapped me in the security of Christ. He made me content with my mistakes, scars, brokenness, and the truth that “I don’t have it all together”, knowing God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He has changed me into now being the woman that vulnerably shares her story of God’s saving grace to minister to hearts of others, and has given me a heart to encourage others to walk forth with a vulnerability that speaks of His goodness,inviting others to grasp its beauty.


 Readers, It is important that we seek to understand others and their experiences. There is a great treasure hidden in friendship with those that are different than ourselves. Our circumstances do not threaten our identity when our identity is rooted in Christ which empowers us all to hear the story of the other.

kate-squareKate Franken is a 4th grade teacher and a volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. She enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.

Faithful Choices

I met my husband at the city center bus depot. We stood downtown amongst a handful of other college-aged students ready to work and share hope with homeless teenagers. Over the following weeks, in the midst of exhaust fumes and ministry, something began to blossom and we began dating a few months later. I remember distinctly, as we began to discover what God might have in store, the charming line he espoused that has now been quoted in at least one wedding toast, “You can fall in a hole, you can fall in a pile of poop, but I don’t think people really fall in love. Love is a choice.” Later, we stood before hundreds of friends and family and vowed to choose to love one another every day. No matter what.

In a few weeks we’ll have been daily working out that promise for 6 years. We have failed each other and forgiven; we have chosen self and chosen the other; we have battled over small things and held each other in deep sorrow. Faithfulness did not keep us from failures, but it did help lift us from them. We choose it even in the moments when the other does not, for this is what God does for us.

“If we are faithless, [God] remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:13

Faithfulness is an expression of the fruit of the Spirit that I believe comes through small mundane choices that build into a solid foundation. Countless opportunities are in front of us each day to build or tear down the life God can build when we choose to look to Him to help us love.

In no way is marital faithfulness the only area God grows devotion and consistency. Small, deliberate choices over time change the trajectory of life in friendships, raising of children, vocation, and virtually any relationship with another. To have a relationship for any length of time means that both parties must choose at some point to forgive, overlook, or assume the best. If not, a trail of broken relationships is all that will be left behind.

Faithfulness is counter cultural in the era we are living in. Gone are the days of choosing a vocation and retiring years later from the same industry with an engraved gold watch to testify to years of trustworthy service. People these days don’t stick with much. We throw away items rather than mending them, quit when things get hard, and move quickly from one friendship to another.  It becomes easier to leave than work out the hard things. Our devotion is short lived, and looks more like passing interest than an investment of time and energy.  

This is the amazing truth about God’s faithfulness to us:  He loves us, and is devoted to us even though we mess up constantly.  His faithfulness is the bedrock that gives us incredible security. He has chosen to love us. Amazingly, he then gives us the fruit of the Spirit so that we may mirror Him. We too can be given the power to love other people through all sorts of days.  

So we:

  • We call our Mamas to let them know we love them. Let’s be honest, we will never fully understand what it took to raise us.
  • We go to work even when we don’t want to.
  • We visit the friend who hasn’t been able to visit us.
  • We reach for the hand of a spouse even when in the midst of an argument, because, even though our blood may be boiling, we faithfully want to show we are in this together.
  • We check in with Grandma remembering to ask about that last doctor appointment, because that has become a regular part of her life.
  • We parent through horrible tantrums when we want to just give up.
  • We do what we know is right.
  • We choose love.
  • We show up.

Faithfulness comes out in the small things, but eventually builds into a way of life. Luke 16:10 tells us, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much….” A sincere, faithful life is one soaked in integrity that points at Jesus.

Love is a choice every day; we know that because God puts people in our path that we have been chosen to love. Yes, just because they are there, for they are there by design.  Not because loving others is natural (it is much easier for us to love ourselves), but because that is the way God has loved us.

~~~

Readers, we each have a million choices and opportunities to love one another over time. Who needs a faithful act from you today?

ff717-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

Identity Crisis

Author: Kate Franken

The words “identity crisis” generally evoke images of a pimple faced teenager and a middle aged silver-haired man that seeks comfort in adultery and a new red sports car.  This worldly association leads one to believe that identity crisis is largely confined to two occurrences, once in adolescence and then again somewhere between 45 and 60.  It is commonly believed that within these periods that the psyche is distressed as one suddenly finds themselves stuck in the midst of questioning who they are. Thus begins the quest to develop a sense of self. After a prolonged period, many assert that the answer can be found in a relationship, a job, or the objects one possesses. I believe Identity crisis is far more widespread, and more debilitating, than the stereotypes lead one to believe. I think a more accurate portrayal would be the individual living in hidden anguish brought forth by seeking fulfillment in anything else other than Christ (i.e. the curse of the idolator). When one fails to find their true purpose in life, to bring praise and glory to His Kingdom, the weight bears down.

It really wasn’t until a series of events this past year that this 30-something came to this understanding.  While reading Tim Keller’s “Counterfeit Gods” I was awakened to the identity crisis I was in.  His definition of an idol spoke loudly to me, “…anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

My heart broke upon reading these words, knowing that I’d dishonored Him in my failing to properly esteem Him. I had some firmly established idols in my life. The most pronounced idols were that of the relationship I was in at the time and my determination to construct the map and steer my life in the direction I decided it should go. I earnestly prayed to shed the false idols and to find my identity in Him alone.  Initially, when I prayed this prayer, I didn’t truly understand what it meant.

Then I opened up Jennie Allen’s book “Anything”, and her words spoke God’s truths just as Keller’s had.  In “Anything”, she paints the picture of what it is to have one’s identity in Christ. It is a surrender that is willing to abandon EVERYTHING, to do ANYTHING for God.  Instantaneously I tasted the words “I can’t” and shame fell upon me, for it exposed the holes in my faith.

I didn’t want to leave the false security of my idolatrous dreams.  And yet I hungered and thirsted for God.  I was divided.  I wanted to have God in my image. I wrestled like Jacob.  And the end result was just the same, I was drawn closer to Christ. The truth of the bigness of my God and the smallness of my idols pervaded the discord.  I experienced the grace God mercilessly pours out to us, as undeserving as we are.

I must feed on the gospel habitually, for my identity in Christ is always under attack.

I must dwell on the greatness of my King, for old idols can easily steal back my  heart’s affection when my eyes fall short.  I must give up my life as I’d like to orchestrate it, to truly find life, life that is eternal and fulfilling.  I must let Christ alone define me, and disregard the lies the Devil whispers. I must pray fervently for His protection, for without Him I am weak. I must trust Him, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).

I must surrender. My “I must” statements help me to guard against the vast empty pit of discontent from a misplaced identity.

~~~

Readers,  What threatens your sense of identity? How can you find freedom from the pressures to define yourself?

Kate Franken is a 5th grade teacher, a lover of books, and a coffee connoisseur. She enjoys a good conversation, chases after her beautiful dogs, and serves as the volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. You can find her previous posts here.