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Thankful Thursdays Guest Post: Old Friends are the Best Friends

I’m excited to share today’s guest post from fellow writer Cara Meredith. Cara and I “met” (online) because we run in some of the same circles, blog-wise. I’ve been enjoying her blog, Be, Mama. Be. for quite a while now and was honored to  do a guest post for her last month. Whenever I read Cara’s writing I just want to sit down with her, some big cups of coffee and a cozy couch and talk about all the things. I think you’ll see what I mean.

Old Friends are the Best Friends

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Old Friends are the Best Friends.

Now I’m not knocking those who’ve only been in my life for a year or two, but to me, there’s something powerful about being around people who stake double-digit claim to how long they’ve known you. Suddenly, that which unites current, everyday friends – children who are similar in age or religious beliefs and practices or the city we dwell in – doesn’t seem to hold so much weight.

The irony is that when Old Friends step into the picture again, we can seem to hold little in common: staunch Republican, left-wing Democrat; traditional evangelical Christian, meditative Buddhist yogi; married with four children, single and still ready to mingle.  If you’d asked me ten years ago if I thought I could stay in relationship with those who hadn’t moved and grown along with me (and like me, I might add), I’d have likely mumbled a pithy reply.  I’d have shaken my head in solemn understanding of the sadness of my own plight.  I’d have said my good-byes, at least in my mind, no sooner than burning old letters and dreaming of Friendship’s Funeral.

We share great memories, I would have said to you, but memories can’t sustain a friendship in the present. 

Or can it?

I’m beginning to realize I was wrong.

Maybe wisdom is starting to grab hold of me.  Maybe I’m learning that life isn’t as narrow and compartmentalized as I make it out to be, at least when I’m hurting and sad and missing the people who make me whole.  And maybe I’m also realizing that life is merely and solely and wholly made up of relationships.  Life is made up of people, of lovely, messy humans who are mine – and who, the grand scheme of This One Beautiful and Precious Life matter to me.

To say that I’m thankful for Old Friends is an understatement. Because gratitude burgeons deep in my insides when their faces come to mind, while affection for the stories we share mercilessly stirs the waters of my soul.

Because the books I own, they don’t matter.  The writing I do, it too doesn’t matter.  The house we love, the television we watch, the baseball games we attend – don’t matter, don’t matter, don’t matter.

But the people – oh, the people, they do matter.

For me, I’m beginning to sprinkle a bit more grace into my relationships.  My standard for friendship used to be high, even though I wouldn’t have classified it as such – but for me, you were a good friend, we were good friends if you pursued me and sought after me, if you showed me you wanted to be my friend.  And maybe that’s why if and when someone – an Old Friend of sorts – didn’t live up to my standards, like the cardboard I stockpile in our recycle bin, I discarded them easily, carelessly, breezily.

But now I want my cardboard back.

I want and I yearn and I salivate for those Old Friends, for the ones I don’t have to explain myself to, for she who loves me despite my flaky nature.  I want to be around those people – who are, by all accounts My People – even if we don’t dress the same way or eat the same way or worship the same way anymore.  Because there is tenderheartedness toward each other in the stories we’ve shared, as we remember and retell and revisit our histories.

After all, we share us. We share the memories that made us and shaped us and defined us, the adventures we took together when we didn’t have more than $74 to our name, when we thought backpacking was the greatest invention since sliced bread.  We share stories of Europe and Costa Rica, of Santa Cruz and Portland and Seattle, of campfires and barbeques, sleepovers and road trips. We share the growing up we did together, as teenagers and as young adults, and we share the common experience of learning how to be our most raw and real selves, the Real Me hidden inside all along.

Because here’s the truth: joy and gratitude can mingle anywhere. Maybe it’s the optimist in me, but I believe they’re there, waiting for our cue to start the dance party, ready for our eyes to open to what’s already there.  For me, this mingling happened with old friends on Friday night, over wild boar and cheddar sausages and chunky summer salad and coffee mugs filled with chilled Chardonnay. We gathered to visit with our old roommate and friend who’d flown across the Pacific to say hello, but it ended up being so much more than a backyard barbeque.

It ended up being a reunion of Old Friends.

And Old Friends, as you well know by now, are the best friends.

Carabio1About Cara: 
Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from the greater San Francisco bay area. She is passionate about theology and books, her family, meals around the table, and finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places. A seven on the Enneagram, she also can’t help but try to laugh and smile at the ordinary everyday. You can find her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter
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Thankful Thursdays Guest Post: I Choose Life

Today’s Thankful Thursday post comes from Crystal Tripp, a woman whose inner grace and humility seems to shine through everything she writes. I am honored to share this lovely reflection on what it means to choose gratitude.

I Choose Life

The obligatory Sunday visits completed-cards have been opened, gushed over, and filed away for safe-keeping. The flowers have withered. Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Before long, the grills will be fired up & the ties will be retired to the back of the closet after their one time mandatory display around the necks of our fathers. Father’s Day will soon be a memory. These rituals play out in most homes across America and love is expressed whether true or feigned. I personally do not particularly care for these Sunday ceremonies as I believe the two people given the designation of my mother and father have long since let me down. As He is faithful to do, while typing that hostile statement, my heavenly Father speaks to me in that ever-present, still, small voice – reminding me that He has provided. I have not been forgotten.

I often fall into the trap of discontent, thus allowing the seeds of bitterness to sprout which subsequently leads to a failure to live – essentially death. I am frequently reminded, like so many other things, gratitude is a choice. This choice (that I have to make on a minute-by-minute basis) has nothing to do with my biological parents (or anyone else for that matter) or even my particular life situation…it’s about me! In the middle of a seemingly ordinary life filled with mountains and valleys, I choose gratitude. I have countless things to be thankful for, too numerous to discuss here but in this season where moms & dads are celebrated, I choose to honor those men and women God placed in my life that have love for me beyond my comprehension. I know that my omniscient Creator hand-picked all of these people (including my biological parents) just for me – each with a unique purpose like a tapestry with bright and dark colors included to create the most beautiful picture. I am grateful that His thoughts are not my thoughts because I don’t always know or understand His plan.

Father, I know so many times I come to You with an obnoxious list of wants & desires. I dare not say needs because I know You have already provided for my every need. Forgive me for failing to always realize that You are the Provider and You have not forgotten this child despite my ever-wandering heart. As Your word says, Your grace is sufficient for me. Lord, You have gifted me with a multitude of mothers and fathers in my life – most of whom would willingly take me in as their own. These dear hearts often don’t understand the choices I make, but they love me just the same. These beautiful men and women have mirrored the love of Christ – accepted and even forgiven my faults, cheered me on during personal struggles, demonstrating love for me that cannot be denied. Some are young and some are old. I am grateful for all of these-some have shared their parents with me, never fearing that the love shown for me would detract from their own supply; the many who have served as mentors when I was wandering; and the few that have allowed me to perform some of these same duties for them. Father, I thank You that all of these people have taught me Your promises, corrected me when I erred, encouraged me when I hurt, & demonstrated for me what it means to love. There are specific memories I’d like to thank You for – I’m sure I will fail to mention them all but Father, please know, I am grateful for Your divine hand of care. I can still remember sitting on the front porch with the two ‘seasoned’ ladies next door as a small child. Never once did they grow tired of my presence and endless questions or ask why I wasn’t playing with children my own age – they frequently allowed me to pick the blooms from the flowers they had nurtured for years. They accepted those plundered petals as if they weren’t treasures that belonged to them anyway. My heart warms as I remember their kind eyes and the comfort of their pats on the head. Once again, Lord, I thank You for them. You also provided me with a priceless 4th grade teacher – she never questioned why I arrived at school at such an early hour and was always glued to her side. She bought all the useless items I was trying to sell and placed them on her shelf as if they were her most prized possessions. I don’t know if she was aware of the life-long impact she would have on my heart – now she is with You and I can’t tell her myself. Will you tell her for me? I have precious friends and their dear parents – essentially relatives who in a world of ‘trying to be good enough’ & feeling ‘the need to explain’ give a quiet acceptance, never expecting anything in return. Lord, I thank You for their hearts and am grateful that DNA is not the only way to be a family. I will never be able to adequately express the gratitude I feel for those who love me so I’d just like to say thank You-Your grace is unspeakable. Amen

Wisdom has taught me that a life without gratitude is not worth living. That isn’t to say I am thankful for every situation and never express sadness or fear but focusing on my blessings allows me to keep it in perspective. I choose gratitude…I choose life.

And from His fullness, we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16 ESV

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

– Thornton Wilder

About the Author: I’m a simple woman leading a complicated life but am maintained by the unspeakable grace of a loving God as I struggle to care for an aging ad difficult mother..  I have found that He is teaching me profound lessons through ordinary, everyday things.  In addition to my love for writing, I enjoy reading, gardening, & Cardinals’ baseball (GO CARDS!) When I can find the time for it I blog over at diamondonashelf.wordpress.com

Thankful Thursdays Guest Post: What Matters

It’s time for another Thankful Thursdays guest post! This week’s post comes from Melchee Johnson, a writer and blogger whose words about faith encourage and inspire many. I was convicted after reading this post to put my gratitude into action and to make gratitude an active part of my life instead of a passive feeling. I hope this inspires you as much as it did me.

What Matters

I have more than enough. I’ve never experienced shortage of food or shelter. I’m employed. I have family, love, and friends. I’m entirely blessed.

I shouldn’t complain about anything, yet some expression of disdain over what I deem as lacking manages to roll off my tongue at least once a day. Or if I don’t speak it, I think it. Why?

Much as I hate to admit it, I’m not as grateful for my countless blessings as I should be. Sure, I pray and give thanks to God each morning and night. I offer thanks before every meal. I send thank-you cards for gifts and other acts of kindness bestowed on me. Seems like I’m getting it right.

But am I just acting grateful, or am I truly being grateful? Am I TRULY thankful?

***

A few years ago, my husband and I enjoyed dinner out one night, as we frequently do, not realizing how this particular night would end. We were driving through downtown headed home when we saw something that surprised us both. At the corner, in front of a law firm’s office, we witnessed a man digging through a trash can. My husband stopped the car, opened his window, and yelled to ask the man if he’d been searching for food. The man, whose face was hidden to me in the early dark, turned and shook his head yes. I immediately became angry and totally disgusted. So did my husband, to the point that he nearly commanded the man to walk around the corner to a nearby restaurant so we could buy him food.

What an eye-opening experience. I’d never seen anyone rummaging through garbage for food. I tell you, seeing that man made me be thankful. To this day, I think of that man each time I pass that same corner.

The lesson from that night, I soon learned, is what can happen after the being grateful. That’s when you do the grateful. One can’t see something like that and not act. You can’t have, and then not give.

I’m not going to share what my doing looked like after that night – it’s not something over which I need to boast. The point is, do. That’s what matters. Give of yourself because you are grateful. That’s how it all connects.

Melchee Johnson BioBio

Melchee Johnson resides in Durham, NC, with her husband, and is a faith blogger at New Day (newday323.wordpress.com). She is the founder and previous editor of PRAISE!Magazine, a Christian publication which she published for seven years. She and her husband enjoy time spent with friends and family, particularly their nieces and nephews.

Bio

Melchee Johnson resides in Durham, NC, with her husband, and is a faith blogger at New Day (newday323.wordpress.com). She is the founder and previous editor of PRAISE!Magazine, a Christian publication which she published for seven years. She and her husband enjoy time spent with friends and family, particularly their nieces and nephews.

Rituals: Reading to Sleep

Today I am over at Cara Meredith’s blog, be, mama. be. joining in with her ongoing guest series on rituals. Cara is an internet friend whose writing is always inspiring to me so I was honored when she asked if I would contribute to this series about the every day rituals that make life richer. I chose to write about my life-long habit of reading myself to sleep.

And so I grew to love the way it felt to fall asleep to the rhythm of words, whether the cadence of my mother’s voice or my own internal voice as I read to myself. Reading before bed became as natural as brushing my teeth and putting on my pajamas.”

Read the rest of my post here and check out the rest of Cara’s blog while you’re over there!

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons: Dineshraj Goomany.