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Friendship

  • When Friends Aren’t Fluent In Your Love Language

    For the last twenty-two years over 15 million people have taken Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages” official assessment to determine how they best receive love. And over the past twenty-two years, circles of girl friends have had great conversations as they share with one another what their primary love language is.  It seems like any time I’m getting to know a new group of girls the question, “what is your love language” always comes up.  We want to know, are you a words-of-affirmation person, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, or is receiving gifts at the top of your profile.  We also want to make sure everyone knows what our top language is—one, because, it’s human nature to like to talk about yourself, right? Or is that just me?  And two, because if we are building a friendship, we feel it’s important for our new friend to know how they can make us the happiest.

    I love the five simple categories Dr. Chapman established in the book, and I believe the assessment is a very beneficial test in the way it helps us to understand how God created us to best relate to others, but after a great, in-depth talk with my friend Courtney, whom you’ll get to hear from in a bit, she helped me see how sometimes we use our love languages to create unhealthy expectations in our marriages and in our friendships.

    It’s empowering to find out the way you best receive love is through words of affirmation.  It’s as if someone has given you a key to help unlock the thing for which you hunger.  Naturally, you fill your friends in, and once they know, you expect them to never forget this important piece of information about you.  But naturally, they will.  They won’t always love you the way you most want to be loved.  They may forget to compliment the article you wrote and shared on your blog.  They may forget to commend you for being a great mom on Mother’s Day.  They may sign your birthday card “happy birthday” when you were expecting a paragraph about how much you mean to them.  And after enough run-ins with a friend who continually lets us down by not speaking our love language, we start to harbor bitterness toward them. And we start to feel unloved and unworthy. But as my very wise friend Courtney says, friendship was never designed to measure our worth it was designed to enrich our lives.  When you are looking to your friends to fill your love cup, you’ll always be disappointed.

    The good news is, the God we serve is love, and He not only created us to receive love uniquely, but He also speaks all five love languages fluently.  His love will never disappoint us.  So what if, instead of going through life hoping that our spouse and our friends make us feel loved, we purpose to connect with God daily and allow Him to minister to us via our love languages.  I truly believe that if we seek God’s love first, we will find it, and it will surpass all our expectations in a way that enables us to take the pressure off of our earthly relationships.

    Am I saying we don’t needs friends?  No way!  God has called us to be in relationship with one another.  We need friends to build us up and spur us on, and we need to have friends that we are building up and spurring on.  But, we have to realize our friends can’t meet all of our needs according to their riches in glory and vice versa.  We look to God first, and in Him we find the ultimate friend: one that sticks closer than a brother and knows us better than we know ourselves.

    I have asked a few of my friends, who also happen to be HIS small group leaders, to help me write about our top love languages and the different ways we experience God’s love for us as it relates to our primary language.  Our prayer is that you will begin to identify the unique ways that God wants to love on you and be more aware than ever that although His love is vast, He knows how to customize it just for you. 

    Acts Of Service – Sarah Blount

    I have always appreciated when someone goes the extra mile. I love when my husband makes the bed and helps me around the house. I really appreciate when a co-worker offers to take something off of my very full plate. And I might burst into a dance party if one of my kids carried in the groceries without having to be asked.  Because I carry so much responsibility, I feel loved when others jump in to help lighten the load.  But of course, people have let me down in this area and of course, I’ve been harder on them than I should have been because I was looking to them to come to my rescue when I’m in over my head, instead of looking to God.

    Psalm 55:22 Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.  

    How often are we waiting for someone to help us carry our burdens, when God is standing in front of us with His arms ready to receive, asking, how can I help.  Those are the most romantic four words an acts-of-service person could ever hear, and Jesus is constantly whispering them to our spirits. But we often miss His still small offer to help because we are too busy looking for someone else to cast our cares upon. God has pledged to carry your sin and shame, your anxiety, the burdens that are weighing you down, and get this because it’s SO good, He’s pledged to carry you!

    Isaiah 46:4 I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!

    Acts-of-service girls, let our Servant King sweep you off your feet on the daily.

    Words Of Affirmation – Colie Hanson

    For me words of affirmation bring clarity. They let me know that I hit the mark or am on the right track, and without them there is less certainty. Words give me permission to go deeper as well as to know my place in someone’s life or in an organization/team.  To have my husband praise all the extras I have done that day or to have a friend to relay that I am indeed someone they enjoy getting to know is life giving. These things are deposits into my emotional bank account, but are they where my hope is found?

    1 Corinthians 2:11 For what person knows the thoughts and motives of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So also no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (Amplified)

    Finding out that I not only have the Word of God but direct access to the thoughts of God as well, through the Holy Spirit, changed my life (and switched my hope focus). At any moment in my day, I can ask God what He thinks of me and the wins that I have had. At the same time, I can just as easily hear how He sees me and my situation when I am broken or worn down. Coupling hearing God through His Word and hearing Him directly for ourselves is like putting on glasses for the first time after years of trying to see through blurry eyes.

    Physical Touch – Ashley Bassoppo-Moyo 

    It wasn’t until I lived overseas in a house full of strangers that I realized how important being hugged is to me. I grew up with my dad giving me these long hugs, telling me how proud he was of me, on just about a daily basis. The year and a half I lived with these strangers, they became like family, but they didn’t speak this language that I had been so accustomed to over the course of my childhood and thus I often felt unloved. It was during this season that I realized that to have this deep longing for intimacy fulfilled, I needed to seek this from my God.

    Physical touch people can get labeled as being “touchy feely,” but in this common label I believe we catch a glimpse of the heart of God. See, God is the perfect model of the Loving Father I had come to experience in those hugs from my dad. Those were good, pure, intimate moments of closeness, and I believe God wants every one of us to experience good, pure, intimate moments of closeness when He simply lets us know how much He loves us. He wants to touch our hearts and fill us with feelings of intimacy.

    Song of Solomon 6:3 I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.

    There is something very key that must take place to live in the fullness of this intimate relationship with God. Just as in a romantic relationship, we must put our walls down and accept the overwhelming love of God. Sometimes, however, pride can take the form of self-denial. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable at the idea of God lavishing His love on you and connecting with God on the basis of His overwhelming love for you, you are denying Him the very thing you would never withhold from someone as close as a spouse or a child.

    Allow God to love you and be the One you look to for intimacy and pure moments of love. He will not deny you, and as you pursue Him, He will pursue you back (Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8), and you will find something so much more filling than any human relationship could ever be. Allow yourself to receive and pursue that love in God every day!

    Gifts – Andrea Tompkins

    I’ve always felt that having gifts as a top love language was such a selfish trait to hold. Who wants to admit, I feel loved when you give me things?  But, after glimpsing into God’s heart a little further, I’m convinced it’s His number one love language as well. I so enjoy the sweet way He continually affirms, then reaffirms just how much He loves us with the gifts He’s given us in scripture. From the first gift of a companion to Adam in Genesis 2 to Jesus’ promises of parting gifts riddled throughout the New Testament: the gift of a Helper in John 14:16 and the gift of peace in John 14:27 to name a few. God’s Word is chock full of how much He shows His vast love for us, through His giving of gifts. If our aim here is to experience love and fulfillment through Him then we need to RECEIVE that GIFT of love from Him first before looking to people to fulfill that need.

    Jeremiah 31:3 I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! 

    What a sweet promise; no matter our temperament yesterday, today or tomorrow, no matter how we look, or what we’ve done or haven’t done for Him, even if we haven’t expressed our love to Him lately or sought to fill His love tank, we can still only, “expect love, love, and more love” from Him. He still offers that gift up to us daily. And since God is Love, then I imagine His gift of love to us is top notch and comes wrapped in the prettiest paper, adorned with the biggest bow and hand delivered straight to our heart. So let’s dive in, unwrap that gift, and soak in His sweet love for us today.

    Quality Time – Courtney Haggard

    Let’s get coffee: the three magical words all of us quality time ladies really want to hear. Seriously though, meaningful one-on-one time with a good friend can be so life giving–and because we gain so much fulfillment from these encounters, we crave them. Maybe you’re like me, and you can have an incredible time with a friend, only to feel emptied just days later. I can spend hours with a bestie on Monday, and feel like I don’t see that person enough by Thursday. I can’t help it; my cup constantly desires to be filled by time with others. If I am not careful though, I can slip into a habit of placing too much unhealthy responsibility on the relationships in my life, specifically friendships. Friendships are not designed to fill our cups; they are designed as a gift to enrich our lives.

    If your quality-time bucket is feeling empty, my question to you is simple: what does your relationship with the Lord look like, and how often do you pursue one-on-one time with Him? As a quality time gal, you are naturally inclined to feel loved through a relationship, and connection with Jesus is the only thing that has the power to actually fulfill you!

    Psalm 107:9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.

    The good news is, God is a quality time expert! He is always available. He is never too tired or busy. His schedule is always a perfect fit for yours. When we seek the Lord in a fulfilling relationship, we can kiss misfiring friendships goodbye. Gone are the days of feeling left out, forgotten, or empty. We can wake up each day in the overwhelming goodness of fulfillment and joy.

    Psalm 16:11 In your presence, there is fullness of joy.

    As you can see, God wants to meet you right where you are at and minister love to you in the exact, perfect way that you’ll best receive it, so give Him a chance FIRST, before placing impossible expectations on your friends and family.

    For a free small group study guide to go along with this devotional, click here. 

  • Welcome To The Restoration Business

    I know I’m not the only one who would love to share a best friends necklace with Joanna Gaines–you know the type where each friend wears a half? She could wear the BE FRIE part, and I would wear the ST NDS part. We could feed goats and shop at Anthropologie together. It would be great.

    I admire the Fixer Upper star’s passion, her joy, her hair, the crush she still has on Chip, her simplicity, her testimony, and her amazing success as a #girlboss. I mean she turned Waco (yeah, Waco!) into a tourist destination, and a love for shiplap into a million dollar brand! She’s killin’ it.

    From her best-selling book to the darling Magnolia Market, her claim to fame was birthed out of an ability to restore an awful house into a dream home.

    Restore: To put in order, bring back to former condition, to mend, to strengthen, perfect, complete, make one what he or she ought to be.

    A restored car, a piece of furniture, or in Joanna’s case, a restored home, are all something to see, but nothing can compare to the sight of a restored life.

    Galatians 6:1 Brethren (or Sistren!), if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also.

    Welcome to the restoration business, sweethearts! I’ve heard the saying, “God is in the restoration business,” many times, and God IS in the restoration business, but God always, always, always works through people, and when it comes to restoring individuals, those in sin or overtaken by wrong thinking, He’s put that responsibility on Spirit-led believers.

    I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t like confrontation, and in an effort to avoid awkward conversations with the people we do life with, we bow out of the command to RESTORE and give in to the world’s ways, which are to IGNORE or CLOSE THE DOOR.

    When we see someone going down the wrong path, not living according to the Word, being too hard on themselves, working too hard and not honoring God’s command to rest, letting fear dictate their decisions, hurting others feelings, not honoring their spouse, comparing themselves to everyone else, grumbling and complaining constantly, letting their emotions rule their lives, seeing their kids as burdens and treating them that way, in an unhealthy dating relationship, making poor financial decisions, overtaken in misconduct or sin of any kind, the scripture does not say we are to butt out, make excuses for them, or cut them off; it says we are to RESTORE them.

    Restore: To put in order, bring back to former condition, to mend, to strengthen, perfect, complete, make one what he or she ought to be.

    To be the voice in this community that God has called us to be, we are going to have to purpose to be women who have mastered the art of restoration. We are going to have to turn off our default “ignore” settings. We are going to have to realize that making excuses for people doesn’t help them, it hurts them. And we are going to have to offer grace on top of grace on top of some more grace.

    Now, along with the command to restore, in the same verse, we get three VERY important guidelines for how to enter into a situation where someone needs mending to take place in their life.

    1. Without any sense of superiority. When the Spirit leads you to restore someone, the goal is not to show them how awesome you are and how off the mark they are. The goal is for them to see you bow low and humble yourself. Be vulnerable. The restoration process will be cut short if we are concerned about presenting our ideal self to the person we want to see strengthened because as Jess Connoly says, “Our ideal self is not our most influential self.” Lay down your pride. It’s okay to let the person you are mending know that you aren’t perfect either. We all fall short of the glory of God. Set aside any desire for people to see you as their superior and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they let their guard down. A great way to demonstrate you aren’t on a power trip is to ask the person for permission to speak into an area of their life which you are concerned about.
    2. With all gentleness. Not some gentleness and some sassiness, but ALL gentleness. Gentleness is closely tied to humbleness. It comes from an awareness of our own weaknesses and proclivity for mistakes. Proverbs 15:11 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger.” Watch your tone, your body language, and your facial expressions. An angry person who feels they are being attacked or put down is not going to walk away restored, but probably more off track than before you brought up the issue.
    3. Keeping an attentive eye on yourself. Before having conversations that are restorative in nature, take a good look at your intentions. Check your heart and make sure your concern for this person is coming from a place of love and concern, because if your motive is not pure, they will see right through you, hindering your chances of having any kind of influence in their life.

    We all have blind spots, and I’m learning to appreciate people who care enough about me to gently point out things in my life that are broken and need to be reset.

    Not too long ago a close friend, through tears, told me she missed the way things used to be between us. I was so caught up with work and kids and figuring out how to pastor a church and lead well that I was overlooking a relationship that I valued and that breathed life into me. I’m so thankful my sister in Christ did not ignore what was happening, or get angry with me and shut me out, but instead she made a way for restoration to take place in my life and in our friendship.

    Part of our call as HIS heart, hands, and daughters is to, “Love from the center of who we are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle” (Romans 12:9-1).

    Good friends who love deeply from the center of who they are in Christ see beauty in restoration. When the Spirit asks, “Do you have the guts to take on a fixer upper?” we respond with joy and excitement because it’s our delight to be a doer of the Word. It fills us with great purpose to know that God wants to use us to take broken things and make them beautiful. We don’t shy away, we don’t push away, we lead the way. Like Joanna, make restoration your claim to fame.

    For a free small group study guide to go along with this article click here.

  • Love Responds

    “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

    We’ve all heard those four words before, either while watching reruns of COPS or on the other end of the phone after you’ve dialed for help.  I’ve never had to dial those three numbers, but I’ve known them by heart as long as I can remember, and I’ve made it a point to make sure my kids know them, too.

    But the National Emergency Number Association hasn’t always existed.  In fact, there were ninety-two long years between the first ever phone call made by Alexander Graham Bell and the first ever phone call made to 9-1-1.  Prior to 1968, if you wanted to report an emergency, you had to dial your local precinct.

    Everything changed after 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was murdered while she was on her way to her New York City apartment after a late-night bartending shift.  A few weeks after Kitty’s tragic and senseless death, The New York Times reported that 38 witnesses heard Kitty’s screams for help, screams that went on for 30 minutes, yet help never arrived. The number of bystanders has since been disputed, but the fact that several people failed to respond remains.

    Where was the breakdown?  Why didn’t Kitty’s neighbors get out of bed and pick up the phone to call the police upon hearing her horrific screams?   Some claim they did.  Some reported they didn’t want to get involved.  Some figured someone else would make the call.  Some took cues from the other neighbors they observed doing nothing and decided to do nothing as well. 

    Kitty’s complacent neighbors showcased the need for a central response center, which brought about the 9-1-1 emergency call system we know today. 

    When I heard Kitty’s story my heart was filled with conviction.  I found myself recalling moments when I had acted like her New York City neighbors: hearing cries for help, either through a friend’s Facebook post or a barista’s sad disposition, but ignoring the cries because I didn’t have time to get involved, or I was counting on the fact that someone else would step in. Thinking thoughts like, “Well someday I can respond, but right now I don’t have the programs or infrastructure in place, so it’s just not the right time.”

    I repented and asked the Lord to help me change my casual bystander mindset, and He led me to a very familiar passage of scripture and helped me read it with a fresh pair of eyes.  Aren’t you thankful for a gracious God who sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and for the Word that is always transforming us into a more accurate image of Christ? 

    In Luke 10, a religious scholar asks Jesus what to do to receive eternal life.   He wasn’t asking how to become immortal.  Everyone is born an eternal being; after leaving the earth we either live forever in heaven or forever in hell.  What this man is asking is how to receive life that comes from God, an above-and-beyond kind of life that you can live in right now!

    Jesus answers the scholar with a question, “How do you interpret the law?”  His response became one of the most well-known scriptures in the entire Bible.

    Luke 10:27 “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

    What did Jesus think of this answer?  Let’s keep reading.

    “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”  Looking for a loophole, he [the scholar] asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”

    Jesus then shared the story of the good Samaritan. 

    A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho.  He was attacked by robbers and left for dead.  Luckily, witnesses would roll up on the scene: a priest and a Levite.  These men would surely help, right?  Nope.

    It’s so strikingly similar to the story of Kitty Genovese.  Only this story has a happy ending.

    Luke 10:33 A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.”

    The Samaritan felt compassion for the bloody and beaten man.  The scripture says his heart went out to him.  How many times do we encounter people on our paths and send our hearts out to them, but stop there?  We feel compassion, empathy, sadness, anger, disgust, pity, “all the feels,” if you will, while forgetting that all the feels in the world, without a sacrificial response, don’t amount to anything.

    We have to take care of the people God places in our lives in the same way we take care of ourselves.  We sacrifice to make sure dinner is on the table for our families.  We sacrifice to make sure our kids have incredible birthday parties. We sacrifice to make sure we have a roof over our heads and clothes on our back.  But what are we sacrificing for our neighbor?

    I know sometimes the world seems hopeless, and it’s easier to keep your head down and just make sure that you and yours are happy and healthy, but Jesus says if we want to step into eternal living right now, we have to move from bystanders to first responders. 

    Let’s not wait for someone else to make the call.  Let’s not roll over and hope someone else steps in.  Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and ears.  Ask Him for a genuine concern for the ones in plain sight—a concern for both their social and spiritual needs—and then be ready to respond.  It could be a phone call, providing a warm coat to someone who is cold, an offer to babysit for a friend, bringing flowers to the gal who does your nails, a home-cooked meal for someone going through a hard time, asking someone if you can pray for them, a hand-written note, spending time at a nursing home or a homeless shelter, or buying lunch for the man carrying the card-board sign on the corner.  God’s not asking you to start a global ministry; He’s simply asking you to love Him and love people.  Don’t overcomplicate it; see a need and fill the need.

    Love wins, but only when we respond.