My Friendship with a Man Who is Not My Husband

Man walking with guitarSan Diego was a lifetime ago. Every Sunday I would attend a boisterous young adult program after mass with a thriving community of friends at St. Brigid in much loved Pacific Beach, California. That’s where I met Rick.

I’ll be honest. About 10-15 years older than me, Rick was stalker-like friendly always wanting to talk extensively and give me CDs of his music. I responded kindly, but was mostly in avoid mode. Then, after less than a year of attending St. Brigid, I moved away.

Nine years later, Rick and I still email weekly even though I’ve only seen him once since I left. He has openly shared so much of his life and has generously prayed for and genuinely supported me and my family wanting nothing but a Christian friend in return. He calls me little sister.

Our relationship has evolved from me humoring him as a pen pal to truly caring about his welfare, praying for him, and being so grateful that God has woven this faithful friend into my life. While we’re not BFFs, I have never had another friend who has stayed the course so unfailingly over so many years.

I am truly thankful for what God has revealed to me through Rick. It’s another form of His holy presence, kind of like a little guardian angel who is there for me and I for him. It’s a gift of reciprocal sharing, prayer, and encouragement that I no longer take for granted.

Romans 12:10: Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.

At first I was resistant to the idea of Rick in my life and thought I would leave him behind in San Diego. God had other plans. And over time, He has opened my eyes to what it means to see a person for their innate beauty and the God-given instrument they can be in your life as you are in theirs. Through Rick’s steadfast friendship, I can see God IS with me.

Nurture the companion relationships in your life, dear friend. Through their presence, God is touching your life in transforming and loving ways.

John 15:12-13: This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

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Please Grow Quickly but Stay Small

boy in dad shoesI couldn’t see how far I was from the present until a friend illuminated my perspective. Having twin toddler boys often leaves me exhausted and at times drives me mad and projecting into the future when they are older. I hover in my pleasant imaginary space where they can feed themselves without a total mess, use the potty, and dress themselves without tantrums. Oh sweet relief! In times of stress and frustration this looks like a great blessing to look forward to. But what am I losing in exchange for it?

There’s nothing like little feet running to hug you saying, “Mommy! I love you Mommy!” I am the first and last person they clamor to see each day, want to lay with on the couch, and play “Mommy tickle you.” One day my boys will be too big and cool to spontaneously kiss and hug me, to cuddle with me, to desperately want me to hold and comfort them. Am I ready to let this go? Do I really see that what I have with them right now is incredibly precious and evolving so quickly?

Reflecting deeper, I can imagine how I will feel when my little baby loves are mature and experiencing the pain and evil that pervades this world. SMACK! It hits me in the gut. Their innocence and unbridled joy will fade. But right now, this moment, is a rare opportunity to live fully into the connection I have with them and the unique purpose of my role through their eyes. Today I see their perfection despite my challenges.

James 4:13-14: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

I might be eager to put them to bed each night, but how I love their sweet sounds, smiles, smell, and cute little bodies. Now I see how important it is for me to revel in the present. To ingrain poignant memories that will fill my heart through the struggle, growth, and constant change of a human life.

Dear friend, do you see the beauty and value of who you are and where you are today? Take a deep breath. Hug your little one tight in your arms. Smile. The view from here is awesome.

Christmas through a Child’s Eyes

Christmas candleI can only imagine what my own children will begin to experience this first year they understand Santa, Baby Jesus, and Christmas magic. But I can speak clearly from my own experience of the thrill of these special days when I was a child…

Long before Christmas, my countdown started for the day we could decorate. It was a haul carrying up endless boxes from the basement, but I absolutely loved spending hours with my mom transforming our house into a Christmas wonderland. My dad always pleaded for simple decorations but his request was ignored as I put out every knickknack I could find.

The next big thrill was the arrival of my two grandmothers, grandfather, and uncle. Watching for their cars from the window, I would squeal as I saw them drive up to our house. Nana made the most wonderful pressed butter cookies and an assortment of other Italian pastries that must have taken her days to bake. We descended upon them instantly.

The Christmas lights coating every exterior tree, bush, and sometimes outline of our house were stunningly beautiful to me. Filled with happiness and anticipation, I would sit alone at night looking at the glow from our living room window. Equally as special were the old electric candles brightening each window. I would fall asleep staring at them, comforted by the joy they signaled was coming.

Christmas Eve we would dress up for dinner at a nice restaurant and then attend the vigil mass. It was a privilege and a celebratory treat fitting for Jesus’ birthday. After mass I reveled one last time in seeing the promise of the Christmas lights on all the homes we passed while driving to the tune of Christmas music. At home we ate more cookies, set out some for Santa, and settled in together for a TV show.

Interestingly, my fondest memories are not of opening presents. Instead, what I hold most dear about Christmas is simply being with family. I loved giving gifts more than receiving. Too young and without money to shop on my own, I would look around our house to “find” gifts for my family members. One year I wrapped up a thin olive colored belt of my mother’s to give to my uncle. He was so kind to feign delight at receiving a woman’s belt!

After gift giving, I remember laughing hysterically as my uncle, a true comical character, acted out commercials in costume with props for silly products he invented. We filmed him with a monstrous VHS camcorder and replayed the show for everyone’s entertainment.

Christmas day culminated in a dinner feast. Eight people in total, we wouldn’t fit at the table in our little dining room and so we moved spare tables together in a line across the family room. The wood burning fire was crackling as songs played and candles lit much more delicious food than we could eat. The grandparents would speak some Italian and I would learn a few words, good and bad.

It was always tough to let Christmas slip away after the day had ended. But I can still feel it, even after my grandparents have long passed, my parents have moved away, and I have a family of my own. I wonder, what will my children remember about our Christmases now?

I hope they remember what I have held in my heart: family togetherness, love, hope, joy, excitement, peace, laughter, warmth, goodness, and generosity. I want this for my children which means I must be watchful not to succumb to the busyness of the season, the overwhelm that rushes and frustrates me, the distractions that leave little energy for the most loving and holy details of Christmas.

My gift to you, dear mom, is to rest. You have done enough now. Delight in your children these precious days and love the experience you have with them. Don’t worry about imperfections and what’s incomplete. You have done your best. Give your heart to your loved ones and be at peace making beautiful Christmas memories that will shape their future.

Ethan and SantaHayden and Santa