Creating Friendships that Last

In a world bloated with quick fixes, instant gratification and social media profiles, it can be hard to know how to build—and keep—lasting friendships. And while we may want to portray a particular side of ourselves online, the truth is that we need friends who know us here and now, in the middle of our mess and our daily routines. And we need to be those types of friends, too.

Creating Friendships that Last from annswindell.com

The secret to these kinds of friendships is actually pretty simple: You just have to show up.

The secret to friendship is actually pretty simple: You just have to show up. via @RELEVANT Click To Tweet

The Scriptures calls us to draw near to Christ and to draw near to one another: “let us draw near [to Christ] with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” and “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:22, 24-25). As people of faith, we are called to live so that we are encouraging those around us toward love and good deeds. I think this comes most obviously and importantly through deep, meaningful friendship.

Here’s how to start—and build—friendships where we spur one another on to godly lives and where we reflect God’s love to one another:

SHOW UP WITH A MEAL.

A friend doesn’t have to be sick to need a meal. A new baby doesn’t have to be born, and it doesn’t have to be a holiday. Many times, we need a friend to care for us—spiritually and practically—in the midst of our everyday lives when things just feel like a little too much to handle. I’ve taken meals to friends who are emotionally overwhelmed, to friends who have sick kids and to friends who just need a break from adulting. If you don’t cook: Take a pizza. Breaking bread together—sharing meals—is something that marked the early church, and it’s not hard to understand why. Sharing a meal together feeds both the body and the soul. It’s not hard—it just takes intentionality.

SHOW UP WITH PRAYER.

Hanging out and talking, watching a game together, laughing together—these are good gifts of friendship. But being friends who follow Jesus also offers us the rich opportunity to pray not only for but with one another. I’ve found that my times of prayer with friends have been some of the deepest and most steadying parts of our friendship.

Can it be awkward, especially if you’ve never prayed together? Sure. But it can also crack open the opportunity for deeper relationship and trust. Maybe you can’t help your friend practically, with her need or with his struggle. But you can pray with your friend, right there, asking God to meet that need and provide grace in the struggle. If you don’t know what to pray, consider getting a copy of The Book of Common Prayer and praying a liturgical prayer together. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But when two or three of us get together in the name of Jesus, He’s there with us (Matthew 18:19-20). When we pray, He hears us, and moves on our behalf.

Easy Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

Easy Ways to Encourage your Pastor! www.annswindell.comThis is the start of my most recent article for the Deeply Rooted Magazine blog.
You can read the entire article here!

I love church. I really do. I love the Church with a capital C—the church universal that Jesus died and rose for, filled with every tribe and nation and people and tongue (Rev. 7:9). And I love our particular church that meets every Sunday in a building that used to be a funeral home (a reminder of the beauty of going from death to life every week!). And after years in church ministry, as a pastor’s wife and now as a seminarian’s wife, I can unequivocally say that while church is messy and challenging and sometimes deeply painful, I know that there’s nothing else I will give my life to—because that’s what Jesus did. If he gave his life for the church, then I will give my life to the church, to love and care for and serve his people.

If Jesus gave his life for the church, then I will give my life to the church, to love and care for… Click To Tweet

While my husband and I are not in full-time ministry right now, I know what it’s like to be married to a pastor, and one of the many things learned in those years of ministry is that most pastors live in the simultaneous reality of loving what they do and also being tired. Sometimes pastors are just kind of tired. But other times they are exhausted. Getting to pastor the people of God is an incredible gift, but it is also a job that doesn’t have very clear starting and ending times. Ministering is fluid; people don’t have important questions and life crises only between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm. Work and ministry and life bleed into one another. And yes, sometimes pastors need better boundaries. But sometimes life and ministry are one and the same thing—and that’s ok. And tiring.

Your pastor is meant to be a gift to you. But you are also meant to be a gift to your pastor: Click To Tweet

I don’t know who your pastor is, and I don’t know what kind of season your pastor is in. But this is the pastor that you have in this season of life, and he is meant to be a gift to you and your church family. The flip side of the equation is that you are meant to be a gift to your pastor, too. One way to do that is to intentionally encourage him and the other staff members at your church. So, as we end Pastor Appreciation month, here are some simple ways you can encourage the pastors in your life:

  1. Say thank you. Say thank you when you see him on Sunday. Send a quick note of thanks to the office. Write a thank-you email regarding something specific that meant a lot to you. This will go so, so much farther than you can imagine.
  2. Drop off coffee or food at the office. Find out when the weekly staff meeting is and drop by with donuts or coffee. You might just make the staff’s entire week! They will know they are loved and thought of on days other than Sunday.

Read the rest of the article here, at Deeply Rooted!

Yes, the World Needs Your Story

The World Needs Your Story www.annswindell.comThis is the start of my newest piece for Darling Magazine.
You can read the whole article here!

For those of us who find ourselves drawn to the written word, the pull toward pen and paper is more than just a hobby. It’s a lifeline. Many of us flourish when there are words flowing from our soul onto the page — we’re able to make sense of things better when we’re writing, and we think our thoughts most clearly when we write them down on paper.

For those of us drawn to the written word, writing is more than a hobby--it's a lifeline. #amwriting Click To Tweet

As unique as the personal writing experience is for each of us, research is starting to reveal a universal reality that many of us have inherently known for a long time: writing about our lives is healing. Several studies point to the fact that when we honestly write about our own lives, working through our questions and challenges on the page, we can experience emotional breakthrough. That’s because when we take time to write about what’s bothering us, the act of writing enables us to see our lives in a new way and release past burdens. Writing can help us reframe our experiences and see ourselves as active participants in our lives, rather than as victims or observers.

Additional research has found that people who take time to intentionally write about their emotional state “were able to create the distance between the thinker and the thought, the feeler and the feeling, that allowed them to gain a new perspective, unhook, and move forward.” When we write about what’s happening internally, it enables us to parse experience from emotion — and then decide how to change.

Writing is a powerful tool.

If you’ve never taken the time to write your story down, maybe this is the nudge that you need. While writing about our journey and the emotions that we’ve experienced may feel initially overwhelming, the work that it can do in our hearts and our minds might actually change the course of our lives. It can help us to really see how we’ve been living and what it might look like to flip the script in our current story.

Read the rest of the article here, at Darling Magazine!

And if you want to write your story, check out my online writing course, Writing with Grace: Memoir. Registration is open until October 6th, and I’m offering a discount to blog readers: save 10% with the code: MEMOIR10. I can’t wait to join you there!

Image via Maddie Greer

Summer Stitch Fix Review (#3!)

I haven’t gotten a “Fix” for several months, but I had some credit built up and was looking for some pieces to refresh my summer rotation of clothes, so I scheduled a box for this week–and it came!

If you’re not familiar with Stitch Fix, here’s how it works: you order a “Fix” (a box of clothes) based on a style profile you fill out about yourself–colors, sizes, styles, patterns, lifestyle. A stylist picks five items for you (from skirts to tops to earrings to jeans), which are sent to you in the mail. The five items are a surprise! You try on clothes at home with the wardrobe you actually have, keep what you love, and send the rest back in a pre-paid envelope. It’s remarkably simple.

Summer Stitch Fix Review (The good, the bad, the Maxi) at annswindell.com

Why I like Stitch Fix in this season of life:

1. I’m not in a season where I can spend much money on clothes, and I can set my price point with Stitch Fix. Also, if I buy all 5 items in the box, there’s a 25% discount on everything.

2. I don’t have to leave the house. Three words: Kid. Time. Heat Index of over 100 degrees.

3. I can get a “Fix” as often or as rarely as I want. I don’t get mine regularly (although many people do); usually, I request a box when I have an event coming up where I need a specific item (a dress for a wedding, for example).

4. The cost is a $20 styling fee, which goes toward any item you purchase.

5. Stitch Fix works for women in almost any season of life. From teenagers to retirees, they’ve got clothes for women in many stages, sizes (even maternity!), and professions.

My box just came this week; here’s my review–so many great pieces in here (and I loved opening up the box to find these colors and patterns!)

Stitch fix box #3

First up, the Carmela Printed Crochet Detail Flare Skirt. The colors and are so fun, and while the pattern isn’t one I would have picked up in a store, the crochet detail above the knee is really lovely. I paired it with a casual tee shirt, which is right in line with my summer style. This is part of why I love Stitch Fix; I can try on the pieces that they send with what I already own and see how it will actually work (or not work) with my current wardrobe.

Carmela Printed Crochet Detail Flare Skirt

I’m honestly still on the fence about this skirt. It’s flowy and soft and the design is beautiful! I’m just not sure if I’ll wear it enough to justify purchasing it, as I already have a lot of skirts. What do you think?

The second item in my fix was the Roquette Off the Shoulder Tunic. Off the shoulder tops are all the rage this summer, and this top was airy, lightweight, and was comfortable to wear.

Roquette Off the Shoulder Tunic

I think I’ll be sending this one back; as cute as it is, I don’t have a lot of reasons to wear an off the shoulder top, and it was a bit baggy.

Ok, on to the third and fourth item in the box–the Lucienne Knit Maxi Dress and the Carlos Turquoise Stone Collar Necklace. I’m a bit of a pushover for a good Maxi dress–it’s like wearing pajamas all day but looking put together! And the Lucienne Knit Maxi Dress had me when I saw the strap/shoulder situation. I love the higher neck!

Lucienne Knit Maxi Dress

Here’s the closeup of the Carlos Turquoise Stone Collar Necklace. This is a fun necklace, with some really creative details, but I don’t think I’m going to keep it. I usually wear more delicate pieces (unless I’m rocking a 31 Bits necklace!), and I can’t foresee wearing this any time in the future.

Carlos Turquoise Stone Collar Necklace

The last piece in my fix was the 41 Hawthorn Merise Split Neck Tunic. My stylist gave me such a great fix–this top is right up my alley, too. It’s a little on the preppy side, and perfect for the crazy heat we’re having in the Midwest. Sadly, it was a little too tight in the hips for my preference, and going up a size would have made the top too big. It has to go back.

That’s it this time around–and it’s getting me excited for my next fix. Maybe this Fall? Let me know if you have any questions, and if you want to try Stitch Fix, please click this link and I will get a referral credit. And tell me how it works out for you!
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Three Ways Counseling is a Gift You Give Yourself

As someone who has benefited immensely from Christian counseling, I was thankful to get to write a piece about the gifts counseling offers us for
Darling Magazine

3 Ways Counselingis a GiftYou Gift Yourself (1)

We’re still settling into the rhythms of life in our new city, and last week we had dinner with a family that we’re trying to build a relationship with; we go to church with them and our kids are about the same age, so it’s an easy connect.

As our kids ran around one another, I talked with Lesley about life in the last year and a half — all of the transitions that have taken place as we’ve moved cities, changed jobs, and essentially started over in our adult lives. I mentioned that professional counseling has been a game-changer for me in the last season of life, and Lesley paused to ask me more. She had recently been considering counseling but wasn’t sure if she should pursue it, or if it would be a good fit for her. Here’s what I shared with Lesley that night — the three ways that counseling was one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself:

1. Counseling helps us to walk the journey of health and wholeness intentionally.

Most of us long to live in healthy, empowering ways in our daily lives; we want to respond to ourselves and others with kindness, and we want to live from a place of love rather than fear. But there are very few practical ways to determine if we are actually growing in wholeness and personal wellbeing. There’s not a to-do list that we can check off at the end of every day. Rather, the journey to healing and health is one that will take a lifetime of intentionality. Committing to counseling sets at least one clear step before us on the path to wholeness, and it offers us tools for not only coping with, but thriving in our daily lives.

The journey to healing and health is one that will take a lifetime of intentionality. Click To Tweet

2. Counseling helps us to own our brokenness and our glory.

A good counselor — one who is seeking to help us rather than trying to appease us — is a person who will speak truth. And when that truth is about our brokenness and the ways we have failed, it can be hard to hear. But it is necessary for us to come to terms with the brokenness that we carry so that we can better understand how we respond when confronted with pain and anger and fear. We need to hear the hard truth so that we can forgive and change and grow. And the good news is that as we better understand our brokenness, we can better understand our glory, too. For we are not solely broken; we are those who are choosing to try again, to ask for forgiveness again, to show up again. We have more strength than we know, and more resilience than we might have imagined. These are gifts that a good counselor helps us to see in ourselves.

We have more strength than we know, and more resilience than we might have imagined. Click To Tweet

Read the rest of the article here, at Darling Magazine!

What I Want My Single Friends to Know About Marriage

Michael and I just recently celebrated our tenth anniversary, and this article seems timely in its publication; friendships between marrieds and singles are necessary, beautiful, and valuable in the Kingdom of God. You can read the article in its entirety here, at Today’s Christian Woman.

What I Want My Single Friends to Know About Marriage. Great insights for marrieds and singles!

When I got married ten years ago, there were certain things I expected—things like love and struggle and joy and pain. But what I didn’t expect was that those emotions might not only occur within my marriage, but also between me and my single girlfriends. As I learned what it looked like to be married to Michael, I was also trying to learn how to re-build friendships with the women in my life.

It wasn’t easy. Suddenly, I was in a different stage of life than they were, navigating different questions and concerns. Our seasons of life were different, and we had choices to make: Would we stay connected, work for deeper friendship even in the midst of life change? Or would we slowly fade apart?

Five Honest Admissions

Here are the things I wish I would have said ten years ago to my single friends—and the things I still may need to say to my single friends. Because friendship in any season is worth the time and intentionality it requires—even if it does get a little awkward as we figure things out along the way.

1. Sometimes I don’t know how to relate to you. I know that sometimes you feel like you can’t relate to my life situation—and I actually feel the same way about you. Our seasons of life are markedly different, now, and I’m not always sure how to connect.

Maybe it’s because I was the first among my friends to get married, and it was as if an invisible wall went up in some of my friendships—a wall I didn’t know how to break through. Some of my friends were jealous; some were unsure of how our friendship would shift now that I was a Mrs. It made me gun-shy, and I felt the shift. I worried that I would misstep in my friendships with single women.

How do we relate now? Singles and marrieds--building a strong friendship is worth it. #marriage… Click To Tweet

What I’m saying is that I’m not sure what stories you want to hear from my life. Should I avoid all of the stories about our marriage? I don’t know how painful it feels for you when I bring up my husband in conversation. And I have no idea if you want to talk about your singleness of not.

I might need you to tell me; I might need you to open up the conversation and share where your heart is with singleness, with marriage, with Jesus, with the church. And I might need to share with you about my marriage. We might just need to work through the awkwardness together. Because I want to love you well, just as I want to be loved well by you. But I’m not always sure how you want me—and maybe even need me—to relate to you. Please tell me. I won’t be offended. I’ll be thankful.

2. Yes, it really is wonderful. And yes, it really is hard. Even though I’m not in your shoes, I know that being single can be really, really hard. What I need you to hear from me is this: sometimes marriage can be hard, too.

Yes, I am grateful that I have someone to come home to, to lean on, to process life with, to live alongside. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Michael’s sharpening and loving presence in my life. But marriage is not all sunshine and roses. It is a daily choice to keep our communication open, our love pure, our dreams shared. We are two different people with sometimes markedly different views of how we should live, eat, work, and parent. And it can be exhausting to try and work things through one more time, when it would feel easier to throw in the emotional towel.

So there are going to be days when I need you to help me cherish my vows, and days when I need to help you trust God’s promises, too. I think we can help and love each other in these places if we can make room for each other’s struggles, no matter how different they are.

I need you to help me cherish my vows, and I need to help you trust God’s promises, too. #marriage… Click To Tweet

3. There are days when I envy your singleness. I relinquished a lot of freedoms at the altar because the marriage vow necessarily requires tethering: I can’t up and go whenever I want, I can’t choose a new job based only on my personal desires. I’m not free to spend money any way I want, or use my time solely in the ways I see fit. Those were freedoms I traded in order to have a healthy marriage. And while I know we are all called to shape our lives around Christ and live accountably to him and his church, there are days when your life seems very alluring to me: You don’t have to make decisions with someone else, or shape your life around another human. Some days, your freedoms sound luxurious to me. I know you might be rolling your eyes right now, but it’s true.

Paul warns about this reality in the Scripture—it’s not like I went into marriage blind:

I want you to be free from anxieties. . . . And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32, 34-35)

I made this choice when I got married—to have, to a certain degree, my attentions divided between Jesus and my husband, my family. I seek to keep Christ at the forefront of my life, and often serving Jesus means serving my husband and family. But there are days when I feel torn in my attentions, and I look at your life with longing.

Read the rest of the article here, at Today’s Christian Woman!