Chronic Fatigue – Vanishing Spoons (Part 1)

The analogy made perfect sense to me. My dear friend, who has courageously struggled with several disabilities throughout her life, passed on a story about a young woman who was trying to describe what it’s like to have limited energy.

“Imagine you are given twelve spoons at the beginning of the day,” the story goes.   Each spoon represents energy expenditure . . . physical, mental, and emotional.   For most people, twelve spoons are more than enough to sail through the day, and they can th73STMV1Aalways go to their silverware drawer and get more, if needed. However, in the case of someone with a chronic illness or disability, seemingly small activities can cause a spoon to disappear before a “normal” person has even touched one. Continue reading “Chronic Fatigue – Vanishing Spoons (Part 1)”

The Cousin Conundrum, Part 2

To get the full story, please read The Cousin Conundrum, Part 1 first!

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When I landed back in my birthplace after over three decades in the Pacific Northwest, I had great expectations of regularly hanging out with “real” family again and re-connecting with members of my large family tree. Yet, over a decade later, I often feel like I still live hundreds of miles away from most of my cousins, aunts and uncles.

The legendary family Christmas parties and summer picnics have all but grown extinct in my hometown. My generation has chosen not to carry on the traditions that brought our large clan together on a regular basis.   Over the years, each branch of the family tree appears to have grown increasingly independent from the others.

The disparity between my  dreams of having close relationships with my cousins and reality put me into a conundrum—was there something wrong with our family (or me)? Continue reading “The Cousin Conundrum, Part 2”

The Cousin Conundrum, Part 1

The luncheon after my uncle’s graveside service was winding down, and the cameras were coming out. “Let’s get a picture of all the first cousins,” I suggested. As we lined up, someone motioned to a middle-aged woman across the room to join us.   “Whose cousin is that?” I asked, “She’s not my cousin.”   Sure she is, that’s Joanie,” another cousin said.

As the woman came closer, she smiled and I clearly recognized my Uncle Bob’s countenance in hers. “Of course,” I said sheepishly.   I guess I shouldn’t feel too badly—I don’t think she would have known me, either, had we passed on the street. I can’t remember the last time I had seen Joanie in person—it had been decades. My mental image of her as a pretty little blond girl was long outdated.

I was born into a large extended relation, with thirteen children in my mom’s family and seven in my dad’s. From these siblings came my dozens of cousins, literally. I have fond childhood memories of playing with my cousins in our small rural community. I always looked forward to going out to their farms, especially if they had horses. I grew very close to one cousin and considered her a best friend. Continue reading “The Cousin Conundrum, Part 1”

Heart Friends

One of the fun things about blogging is that it generates comments from friends. (Let’s face it, when you are a new blogger, most of your readers are existing friends!)   The majority of comments I’ve received have been through Facebook and email—not “official” comments seen on my blog page.   I have savored every word, not just because it’s nice to get feedback on my writing, but because each comment represents a connection with someone special. I know there is validity in what they are saying, because we share familiarity beyond the pages of my blog. This is particularly true for those who fall into an elite category I call “heart friends.”

best-of-friends-poster-c10048568[1] (2)Heart friends are the rarest and most precious of comrades. Their friendships transcend distance and life-changes. They are the buddies you can go for years without seeing, and then step right back into a deep connection as if you had never been apart. I was blessed with my very first heart friend, Sandy, in fourth grade. Our friendship has spanned the decades from prancing around like horses at recess, to scouring the mall to find the perfect Gunne Sax prom dresses, to swapping stories about being middle-aged!

I have been extremely blessed to discover additional heart friends along several stops in my life’s journey.   All have brought their unique personalities and life experiences to the table. However, I’ve also noticed that there are common characteristics in all of my heart friendships:

  1. We embrace similar core values and beliefs.
  2. We trust each other implicitly.
  3. We talk easily and share deeply.
  4. We laugh with (and sometimes at) each other.
  5. We keep confidential things confidential.
  6. We can “be ourselves” when we’re together, imperfections and all.
  7. We can count on each other for help, day or night.
  8. We pray for one another.
  9. We enjoy just “hanging out” together.
  10. We are each other’s cheerleaders and encouragers.
  11. We aren’t afraid to lovingly speak the truth, even when it’s hard to hear.
  12. We hold one another accountable.
  13. We extend grace and forgiveness to one another.
  14. We challenge each other to grow.
  15. We feel each other’s pain and celebrate each other’s successes.

Heart friends aren’t born overnight. When I think of how I met and cultivated my dearest friendships, it was always through shared experiences. The relationships gradually unfolded in the midst of attending school, participating in musical groups, being involved in church activities, or working together. Over time the connections transformed from acquaintances, to casual friends, to “forever friends.”

I believe everyone yearns for a heart friend. We were designed for emotional intimacy—to know and to be known. All of us need a “go-to” person whom we can count on, no matter what. Our hearts long for someone who thoroughly knows us and yet completely loves us.

Yet there can be times in our lives when the landscape feels void of intimate friends.  I have experienced those desert times when I know many “nice” people, but a heart friend just hasn’t emerged.  If you can relate, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and look for ways to connect with people who share common interests and values.  Most of all, I pray that you will seek a deeper relationship with the greatest heart friend of all, Jesus.   He is intimately acquainted with all your ways (Psalm 139:3) and loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Best of all, he’s available right this moment and promises to never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

God is indeed the best friend of all, yet he also designed us to need earthly companions. My pal Sandy sent me a little plaque years ago with a quote that captures the magical moment when a heart-friendship is ignited:

“What made us friends in the long ago when first we met? Well, I think you know; The best in me and the best in you hailed each other because they knew that always and always since life began our being friends was part of God’s plan.” – George Webster Douglas

To my long-time friends reading this, I treasure you. To my newer friends (and readers), I’m looking forward to knowing you better.   As I close this post, I’m humming a little song I learned in Girl Scouts years ago, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.”

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“A friend loves at all times . . .” Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

“. . . there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 (NIV)

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

– Joseph M. Scriven, 1855

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged— Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful,

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness;

Take it to the Lord in prayer.