Friday, September 12, 2014


As a counselor, something I have been thinking about lately is the number of people I know who feel alone.  Whether it be due to a busy schedule, moving to a new place, changing seasons of life, or intentionally withdrawing from others, many people feel like they are lacking a deep sense of connection with the people around them.  Spending time alone is a healthy and necessary part of life; however, it can become unhealthy when a person spends so much time alone that they begin to feel lonely and isolated from others. 

Social isolation can lead to increased anxiety and depression.  If a person doesn’t have positive relationships in their life they miss out on having people to encourage them, to remind them when they’re not thinking clearly, or to lift them up when they’re feeling down.  They miss out on having people to celebrate with in times of happiness and to cry with in times of sadness.  Most of all, they miss out on having people to enjoy everyday life with. 

God did not create us to be alone.  He created us to be in community with other people: to laugh together, to eat meals together, and to support each other in reaching our goals.  To sit in hospital waiting rooms together when times of sickness come, to dance together at weddings, to wait on new babies to be born together, and to mourn together in times of loss.  To build each other up and to be better people because we know each other.  I am quite certain that friendship is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. 

I’m so thankful to have so many special people in my life:

We celebrate weddings... babies...

...and even athletic endeavors. 

We drive great distances to see each other...

...and like each other because we want to and not just because we're sisters.

Finding community can be so difficult.  It’s intimidating, and it doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time, effort, and stepping out of our comfort zone.  Some ideas for connecting with others:

  •  Put effort into the friendships that you have! Be the one to initiate spending time together, take the time to meet for dinner even though you have other things you “should” be doing, call and text the friends that live out of town.  Take a break from your to do list and spend time maintaining friendships. 
  • Be a good friend.  Remember birthdays, help your friends when they need it, do the things you want people to do for you.  Be reliable, trustworthy, and a good listener. 
  • Take the time to make small connections, like learning the name of the girl who makes your coffee every day.  Small steps like these can make you feel more connected to your community. 
  • To meet new people, join a small group Bible study or Sunday school class.  It might sound cliché, but it’s a great way to make connections.
  • Take a class, join a sports team, get involved in an organization, or volunteer your time.  These are great ways to meet people who share your interests.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks.  If you meet someone you get along well with, don’t be afraid to ask that person if they want to get coffee or have dinner with you.  Have a group of people over to your house.  It doesn’t matter if your home and your food aren’t fancy-fancy things typically make people nervous anyway.  
  • Pray for God to bring community into your life.  Seasons of loneliness are going to come for all of us, but God hears our prayers and knows our hearts.  He cares about the details of our lives. 

Doing these things can be scary and even a little awkward, but having people to share life with is worth the effort.  To my people: Thanks for walking with me through the best of times and the worst of times and choosing to like me anyway.  You make life the best.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Puppy Love

We have a new friend at our house.

Meet Mr. Charlie. 

We got Charlie back in July, so this picture is actually a couple of months old.  Charlie is a Mini Australian Shepherd.  Let it be known that I wanted a calm, peaceful dog.  In fact, I wasn’t totally certain that I wanted a dog at all.  But my husband, Will, desperately wanted a large, frightening beast of a dog, so Charlie was our compromise.  He has not come without his share of trials.

Charlie loves to make a mess.  His skill in this area is shocking.  This little dog can take a roll of toilet paper, a red plastic cup, a pen, a piece of typing paper, really any destructible object, and use said object to destroy a room in literal seconds.  It would be impressive if I didn’t have to clean up the mess. 

Charlie can be very rowdy at times.  My home used to be a place of calm and peace, but now it is full-time loud.  He runs, he jumps, he chases cats, his energy knows no limits.  If only I had a small percentage of his energy.  I took him running with me the other day, and at the end of the run one of us felt woozy and the other was ready for more.  I will leave it to your imagination to guess which of us was feeling what. 

Charlie forgets the Rules of Good Behavior at times.  He wants to be good, I know it.  He does a great job of listening sometimes, especially if the listening involves him getting a treat.  But at other times his puppy nature gets the best of him and he just has to be bad.  His fellow pet peers are suspicious of him. 

Charlie rejects my love sometimes.  I try to hold him and he tries to bite my ear.  I try to rest on the couch beside him and he tries to chew my hair.  Charlie is my first inside dog and he is only 3 months old, so I think it’s safe to say that we both have a lot to learn. 

The thing is, despite Charlie's behavior problems, I have come to love him.  He is so sweet, so smart, and he wants to follow me everywhere I go.  He is great at learning tricks and makes the cutest faces.  He is always in a great mood and loves to have fun.  No matter how much of a mess he makes, no matter how much he does not listen, no matter how many times he bites my ear, I cannot stop loving this dog.

The other night Charlie was still and quiet for an entire 30 seconds, and I was reflecting on how surprised I am that I have developed unconditional love for a dog that I wasn't sure I even wanted.   Then I had the ultimate cheesy-but-true thought: I am so thankful that God still loves me even when I make a big mess and do not listen.  I am so glad that His love is unconditional.  Because I, like my friend Charlie, am great at messing things up at times.  I'm so thankful that I can be certain God loves me despite this.  This is, of course, not a new idea for many of us, but for some it may be.  Even for those of us who grew up in church, it's easy to forget at times.  But it is one of the most important things that we can know and be reminded of, even if a silly puppy is the reminder.

And as for me and Charlie? I think we are well on our way to being best friends forever.