Tag Archives: struggle

A Sweet Season of Friendships

LJTA1516[1]Since my support systems crumbled a year ago, God has been rebuilding my community. A friend recently texted me: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19). Focusing on gratitude today opened my eyes to God doing a new thing through a sweet season of friendships.

When my support systems fell apart, I worried I was too needy to be good company. I asked for help anyway. One friend let me show up on her couch for tea whenever I needed. Another listened just the way I like. My family picked up my frequent phone calls. I was reminded that real friends want to hold you when you’re weak and support you when you’re a mess. Caring for your needs isn’t a burden. The vulnerable risk of asking friends for help opens us up to the grace of love you don’t deserve.

Over the summer, I had the chance to visit the US and Tanzania. I reconnected with old college friends and mentors, relatives, my dad’s Tanzanian colleagues, and missionary families from childhood. My communities have always been transient, so home is people more than place. There’s something special about people who have watched you grow up, who know your family or your formative years. They ground you in who you are and where you come from.

Last year, I adapted to other people to try to preserve relationships, losing some of who I was in the process. Recently, I’ve been privileged to find people I can simply be myself with. Whether it’s celebrating in silly costumes with relatives, playing “Hannah Jeopardy” designed for my birthday by a college bestie and brother, or clicking with a fellow Third Culture Kid, I’ve felt the freedom of being known and loved as I am.

After a season of receiving lots of support, it’s been empowering to support others and focus beyond myself. As several friends have been grieving dashed hopes in their love lives, I’ve been able to relate and comfort them with some of the comfort I received. Sewing a present for a friend or acting like an honorary bridesmaid has also refreshed my joy in giving.

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In the wake of relationships ending, making new friends has been healing. Isn’t it encouraging when people like spending time with you? I’ve returned to places with sad associations and made new memories. A new friend whose personality initially triggered me has prompted me to process past hurts and make peace. I’ve randomly reconnected with acquaintances, hosted game nights, and gathered groups to explore a Nairobi bucket list. God has also blessed me with depth in existing relationships, making plans for sleepovers and road trips. It’s a hopeful season with new friends to meet, new places to see, and new adventures to be had.

I’ve gotten back in touch with some best friends from past seasons of my life lately – doing henna with a childhood friend, sipping “tea of amazingness” with an old housemate, or messaging a high school friend on facebook about her upcoming wedding. Though we haven’t kept in touch consistently, these moments affirm the connection we had. They say: “Our friendship still matters to me.”

For a couple years, I’ve been praying for mentors. God answered that prayer in this season. Connections I made earlier bore fruit as I reached out again or seemed to hit a groove. These godly people given me permission to rest, taught me how to teach theology, or said just what I needed to hear about ministry.

Friends have also given me hope for my future. As a single extrovert working remotely overseas, I need social support to stay sane. Laughing and talking all at the same time with the Kenyan ladies in my Bible Study made me think, “These are my sisters.” Last month my workplace officially hired a dear colleague. Side by side at our desks and at a conference, we have shared a new depth and companionship that makes me think, “I could stay here.”

Friendship is beautiful. Friends tell you you’re worth loving when all you have is weakness. They give you the honor of loving them when they wonder if they’re lovable. They want to spend time with you just as you are – even when years have passed. Friends hold up kind mirrors to who you are and celebrate together at what God has done in your lives. They ground you in where you’ve come from and give you hope for where you’re going.

Which friends can you be grateful for today?


Haggling with God

Shortly after my graduation from college, I posted a poem quoting Jacob’s prayer at Bethel: “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth” (Gen. 28:20-22).

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Jacob made his vow after dreaming of a stairway to heaven – Untitled by Michael Keany (Own work). [CCo] via Flickr

Like Jacob, I was on the move and concerned about life’s basic necessities. I had debated between opportunities with Christians for Biblical Equality, InterVarsity and my multicultural church. But I didn’t feel at peace walking down any of these paths. God called me – over Skype in the person of my dad’s dinner guest – to join the team working on the Africa Study Bible. Since my parents live on the same campus as some of the Africa Study Bible reviewers, a few months later I found myself returning “safely to my father’s house.”

But like Jacob, my life after this bargain with God was a struggle. When I arrived in Nairobi, I started from scratch. I developed systems to organize and track 2000 pieces by 250 writers through the editorial process. With my high school friends gone and most of my work being over email and Skype, I had to start over with friendships as well.

I felt helpless – like I was unraveling. But when I stepped back, I realized God was weaving threads back into my life in a providential pattern. In addition to my sociology and English majors, old skills of French and technology came in handy. Christians for Biblical Equality contracted me to write a Bible study guide for groups of young adults. In Minnesota I had planned to help out with a church plant or youth group. Instead, two months after I moved back to Nairobi, my family’s church invited us to help with a church plant nearby. I was asked to co-lead the teens class.

Like Jacob, I gave God a tenth of what he gave me. It only multiplied my blessings. Living with my parents enabled me to save money. I was able to pay off all my student loans within a year of graduation. My contract writing paid for a Kilimanjaro summit to celebrate twenty years since I first landed in Tanzania. God went above and beyond providing food and shelter.

Instead of helping out with InterVarsity, this weekend in Nigeria I met with leaders of their sister movements in the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. We were defining a partnership to create a Bible study guide compatible with the Africa Study Bible. I marveled, “How in the world did I end up in this room with international leaders working on a project that could impact the continent?”

Jacob thought he was driving a hard bargain by nailing down the specifics of God’s provision. But he hadn’t listened closely to God’s unconditional promise the night before: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying… All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land…” (Gen. 28:13-15).

When God told Jacob he would bless him and make him a blessing to many nations, Jacob haggled for clothes and food instead. But God didn’t agree to settle for Jacob’s meager terms. Jacob had no idea of the scope of what God was going to do for him and through him. I’m beginning to realize that I have no idea either.