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!

May 4, 2017

Kristie Anyabwile on Friendship for the Pastor's Wife

My husband and I have been in full-time vocational ministry since the day we were married. People ask me what it’s like to be a pastor’s wife, and I tell them I don’t know what it’s like to not be one. His calling colors every part of my life in a way that’s difficult to explain and, in a way, difficult to understand even for myself.

The truth is that being the pastor’s wife is not a biblically assigned role, nor is it a job, but on a weekly and even daily basis every pastor’s wife must navigate social scenarios and church situations that arise only because she’s married to the pastor. I’ve mostly learned to embrace this, because I see how God has given me influence and how I can use it to honor Him and bless others. But in all my years as a pastor’s wife, by far the most difficult consequences of my husband’s job to navigate have been friendship and social relationships. I'm still learning.

That's why I wanted to talk with Kristie Anyabwile, wife to Thabiti and mom to three, because she's been doing this pastor's wife thing longer than me, and she's someone I respect highly. Kristie is a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher. Her husband Thabiti is the pastor of Anacostia River Church in southeast DC, which the Anyabwiles planted a few years ago. 
Watch below as Kristie addresses these questions:
  • What have been the most difficult things to navigate regarding friendship for you as a pastor's wife?
  • How have you developed friendships where you can share openly and vulnerably?
  • How do you respond to hurts in friendship and in wider church relationships? How do you continue to engage when you've been hurt?
  • How have you developed friendships specifically through discipleship?
  • What advice do you often give pastor's wives regarding friendship?

            
You can follow Kristie on Twitter and find her writing at TGC and The Front Porch

And if you haven't yet purchased your copy of my new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship, grab one today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, or Target.

April 26, 2017

Sow Seeds of Encouragement Into Other Women

My brother-in-law Travis, a farmer, daily dips his hands in the fertile south Texas soil that is his family’s very provision. In the current season, the realized hope of summer harvest has past, the remnants of harvested crops have been destroyed, and now the soil he sifts in his hands has once again taken center stage. Alongside his farmer-father and his farmer-uncles, he has already turned, tilled, leveled, and molded the soil into neat rows and borders, preparing ready receptacles for seeds. These spring days are for fertilizing--acres and acres must be covered, and then acres and acres must be implanted with various species of seeds: sorghum, sugar cane, cotton, sesame, or cabbage.

Their work--the daily wrestling with the soil--is circadian and perennial yet has only ever just begun. After planting, they will scrupulously monitor the soil, coaxing it with aeration, searching it for even the smallest of weeds, scrutinizing it for signs of pests or worms. And then they will wait, giving time and space for the sun and the rain and the mysterious and miraculous work of seeds becoming sprouts becoming stalks.

This is hard work, and the hardest part is the waiting.
A farmer, perhaps more than most, knows something about faith. He knows he must work with the unseen end in mind. He knows he must value steady work more than fruitfulness. He knows how diligently he must watch over his growing crop, quick to rid the stalks of pests and weeds. But most of all, he knows of his need for others and their need for him, because the work is long and often uncertain.

As Travis speaks about farming, it strikes me how often he mentions his surrounding farming community. He speaks of relying on his dad and uncles, who have more experience; he speaks of relying on common farming knowledge that’s been passed down through generations; and he speaks of relying on the larger farming community: “When you don’t know what to do, if you ask around, someone is going to help you out.”

When he was first learning how to combat weeds, he says, he went row-by-row and hacked them off at the stem. His dad came behind him and pointed out his mistake: “That weed will be just as tall in a week if you don’t chop it out at the root.” A lesson regarding sin, certainly, but even more a lesson of how invaluable the help and exhortation is traded between those working by faith.  

As I consider the faithful life in comparison to the farming life, a little jolt of recognition goes through me: “Let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). The faith-filled life, like the farming life, is fueled by community. Paul tells us what specifically this fuel looks like: “Let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25).

I imagine in his first planting season, Travis felt uncertain and inadequate. I imagine he felt this way because it’s so often how I feel as I sow the seeds of my own ministry to my children, to my husband, in my writing and teaching, and in the church we planted. No matter how much experience I have standing at the plow, I’m still prone to uncertainty, discouragement, and weariness. There is nothing that helps me more than a friend coming behind me and giving me eyes to see and remember the crops God has given in the past, or a friend pointing ahead with assurance of the crops to come.

Many times, however, my uncertainty and weariness gives way to self-pity. I look around for friends, and they are not always there. Some of that is because I avoid “asking around” at all costs. I might rather drown in self-sufficiency than admit I need help at the plow or that I don’t know what to do about the weeds choking me. It’s important, I’ve discovered, to go to others with my weariness and ask for them to pray for my drooping hands and weak knees.

But Paul doesn’t say, “Look around for who is encouraging you.” His is an imperative: Let us be the ones to act. His command is a purposeful pursuit of others, an intentional plotting: “Let us consider.” In other words, he is much more concerned with whom we are encouraging than with where our own encouragement is coming from.

One thing I know: we’re all prone to second-guessing ourselves and exhaustion and thoughts of giving up. We’re all wondering if the work we do in the name of the Lord is having an impact and bringing him glory. Everyone is thirsty for encouragement. Other women around us are among those wondering and waffling and even despairing. They are feeling unsure of their calling, their giftedness, and their work. They may be growing weary at the plow. Let us consider how we might come beside them with encouragement:
      If a seed has been sown in you by another woman, and if it’s grown up and borne something in you, tell her about it.
      If someone willingly entered your mess and helped you till hard ground, tell her what it meant to you.
      If you see the fruits of love or joy or peace or patience flourishing in another woman, point them out to her.
      If you see another woman standing at the plow, doing hard labor for the Lord, exhort her to continue on and tell her why it matters.
      If someone has taught you how to plant and to harvest the Word for yourself, express thankfulness to her.
Friendship is built upon encouragement and exhortation, because encouragement directed toward others is a fruit-bearing seed that, once sown, grows up and offers us delightful sustenance in return. “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:25). Although encouraging other women is not a guarantee of friendship, it is an invitation for friendship and a certain assurance of joy. When we encourage others, we water and are watered in the process.