The Project-Friend

A new friend of mine asked me recently if I had picked them as a “project friend.” I knew immediately what that meant, I’ve just never been asked that question before, point blank.

 

The “project friend”: a person one takes on for an undisclosed amount of time to guide them through, convict them of, and teach them things that they genuinely couldn’t receive anywhere else.  (*sarcasm)

 

The “project-friender”: a person who frequently chooses to surround themselves with people who they perceive to need their help, and proceed to give their help throughout the relationship.

Project friender

 

 

Everyone loves a good project friend.  

Rephrase, us first-born, type-A personalities love a good project friend.  We get to boss them, pinch them, squeeze them, and watch them grow.  And sometimes, just SOMETIMES, we stay friends.

 

I’m a fixer.  It’s what I do for a living.  Think Olivia Pope of ABC’s “Scandal”, with a slightly less-fabulous tan. People pay me to boss them around, essentially.  To tell them what’s wrong with the situation, and tell them what needs to be done to fix it.  I give advice, compel people to action, and challenge them to find what’s buried deep down within them.  How on earth does one keep that from permeating other areas of life?

 

Wrong question, lady.  OF COURSE it’s going to seep through the cracks of one’s professional upstairs floor and end up all over the living room couch, but you can certainly control who sits on the couch, can’t you?

 

The right question is, how do you view your friends as peers?  Equals?  With each of you bringing to the table strengths and weaknesses that build, sharpen, and encourage each other?  The right question is how do you do this for at least PART of the time.

 

Well, to start off with, ask the Father to SHOW you their worth. He gave His son to be murdered in their place, (and, need I remind you, your place as well) so I’m fairly certain that they mean a great deal to Him.  What, that isn’t good enough for you?

 

There will be times when advice is needed of course, and God will put you in front of them, with the experience to give the advice, at that moment.  Everyone is messed up, each in our own ways, and to varying degrees.  You might need the advice next.

 

Another right question: WHEN DO YOU SHUT UP?  Just because you have great advice to give (whose advice doesn’t sound perfect in their own heads, right?) might not necessarily mean that you need to deliver it yet, or ever.

 

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7  ESV

 

It’s God who gives our words fruit, meaning, and a responsibility. Our advice is useless, unless God, in His infinite power, makes it effective.  And so often, I myself become gravely convicted, taught, or encouraged myself through the giving of advice, whether it goes on to “help” the other person or not.

 

When my friend asked me this question, my reaction was so strong, I had to take a break from the conversation.  WHY?

 

Hellooooo conviction.  I do have a tendency to fix my friends.  And what else is that skill than using your friends to make yourself seem or feel more relevant/powerful/important?

 

It’s PRIDE.  At its simplest, and yet its deepest.  As if I couldn’t possibly learn anything from this clearly inferior person.

 

Think back, to “that person” or “those people” in your life, who have been the most influential.  Was this person or these people trying to fix you, change you, judge you?  Not usually.

 

It was the person who was THERE FOR YOU.  Just… there.  Listening, giving advice when asked, and being open to what God was showing THEM through the experience.

 

That’s the kind of friend I want to be.  That’s the kind of friend I’ve asked God to turn me into.  That’s the kind of friend that I, just a few days ago, realized I am nothing like.  Yet.

 

Advertisements

NO STRINGS ATTACHED

no_strings_attached (2)

What is love?  “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.”  Cue head banging.  (If you’re too young to remember this, here:)

 

Some maintain that love is an emotion.  Or that love is an ability.  Or that love is a verb.

 

I belong in the “love is an action” camp.  Think about it, to act in love IS to love. After actors get paid to kiss each other, fake intimacy, and act as though they’re in love, often, it turns into the real thing. They start dating, they get married, they cheat on their current spouse with their co-star. So what’s the difference, I wonder.  Between acting love, and feeling it.

 

I used to be a professional Ballroom Dancer.  Yes, I KNOW.  It’s just as glamorous as it sounds.  And in that industry, it’s extremely commonplace for dance partners to fall in love.  I fell in love with my dance partner, and 2½ years later, he became my husband.  That’s popular too. For dance partners to get married.  (And about 3 years later, to get divorced. Hence why I USED to be a professional dancer.  I’m still married, FYI.)  When playing up the sexuality of the Rumba or Cha Cha, you’re stepping through the actions of a couple in love, or in lust.  Maybe it’s more love -as in the heartfelt affection- when you dance the Waltz.

 

And as if by some sort of pre-meditated inside joke, every movie about one-night-stands or cheap and meaningless sex ends with the characters falling in love. The moral of the story is always that when you ACT in love, the body can’t can’t tell the difference. Two people who behave as though they’re experiencing love, end up experiencing  just that.

 

So there’s this photographer who puts random people together in intimate poses before taking their picture.

 These strangers who get thrown together to pose as couples, fathers, daughters, Aunts, or Grandmothers end up feeling affection for the random person that they’re hugging in the picture.

 

The “Love Dare,” as described in the book and movie “Fireproof” is the concept of acting out love whether or not you receive any in return. Eventually, the giver (and receiver) of this display of affection is powerless against the stream of emotion.  And often, in the beginning, it’s only an ACT of affection, that later morphs into actuality.

 

I’m definitely not the world’s foremost authority on this subject, but I can most certainly tell you one thing: never easier is love received in my heart, than when it’s created in my heart first.  And never easier is it created in my heart, than when it’s created in my hands first.  It’s easy to stop acting, but I want an award nomination.

 

Love is an ACTion.  Better make it an Oscar-worthy performance.

 

PUBLIC DISPLAY OF PROTECTION

“Will that be all, hon?”

Trying to blend into the floor, I hung my head and mumbled a response.

“Mmm hmm.”

The cashier grabbed the box of condoms like it was nothing more than your average gallon of milk.  But to me, she might as well have been spelling my name out with fireworks. “SHE’S BUYING CONDOMS.”

Condoms

Oooh nooo, I realized.  Wrong size.  Having just become sexually active, (with the man who would later become my husband) I didn’t know the rules.  Will he be offended if I get the wrong kind?  I’d heard that guys were very concerned with size, and I didn’t want to unwittingly emasculate my new (and inaugural) boyfriend by getting something too small.

“Um, I’m sorry, I think I got the wrong ones.”

“Oh yeah, which ones do you need?”

“Probably something a little…er, bigger.”  I couldn’t believe I was saying this.

“No problem, Al will grab them for ya.”  She swiftly fetched the walkie-talkie from her belt and barked the order.  Her deep southern drawl formed a chorus with the other walkies in the building and echoed off of every surface.  “AAAAL!!  This here young lady needs help with the CONDOMS!  Can you grab a couple boxes of larger sizes and bring them to register 2?”

Thanks.  I’m never shopping here again.  EVER.

I paid for the contraband and left the store, feeling a whole new wave of conviction about what I was about to do.  Sex with someone who I wasn’t married to was wrong, I knew it and believed it.  But it wasn’t enough of a reason to stop me, at that time in my life.  I spoke fluent “Christianese” but had not pursued a relationship with the Father.

Two years later, both my boyfriend and I began to feel the tug of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We became convicted about our sexual activity, and became celibate during our 9-month engagement.  (Hardest thing I’ve ever done, AFTER having given this man my virginity.  But the Lord was faithful and we made it to our wedding night.)

A few weeks before the wedding, we were at the apartment that we would later share, setting up some things.  My fiance had moved in by himself a month earlier.  There was a knock on the door, and a package delivered to the doorstep.

It was addressed to him, but without thinking I sliced through the tape and pried open the cardboard flaps.  Inside the box were several other containers, about shoe-box size.  I opened one.

CONDOMS.  Hundreds of them.  More than I had ever seen in my life.  I was mortified.

My soon-to-be husband came around the corner from the bedroom and saw me, stunned, with a handful of rubber.

“Oh.”  He stammered.  “I ordered some condoms online.”

“Some?”

“Yeah.  Well, we don’t want to run out!”

“No, I guess we don’t.”

“And you know, it’s always so embarrassing when you buy them at the drugstore.”

THIS MAN.  He’s a keeper, I thought.

We had condoms coming out of our…. cabinet for years.  YEARS.  By the time we wanted to discontinue use of contraceptives, we still had two boxes left.

It was around then, our second Christmas as a married couple, that we received the invitation to our friends’ house for a “Dirty Santa” party.  It was the perfect setup.

I carefully wrapped the box of raincoats, topped it with a bow, and we left for the party.  The hosts of the shin-dig were our friends from church, who were only a few years older than us, but had 6 kids.

I placed the present under the tree.

Half-way through appetizers, I panicked.  My husband saw the look of trepidation, followed me to the Christmas tree, and caught me red-handed trying to remove the gift from beneath its branches.

“Leave it!  It’s going to be hilarious.”

I wasn’t convinced, but he assured me he would take the blame if the prank fell flat.

Presents were opened, and one “steal” was allowed.  Number 9 was called, and our box, with a big “nine” written on the top, was selected and presented to its new owner.  The only teenager at the party, whose mother was in the home group with the large family.  I nearly died as the 16-year old boy ripped the wrapping paper, and lifted the lid of the box.

Those darn fireworks seemed to go off again.  “THEY BROUGHT THE GINORMOUS BOX OF CONDOMS!”

A few people laughed awkwardly, but the real punchline was about to land.  The man of the house and father of 6, drew the number 10.  Instead of choosing a new gift from under the tree, he marched decidedly over to the teen, glaring, and snatched the box from the boy’s fingers.

The entire party erupted in laughter, as the irony of the decision sank in.

As I caught my husband’s eye, we smiled at each other.

“Public display of protection,” I whispered.

 

 

The suitcases

There’s a suitcase that exists for all of us.  To us, it’s a plain, black suitcase with nothing to draw attention to itself.  It’s un-decorated, unassuming, and uninteresting.  To US.

 

To everyone else, it’s a cross between a disco ball and a hurricane.  Impossible to ignore, and leaving a wake of destruction in its path, discriminating against no one.

 

Our baggage.  For some of us it’s little more than a carry-on piece, a backpack perhaps.  Easy to carry.  For others, a convoy of box-trunks, tied to our ankles, with a one-way ticket to the BOTTOM.

Vintage Suitcases

 

For us “normal people” who are right in between, it’s a large roller-bag.  Large, but easily transported, always strolling faithfully behind us.  When stationary, it’s easy to forget that it’s back there.  And even in motion, it seems easy at first. The wheels provide little resistance to our destination, but the weight begins to tug at our shoulders after a while.

 

When we’re in a hurry, it slows us down, like those vivid dreams where our running only happens in slow motion.

 

Some co-inhabitants of the world insist on chopping the wheels off their bags, and dragging them on the floor.  Like a 2-year old trying trying desperately to display their protest at having to carry their own bag. Others, pull out the space bags, vacuum cleaner, and try to condense theirs to fit into a fanny-pack. (Which, in case you were just born, went out of style back in the 80’s.)

 

Our baggage is annoying, but utterly necessary.  In the airport, but in life as well.  Maybe you’re a baggage hoarder.  You compartmentalize the junk, but periodically pull one small section out, examine it, react to it, over-dramatize it, then set it back in its place, and seal it securely. A baggage hoarder: you have no need for it anymore, but you still keep it in its “special spot.”

 

Or perhaps you’ve given yourself a mental lobotomy in order to make it through.  Like locking away your tools before you were done painting your living room.  “Hey, I needed those.”  Sure, painting your living room might not be the most enjoyable of tasks, but burying the paint brush doesn’t erase the need for a fresh coat.

 

I have dealt with a large chunk of my crap, but this hasn’t erased its presence in my life. My husband is beginning to deal with his, and half the time isn’t even aware that it affects him.  “It’s not manly to deal with baggage,” most men believe.

 

Couldn’t be further from the truth.  Your true masculinity is often trapped by layers of stuffage that’s been building up for years.  Baggage comes with guilt, shame, fear, and passivity…for men.

Shame

For women, it’s served well-done with a side of low self-worth, shame, depression, and dysfunctional relationships.

Woman crying

DON’T DO IT.  Don’t invite these things in.  Don’t invite them in to stay awhile.  Give them to God.  Even if you don’t know WHAT your crap is, like a dream that begins to fade into nothing more than wisps of an idea as soon as you wake up.  God knows.  He will take it, (in His time) and heal it.  He will give you a scar to remind you.  He will create forgiveness in your heart, which once bore resentment.

 

I’m living proof that this can, and will continue to happen.  And let me tell you, living life ALIVE is way better than living life mostly-dead.

The 7-Year Itch

On the month-eve of my 7-year wedding anniversary, I’m experiencing a minor freak out.  ONLY A MINOR ONE THOUGH, DON’T WORRY!!

 

We’ve heard tell of the 7 Year Itch, and its nasty effects on unsuspecting marriages everywhere.  But honestly, unsuspecting?  Really?  You’re telling me that when half of marriages end in divorce today, you didn’t EXPECT it to be difficult?  Husbands, wives, expect it.  It’s going to happen.  You’ll be tempted.  You might even indulge.  You’ll get bored.  You’ll get hurt.  You’ll inflict pain.  (And if you disagree with that last one, you’re in deeper doo doo than you think.)

 

7 Year Itch

 

People, it happened to me.  I’ll spare you the horrid details, but the general outline is this: I’m a sinful person, married to a sinful person.  We both sinned.  It was epic.  We shattered what we had.  It was in a million little tiny shards all over the floor, and now digging into our bare feet.  And at the time, I was shattered along with it.  But now, years later, I see that it was a part of the plan.  God’s plan.  He allowed us to shatter what we had, knowing that if it had only been broken in a few places, we would have tried to fix it ourselves.  Someone get the Krazy glue.  Anyone who has ever been in any relationship with anyone, KNOWS that you can’t fix it.  WE CAN’T FIX IT.  People have been trying for eons.  There are countless books, movies, blogs, and entire religions based on the frustrations of trying to fix it.  I should have received a medal for how hard I tried.

 

But you can’t fix something that wasn’t designed to be fixed.  We are sinners, married to sinners, children of sinners, shuffling about, bumping elbows with other sinners.  And this makes it oh-so-clear how much we need the wonderful, beautiful Grace of God.  Hear that?  You can stop trying now.  The great hamster wheel.  You’ve haven’t even been going anywhere.

 

In my marriage, this lesson was YEARS in the making.  It’s still in the making.  But, it’s much more habitual now than it was right after the epic shattering.  Then God created something completely different for us. Isn’t it funny how we were trying to put this thing back together, as if it was the end-all.  But HIS plan was so much better than what we could dream up for our own marriage.

 

So, back to the 7 Year Itch.  It exists.  The rumors are true.  Be prepared for it.  And you know, there might even be an itch at year one, or two, or three.  Or anytime really.  But instead of allowing the magnetic pull to break something in your marriage (even if it seems harmless, it will break trust) turn the end of that magnet towards your spouse.

 

My 7 Year Itch has given me a new passion for getting to know my husband.  Something IS unsettled in me.  Something IS bored.  Something IS wondering if there’s more.

 

THERE IS.  And it’s right in front of me.  Drinking a beer on the couch. There are millions of questions I haven’t ask him yet.  There are millions of things he doesn’t know about me yet.  We’ve never played Truth or Dare in a crowded restaurant.  We’ve never made out in a movie theater.  We’ve never been to the circus together.  There are places we haven’t been, positions we haven’t tried, and things that we still can’t read in each other’s minds. There are spiritual breakthroughs yet to be had, prayers yet to leave our lips for one another, worship songs yet to be sung.  Knowledge of God’s faithfulness yet to be demonstrated through this man.  Through me.  Further evidence to be discovered that God’s ability to love us perfectly is mind-boggling.

There’s so much more.  More intimacy to be found.  And I’m going hunting for it.  My husband is in for it, Lord help him.

The Mythical Soul Mate

Dead cupidI sat at a low-lit table trying not to stare at the friend-of-a-friend across from me, counting the minutes until the buffer (said friend) returned from the bathroom.  There was nothing to do but smile.  The restaurant had decided to increase the awkward intensity by playing music that was just barely too loud to make easy conversation.  I sipped my martini.

As more girls began to arrive at our table for 8, it became clear I was outnumbered.  There were two kinds of women at the watering hole that night: ones that wore wedding rings, and the ones that did not.

It was girls’ night.  In honor of my friend’s birthday.  I had met a few of these women before, but hadn’t gotten involved beyond Facebook status ‘likes’.  They were all single, except me- the youngest of the group, and one other who was a newlywed.  Being well on the other side of newlywed hell, (don’t believe all they say about the honeymoon phase) I was anxious to hear how things were going, and offer any wisdom I could.

Then the bomb dropped.  The only other woman at the table on my “team” announced her upcoming divorce.  (Annulment?  The relationship was still in infancy, so I don’t remember which.)  And more of story began to take shape.  They had known each other for only 2 months before walking down the aisle, and things had begun to fall apart rather quickly after the wedding march.

The girls began to do… what girls do.  The “you don’t deserve that” speech.

“You’ll find someone better.”

“He’s an idiot.  You’re too good for him.”

“Your soul mate is out there somewhere.”

I couldn’t bring myself to join in the pep talk.  At one point, someone asked me how my marriage was going.

“It’s going well,” I replied.  “Much better than in the beginning.  Our first year was the toughest.  But we’ve grown alot, and marriage has been sanding down our rough edges.  I love my husband.  I guess I found my soul mate.”

*Side note, I HATE using that term.  I simply used it because it seemed to be something that these Barbi-doll-wannabe’s could sink their stilettos into.  I was attempting to speak on their terms.

No sooner did the period on my sentence find its landing spot, then my friend whipped around.

“Jordan is your SOUL MATE?!”

The look of surprise on her face was that of a hunter that had encountered proof of a mythical creature in the woods.  As if the “soul mate” had been never before discovered in real life.

Unicorns on beach

“Uuum, yeah.  I mean, he’s my husband.”

“But you REALLY think he’s your REAL soul mate?  I mean, I just can’t believe that you’ve FOUND him.  The one for you, ya know?  It’s amazing.  We’re witnessing it.  You really found him.”

By this time, I had all seven pairs of eyes locked onto my lip gloss, hanging on my every word.

“Well guys,” I said nonchalantly, “let’s hope he’s my soul mate, because it’s ‘til death do us part.  If I treat him as anything other than my soul mate, this marriage is pretty much doomed to fail, don’t you think?”

The soon-to-be-divorcee’ leaned in, eyes wide.  “Oh. My. Gosh.  You know, that is so smart. You’re a really good wife.”

The other girls pitched in their amazement at my treatment of the term.  Again, I’ve never liked using the word.  It seems so… allegorical.  As if the ladies of the world just have to stay sane long enough to stumble upon our one-and-only knight in shining armor.  Then fireworks will spell out our compatibility, we’ll know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he’s the one, the stars will align, “Friends” will come back on TV, someone will cure cellulite, and we’ll live happily ever after.  Always happy to see each other.  ALWAYS.

Bull.  Bull crap.  Bull SHENANIGANS.  There are obviously different levels of compatibility with different people, but when you combine two imperfect people under the same roof, it’s never going to be a piece of the cake the entire time.  Platonic friendships aren’t even that!  And sex really does complicate things, so what makes anyone think that a marriage would be EASIER?  You could have a happy marriage with any number of people.

The term SOUL MATE just gives us permission to be discontent.  Always looking ahead for that magical connection that will make everything okay.  Never satisfied with what’s in front of us, or what the Lord might be using in our lives to teach, strengthen, develop us.

For the record, I love marriage.  Seriously, I was born to be married.  Marriage was what God used to turn me into who I was going to be, and what He’s still using for my sanctification.  And my husband is not perfect by any means, but perfect for me in so many lovely, challenging, steamy, nerve-wracking ways.

What I mean is that marriage is already an up-hill battle.  If he’s NOT my soul-mate, then I have two issues.

1.  Why the heck did I marry the guy?

2. How long do I think this thing- this FOREVER THING- is going to last if I’m entertaining ideas of being tied down to someone who wasn’t meant for me?