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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Best friends are overrated

Do you have a BFF? It's a loaded question. I have a love/hate relationship with the term. I have experienced times in my life when I had a best friend, and I have lived through seasons during which I felt very alone, isolated, and left out. I can look back on certain friendships that have withstood the test of time and distance.
I grew up as a missionary's daughter, and then a preachers' daughter. We moved around some, and traveled quite a bit. I have many memories of visiting new churches as a child and especially as a teenager. Try being the new kid, but also being slightly awkward since you are going through puberty, and then add cultural differences, and finally outdated clothes. I know exactly what it feels like to be new somewhere. It is very uncomfortable to be on the outside.
When I was in the sixth grade, my family and I temporarily moved back from France and lived in the US for a year. Dad was the visiting missionary in a small Christian University town. My brothers and I attended the Christian Academy grade school there. Over the summer preceding my 6th grade year, I had been introduced to a girl that I would go to school with, in hopes that she would be my friend. And indeed, she was very friendly and nice. On the first day of school, I was in for a shock. I learned that there was a "popular" group, and that although my "friend" was a part of that crowd, it wasn't in the cards for me. I quickly learned to make friends with the children who were like me, you know, those who were lonely. My best friend that year turned out to be the one African American girl in our grade. I loved her dearly: Lashay Walker.
Somehow, my friend situation in France didn't seem as desperate. Perhaps it was because I had bigger fish to fry. School was very difficult. Teachers were mean. My 7th grade math teacher picked on me all the time. My stomach hurt almost every morning, to the point that I was even given a false diagnosis of appendicitis, to be corrected just in time to avoid unnecessary surgery.
When we moved back to the US for good, God blessed me with a very close friend in high school, to help me navigate the culture shock of changing countries in the ninth grade. But before meeting this friend, I would have another difficult experience with being on the outs. Before Dad accepted a preaching job in Alabama, we lived in Arkansas again during the job search phase. Again, my siblings and I attended a private, Christian school for about two months. Friendships can be absolutely brutal if you are coming in as a new student, and especially in middle or high school. Add to that the fact that I had never used a locker before, hadn't been acclimated to what kind of clothes to wear; neither was I familiar with the American dating game, which is horrifying in and of itself; and finally the high school culture of pep rallies, school spirit, and miscellaneous extra curriculars, on top of odd phenomenons such as science fairs and fundraisers. There were fashion shows disguised as Valentine banquets or dances.

 As an adult, I have grown very accustomed to introducing myself to new people. I have learned the art of small talk. I can easily spot a new person walking into a room. I know the face, the furtive glances, the conscious placement of the hands (because I have experienced all of these things, and sometimes still do).

At the ripe old age of 38, I am finally realizing that some people have never experienced those feelings. And if you have not been new, or on the outs before, there is really no way to ever explain these feelings to you. You just have to experience them in order to understand. Don and I live in a small town in Georgia, and many people that we meet here were born and raised in this town. This is mind boggling to me.

Some time after our move here, I prayed and asked God about these things. He seemed to answer:  "Anna, I need you on the outside. I need you to see those people who don't fit in." And to Him, with a few tears, I said "OK".

How do you help your children overcome feelings of "not fitting into a certain group?"
I am a middle school teacher at a private school here in town. Ironic, isn't it? Since I had such poor experiences in private schools growing up. As a teacher, however, I love it. It has been a joyful experience for me. I watch the dynamics of my students' friendships. I feel strongly that one of my jobs as a teacher is to mentor these children through some of their emotions at this traumatic age. It is my honor and pleasure to gently nudge someone towards a new student. I think that sometimes, the "old ones" don't even notice that there is someone new. They have so much that they themselves are worried about. You know, in middle school, your body is changing, you are worried about your grades, who likes you, and who your friends are. Here is the strange truth: by reaching outside yourself to someone new, you actually find freedom from the trap of yourself, the game of upholding an image, and you find Christ. I believe that befriending a new person is like offering them a cup of cold water in Jesus' name.

As adults, the game doesn't change much. There are some who will never see the new people around them to reach out to. They will always be more concerned about who their friends are, if they are fitting in, if they have been invited to the parties, if their houses, cars, and clothes are up to par, and fashionable enough to live up to a certain "image." Just because we grow older doesn't mean that we grow up. I am shocked at the high school mentality that pervades our generation. I, myself, fall into it at times. I find myself wanting to be invited to the parties, feeling left out, wishing I could afford certain clothing items, wishing that my house was decorated better. It is amazing how like middle school students we still are.

And to make matters worse, we now live vicariously through our children. So when they are left out, we become offended for them. The cool thing is that just because we are offended doesn't necessarily mean that our children are. I think one of the best gifts we can give our children is to teach them how to check out of the game; how to live by Jesus' standards, and how that opens the door to a whole new dimension. Blessed are the unoffended.  :)

There is an old adage that passes through my head from time to time: "make new friends, and keep the old: one is silver, the other is gold." 

So forgive my inflammatory title. Best friends, the true kind, are not overrated at all. The best friends are the kind that allow room in the relationship to reach out to others, that are not exclusive. Lord, help me to be that kind of friend.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tampa Thanksgiving with the Caulleys

Playing at the park

Above: evidence that Caleb had a good time!  :)
Below: Thanksgiving Dinner.



Ruth Michael


Changing, and staying the same.

Fall 2012 has been a full one for our family. Here are some things that we have done. Caleb visited the dentist for the first time and did great!

 And, he STILL loves Thomas the Train. So I took him to see Thomas in Cordelle Georgia with some friends.

 He sang along with the "Thomas we love you" song that was playing during our Thomas train ride.

 Carving the pumpkin.



 My three ninjas. The red one looks suspiciously like Spiderman.  :) Sweet little red ninja.
I love homemade costumes. Luke's was authentic.  Thanks to Aunt Sarah for sending it to us when we lived in Wilmore a few years back. Jon David used a black shirt, Don's ski mask, and some of my pants. Caleb wore his bama pants, his red fleece, and yea, the spiderman mask.  :)


 Something new that I did this year is to run in my first 5K. It was fun!

 Below: Luke on awards day. They singled him out since he was the student of the quarter.  :) So proud!





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