This is huge, peeps.

So, tonight I’ve been tinkering around on the computer playing with my webcam for the first time ever. I wanted to take a self portrait in order to participate in this group in an effort to show my mad love and support for this lady and her awesome project.

Part of the assignment for the self portrait was to state what makes me different. Hmmmm… I’ve kind of covered my difficulty with this question before. So I did some finger tapping, some looking around the room (newly painted, I might add), and freaked myself out amused myself by watching myself in the web cam while I pondered the question.What makes me different? What makes me beautiful?

Well, we’re all beautiful and remarkable in some way. I honestly believe that. But I’m pretty sure that whatever is remarkable about me is probably true of at least a few hundred other people walking the planet, so I should just pick something that is true, if not wholly unique, so I can go to sleep already.

Then it came to me.

My different.

My beautiful.

For the first time in my life, I am not afraid of failing. In fact, for the first time in my life, I can’t really think of anything that I am afraid of. (This, of course, exempts things that a reasonable person should fear like someone/thing harming my children, catastrophic sickness or unexpected loss of employment, and jumping insects that will gnaw my face off.)

In all seriousness, though, this was such a major revelation for me. Huge. Life changing. I’ve been sitting here making a mental list of all the things I’ve been avoiding or afraid to do. Some of these things are difficult, and I’ve avoided them for years out of fear of confrontation, fear of failure, fear of having someone be mad at me, losing a friend, you name it. Tonight I find myself looking at this list and thinking, Okay, I can do these things. And whatever the outcome is, I will be better for having done them.

A year and a half ago, that would not have been possible. Fear of failure was just about all I felt.  In the last year and a half I’ve made some fairly significant changes, and I’ve been growing in this direction. I have been bolder. I have spoken up and stepped out more. I know I’ve made mistakes, but the idea of making a mistake or failing doesn’t fill me with fear anymore. I don’t know when that happened, but it feels wonderful.

Lord, I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow.

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On friendship.

Betsy and Sheri. Two of the most wonderful women God put on this earth, and I get to call them friend.

Betsy, Sheri and I all share birthdays within one week of each other. Weird, huh? Every year, when our birthdays roll around, I find myself reflecting on these two women–so very different, yet so similar in the ways that count–and how much they mean to me.

These women are two of my most treasured blessings.  I honestly cannot remember when I didn’t know Betsy. Sheri and I have known each other since we were 8, but we became close friends in junior high. They both live out of state, and it has been several months since I have seen either one of them. I miss them both very much. But interestingly, distance has only served to grow my friendships with them, and with each passing month time lends its weight in our favor.

For each major milestone we’ve shared–every win, every loss, every graduation, every first day, every resignation, every bully, every new-found friend, every heartbreak, every new love, every exchange of vow, every new home, every same-old argument with our spouses, every new child, every new challenge, every unwelcome wrinkle or jiggle, every same-old disagreement with mom & dad, every scary late-night fever, every first times and last times and thousanth times–somehow we share them no matter how much distance is between us or how much time has passed. Both been faithful to me in times when I was in profound need of friends.

And you know, I don’t really think our story is unique. There must be millions of friendships like this. All you gotta do is look at Facebook…or simply ask people. The loving bonds we form with people who are not kin are both remarkable and common. And I love that. The thing that is unique is the color and texture of that bond–the level of intimacy, the profoundness of the secrets shared, how time is spent together, how often time is spent together, and how much time, how intertwined lives are. I don’t need to see my friend’s faces, but I definitely need to hear their voices. I don’t need my husband to be chummy with their husbands. (In fact it doesn’t matter at all since we only see each other once a year.) I don’t need to know every detail of their day-to-day lives in order to feel close to them, but my heart does ache to think that their children don’t really know me, and my children don’t really know them.

You never know which of your friends are going to stick and which are going to slip. I have had friends who I’ve fervently wished to remain close to, but for some reason(s) or another, they did indeed slip. I suppose long friendships require a delicate balance between maintaining and just letting it ride. You can’t ignore them but you can force them either. As I reflect on it, I’m beginning to think that perhaps our friendships have grown and thrived because of what they are not: we are not jealous, we are not competitive, we do not have our identities wrapped up in each other (i.e. if I’m not your best friend, then you can’t be mine), and there’s never been an expectation that our friendship, or more importantly, we ourselves will always be the same. There has always been room to grow. And in the rare instances when it has been needed, there has been forgiveness and grace. And everything else? We just roll with it.

So, to Betsy and Sheri, as we begin our 35th year, I just want to say:  for your strength, for your loyalty, for your humor, for your understanding, for your patience, for your support, for your honesty, for your selflessness, for your beauty, for your grace, for your prayers, for your confidences, for your trust and trustworthiness, for your time, for your hearts, and for your spirits–I thank God every day for bringing each of you into my life. Thank you for calling me friend.

You both are so very precious to me. I love you.