Posts Tagged ‘friends’

On Tuesday night, I was so excited to have everything on my to do list done and get to bed early.  I climbed into bed and closed my eyes, and God put my good friend Patty on my mind. 

Patty has been going through some trials this last week.  She’s a teacher and one or her student’s parents is really trying to make life miserable for Patty.

I prayed for Patty as I laid in bed and I couldn’t get her off of my mind, so I turned the light back on and wrote Patty a note to give to her the next day.

I ended up not going to bed early after all, but it was worth it.  I needed to let Patty know what a good friend and encouragement she is to me, and I needed to be an encouragement to her in the middle of her rough and tough week.

Here are some things that I thought of that are easy ways to be an encouragement to other people.

  • Pray for them
  • Write them a note
  • Take them to lunch or buy them a coffee
  • Smile
  • Say positive things to them and about other people
  • Bring them a small gift or baked goods
  • Shovel their walk (for those of you who live in a winter wonderland)
  • Lend them a good book you just read
  • Volunteer to watch their kids so they can Christmas shop
  • Get together to bake or wrap presents
  • Give them a sincere compliment

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When I first left Jake, I stayed with friends of my parents who lived in the same town I was living in.  I stayed with them for a day and since he is a Pastor, and Pastor’s schedules are a little bit hectic on the weekends, his wife asked me if I would like to spend the weekend with some friends of theirs.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I gathered the few belongings I had with me and went with her over to their friends house.

I was very nervous, I had so much on my plate, I was all alone and about to stay with some people for the weekend that I had never met and had no idea who they were……I decided to take things one step at a time.  I knew my dad would be in town to help me soon, and ANYTHING was better than going back to Jake.

When we arrived at the house, Mrs. Jones (yes, we have the same last name…..what are the odds of that?) greeted us, took my bags and showed me to my room.  I followed her down the hallway, and we entered the most inviting room I have ever seen.  The carpet was a WALL TO WALL rag rug….not only was it beautiful, but SO cozy on your toes……….the bed, oh the bed was queen size, the head and foot boards were antique wrought iron (the kind with the swirls and the tall bed posts)  and the mattress…..are you ready for this?  The mattress was a luxurious, plush, overstuffed feather bed.  I had never slept in a feather bed before, and as soon as I saw this room, I wanted to curl up on the bed and take a loooooooong nap…….this place was divine.  The bathroom had an old fashioned tub that has feet on it.  The entire room looked like a place that Anne of Green Gables could only DREAM of sleeping in.

As soon as I was settled in, Mrs Jones showed me the rest of the house and asked me to go to lunch with her.  The house is sooooooo beautiful.  It’s only a couple of years old, but they had it built to look like an old farm house, complete with a porch that wraps ALL the way around the house, and their cute little potting shed matches the house.

Mrs Jones and I headed to lunch at Subway.  This woman who is probably close to 70 is a lady in every sense of the word, she carries herself graciously and engages people in very interesting conversations without being too nosy.  We ordered our subs, mine came to $6.00, and let me tell you, making the decision to spend $6.00 on lunch without having to ask Jake if it was OK to spend my money was one of the BEST feelings I have ever had.  I enjoyed that lunch so much, just talking and listening to Mrs. Jones and making decisions for myself without fear of being punished……..it was incredible.

After lunch, Mrs. Jones took me to the supermarket and told me to pick out whatever I wanted to eat while I was at her house.  I picked out some Juice, soup, and some chips, she kept asking me about things that I like and was putting more in the cart for me.  She sent me to the candy aisle to pick out a treat for myself.  We went to check out and the Easter items were on sale, so Mrs. Jones told me to pick out an Easter bunny for my little one that was on the way.

During our conversation, she uncovered my love of sewing and creating things, so she stopped at the fabric store on the way home and encouraged me to pick out fabric to make some things for the baby, she helped me choose the fabric and thread and then insisted on paying for them.

For three days, I spent time with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, and by the time I left, I felt like I had known them forever and honestly, I didn’t want to leave their house when it came time.

Mrs. Jones served me breakfast in bed and my toast was on crystal and my juice was served in stem wear.  I couldn’t believe that she was literaly treating me like a Queen……..for months, I had been treated like a slave, and this woman was spoiling me and treating me like I was a Queen.  I felt so undeserving, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

I accompanied Mrs. Jones on all of her errands, to the bank, to the hardware, to the grocery store, helped her drop things off at a thrift store, we went to Target, and the dollar store (she had never been in a dollar store before and couldn’t believe that everything was only $1.00!)

In just three days, I felt like I knew this woman, she taught me so many things……she carries a tape measure in her purse so that while she’s shopping, she can measure items that she likes and pick the perfect one for her house without making extra trips home to measure and back to the store.  She taught me how to drive a golf cart.  She made me three different kinds of Chicken salad sandwiches (they were all delicious)  She has three sinks in three different places in her kitchen, one for dishes, one for preping food, one as you come in the kitchen door to wash fresh produce from the garden.  She has a bathroom in her garage so that she can use the restroom while she’s cleaning in the garage or doing laundry….this woman amazes me, she thinks of everything.

The first morning as I was getting dressed and doing my hair, she walked past the restroom and said, “That blue is so pretty on you.”  I thanked her and started crying my eyes out……I hadn’t had compliments about my appearance for months.  When I was with Jake, I wasn’t allowed to cut and style my hair, I wasn’t allowed to wear my makeup attractively and I wasn’t allowed to wear clothes that looked nice on me. (They day after I left him, my co-worker took me to the store to buy the 2 pairs of jeans, 4 shirts and the curling iron and make up that I had with me, and then I promptly cut my own hair in the bathroom that evening.)

Mrs. Jones asked me lots of questions about my hobbies, my family, my baby, and my dreams.  This woman had no idea what I was going through, but somehow, she had the ability, the GIFT to take my mind off of all the hurt, control, abuse, hateful words, fears and stress that I was going through.  She was able in 3 days to show me more love and concern than I had been shown in months by someone who claimed to love me with all of his being.

Although I was sad to leave, I was so glad that God brought this woman into my life and granted me three days to spend with her.  She didn’t know what was happening in my life or why I needed to stay with her for the weekend, but somehow, this woman was able to encourage me, to mentor me, to empower me, and love me like a daughter.  She’ll never know what a blessing she is to me.

I think about Mr. and Mrs. Jones a lot. Grace has the Easter bunny in her toybox and everytime I see it, I’m reminded of a lady whose kindness, love and big heart blessed me at just the right time in my life.  I send her Christmas cards every year with pictures of Grace and I and an update on our lives.

Mrs. Jones is truly an angel, and I believe that she is someone that I would have never been blessed with meeting, had I not needed to escape from Jake.

Those three days were some of the best days I’ve ever spent with someone, and they were exactly what I needed in the middle of all of the stress, burdens, fears and chaos at that point of my life.  I pray that someday, God will use me in someone else’s life to bless them the way that Mrs. Jones has blessed me.

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It’s a fact of life.  People fail us.  Friends, family, spouses, boyfriends, best friends.  Some people don’t mean to let you down, other people let people down intentionally.  Whether it’s making a promise they didn’t keep (and maybe, it was a promise they never intended to keep.), not doing something they said they would do for you, saying something hurtful, not being the person they portrayed themselves to be…..and the list goes on and on.

Sometimes, people “let us down” because we have unrealistic expectations for them…..so when they don’t “do” or “say” what we expect them to, we get upset about it.  I’ve learned that If people are letting me down because of my expectations for them……(what I want them to do or say in a particular situation.) I need to stop it and let them be who they are and take things one step at a time.  That usually takes care of things on my end.

Sometimes, people let us down intentionally.  These are the people who pretend to be your “friend.”  They act like they are there for you…..they volunteer to do things for you……”Oh, let me come over on Saturday morning and help you paint that room.”  They never show up and then they don’t answer their phone.  You brush it off and then the next time you see them, you say “I thought you were going to come over on Saturday….You should stop by and see how my living room turned out…..”  and they say “oh, yeah, sorry about that.  My Aunt was in town and we went to San Fransisco for the day.”  You forgive them, move on and a few weeks later, they make another promise they don’t keep or say something hurtful to you…….Does this sound familiar to you?  I’ve had a few of these “friends” in the last few years.  When I sense a pattern like this, I’ve learned not to expect them to do what they said they would do and I consider it a “bonus” if they really do follow through. 🙂

I’m big on not looking at surface issues, and trying to find the root cause.  So, I try to analyze the situation and if they keep coming up with off the wall reasons why they weren’t able to meet for lunch, or come to Grace’s birthday party, or start saying hurtful things to Grace and I, then I stop initiating contact with people like this.  This type of situation came up not long ago……a woman I knew that would always say things like “I’m so glad we’re friends” started saying some very hateful and hurtful things to me and about Grace and I to other people……”What is wrong with her?”  I asked my mom…..”Why is she picking on Grace of all people?”

Mom’s answer:

She’s jealous…….”She’s JEALOUS?” I ask.  “WHY would anyone be jealous of US?”  I ask.

What I’ve come to realize is that sometimes, people look at who we are today and they wish they were that person, or wish they had your blessings so they become jealous.  They think….she has such a good attitude, her baby is so sweet……she’s a single mom, how can she drive such a nice car?  I wish I had a job like her’s.  I wish I could play the piano like that (OK, these are my mom’s words, not mine 🙂 ) It seems like everything goes right for her…….everyone likes her…..and they start getting jealous. 

(OK, these are my words now) What I don’t understand is that people don’t think of what I had to go through to be where I am today.  I honestly believe that if I hadn’t been in an abusive relationship, I would still be floating through life, taking every day for granted. 

When we go through tough times, it’s up to us to become better people because of them.  Do people see my blessings and wish they were in my shoes?  Why is that? Do they want the trials and the hard times that brought me to these blessings and who I am today, or do they just want the blessings?  Life is a growing process for everyone,but a true friend cries with you during your sorrow and rejoices with you when you receive blessings…..they don’t get upset because good things happen to you or because you come out of a bad spot in life and even better person. 

Here’s the lesson I’ve learned from all of this:  Surround yourself with true friends, positive people, and people who want to see you reach your goals……don’t spend your time and energy with people who are trying to drag you down.

People will let you down in life, but you know what?  I’ve found that no matter what, God doesn’t let us down.  He’s always there for us 24/7, He’s always ready to forgive, and He always wants good things for His children.

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I’ve been pondering this topic, and I have to say that the majority of women who have been a huge blessing and encouragement to me have at one point in their lives been a single mom.  (There are a few exceptions as I posted in Blessed to be a Blessing.)

In thinking about this topic, I realized that what these women have in common is that they already know what you are going through and they don’t have to tell you that they are trying to encourage you, they don’t have to tell you that they know you’re going through a tough time, they don’t have to figure out how to accept you (or your child), they don’t have to be shocked, or try to find the words to say because they’ve been there…….they meet you where you are and befriend you there.

Let me explain a little more…….A FANTASTIC family friend of ours, Lori, raised 4 children as a single mom.  Lori is such a burst of energy and encouragement.  Lori always has something special for Grace to open on Christmas morning, she makes her a little Easter basket and buys Grace t-shirts when she goes to Hawaii……very small things to some people, but a BIG blessing to us.  Lori also calls when she’s out running errands and says “Do you want to meet me at the dollar store?”  or “Have you had dinner yet?  How about meeting me somewhere.”  She sends us birthday cards and notes of encouragement. 

Another friend of ours, Pat, has been fantastic as well.  Pat always has a smile, stops to pray with you, and is a wealth of wisdom and encouragement.  Pat raised her 2 daughters alone for many years.

While I have been blessed with several women of faith, wisdom, and the Love of God…….I’ve encountered those who like to “remind” me that I am a “Single Mom”  (as I posted earlier, I don’t think of myself as a “single mom” I’m just Grace’s mom.) 

While I truely believe that some of these women have the best of intentions, let me state that if you are not or have never been a single mom, there is no way to understand what it’s like to be a single mom.  What I’ve found is that the word choice that some people use when trying to show empathy to single moms is not always the best.  The majority of single moms have encountered some kind of hurt in their lives.  Divorce, abuse, death of a spouse, etc.  They don’t need their well meaning friends to hurt them more. 

I’ve had several people (who have never been a single parent) say to me “I know what you’re going through is rough……” (I’m sorry but, you don’t.  You can imagine in your head that it must be rough, but you don’t have a full understanding of it and you don’t know what it’s like day in and day out.)  Or there have been those who have reminded me that “Grace needs a dad.”  (Thank you.) To these people, I’d like to pose the question…..”Has marriage solved all of your problems?” (I would never say that to them, but it does run through my head.)  My favorite is when people say “You should……”  when this happens, I sigh because I don’t have enough energy left in the day to give them the lengthy explaination that it requires to help them understand why I don’t do what they are suggesting.   I smile and nod my head.  I say, “Oh, that’s a great idea.  I’ll have to think about that.”  It’s much easier because they don’t understand why what they are suggesting doesn’t work for our family.  There have even been the people who remind me that I am all alone in this. (There’s no better way to encourage someone than to remind them that they are alone or must be lonely.)

I’ve had those who say enthusiasticly, “You should come to Ladies Retreat with us.”   to this, I respond, “I would love to go, but I have to work and I don’t have someone who can watch Grace over night.” (my mom usually speaks at the retreats, so she can’t watch Grace either.)  While this is a great gesture on their part to include me in the activities, what people don’t realize is that not only would I have to pay $100 for the conference, but I would also have to miss 2 days of work, find someone who is willing to watch Grace for 3 days and 2 nights, and then pay that person for watching Grace for 72 hours.  When you look at it from my point of view, it’s VERY expensive to go to Ladies Retreat, now isn’t it?

I’ve had choir members ask me if we can rearrange our practice times because it would be much better for their (2 parent) family.  Again, I smile and try to be very patient while I explain that I am not available any other time than we currently practice, because I am a mom FIRST, I work full time, teach piano lessons, and coordinate all of the special music at our church.  This particular person couldn’t fathom why I couldn’t make practice even a half an hour earlier than it currently is……..(I’m thinking, Grace has to take a nap and eat dinner before practice, there is NO way to move practice up earlier.)

So, what’s the best way to be a friend to a single mom? 

Invite her and her child(ren) when you’re having people over. (if she can’t come, don’t stop inviting her, there are lots of things on a single mom’s plate.)

Invite her (and her sweeties) to holiday events, Christmas caroling, cookie exchanges, holiday parties.

Meet her for coffee, or lunch. (you don’t necessarily have to buy.)

Send an email or note of encouragement.

Go with her and her kids on a picnic.

Call her just to talk.

Give her a compliment on her hair, nails, shoes, necklace, or her children’s behavior 🙂

Get your kids together to play.

Invite her to dinner once in awhile.

Let her know about sales. ( I have a friend who works at MACY’s who always lets me know when the 1 day sales are 🙂 )

If you have things you’re getting rid of ask her to come take a look before you take it to the thrift store.

Borrow books from each other.

Pray for her and her children. (Wisdom, strength, good health, provisions)

Go for walks or to the gym together.

Sit by her in Bible Study or Church once in awhile.

Ask her if she wants to go yardsaling with you.

Are you seeing the picture……just treat her like you would any other friend. Don’t treat her like she’s a “single mom.” 

Sometimes, it’s tough to treat her like any other friend.  I have several “friends” that I grew up with or went to college with that are not my friends anymore because I’m a single mom.  They either don’t know what to say, or they don’t know what to think.  Let me just say that other people’s situations are not for us to judge.  We don’t know all of another person’s circumstances.  Christ calls us to show His love to everyone.  Regardless of how well we are able to “handle” finding out that someone is now a single mom. (or other situations.)

When I told my best friend…..she hugged me and said, “I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that……tell me about Grace…..she’s so beautiful.”  And that was it.  It didn’t bother her…..she was still my friend.  She doesn’t remind me that I’m not married, or that I must be so lonely.  She treats me like she always has. 

So how do you be a friend to a single mom?  Just be her friend…..the rest will take care of itself.

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