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.

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!

Creating Friendships that Last

The Secret to Creating Friendships that Last www.annswindell.com

This is the start of my newest piece for RELEVANT Magazine.
You can read the article here.

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.

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

The secret to the best kind of #friendship? Keep showing up. 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.

We all need friends who give us a break from adulting. Click To Tweet

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.

Read about other ways to show up here, at RELEVANT.

The Gift of a Good Fight

If you know me, I don’t love conflict. But I have grown to appreciate the necessity of fighting–how it can lead to deeper intimacy in friendships, in family relationships, in marriage. My newest piece is up at Today’s Christian Woman, about this very thing.

The Gift of a Good Fight: Fighting can help our relationships, if we follow God's advice!

I was out of town when I received a voice message from my friend Gwen. I’d been at a conference all day and couldn’t be reached, so I sat in the hallway and listened to her words. She was hurt, she mentioned, by something I’d said earlier in the week, and she wanted to know my intentions behind it. Had she misunderstood me?

I sighed.

I dislike conflict—especially conflict with people I love. Three or four years ago, words like this from a friend could have sent me into a tailspin. I would have felt anxious and unsure about our relationship, questioning her love for me and our friendship’s footing.

But this time, I was sighing because she was right. I was sighing because I knew that I needed to apologize. I was sighing because, honestly, I was tired of being a sinner. I was tired of hurting the people I love the most.

I connected with Gwen, explained my intentions, and repented for where I had sinned. She was more than gracious. She was loving, and she forgave me. And I wasn’t worried about where we stood; I knew our friendship was solid.

For someone who used to avoid any form of argument as much as possible, I felt oddly buoyed by the realization that I was, in fact, getting better at this conflict thing.

The Grace of a Fighting Friend

Gwen is nothing if not honest. When we became friends, it quickly became apparent to me that she never shied away from conflict.

When our friendship grew closer, I learned she also wasn’t afraid of a fight. In fact, she welcomed it. She was never bullheaded or self-righteous, but if there was something between us that didn’t feel healthy to her, she brought it up. I initially had a difficult time reconciling Gwen’s welcoming attitude toward conflict with friendship. The two seemed to be at odds.

But Gwen’s friendship has been a grace in my life. I’ve learned that conflict, handled well, leads to intimacy. And the inverse is also true; intimacy can’t exist honestly without conflict.

What Holds Us Back from Conflict

I wish conflict didn’t exist. My preference is that relationships could roll along without any fights, arguments, or disagreements. But if we get up every morning and actually interact with other humans, we know that conflict—or at least the possibility for conflict—is everywhere.

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

Sending Love

Michael has told me, many times over the course of our marriage, that I have helped him learn how to celebrate. It’s not something I think about as an abstract concept very often–this idea of being a celebrator, this way that I look for any opportunity to have a party or gather others together. But it’s in me; it’s how I’m wired. Celebrating–and taking the time to acknowledge accomplishments or milestones–it’s something I deeply love.

In my mind, however, events or milestones don’t need to hit some sort of threshold in order to merit a celebration. Birthday? To the nines! Long weekend? Celebrate! Acceptance to grad school? Party central! Half-anniversary? Why not! I don’t discriminate when it comes to celebration. In my humble opinion, we don’t celebrate one another–and God’s presence in our lives–nearly enough.

Which is why, in the midst of preparing our home to sell and the busy start of a new semester, I still wanted to have some Valentine’s Day cards for Ella to give to friends and family. I’m not in a season of life where I’m gluing glitter and hand-lettering envelopes, but I sure can whip up a cute card over at Minted. I’ve used them before for our Christmas cards and even bought my parent’s Christmas present–a photo art-print–from Minted this year. Their quality is lovely, and their website is user-friendly (a must for this mama).

Even though Ella has no idea what Valentine’s Day is, and even though it’s not particularly one of my favorite holidays, I think the concept of giving and receiving notes of friendship and love is a tradition that would do well to continue throughout the year! Love comes in hundreds of forms, and I’m hoping that Ella will learn, early, that the love found through good friendship is one of God’s greatest gifts–and is something worth celebrating any day of the year!

So, I (quickly) found this card that I knew Ella would like–she is very into coloring these days–and added her name and a cute photo of her on the back. Grandparents? Check. Little toddler friends? Check. Memory book? Check.

Image-1 (1)

There’s still time to order a set of valentines from Minted–even foil-pressed ones!–if you’re looking for something adorable and easy.

And if you’re not feeling particularly celebrated this time of year, remember: God himself is singing over you, rejoicing in you.

You are loved more than you could ever imagine.

Affiliate links are included in this post, as I am an affiliate for Minted!

The Gift of Celebration, The Gift of Friendship

Celebrate well

I’m a celebrator by nature. I love throwing parties, surprising people, and making up excuses to celebrate the people I love. I love being the one to gather friends together to show them why they are worthy of encouragement, attention, and time. Celebrating is a love language for me.

But my birthday falls in January, which, I’ve found, is not a great time to have a birthday if you like celebrating. For most of us, January is recovery month. We’re tired, we’ve used all our vacation time, we’ve made New Year’s resolutions that forbid us from eating sugar or carbs, we’re sick of seeing people, and we just spent a lot of money at Christmas. We’re tired of celebrating once January rolls around. We want to hibernate. We want to hole away.

Therein lies my problem; birthdays are special to me.

But then, last year, a friend asked me how I would feel most loved for my birthday. She wanted to celebrate me, she said. Even in her asking, I felt loved. And I told her the truth: I wanted to be with my closest friends, and I wanted to share a meal together. No gifts, no songs—just time gathered around the table.

And that is what happened, in the cold and dreary month of January. Ten of us shared a meal. We paid for babysitters so that our conversation could go deep; that in and of itself was a precious gift of time and money. Each friend surprised me by sharing an encouragement for my coming year of life. They told me how they saw Jesus at work in me, and they prayed for me. I sat there and felt deeply celebrated, and deeply welcomed into the new year of my life by the friends I loved the most. In my memory, it remains a holy and beautiful night.

To me, I have come to realize how that night encapsulates what is meant to be at the center of every gathering; in fact, what is meant to be at the heart of friendship. For true friendship is a kind of gathering. It is pulling people together around a shared table or on a soft couch, and it will cost us in time and even in money. True friendship means giving those things that my friends offered to me on my birthday night—time, encouragement, intentionality, welcome, love. And true friendship is celebration; it is seeing what is worthy of encouragement in those we love and declaring those things over them. It is seeing the presence of Jesus in the other and acknowledging his beauty through them.

Birthdays only happen once every twelve months, but gathering to celebrate those we love—to speak truth and hope and encouragement to them and over them—that can happen any time of the year. We can gather in coffee shops and pray for one another. We can gather on playgrounds and encourage one another. We can gather around kitchen tables and welcome one another. We can gather in restaurants and celebrate one another. And we can gather, always, and love one another—no matter where, no matter when. 

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