The Need for Community

This blog is entitled “Talking Among Friends” for a reason.  I want it to be a safe place to talk about friendships, relationships and life in general.  Originally, this blog started out as “Rebecca’s Journey,” where I wrote about my experience with cancer.Friends Silhouette

After a while, I didn’t want to talk about cancer any more.  Life started again, and I wanted to break away from that dreadful disease.  Relationships are what matter in this life, whether it’s your relationship with God, your family, and your spouse and kids.

Sadly, cancer is still a fact of life for friends around me.  It’s much too prevalent in this world, and I’m sure we all know someone who has had cancer or even passed away from this awful disease.

A friend of mine is recovering now, and has finished all of her treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.  She’s finding her way back.  At a recent gathering of friends, her first in a long time, she said something that struck me.  In the midst of her treatment, all she could do was sleep and focus on getting through it day-by-day. During that time, she said she couldn’t even pray.

For those of us who can’t get through the day without praying, even sending up the so-called “arrow prayers,” then we know what a dark place she was in.

As her friends, we had been rallying around her as best we could, in whatever way we could. Mostly, by prayer, emails and phone calls.

She also said something else.  She said, “Others held me up when I couldn’t.”

Talk about the power of community and friendship!  She could feel our support for her.  When I was fighting cancer, I could also feel the prayers of many.   What a comfort that was and how helpful it was in my own recovery.

Can you imagine not having friends or any type of community around you?

When life throws us curve balls, or when you’re celebrating a joyous occasion, how would it feel to celebrate alone?  Or to face the darkness alone?

We all get busy with our own families and careers, but it is so important to take the time to find that community, that fellowship and friendships in which to share your life.

We all need to make the effort, me included, to reach out more or deepen the friendships with those already in our lives.

What are you doing to take the time for friends? To find that community?

 

Being Vulnerable — It Can Be a Good Thing

Our church just had a ladies retreat weekend. I wasn’t able to go, however, two of the ladies in my life group reported on the retreat.  Sounds like I missed a good one.

The theme was about being vulnerable.  When we’re vulnerable and open to others, we also learn we’re not alone.  We find fellowship, support and encouragement with one another.

Now, this is something that I understand, but I still struggle with.  I’m not always open when I have needs. I’m not one to always request prayers.  I’ll share the joys, but don’t always share the stuff with which I’m really struggling.

This isn’t because my friends won’t be there for me.  I know they would be in a heartbeat!  The few times I have opened up when I’ve needed prayer and support, they’ve been there.

I think my issue is that I don’t want to come across whiny or negative.  Do you have people in your life that when you see their name come up on your caller ID, you almost dread talking with them. It’s going to be something negative — because that’s just their personality.  Then sometimes you end up ducking their calls.

I don’t want to be that person, the one who is avoided.  Generally, I’m a very positive person and try to look at the bright side of life (to use a cliche).  But I’m also sensitive.  It’s hard to be open and vulnerable, because you don’t want to get stomped on either.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman at the gym, who truly was trying to be encouraging, said something about me needing cuter workout clothes.  What was something that was meant to encourage me in my workouts, only hit a sensitive spot of my weight.  Now I’ve lost 75 pounds, and I feel good.  And I definitely don’t go to the gym to impress anybody else.  But for some reason, her words just hit a mark.  Stupid, huh?

But things like that shouldn’t prevent from opening up to my friends, to those who care about me.  When we open up, we learn that we’re not alone in this life and that others are going through the same things we are.  We really can share together and learn from our various experiences.

One thing to remember though, is that why you’re asking for prayer from someone and sharing your story, take the time to listen to them and let them share with you.  Let’s be there for each other.

Being vulnerable isn’t one-sided.

What are your thoughts on being vulnerable?  Opening up or trusting another? Is it easy or difficult for you to do?

 

The Tough Days

We all have tough days.  The difficult moments where we’re so frustrated at our jobs or reaching our goals that we can do nothing but sit down and cry.

I had one of these days recently, where I felt so overwhelmed all I could do was cry, pray, and then push through it.  And guess what?  I got through it.  In fact, it felt great to accomplish all I did on that very difficult day.

In talking with my writing buddies, they understand those days and have them as well.  Days when the cursor is blinking on a blank screen and there’s no creative muse to be found. Or times when your critique partners dislike the chapter you thought was brilliant.

I imagine it’s this way for professional athletes or Olympians.  They train so hard, yet there have to be days where they wonder why they’re even doing this.  Even on a show like Dancing With the Stars, where the celebrity is trying to learn something new and their feet just won’t cooperate.

So, why do we do this?  Is it worth it?

I’m learning that anything worth while is worth it.  When the celebrities dance the great dance on DWTS, when the publishing contract arrives for my writer friends, or the review from a reader that talks about how much their words spoke to them — somehow that makes it all worth it.

Even the frustrating day at my daily job — pushing through that and achieving the feeling of a job-well-done makes it worth it.

I can’t imagine any goal you want to achieve in life as being easy. The tough days WILL come.

So, how do you get through the tough times?  Is the frustration worth the end result?

 

 

Finding the Balance

I’m busy right now — like most people these days.   There are times when I feel completely overwhelmed, but if I break it down, there’s a lot of time wasted in my day.

Social media is one time-sucker.  I enjoy Facebook.  I love that a lot of my cousins, extended family and old friends are there.  People I might not always keep up with are there. One thing I dislike are those who share their dirty laundry.  I love having celebrations on Facebook: birthdays, and most recently, my wedding anniversary.  My husband and I so loved seeing those special messages of love and congratulations.

But I’m certainly not going to go on Facebook and talk about the bad day on the job, the trouble my kids are in (not mine — thankfully, my kids are doing great!), or even go on political rants.

I want to celebrate life on Facebook. But not everyone feels that way.

Others get caught up in Twitter, email, or even daytime television!  (I’ve been guilty of all of that in the past).  Distractions are all around us.

So, how do you organize your day so you’re making the best use of your time?  For me, a calendar with a to-do list is essential.  Prioritizing that list is also a must.  Even with that, there must be flexibility in my day, for the unexpected crisis or unexpected event.

I will admit there are days when I’m much better at staying on task than others.  And I seem to work better with a looming deadline. I am trying to have a “work ahead” mentality so I’m not always under the pressure of a deadline.  We’ll see.  I guess I continue to be a “work in progress.”

Also, I believe you must have balance.  I will have busy days, but I schedule my time around the gym, and  coffee dates with friends.  I will make time for Bible study and church, and the occasional date night with my hubby.

Life is precious.  I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting time. I want to do my job well, and I want to love my family and friends well.  In order to do that, I need to find the balance between work, distractions and family/friends.  I’m not always successful, but it’s something worth striving for.

What about you?  Do you have any organizational tips?  Time management ideas?  How do you find your balance?

We Need Each Other

I spent this evening attending a book signing for one of my author friends.  She previously had an e-book released, but this was her first print book, one I know she has worked on a long time.  It was wonderful to celebrate her release day with her.

What was even better was how many of us writer friends came out to support her as well.  We were definitely having our own little party!  Writing can be a lonely business, especially when you’re up against a deadline.  And nights like tonight show how much we need each other, to pull us through the times when we think we’re incapable of filling that blank page, or to celebrate the release of books by our friends, like this evening’s gathering.

We all need community in one way or the other.  My husband and I have our dearest friends through our church community.  Individually, he enjoys volunteering for the Texas State Guard, while I have my writing buddies.

Growing up in a military family, other military families on base became our community.  Neighborhoods, schools, work — those are all places where we can find those who walk a similar path, with whom we can share life.

It’s too easy to get caught up with only those members of our household — spouses, kids, even parents.  But the truth remains, it is important to have community, and have those special friendships outside of our own families.

Getting to tonight’s books signing wasn’t easy for me.  It was 45 minutes across Dallas traffic and the book signing was at the peak of rush hour.  But I left in the afternoon, met my writing partner for a very early dinner near the site of the signing, then enjoyed seeing the rest of our writing group later. Dinner with my friend was a treat, and sharing hugs with fellow scribes capped off the evening in a joyous way.  It took effort to do this, but it was well worth it.

So, while it may be easier to stay home, or focus on your own family, there are occasions when we must make the effort and take the time to join in “community.”  Make it a priority, for friendships truly enrich your life.

Hugs!

Bloom Where You’re Planted

In watching the Winter Olympics over the past few weeks, it struck me that many of these athletes more than likely became athletes because of where they were born or living at the time they became passionate about their sport.

I know that’s not always true — examples like the Jamaican bobsled team, the lone athlete from the Philippines, who was a figure skater, and even a skier or snowboarder who was from Indiana. Hmmm…. I don’t recall many mountains in Indiana.

But how much does geographic location influence our life choices?  I’m a military brat, so we moved frequently.  In elementary school, we lived in Virginia.

I loved Virginia! The beaches were great. I loved learning about colonial history.  I loved the field trips to Jamestown and visiting Williamsburg. I could see myself attending the College of William and Mary and hanging out in Williamsburg or at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. for the rest of my days.

Alas, the military moved us again — to New Mexico.  New Mexico couldn’t have been much different from Virginia!  As our location shifted, so did my dreams. Throughout middle school and the beginning of high school, I knew I was going to California.  I was going to attend UCLA and work in the entertainment industry. That was my plan. I was going to make it big in Hollywood.

But plans change. In the middle of high school, we were transferred again. This time to Austin, Texas.  Yep, it’s true. Texas is like a whole other country.  And Austin had a great university right there, so I ended up close to home, going to the University of Texas (Hook ‘Em Horns). My entertainment dreams were still around, because I studied studied Radio, Television and Film.

Geography did have an influence on my life. I haven’t been to Virginia since I was a little girl.  I have never lived in California.  Now, I did work for 15 years in Radio and Television — in New Mexico, so that dream never died. It just moved with me to where I was living at the time.

Six and a half years ago, my husband got a job in the Dallas area.  Dallas?  No, if I was living in Texas, it should be Austin or San Antonio.  Dallas wasn’t even on my radar.

But guess what?  We love it here.  Like any good military brat, I know how to make wherever I’m living be “home.”  And this truly does feel like home to me.

While there are some who will leave home to pursue their dreams — the Olympic athletes who go to where the best training facilities are, who learn the love of their sport from growing up surrounded by that sport – most of us will bloom where we’re planted.  It may be a different place than our childhood home or it may be the place where we’re born and raised and “everybody knows your name.”

In all my dreams of Williamsburg and Hollywood, even Austin, I never thought about Dallas. It’s a good thing God knows best.

I believe that God has me right where he wants me — and I need to bloom right here.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Can You Be an Inspiration?

The Winter Olympics are happening, and yes, I’m watching.  I love the inspiring and uplifting stories, the competition, patriotic pride and more.Olympic Medals

To see athletes achieve their lifelong goals along side those who are just happy to be in Sochi right now is heartwarming.  Remember the young American skier, Heidi Kloser, who was injured in a training run before opening ceremonies, and hobbled into the stadium on crutches? When she was injured, her first question was “Am I still an Olympian?”

During opening ceremonies, the commentators talked about another athlete, I believe the only athlete from his particular country,  who knew he would come in dead last his event, but it didn’t matter. He was just happy to be there.

So while we are inspired by the medalists and all they’ve accomplished, are these two athletes  I’ve mentioned any less inspiring?  I love that these two (and so many others) are happy to be Olympians, to have strived, trained, and worked to make it that far and to experience this international competition that’s unlike anything else.

Most of us won’t make such a big impact on an international, or even national stage in our lives.  But I believe we can be an inspiration in our own little world.  What can we do for others around us — in our city, neighborhood, at our jobs, or heck, even in our own home?  Are we striving to make a difference? Are we shining God’s light and inspiring someone else no matter where we are?

What can you do today to shine?