Category Archives: Friendship

Edition: Friendship 101


Wednesday Reads Widenobody-book-cover-transMelanie Shankle’s third book Nobody’s Cuter Than You digs deep into an area where many women today struggle: developing deep friendships. She says it best in the books introduction: women “have a tendency to swim in the shallow pool of relationships because we know getting deep can equate to being vulnerable.” Unfortunately, social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook widen the shallow end, allowing women the illusion of being involved in one another’s life. In reality, it’s simply a bunch of pictures and status updates that don’t often reflect the whole truth about a friend’s life. It’s a false world that offers little in the way of real friendship and support.

The best thing about Melanie’s book is that not only does she write inspiring quotes about friendship, but  she tells stories that illustrate the powerful bond of female relationships. It’s not a how-to book — although following her friendship example can help all women learn how-to be a better friend. It’s a nostalgic trek down friendship lane that forces its readers to remember friends from their childhood, high school and college years, as well as today. And in the remembering, we are compelled to deepen our friendships, the kind that shares joy and pain, love and loss, through thick and thin, day in and day out.

Nobody’s Cuter Than You, of course, will puddle the eyes with tears for its poignant moments, but it will also make readers laugh out loud with its hysterical analysis of stupid friendship antics, such as hideous clothing choices, eating habits (better to buy clothes than food in college), spontaneous road trips, and unexpected life changes. With every memory Melanie shares, readers remember why friendship is so vital to a full life.

The book is an easy read. I read it over the course of two days, only because I was trying to savor it. The read filled my heart with memories of friendships past and encouragement to connect with friends in the present. My heart was lighter, my smile brighter, and my mind determined to make friendship a priority in my life. Overall, Nobody’s Cuter Than You was worth every tear, chuckle and penny I spent!  (Watch the book trailer here. So worth it!)

PS: If you haven’t read her blog, you are missing out on daily laughter.

PSS: Don’t miss out on Melanie’s other books: Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living Room.

Community: The Force of Friendships

Friend quoteI’ve spent a lot of time recently pondering the idea of community. Because I left mine behind in the recent move to Tennessee, the concept has moved the to forefront of my mind. Shauna Niequist first introduced me to the idea in her book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. She defines it in this way:

 When you walk with someone, listen to their story, carry their burden, play with their kids, that’s community. When you pray for them in the middle of the night because their face popped into your mind, when you find yourself learning from them and inviting them more and more often in the family places in your life, that’s community, and whenever you find it, it’s always a gift.

Community happens slowly and often by accident. Oh sure, it can be purposely created, but for a semi-introvert like me, community is formed in the midst of life – sometimes in the most painful parts. Either way, those friendships forged out of pain or through simply sharing life are the ones that last for years.

Case in point, my friend Meredith (names changed to protect the innocent) came into my life just as Keith and I were embarking on our marital adventure. Bringing her into my community was one of those happy accidents. In fact, when I asked her to sit by me during a high school football game (our husbands were coaches), I had no idea the role she would play in my life. For hours that night, the two of us sat and laughed hysterically, the kind of laughter that cements a friendship connection. Now, twenty years later, she is my secret keeper, my sounding board, my safe place. It’s very rare to have someone in your life where you can say aloud the awful, ugly things we women often think. She and I have listened to one another’s stories, played with one another’s children, and carried one another’s burdens for a long, long time. What a happy providential moment of sharing a bleacher for a few hours that turned into a life-long friendship!

While one friendship was forged in joy, there have been several constructed in the midst of heartbreak and suffering. I met Sally (name changed again) at church, we sang on the worship ensemble together. We laughed together and often chatted about creative teaching ideas. (We were both educators.) Not long after we met, she faced a critical turning point in her life. Her marriage had been falling apart for a long time, but as the dutiful Christian wife, she was doing her best to hold it together. There are many ugly details to her painful disintegration of marriage, but there’s no need to share them. The only important thing to know is that during that tumultuous time, God melded our hearts together. While professional marital advice isn’t my forte, I did have a listening ear and praying voice. She spent many nights around our family’s dinner table, finding respite in the community that God was forming between us. There were days she would call in utter anguish, and I had no words to relieve it. I listened. I prayed. And for a while that’s what we did. Eventually, God healed wounds and helped her move on. Our friendship still stands. Although the tears are much less frequent, her face is still the one that pops into my mind in the middle of the night, so I pray for her and her new little family. I won’t lie and say that those initial days of friendship were fun. They were hard and heavy to carry, but those were the moments that sealed our friendship – that made us a part of one another’s community. I wouldn’t trade the pain for anything if it meant she never became a part of my life.

 *****

Moving away from interacting weekly with my community has been painful and lonely for me, sometimes excruciatingly so. When we are torn from our community, we feel its impact more deeply and value community so much more clearly. I remember the power and comfort of those friendships even though they are hundreds of miles away. It’s not like I can go out and recreate those friendships, those bonds, over a single cup of coffee at Starbucks. Those relationships take months – and years – to develop. On the other hand, it is the hope of recreating another community like those I’ve left behind that keeps me going. That keeps me looking around every corner for a new friend, one who will chose to weave her way into the fabric of my life.

How has community formed in your life?