Wednesday, April 17, 2019
We both remember the day. It was late October at the end of apple-picking time. Just as soon as the sun disappeared, the bitter cold seeped in. Everyone migrated toward the the towering bonfire or retreated to the house for warmth. I was a shy ten-year-old, prone to scurrying from shadow to shadow, from familiarity to familiarity, avoiding all the strangers or strangers with familiar faces. Yet at that year's apple cider party, I must have been braver or maybe one of the familiar strangers' face looked more familiar than strange because somehow I made a friend.
My experience with friendships have always been...awkward. Growing up, I was shy so for the longest time the only friend I had was my brother who was just older than me. I don't even know if I was capable of having any other friendship up till I was 10, but after that night, I did have a friend and no idea what one was supposed to do with such a delightful thing. It's been 13 years now. Somehow she's still my friend, and I still don't quite know how friendships and friends are supposed to work, but this particular one has grown from situational to much more. The last few months, especially, have opened my eyes to the true worth of a good friendship.
I think we all have that vision of 'kindred spirits' when we seek friendships. We have an idea of what a 'best' friend would look like, and oftentimes, those images are a lot like us. We dismiss people or the potential in people because off the bat, we don't have enough in common, but maybe the best friendships have more to do with shared values and less to do with shared interests. Because if friendships were based only on interests, I don't quite know why this friendship has lasted.
We're different. Like...in a lot of ways. She's 3-years older than I in the middle of 9 (10?) kids [I'm the youngest of 5]. I like things more strictly structured. She is more spur of the moment. I'm organized, mostly. She isn't as much. Somehow she's the optimist, and I play the pessimist. Yet she packs the first aid kits, and I imagine scenarios where she falls off those cliff edges and rocks she's always scrambling on out in the middle of nowhere with no phone reception [But I don't think about bringing a first aid kit]. A few times in the past months, our conversations have wandered to how we process and view life, and she asked: "How are we even friends??"
Growth. Through a lot of growth. Not just the fighting tooth and nail kind-of growth, but the dancing kind-of growth, the 'God isn't finished with me' kind-of growth [which is really the best sort. I think if you're ever discouraged and don't feel close to God, see if you're struggling, if you're growing. As long as you're scrambling about in the mud and not lying in stagnant water, I think you're good]. And in this growth, I have become immensely grateful.
It's not that everything is easy now or I've 'become so patient with this person's quirks'. I don't mean it that way at all. Yes, a person in a relationship might grow, but more times than not, it's you [and I had my share of stubborn, sharp edges to dull down]. You learn about yourself and are honest with what's actually going on inside. This knowledge helps you have the compassion to see beneath other people's outward actions to their heart. And your pride needs a few kicks. Naw, these people aren't less annoying, your superiority complex has been shot full of holes and God has let you catch a glimpse of them through His eyes and not through your inward-tilting ones. Humility and vulnerability are great for a friendship's foundation.
Honestly, though, one of the best qualities I share with this friend is we both make everything so much more fun: whether it be burying dead mice and dog ashes or lugging way too many rocks or hacking down thistles in the middle of the summer or going through papers or reorganizing book shelves or raking leaves or bringing in pumpkins from the garden or washing walls or painting rooms or weeding in the early morning. 10/10 recommend finding a friend like this or becoming one. Because of that...
This friendship has taught me more about living intentionally in community, rather than being dragged about by the busyness of our culture. It's easy in this day and age to say we don't have time for friendship because we probably don't, and it's easy to put a fence around friendship as something that happens in a set time on Saturday afternoons or a movie one evening or sporadic texts through really, really busy periods of our life. I understand the temptation because I do love the safety of structure, the safety of predictability, the safety of knowing when you can take off the mask and be your messy self again -- usch, but the truth is I like showing my best self. Whenever I'm stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or cranky, I'm going to close myself off more often than not, but sometimes that's when I need this type of friendship, community, the most.
It's an hour round trip to where my friend lives which is probably the farthest I ever drive unless I'm going on an actual trip. The whole community idea takes a certain degree of intention because of the distance. If you're going to the same college, living in the same neighborhood, going to the same church, or are housemates, family, etc., then it's easier to cultivate friendships that are actually the 'I'm choosing to live life WITH you' type of ones, but as we grow older and create our individual lives, those friendships will be less and less easy to just have. There won't be anything convenient or easy about them, but oh, these are the best kind!
After 13 years, I think we're [or I am, to be honest] finally getting over the messy 'I'm swallowed in life. I can't show up' obstacle. A couple weeks ago, we were going to get together, but she sent me an overwhelmed text the night before so...[full disclosure: there was still some internal groaning and growing-- "There's so much I need to do. I can't do this." Let's be honest, there will always be things we need to do, BUT people over productivity. Acts of love over accomplishments. There's nothing that makes your burden seem smaller than when you go to lighten someone else's]...I made dinner early and went to her house after work to help her with projects. Last week she came to my house after work and helped me transport a bunch of rocks from one place to another [don't ask] and actually saw the worth in what I was doing [You know you've got a good friend when you both 'ooh' and 'aww' over different rocks, BUT they were cool and not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill rocks]. Yeah, sure, neither of us needed to do these things. We'd both probably get over our breakdowns and keep on keeping on, but living life in community is a gift, a privilege. We get to love people, and through loving people, we get to love Jesus!
Sometimes we dismiss God's fingerprints in our lives because it seems 'too coincidental', but lately I've wondered if God has sustained this friendship through all these years for such a time as this. We might have sowed the first seeds of friendship thirteen years ago and over time wondered why we even kept the thing alive as our paths pulled farther and farther apart, but now, now it's showing that its foundation might have been slow in forming but is truly a shelter and a safe place. Sometimes we have a picture-perfect view of friendship, but the view doesn't often include the nitty gritty work, the commitment to honesty and communication, the patience and presence, the pain.
Maybe the kind of friendships we want most are ones we have to grow into, but if we give ourselves the time to grow and have the willingness to change, there's nothing more precious than growing WITH someone else. Being polished and changed and then looking up and realizing that person is still beside you. Friendship is more sacred than we treat it. Yes, we'll have the kind of friendships where we only go to movies or out to dinner or are always 'do something' with people, and then there will be the friendship where we get to live messy life, not just our highlight reel, with someone else. The best part is we get to adventure with these people. We get to work and we get to be. We get to commune and we get to wrestle. We get to borrow God's eyes to see them with and God's love to remind them who they've been created to be, and it goes both ways.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
This world lays so still
between this life and death,
caught between what seems so real
and what we've been promised
it will be.
We will be alright
when all the dust has settled,
when all our blood has spilled,
and the tears mix with the soil.
Still, we will be alright.
Our names have been engraved
on the very palm
of Someone else's hand,
and Someone's made a promise
that will be kept,
even if we go it alone
and every piece of our heart
is lost in the dirt and dust.
There is a promise
somewhere we can't ruin it
with our filthy hands.
A promise that weighs more
than our own soul
and the lying monologue
circling inside our mind,
circling in close for the kill.
The world seems
to hold its breath
to see which part of me
will make it out alive
from this silent war,
from this fight
between life and death,
and how my soul is crushed,
and Your promise lingers on.
We will be alright,
even if I choose to drown.
We will be alright,
even if hope and purpose can't be found.
We will be alright
because we will not be forgotten
by the One with scarred hands.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
These past twelve months I've been learning a lesson (and learning and learning and learning): It's called 'Meaghan didn't really think she was a perfectionist but actually she really is'. For a long time I put the idea of perfectionism in a box. It was something that could freeze a person or make getting 'small' tasks done impossible or getting the urge to redo someone else's work because it wasn't up to snuff. I *knew* of people who were frozen by this kind-of perfectionism, and no way was it me. I did things: I learned cello, guitar, piano, sketching, gardening mostly by just doing it. Sure, sometimes I'd be disappointed with the results, but I'd keep trying and trying. No, it wasn't the small things that made me stumble over this perfectionism.
My perfectionism shows up most in the standards I set for myself and the difficulty I have giving myself grace when I fall flat on my face. Perfectionism is a form of anxiety. It's a voice inside of your head condemning you quicker than a speeding bullet, and it lies. A LOT. That voice tells you your mess-up was of EPIC proportions when it was only a stumble or just a 'you have a lot of willpower, but your body is TIIIIRRREEED'. There's not a whole lot of ground being human and being perfect share in common (How 'bout none?), but sometimes we listen to perfectionism and that fear more intensely than we do the Holy Spirit. Oopsy. Here we are condemning ourselves over our lack of perfection while Jesus is up in Heaven interceding on our behalf when Satan condemns us. And condemnation separates which really doesn't help us (*will now put herself back on track*).
The past year has been a fight for me. There's been a lot going on internally. A lot of wrestling with myself. Wrestling between how I feel and what I know and then my flawed thinking patterns. My emotions have been all over the place, and when you feel like an extremely messy person (who is well aware that some of her thoughts are illogical but for the life of her can't get the emotions part to just STOP), you don't really feel like showing up in other people's lives. It's a pride thing. It's a fear thing. It's a 'I've overthought this X10, and now I will be the martyr and save other people from having to put up with me because if I can't deal with myself, how can I expect other people?' thing. It's kind-of stupid because 'oh no! People will now know I'm imperfect', but the whole dismissing feelings doesn't work great.
Because of some not-so-fun experiences in the friendship/people department growing up, my perfectionism appears here a lot. There's this thought that because some friendship didn't work out, it was directly correlated with something I did. I said the wrong thing here. I overshared. Maybe I tried too hard. Maybe I wasn't open enough. Maybe...maybe...That tunnel of thought is long and dark and filled with many under-stretched or over-stretched thoughts. Essentially I created the theory that if I made a mistake or did something stupid once, it could ruin a relationship. There was no room for grace, for the trust that people would give me open communication, for me if I was in a funky mood or was complaining too much or felt too unsure. No safe place. So...Meaghan is now shut for business.
But everyone is under construction, and we go through periods where the very walls of our heart are torn down for renovation, and it feels pretty naked in this place. I don't like it because I don't like sometimes how I feel about myself or how I feel about the whiplash of emotions or fall-out of logic so why would anyone else? Why would I show this side of myself -- the side that can't even fake perfectionism -- to anyone else? Why would I lean-- how could I lean on their compassion? According to my relationship theory, it's suicide, and yet, I can't walk this path alone. So what are you supposed to do?
I get out of my circular circus of crazy thoughts, and I remember something: those who love you don't need your performances or your pretend perfection. Your presence is most important. Your so-called 'perfection' isn't what they see, anyway. You are you are you even if you are more Eeyore or Piglet than Pooh today, and sometimes you need that presence to remind you who you are when the whiplash of emotions leave you feeling lost or numb. There is laughter and fellowship and bright moments even when under construction, and presence without perfection creates the strongest connection.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
I'll paint your soul with colors,
the brightest I can find,
with sunsets and mountain meadows
and afternoon sunshine.
I'll paint you the color of adventures,
of your hand in mine,
so in these winter months
you'll remember another time,
and even if you can't,
I'll remember it all for you.
I'll etch into your heart
my words of honest hope.
I don't know about tomorrow,
but I know as long as I have breath,
I'll face the dark with you,
just as I danced in the sunshine,
your hand always in mine.
I'll paint your soul with colors
when it grows too dim to be seen.
I'll sing you back your song
when your heart has lost its tune.
I'll add my favorite parts
--your laugh, your smile,
those long car rides
on deserted roads
in the early morning light,
and mostly, your hand in mine --
Those were all my favorite parts
because you reminded me what it means to be alive,
and now it's my turn
to decorate your world with brighter hues
and memories of perfect moments.
I'll paint this darkness with colors
Till it's so bright
your soul can't help but be light.
Your heart can't help but laugh
at the colors I've painted the soul-suffocating night.