June 12, 2017

What I'm Doing This Summer

Several of my friends who live out of state have asked me recently how this (now past) school year has been for me. "It's been good," I say every time, and I mean it every time. "It's been full and rich and at times overwhelming, but above all it's been really good."

When I think about what's been good, I think about my husband. He astounds me with how he uses his gifts and influence, how hard he works, and how much he cares for those he pastors while at the same time caring for me and for our children.

When I think about what's been good, I think about my children, who are now 14, 11, and 9. In many ways, it's been a challenging year with one of our boys, and I've felt my powerlessness and helplessness to know how to parent him without the help and direct intervention of God. I've prayed through tears and at times frustration, and I believe by faith that He continues to unfold a miraculous work.
When I think about what's been good, I think about our church. I would choose to attend our church even if my husband wasn't the pastor, and I'm well aware some pastor's wives can't say that. Our church is certainly not perfect, but it's full of love and the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Word. We have the best people around, who care for others and reach out to their neighbors and serve with joy.
When I think about what's been good, I think about the women in my life from all ages and stages whom I call my friends. They pray hard, ask important questions, mourn when mourning is called for, and celebrate wins. I'm so glad God has given me the friends He has.
And, finally, when I think about what's been good, I think about writing. Sometimes just before I fall asleep at night, I remember suddenly that I've gotten to write a few books--my long time dream--and I whisper, "Thank you, God."
However, none of these good things have come this year without struggle and large doses of uncertainty and insecurity. Sometimes the good things have come with a side of longing: I want more undistracted time with my dear husband and ease regarding my friendships. I want more time to savor the good, and I want a heart that sees the good so clearly.

To put it frankly, this year I've felt overwhelmingly busy because of the goodness. I know that sounds funny, but it's true. My husband and I talk all the time about "stewarding the abundance," and that's just what it is. We've been given abundant opportunities and relationships, and it's difficult to know what and who to give our primary attention to beyond our children.

It's there, in the intersection of abundance and choice, where I see my sinful desires for my own kingdom and my own glory and my own way. More and more this year, I've found it difficult to quiet myself before God or to remember that I'm His servant rather than entitled to certain circumstances. I too often forget to turn in gratitude toward Him, knowing all is from His hand. Instead, I want to meet the expectations of others so they'll approve of me, and I want more successes that I can call my own.

In other words, I've allowed life to get noisy, and I feel like I've lost sight of some important things. I don't even know what those things are exactly; I just know that I've lost them.

For that reason, I will be using this summer to get quiet and still. Kyle has had a pastoral sabbatical lined up on the church calendar for some time now, and it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I realized how much we need it. We need renewal in every sense of the word, and that's something only God can give. So this summer, whatever I've lost sight of, I want to find in Him again. I want to wait on the Lord for instructions regarding how He'd like me to "steward the abundance," because I can't for the life of me see the forest for the trees right now.

It's hard to get quiet and still, isn't it? The lure of busyness and constant connection is strong, at least it is for me. And what we may find in the stillness may be difficult to face, which is all the more reason to quiet ourselves and submit our hearts to the Lord.

Part of me getting quiet and still this summer will mean no blogging and no social media (except for the occasional personal picture on Instagram). I wanted to let you know that I will be away and also say that I'd be grateful for your prayers for spiritual renewal. I will also be seeking the Lord's direction for this little blog and how God might want me to serve others through writing, speaking, and teaching in the future. If you think of me at all, I'd love prayer for clarity and direction in these things.

Thank you for reading this blog, and thank you for your hearty reception of Messy Beautiful Friendship this spring! I look forward to continuing to serve you when I return at the end of the summer.


I'll leave you with some articles I've written elsewhere this spring and other helpful resources for your summer: 

June 1, 2017

Jen Wilkin on the Mistakes We Make in Friendship

When I first started telling others I was writing a book on friendship, I was inundated with questions and topics they thought I should cover. One question happened to be the same I myself had considered personally: Is it ever OK to walk away from a friendship? I had some thoughts on it, and I did in fact address it indirectly in my book, but it is a complicated and complex question. So when I recently got to chat with Jen Wilkin about friendship, I put that question to her, along with some other complicated issues regarding relationships, such as:

  • What is the biggest mistake she's made in friendship
  • What she's intentionally done that has most helped her begin or develop friendships
  • What she sees are the main hindrances to friendship that women create for themselves
  • How we know if/when it's OK to walk away from friendship
  • How we can both give and receive "faithful wounds" as the Bible commands

Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom of four, Bible teacher, and the author of several books, including None Like Him. Find her online at her blog or Twitter. Listen to our chat at the link below.
Listen to my chat with Jen.

Also, don't forget about the book club giveaway, ending June 14th! I will be Skyping with one group at the end of the summer and answering any questions you want me to answer, personal or otherwise. To enter your group, read the details here and post your group's picture on Instagram by June 14th at midnight EST. 

May 24, 2017

How to Be a Friend Magnet

Perhaps you’re one of those people with many friends. I am friends with people like you. You are likable, fun, considerate, helpful, and all-around good human beings. You are awesome. I flock to you. 
These friends of mine, upon hearing that I was writing a book on friendship, asked me to tackle these questions: How does one foster intimate, true friendships and remain hospitable without becoming cliquish? Is it even healthy to cut off the number of friendships you have?

The friends that I mention are women using their influence to serve others, honor others, seek out the best interest of others, and love others in a way that brings glory to the Lord. For those who are jealous of the friend-magnets in your midst, to be fair, I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as it seems. I believe these women are a real-life chicken/egg scenario: do people come toward friend-magnets simply because of who they are, or do these friend-magnets consistently go toward others ready to bless and honor? I see my friend-magnet friends working hard at friendship and being extremely others-centered. They are genuinely interested in others, honor others, and listen to others. My friend-magnet friends all have wildly different personalities, so it’s not that they have a charisma necessarily, although I think they are delightful people. They are simply people who consistently go toward others, no matter who they are, and seek to make other women feel comfortable.

If you are a person who attracts friends easily, please know that you’ve been given a gift from the Lord. You’ve been granted a magnetism and a way of making people feel loved. Thank Him for this gift, but please also recognize that this gift is not about you. The gift you’ve been given is the gift of influence, and it’s important to consider how you will use it.

If you are a woman who attracts friends easily, my encouragement to you is to use your influence to serve the outsiders. Keep an eye out for the marginalized, the fringe, the new, the lonely, the quiet and unsure ones. Your influence pointed in the direction of an outsider can have great impact. It doesn’t take much—a word of welcome, an invitation to a playdate, a thoughtful encouragement about a job well-done, or remembering her name—and a whole new world opens up for the one who needs a world, any world, to open up.

The truth of the matter is that we all have the ability to be friend-magnets when we enter a room with the words, intentions, and body language of seeing others--There you are!--rather than saying Here I am! Everyone look at me! Everyone listen to me! or the opposite, false humility response, I hope no one notices me. I will feel too self-conscious. We esteem others as more important than ourselves. We keep an eye out for the one standing on the fringe of the circle. We move toward the outside and pull those we find there into the mix. And let’s face it: Don’t we all feel like we live on the fringes in some capacity? Haven’t we all felt like an outsider at some point? We all know the relief of someone pulling us from the outside to the inside. We’ll be their friends for life.

An honoring person who looks for the outsider soon becomes a safe person for many, many women. In other words, her opportunities for friendship are abundant and overflowing. This is why my people-magnet friends are asking, “How does one foster intimate, true friendships and remain hospitable without becoming cliquish?” and “Is it even healthy to cut off the number of friendships you have?” Because a person who honors others will eventually have to navigate these things.

And I say, in response, that part of honoring others is connecting others. There is a special kind of joy in connecting two women we think will hit off or who share a story, interest, or life circumstance in common. We don’t have to be everyone’s bestie, and just because we’ve included someone doesn’t mean we have to become their intimate friend. We can help foster community among women by being a bridge between them.

So, for my darling friends who are worried about having too many BFFs to handle, this is what I would say: honor all and be deep friends with some. Be friendly and hospitable to all and give intimate attention to a few. Welcome all. Keep an eye out for all. Love all. You don’t have to be close friends with everyone, but you can certainly use your God-given influence to bless others and connect women with one another. Be a friend magnet and you’ll attract joy too.

This post is an excerpt from my new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships, which explores the joys and complexities of friendship among Christian women. I invite you to read and discuss the book together with other women this summer. I've posted a reading schedule and will also be giving away a Skype date with one group. Details can be found here.

May 17, 2017

Lore Ferguson Wilbert on Transition, Loneliness, and Friendship

Summer is fast approaching, which means warmer weather, watermelon, later nights, and perhaps a vacation or fun day trip or two. For some, however, summer will bring a move, which are never easy, especially when they take us away from beloved church communities, familiar routines, and comfortable friendships.

Lore Ferguson Wilbert knows a little something about transition. Lore is a wife, puppy owner, writer, and speaker. In the past two years, she's gotten married and moved cross-country three times. In those moves, she and her husband Nate have suffered miscarriages, job loss, and enduring loneliness. She recently agreed to share with me what she's learned in those years and what advice she'd give others who are anticipating a transition or adjusting to one. Watch below as we discuss:
  • What she learned about making friends in a new community
  • Practical ways to take a new friendship deeper
  • How getting married has changed her friendships
  • How she cultivates friendships with women in all ages and stages of life
  • The difficulty of making couple friends
  • Why God may choose to give us periods of loneliness as a good gift
  • Friendship practices that Lore's purposeful and intentional about 
Find Lore on her blog, Sayable.net, or on Twitter. 

Have you put out the word yet about gathering with other women to discuss Messy Beautiful Friendship this summer? I can't wait to Skype in with one group and chat about all things friendship! Find out all about the book club, giveaway, and the reading plan here.

May 11, 2017

May I Call You and Your Friends?

Almost two years ago, I gathered a group of women in my living room--young singles, empty nesters, grandmothers, and moms of littles--and I asked them a simple question: "What has friendship been like for you as an adult?"

I felt apprehension in the room as I asked that question, because how many times do we actually talk about friendship with one another? In my experience, it's not often, because then we'd have to reveal our insecurities and uncertainties regarding other women with other women. But when I asked that question and women started sharing their gut-level thoughts and feelings out in the open, I could practically see light bulbs of recognition and relief pop on all around the room. We all have similar experiences with the joys and complexities of friendship, and it helps to hear that.

It also helps to discuss with others what the point of friendship is, how we can develop and deepen friendships, and how we can navigate the messy parts of our relationships. I don't think it's overstating it to say that friendships are some of the most important relationships we will ever have. We are, after all, saved into a corporate faith called the Church, and this Church is locally expressed in relationships. God gives us friendship to help us know Him, know ourselves, serve Him, and learn from others. We must be talking about how to have deep friendships in the church!

Why don't you choose to be the one to initiate the discussion? 

However, you don't have to go it alone, because I'd like to help! Here's what I'm suggesting: ask some ladies if they'd like to gather with you this summer and discuss Messy Beautiful Friendship. In the back of the book are some handy discussion questions to help you facilitate the conversation.
Some women already planning this for the summer have told me that getting women in the same room is too difficult, so they're hosting an online discussion in a private group on Facebook. Another told me that she's going through it with her teenage daughter, which I love. You could also do a Google hangout or even discuss as you have time on Voxer (my favorite way to chat with a group of people at once!).

So what should you do once you have a group gathered who want to read the book? One of my launch team members put together a schedule for reading and discussion, so you have one less thing to worry about. She has it running from May 31-August 16, but of course you can tweak it according to your group's needs.

And one more thing...

May I join your group?
I would love to jump in on a discussion with your group! For the winning book club, I'll Skype in and answer any and all questions that you have regarding MBF, friendship in general, and my own real-life friendships. Sound fun? It certainly does to me! Here's how you can enter your group for the Skype giveaway:

  • Invite women to join your book discussion group. It can be one woman or 15. It doesn't matter.
  • Take a picture of your group gathered together (or a screenshot of your online group or a screenshot of your Voxer messages or....you get the idea).
  • Post the picture on Instagram with the hashtag #messybeautifulfriendshipbookclub and tag me (@christinehoover98)
  • Post the picture sometime between now and June 14 at midnight EST. That gives you over a month to invite ladies and have your first gathering. 
  • On June 14, I will randomly select a group from the pictures on Instagram, contact the person who posted it, and set up a Skype call with your group for sometime in August!

I hope in doing this that you find the same thing I did when I gathered women in my living room: we're all in the same boat and we can learn from one another. Happy Summer Reading!