On Making & Having Friends (with help from CS Lewis)

28th August 2016

friendship

First off – I know I talk about friendship a lot. It’s just so important to me. Today I wanted to share about one of my favorite books, “The Four Loves” by CS Lewis. The book unpacks four different types of love – affection love, romantic love, friendship love and divine love.

I find myself thinking about the friendship chapter all the time, especially in my current season, which could be called the “Making Friends Chapter” of my life. As I sat down to write about the journey of making friends, I found myself revisiting quotes and idea from The Four Loves that I wanted to share today. 

friendship selfie

Overall, my making friends efforts are going pretty well, slowly but surely. I really enjoy spending time with the people I’ve met through my church, my job, Jake’s job, or Instagram, and feel very hopeful when I think about what our community might become in time.

When I first moved, I had moments of extreme loneliness. It wasn’t every single day or even every week, but every now and then it would hit me hard. In those moments, I had to fight bitterness and the idea that this emotional suffering wouldn’t exist if we had stayed in Virginia. 

But the thing is, I had plenty of lonely days in Lynchburg, despite being surrounded by a community who knew me and loved me. I struggled with the same things I struggle with now – like discipline in my healthy choices and commitment to a morning quiet time or how to not eat dinner alone on a Friday night when everyone else in the world seems to have magnificent plans. So I have to recognize that friendship is not the end-all, be-all. Having deep friendships will not end the search for something better and it won’t ultimately fix or fill me.

CS Lewis kind of touches on that when he says,

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

Friendship is not the type of love that keeps humanity going. “Without Eros none of us would have been begotten and without Affection none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without Friendship.” 

And yet, if we leave friendship out, we are lacking. Sure, it won’t fix or solve us, but it enhances our lives. And it’s something meant for everyone to enjoy. 

friendship family

One of my absolute favorite quotes from the book is when Lewis explains how friendship works outside of just two people, by using his own personal examples.

Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but “A’s part in C,” while C loses not only A but “A’s part in B.”

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all Ms facets.

Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald.

Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend.

Sometimes I worry that everyone in Colorado already has enough friends, and there’s no place for me. Social media can certainly make it seem that way, right? This chapter reminds me that in friendship, “to divide is not to take away.” Amongst shared interests, there is always room for more.

friends

But where do you start making friends? That’s been another struggle of mine which Lewis touches on. You start with the people you have things in common with, watching it evolve from there.

Looking back on how I made friends in the past, it started with something we had in common – like our major in college, or the dorm we lived in, or the job position we shared. And from there, true meaningful friendships developed with a few members of that group, not everyone, but those who connected with me on other levels.

The Companionship was between people who were doing something together hunting, studying, painting or what you will. The Friends will still be doing something together, but something more inward, less widely shared and less easily defined; still hunters, but of some immaterial quarry; still collaborating, but in some work the world does not, or not yet, take account of; still travelling companions, but on a different kind of journey. Hence we picture lovers face to face but Friends side by side; their eyes look ahead.

I’m currently meeting people who share my interests – like going to church, but then I’m watching as friendship evolves when we connect in a deeper way, like being newlyweds in a new state, or blogging, or whatever else. 

friendship brunch

As I continue to seek out friendships, I’m less concerned with the quantity of people I meet, but instead the quality of our connection. And the only way I can know if I connect with someone is if I know who I am first, and what I’m interested in.

When I moved to North Carolina after graduating from college, I was so desperately lonely that I couldn’t seem to make any friends. I felt so lost without community that when I would meet with people, I didn’t know who I was, I had nothing about me that could shine through. I was just so desperate for friendship that I lost any ability to connect over other things.

This time around, I’ve been trying to stay true to myself. Some of the best advice I ever heard was when I lived in Charlotte talking to a friend from Virginia, lamenting how hard this season was and how lost I felt. She told me, “Do something every day that makes you feel like Lexie.” It was life changing. And now, in this season, whether or not I have people around to join me, I’m trying to take part in my own Lexie things. Like reading memoirs, blogging, working events, walking beautiful neighborhoods, drinking mocha lattes.

Lewis explains it like this,

That is why those pathetic people who simply “want friends” can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question Do you see the same truth? would be “I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend,” no Friendship can arise — though Affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice.

Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.

So I’m working on being fully myself in order to share the same truths with others. It’s taking some time, and that’s okay. And in all things, I am trying to see God’s involvement, because at the end of the day, despite all my efforts and intentions, I’m still pretty out of control. I’ll close with this quote,

In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting — any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.

I hope you enjoyed these quotes and thoughts – and if you decide to go get this book, I’d love to gush with you about our favorite parts and questions and share this experience :)

With love and friendship,
Lexie

 

Things I Don’t Do

20th August 2016

photo by august allen, flickr creative commons

photo by august allen, flickr creative commons

Almost every morning, you can find me sitting on the little balcony of my apartment facing the street. I drink my coffee, read a devotional & some chapters of the Bible, and write in my journal.

And every morning as I sit there in my pajamas, I watch dozens of runners, bikers, and power-walkers pass me by.

To quote Brett Martin from Food & Wine, “All this healthy living… it’s hurting my head.” Boulder is obsessed with fitness, and Martin also points out that my city has been voted “Number One Running City” by Runner’s World, “Thinnest City in America,” by Self, and “Best Place to Be an Uberjock,” by Outside. 

My social media feeds are slowly getting filled with Coloradans, which means more and more postings of 14er summits, mountain biking, and marathons.

And sometimes – it feels like I’m not keeping up.

I’m familiar with the feeling of not keeping up – of not doing as much as other people around me. That feeling ignores whatever has been done and only focuses on the things other people are accomplishing and I am not. It pushes and yells and guilt trips me into a frenzy of activity, away from gratitude and contentment.

I used to live with that feeling constantly, letting it overcommit my schedule and kick my heart around. But now, I act differently.

Now when this comes up, I think back to my favorite author, Shauna Niequist, and her chapter in Bittersweet where she talks about “Things I Don’t Do.” I’m just going to quote her for a bit.

I love the illusion of being able to do it all, and I’m fascinated with people who seem to do that, who have challenging careers and beautiful homes and vibrant minds and well-tended abs. Throw in polite children and a garden, and I’m coming over for lessons….

I’m a list-keeper. I always, always have a to-do list… At one point, I kept adding to the list, more and more items, more and more sweeping in their scope, until I added this line: DO EVERYTHING BETTER. It was, at the time, a pretty appropriate way to capture how I felt about my life and myself fairly often….

The three together, DO EVERYTHING BETTER, are a super-charged triple threat, capturing in three words the mania of modern life, the anti-spirit, anti-spiritual, soul-shriveling garbage that infects and compromises our lives. And I’m the one who wrote those words on my very own to-do list. I’m in a lot of trouble with my own self for that, because the “do everything better” way of living brought me to a terrible place: tired, angry, brittle, afraid, hollow.

She shares that it’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about – but what’s hard is deciding what to give up for that.

So now, Shauna keeps her to do list, but she also keeps a “Things I Don’t Do” list. And this list is something I come back to when I start to feel the tired tension of trying to keep up with “everyone” around me.

On Shuana’s “to don’t” list is gardening, major home improvements, perfect housekeeping, scrapbooking, unnecessary fashion changes… you get the idea.

I’ve noticed that while my basic “to do” list stays pretty consistent, my “to don’t” list is constantly changing to keep up with new pressures that affect me in different seasons. 

The main staples of my “To Do” are: 

  • My relationship with God, which is sustained by daily prayer & readings and church on Sundays.
  • Jake and I are extremely intentional with our time together – because our relationship is the most important thing we have. We don’t go out most Friday nights so we can catch up together from the week. We try to go on long walks every night if we’re not working, and I leave my cell phone at home so I’m not checking Instagram or texting every 5 minutes.
  • Right now, I’m prioritizing my job and learning a new industry, so I spend a lot of weekends working to pick up as much as I can. Jake’s doing the same.
  • I love to read, it makes me feel like a better human. So I choose to do this over other things (usually exercise), which leads me right to my other list…

So those are the important things – and when I’m sitting on my balcony doing my quiet time watching all those runners zip past me, I can remember that I’m choosing a higher priority.. And if the guilt starts to creep in, I reflect back on my “To Don’ts.” 

My current “don’t” list looks very different from when I lived in Virginia. Back then – I dealt with a lot of pressure to have a “perfect” apartment, because it seemed like all my neighbor friends did, and because I was entertaining every single day. These days, I don’t have a single photo hung on the wall, we didn’t paint anything, and our books get stacked on the ledge of the window instead of on the bookshelf down the hall. We’ve had people over ONCE in the 6 months we’ve lived here, so while I still want my place to be cozy, the decor doesn’t matter as much. 

But I have new pressures in this healthy, new city. Now my to don’t list looks like:

  • I don’t go hiking every weekend.
  • I don’t go out to eat every weekend (that stuffs expensive).
  • I don’t wear new clothes to work. I don’t curl my hair every day. I don’t do my nails.
  • I don’t need to run 10+ miles to be a runner – I can just run 2 or 3 miles. I also don’t need to do boot camp or yoga or crossfit to be healthy. 
  • Just because I’m still building friendships out here, I still don’t have to say yes to every social invitation. Especially when I know it’s going to be draining.
  • I don’t have to click with everyone I meet for the first time.
  • After years of being really involved in ministry, I don’t have to be leading anything church-related.
  • I don’t have to cook dinner every night. We get by just fine on peanut butter toast, eggs and bagged $3.50 salads.
  • I don’t have to curate my Instagram. I don’t have to keep up with Snapchat.

So that’s my current list – which I’m sure will change in the months to come – maybe even in my upcoming days. I’m still learning to fight the word “should” in my personal life, but it get’s easier and easier to recognize guilt and shame and ignore their truthless arguments.

Have you written a values list or a “things I don’t do” list recently? I’d love to hear what’s on them :)

Serving My Husband Made Me Fight With Him More

8th August 2016

Disclaimer – it’s been a long time since I posted about faith, and I’m a little nervous to share today because I’ve been wrestling with lots of basic faith-stuff. But this experience is helping bring me back, so here we go. 

This past weekend at church, the sermon was about living life on mission at home. Our pastor posed the question – why is it so hard to be a Christian at home with the people we love?

I happened to be attending alone – Jake had other stuff going on. I took notes on Christ’s example of selfless love and accepted our pastor’s challenge for us to pray for changed hearts and also to take action steps of “out-serving” our family this week.

I was excited to take on this challenge because Jake hadn’t been there, so he would have no idea what I was up to. It was truly a chance to serve him selflessly.

Guys – I didn’t even last one day.

By Sunday night, I was crying in bed accusing him of all kinds of wacky things – like loving his job more than me or not paying enough attention. I was a mess.

Jake and I rarely fight. We don’t have a perfect relationship by any means, but he’s really good at defusing me when I get upset. In the early stages of dating, I would push and push with ridiculous accusations and dramatic statements trying to get a rise out of him, hoping he’d respond emotionally, but he never would. So thankfully, I’ve learned through his example, that shouting or being mean is not the best way to communicate when I’m feeling hurt. For the most part, we handle conflict pretty calmly.

Except last night I reverted back to old tendencies. After just one afternoon of trying to say yes to whatever he wanted, and trying to be selfless by making dinner and doing the dishes and whatever else, I had run dry. I started tallying up all that I’d been doing for him, and even went back through the whole weekend, making mental notes.

With my list ready in my mind, I asked, “Jake, what are some nice things you did for me today?”

His list seemed kind of lame – probably because he doesn’t keep track of these kinds of things in his head. 

I said some mean things. He was taken off guard with how upset I was getting, and started asking “What happened?? We had such a good day.”

This morning after he left for work, I was spent. I poured myself an extra large cup of coffee and sliced a piece of last night’s strawberry cake, topping it with extra fresh strawberries to make it healthy (that’s how health works – right?). I went back to my notes from the sermon and cracked open my Bible to figure out what the heck went wrong, even though I had a pretty good idea of it already.

I had taken my eyes off of Christ.

In my feeble attempts at serving, my motivation shifted to making myself feel better. It was about my performance and how great our marriage could be because of ME. And it didn’t work. The more aware I was of my own sacrifice, the less love could be found in my actions. So I burned out very quickly.

It’s funny because that whole point of the sermon was NOT that we just need to grit our teeth and serve each other out of our own discipline or self-will. The whole point was that this kind of love is impossible on our own – that’s why it’s so hard in the first place. We are selfish people, which I already knew about myself.

Recently I’ve been in a “coming back to God” phase. It’s not that I ever walked away exactly, but it’s been a dry season. Christian truths have felt cliche, the Bible has felt dull – nothing like a sharp edged sword. I’d sit in church and ask “why?” or “how?” to basic principles, to the things I could explain but couldn’t seem to believe. I’d even have to check myself to make sure I wasn’t glaring at a church speaker, because I was questioning ever single thing he or she said.

That’s why I loved this week of receiving a challenge. Finally something tangible I can DO based on a Bible verse. And it’s funny that I failed in the first day, with my husband who I legitimately love more than anything.

But my failure broke through the fog I’ve been experiencing – finally I could see clearly again.

And what I saw was Christ.

I have to start with Christ’s display of love on the cross. If I get away from that, everything gets wacky, and my heart backfires into keeping score and needing reciprocation. When I get away from who Christ is and what He’s done, things also start to feel cliche or pointless.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  2 Corinthians 5:14-15

This verse was shared yesterday. The point is not “out-serve one another to prove yourself,” but out-serve because you’ve been served. And even though this is something I already knew in my head, it took tripping and falling on my face before the truth took root in my heart.

August Goals

1st August 2016


Is it just me or did July pass by in a blink? Except for one year, summer has always been my time off from being in school or working on an academic calendar. This year, summer is the busy work season, and I’m shocked at how quickly the days passed by.

Not upset about it being a new month though – because I love new things. I love that today is a new month, and that the first day falls on a Monday. It’s perfect for fresh starts and reset buttons.

I sat down today to write my August goals – something I wish I did every month but rarely remember. I’m sharing them with you today and hope you take a few minutes to yourself to map some out too :)

    1. Complete at least 3 books.
      I have a bad habit of STARTING a million books. I probably started 8 in the month of July. I don’t think that’s bad, but I need to complete some of them! The first one on my list is The Lonely City, which came highly recommended on the internet. I normally try to take book recommendations from people I know personally, but this one looked to good to wait.
    2. Write 5 blog posts.
      I think I’ll let this count as one.
    3. Workout 10 times. I was super lazy in July and worked out maybe 2 times the entire month….. In this category, hiking counts but walks do not.
    4. Write 3 letters.
    5. No solo TV.
      On the nights Jake works late, I know it means a lot to him for him to come with me in a good mood – maybe even with the dishes done, who knows. But oftentimes, I get sad that he’s working and I’ll numb myself with TV until he comes home very late or until I give up waiting and crawl into bed. Those nights never feel very restful, and I know I could be doing other things that are life giving… like walks, reading, cleaning, writing those dang letters. So this month, no TV alone.
    6. Pray every day.
    7. Wake up at a consistent hour.
      7 am on weekdays, no later than 8 am on the weekends (unless I work until 4 am).

And that’s it! Notice on my list you don’t see budgeting or meal planning or cooking. I’m not feeling very motivated in those areas, so I’m just going to not set a goal and let it happen without the pressure to perform.

So what about you? What are you intentionally setting out to do this month? :) I’d love to hear in the comments!

On Dreaming: in marriage, or in your mid-twenties, or when you know better

16th July 2016

jakeandlex

just another beach picture

We were sitting outside on a restaurant patio in the heat of summer. My silk white top I’d worn for his birthday dinner was wet along my back from walking up and down and across the blocks of a new city. Of course I complained about how hot it was, but I could tell he really wanted to sit outside, so I quieted down and guzzled water so quickly our waitress left the pitcher for us.

As I started to relax, I felt the same nagging feeling that had been biting at me, trying to find a channel of words to ride straight from my soul, out through my mouth, and into the universe. The feelings wanted to find ways to be expressed.

But I bit my tongue. These feelings weren’t justified.

Because they were dreams.

I used to be a dreamer, in fact that’s how Jake and I fell in love. We were in college and the world was our oyster. Our school projects were successful enough to make us think we could do anything. So with our friends, we talked of starting companies together and new cities and doing work that mattered.

But in the years that have passed, the dreamer in me has dimmed from living in the real world. I’m more familiar with my own inadequacies, my ever-changing-mind, my struggle with follow-through, my lack of discipline. I see how saturated certain markets are, making them hard to break. Starting something takes a boat load of money and business plans need to be perfect and partners sometimes disagree or walk out.

The shadow of reality darkened my dreams before they could even get outside of my head.

He could tell I had something on my mind, so I asked “Can I share something with you? It’s a dream that’s been following me. And can I be unfiltered enough to share without having to justify this dream with reality?”

Out poured my dreams. Messy, tangled, dirty. It was unclear what the main point even was, because they were so unedited.

But I got them out there, and they sparked this great future-focused conversation between the two of us. It reconnected our hearts, as we remembered this was where we started – believing in each other and chasing a meaningful life. We leaned in across our little picnic table, words coming out faster and quieter like we were sharing this beautiful adventurous secret. 

Why did I think I couldn’t share this with him when it just brought us closer?

I guess I’m learning at 25 that I need to fight and cling to my freedom to dream. That dreaming with my husband is still attainable, despite us both knowing each other’s limitations. It still scares me to be vulnerable with him, but it’s so worth it.

Maybe it’s possible to live in reality and have a hope for the future that’s maybe a little beyond my reach. Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t. Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the point is being brave to keep reaching and believing and working for a brighter tomorrow.

Vacation Guide to the Outer Banks (the list and links)

13th July 2016

As I was reading through my last post, a recap of our beach trip, I realized I left off all the things one normally includes in a recap. You know like restaurants, activities, places to go and things to see. The truth is that when we go to the beach, we don’t do much. The point is to relax and chill, not to hit up every restaurant, which are all pretty over-priced and touristy in my opinion. But we do have some favorite things, so if you’re planning a trip to the Outer Banks (which it looks like everyone in my news feed has been going this summer), then here are some of our favorites that you might enjoy :)

jockeys ridge

Couldn’t not share this one 😉 at Jockey’s Ridge

jockeys ridge1 jockeys ridge2

stack em high

We love waking up early to visit Jockey’s Ridge, then hitting up Stack Em High for pancakes after. Don’t let the long line defer you, you order like a cafeteria line and then sit down and your food comes right out. Their staff is friendly and very quick to refill your coffee, plus the pancakes are delicious.

We have two favorite coffeeshops in Duck – the original is Duck’s Cottage where they sell the yummiest take-home coconut crunch coffee. I also love the Nutty Duck latte. This place has so many memories for me – growing up, we went to a Harry Potter midnight release party here. It’s where I met up with my future RA Ericka (to turn roommate/RA partner/bridesmaid) and we’ve sat here doing Bible studies, talking. I’ve gotten in fights with my sister on these front steps. THE MEMORIES, guys.

My second favorite coffeeshop in Duck is Treehouse. It’s back hidden away in Scarborough Faire, and I love walking the “deck” to get back there, hidden amongst trees (I’m guessing this is where the name comes from). They have these super impressive coldbrew machines which spend 12 hours slowly dripping – I don’t know how coffee stuff works, but it’s cool. Apparently they have really great breakfast sandwiches, and I was so excited to try an acai bowl here for the first time, but they stop serving food around 11. No matter, their coffee was still delicious.

2016-07-05 15.00.16

When we couldn’t get lunch at Treehouse, my mom, Jake and I popped into Eastside Restaurant for lunch and HOLY COW so glad we did. They have this modern-asian-meets-farmhouse menu and I had no idea what to order. The waitress recommended some wonton tacos, filled with sashimi tuna, mashed avocado, even little hazelnuts, all wrapped up in this sweet little wonton. It was amazing. Jake ate some delicious (and beautiful) ramen. My  mom got the grilled kale salad which tasted like rubber (it was almost like they turned kale into seaweed), so not the best, but it’s kale so it’s okay.

We tend to eat at home when we visit the beach – it started out as being a necessity with having like 15 little kids there, but now it’s something we prefer. This year my mom hit up the fish market a couple times and made some incredible seafood gumbo. It was Jake’s birthday so she made a cake, but if you have to buy one, we love Tullio’s bakery.

2016-07-08 18.21.03

If you want a dinner out, Kayla, Tanner, Jake and I enjoyed Miller’s (I got over the fact that it was touristy). Get there at 4 pm for their early bird special. Who cares if you feel like an old person, you’ll appreciate not having an hour and a half long wait, and 20% off your entree.

My friend Ericka introduced me to Trio, and now it’s become a favorite. Visit on a Monday when they do half-priced wines and have a really great craft beer selection. Get the dark chocolate goat cheesecake. Or any of their breads and cheeses. Yum.

And of course, if you run out of things to do, there are a million lighthouses for you to visit. Pack a picnic lunch…. but don’t forget it at home like we did to avoid getting into a huge hangry-crank-fest (that was me).

lighthouse2 lighthouse