Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

I don’t know where to begin. How many times does a writer start with that sentence in her head? For me, it isn’t often, but today I am overflowing with so many thoughts, emotions, sensations, and a heart-stopping contentedness, that I actually can’t find a beginning.

Clearly, if you read this blog, you know my life has been very eventful, and frequently that has not been a good thing. So I think I can safely say “I know” in many, many situations. I’ve had the “I know” feeling repeatedly over the past several days, weeks, and months. The first was in response to two friends’ relationship that quickly smudged barriers, both personal and professional. Having been in a similar situation before, I knew immediately when these dear friends of mine crossed over into the all-or-nothing chaos of a clandestine relationship. In fact, I knew instantly the day “it” actually happened, and was just as instantly thrust back into my own dark, labyrinthin time, where the supposed hedges that encased us as we walked through this maze had actually turned to deceptively soft leaf piles covering sharp, painful thorns. As time went on for me, the leaves dwindled to almost nothing, and I saw all of the thorns, and I ripped through the walls anyway. The results, as you can imagine, were devastating — both physically and emotionally.

How refreshing, then, to find an instant connection with someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind or hear me speak mine… and who is interested in a real relationship with me and me alone. From the time he first started calling me, I chose John Mayer’s “Say” ringtone for my eNV so I am reminded every time he calls that I can be myself without fear of reprisal. The labyrinthin path so shrouded with thorn and cover is now clearly lit and easily navigated.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

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Okay, call me crazy! I’ve got two wonderful boy kitties–Tigger and Bubbles–and a, well, some would say not-so-wonderful bichon frise girlie girl dog, Sparkle.

Look for yourself:

TiggerThis is Tigger–always regal looking, but a big baby at heart.

Bubbles Bubbles, aka Mr. Fatty, has a squishy jello-belly, long hairs between his toes, and a surprisingly bossy disposition.

Laura and Sparkle Here’s my baby girl when I first brought her home. Even now, she’s smaller than my boys, and she’s full grown!

What more could a single mother who’s living in a 980-square-foot condo want?

Hee, hee, hee… (more…)

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Laura Merrill


So she isn’t house-broken yet, and
She cries when I leave her unattended, and
She has kennel cough, which cost me $50 to treat.
So what?
She’s BEAUTIFUL, isn’t she?
Ho, Ho, Ho
Merry Christmas!
–from Sparkle



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My daughter turned 12 on Thanksgiving Day, and this past Friday she had her very first slumber party. Yes, admittedly, that’s pretty old for a first, but I just never had the nerve to co-host one before. The party was huge success!

My daughter–who I’ll call S–invited eight little girls to spend the night, but only four of them actually showed up. (It’s real aggravating, I must say, that the others didn’t bother to RSVP except through S at school on the day of the party. But the lack of social etiquette is fodder for another blog entry!) We ate pizza and cookie cake, played “the Family Game,” had singing contests, surfed for cool videos via YouTube, applied a ridiculous amount of makeup, and just giggled to our hearts’ content!

Notice anything unusual about that paragraph? How about the use of the word “we”? S actually wanted me to hang out with her friends and her! Isn’t that cool? You hear all the time about how kids get to that point where they’re embarrassed to even know you, but I was relieved to find that I’m “still the one” in S’s eyes. She and her friends seemed perfectly content for me to participate in all of the festivities. I even asked S just to make sure, and she was totally fine with my being there.

Still being okay in my daughter’s eyes is very important to me. By letting me hang with her friends, S gives me the opportunity to check them out and make sure S is making good choices of friends. And she is. A.H. treated party-goers to some of her beautiful art work: little food friends she calls “Baby Bites.” G entertained us with her dry sense of humor, and E and A.G. danced and danced to Soulja Boy. All the girls giggled as E cooed over R.H., her 6th-grade hearthrob. They were adorable! I praised S the next day on her wise choices of friendships.

One thing that’s very important to me is that S be open to friendships with all kinds of people. So I was pleased when she invited her twin Indian friends H and A, her Middle Eastern friend R, and her bi-racial friend K. While none of these friends made it to the party, it felt good that S considered them among her best friends and wanted them to be there. This is one of the main things I like about her going to public traditional school: She meets people from all walks of life, and she doesn’t know anything about their economic conditions because they all wear uniforms. Perhaps next year, we can have the international birthday party!

Still being “the one” doesn’t mean S and I are friends exactly. We have great fun together, with tickle fights, hug-a-war, doing crafts, shopping, and just hanging out. But I’m in charge… despite her efforts to take the reins from me. The balance between friendship and authority is difficult to maintain at times: I want her to like me, but I can’t let her get away with being disrespectful or walking all over me.

Oh! One more funny thing about the party. I had no idea that girls actually farted and admitted it. But every girl at the party contributed her share of gas and then laughed hysterically. What happened to hiding the fact that you have gas? I guess my little girls can be as gross as a typical boy teenie bopper.

Don’tcha’  just love it?

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I guess forgiveness is just in the air. I just couldn’t let it go. I called my dad today to tell him our family had experienced enough broken relationships and that I wanted the pain to stop. I indicated that in spite of how distant our relationship has been since, well, forever, I wanted to do whatever it takes to reach something more akin to friendship. My dad is going senile, so I don’t think he fully understood what I was saying. However, he knew I was reaching out to him, and I believe he appreciated it. He said he would try to call me back but if I didn’t hear from him I should call him back. He’s very forgetful like that.

Why, you ask, would I bother, given his age and present state of mind? The reason is this: My faith calls me to forgive those who hurt me, even when it’s difficult. So I decided to let everything go. Does he remember what he did to me? Probably not. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that God has reached into my soul and urged me to restore a broken relationship in His name, and I obeyed His prompting.

I didn’t do anything wrong to make my dad’s and my relationship go sour. After all, I was only a small child when the abuse started. However, as an adult, I have not reached out to seek healing in our relationship. I forgave him long ago, yes, but I never let on to my dad that I had done so, so our relationship never blossomed.

I am thankful to God that He has nurtured and held me these last several weeks and that he spoke to me so clearly through the words of my minister last Saturday. Hear it yourself by going to http://middletownchristian.org/audio.asp, pressing the Month radio button, selecting November 2007 from the dropdown list, and then selecting David Emery – [November 25,2007]  Kingdom Now! – Radical Change. You won’t regret it!

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In the last couple of days, I’ve learned a very important lesson. I’ve learned that God doesn’t have to be finished with you in order to use you.

For the longest time, I couldn’t bear to study the bible, get involved in fellowship groups, or even serve at my church because I was feeling so guilty about the sins in my life. How could I, a divorced woman, possibly open myself up to God and, even more, bring other people to God when I wasn’t “finished” yet. Isn’t that hypocritical?

The answer is a resounding NO! One of the wonderful things about being a Christian and being involved in a local house of worship is that EVERYONE is welcome to come and to serve and to lead. In fact, God wants you to come when you’re sinning because He can help you overcome those sins and lead a healthier, more productive life.

As I’ve mentioned before, I felt called by God to serve the homeless for many years, but I ignored that call because I was feeling so self-absorbed in my own depression. I knew in my head that it would help me feel better if I helped others, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. At one point, I thought about serving in the area of children’s Christian education. But I looked at the people around me, assumed they were perfect little robot Christians, and couldn’t bear the thought of being “found out” that I wasn’t perfect. So I didn’t serve. The result: I continued to feel depressed about my life and my marriage, and both of these things began to fall apart.

Soon after I was divorced, I spoke to someone at my church about wanting to get involved in a singles’ ministry. However, when my friend asked me to serve and help start that ministry, I freaked out completely. Again, the thoughts raced through my mind: How could I–who had so obviously let God down–possibly help other Christian singles? Likewise, I was asked to help out with the church newsletter, but I just ran away. In fact, I completely left the church, stating publicly–and believing it was true–that I was doing so because my daughter didn’t like the church we were attending. In my heart, I knew this wasn’t true, but I couldn’t face my own frailty.

Fortunately, I came to realize that God wants me the way I am today (and the way I was yesterday too), and He welcomes me with open arms to serve Him regardless of how I’ve sinned in the past. He’ll even want me when I sin again, which I most certainly will do. I am thankful for this newfound knowledge, because it frees me to be ME. It invites me to do what God calls me to do despite my imperfections. A few of my special friends have made this knowledge clear to me, even when I battled against them and ran away from them. They never let me go, and they forgave me. They also assured me that God forgives me too, if I will only ask Him.

And so I say to Him today, “Thank you for letting me serve You. Will you please forgive me?” And I pray that I will welcome and absorb His forgiveness to bring even greater healing.

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I feel a compelling need to say some things on here, and I am sure that what I say will come as a shock to some. But I have changed and grown in many ways since my recent hospitalization, and I feel I must say them. Bear with me.

First, let me explain something about myself. After much introspection over these last several weeks, I’ve realized the extent to which I did not form my own opinions about many things–even very important matters in my own life. This became painfully obvious in the past week when I listened to the strong–and varied–opinions of a few people who mean a lot to me. This was a difficult week for me, as was evident from my last post. But it turns out that I needed to hear these strong opinions in order to realize how I had failed to decide how I feel about things. (The social worker in the hospital referred to people like me as “lost children.” I’m sure you can check on Wikipedia for an apt description of this personality type.)

Here’s a little of what happened this past week: I got a very upsetting email from one of my best friends, and my family–in their efforts to protect me–began to express in earnest their poor opinion of this friend. I, too, became livid and wrote vociferously of all of the horrid things I wanted to do to this person to get my revenge. My anger was definitely justified, and I never intended to actually do any of the things about which I’d fantacized. Now, hold that thought for a minute.

Only a few of us celebrated Thanksgiving together, because, as I mentioned in my last post, my family has been in a feud since I was first admitted to the hospital because I asked that my sister not be told of my admission. The result has been that my family reached an impasse, and I wasn’t sure if we’d ever reconcile. At Thanksgiving, we all spoke bitterly about my friend and about my sister. I want to emphasize the WE: I was an active participant in these discussions.  And then I realized how entirely empty I felt… about my friend, about my sister, about all the broken relationships I’ve experienced or witnessed in my immediate family… and I just felt sad.

On Saturday, my daughter and I went to my church with a friend of mine. The minister preached a sermon entitled “Radical Change.” In it, he talked about how we as Christians need to stop fighting in order to get people to believe what we believe and instead begin loving each other unconditionally because of our faith. Sermons don’t always “speak” to me, but this one spoke directly to my heart. I realized I had to speak out.

Rewind to the lost child I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Here I am, this person who couldn’t form an opinion for the life of her, and now opinions were flowing out of me. One: I–and no one else in my family–know my friend, and I know he is a person of good character who has made mistakes just as the rest of us have. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t my friend, and it doesn’t mean that I have to blow him off completely. So I wrote to him and told him how the email affected me, and I told him that I disagree with the opinions of my family members and will continue to value our friendship.

Two: my sister lives out her faith very differently from how I do. She, too, has done things to hurt me very deeply. However, as a Christian, I am called to respond to her differently than I did. So I called her up, told her I was through fighting, and said I would do whatever it takes to keep our families together.

Three: Since my arrival in the hospital, I have felt this constant nagging to call my ex-husband and apologize to him for giving up. So tonight I did it. I told him that I know we had many seemingly insurmountable problems but that when he began to change, I told him he was too late and I continued to hold onto my anger. I had no agenda in telling him this, except to seek his forgiveness. I have witnessed the transformation of a horrible marriage of a friend of mine, so I know that God could have done miraculous things for my marriage too, if I had listened to God and lived out my faith appropriately. (Caution: I do not take full responsibility for my failed marriage… only full responsibility for my portion of the failure.)

Four: I had a heart-to-heart discussion with my daughter telling her that I’ve done her a disservice in the way I’ve fought with my sister and in my decision to give up on my relationship with her daddy, and I asked her to forgive me too. I told her I feel great remorse for having given up like I did. I told her that when she grows up and decides to get married, it is for life, regardless of how hard it is. I told her what I did was a mistake, and that as a Christian it is important to keep your promises.

I am sure what I’ve said is shocking, especially to my family. But I cannot stand the thought of losing one more person in my life because of stubbornness and unwillingness to sacrifice myself for the good of my family/relationships–I feel this way BECAUSE I am a Christian. No, forgiveness and sacrifice are not concepts that are exclusive to christianity, but in MY life, I learned these things through my Christian faith… a faith I saw demonstrated by some of my best friends.

Thank you, my family and best friends, for all of the support you’ve shown me since September 21. I am eternally grateful.

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For the first time in many weeks, I’ve experienced clarity. After weeks battling severe depression, I reached a place of thanksgiving for the life I have, for my family, for my friends, and for honesty.

As a patient in a local mental hospital, I’ve listened to countless stories of suffering and despair. My fellow patients recounted years of abuse at the hands of their parents and spouses, the sting of betrayal by best friends, the agony of addiction to alcohol and drugs, and the oddity of relying on the pain of “cutting” to bring comfort and healing. Time and time again, I was reminded by staff of how brave we all were simply because we were there. At first, this admonition seemed ill-founded, even silly. I mean, we were in-patients (and later out-patients) in a psych ward. We were crying out loud in pain, visibly shaking with anxiety. But after conversations with family and close friends, I know that what the social workers and doctors said was true. We are brave.

I am thankful for my life just as it is today because of this bravery. While there are life circumstances that I long to be different with all of my heart, I am thankful that I can express my deepest feelings to my family and friends without fear of reprisal. Based on some of the comments I’ve received on this blog over the years, I know my candor has enabled others to work through their suffering, and my forthright words have touched readers in ways I couldn’t have predicted. What’s more, I wrote a comment on another blog about some of the challenges I feel in following God’s will in my life. Apparently, my comments inspired my fellow blogger’s family to look at their own faith journey with new eyes. Clearly, my bravery is healing for me and for others.

Since September 21, I’ve realized how fortunate I am to have the family God gave me. My mother never left my bedside at the emergency room, and she visited me nearly every night of my 18-day hospital stay. My oldest brother flew in from California to support my mother and me during that critical first week, and then he and his wife talked to me at least once a day for the duration of my stay. My “birthday brother” (the one with whom I share a birthday) visited me regularly and implored me to tell him something–anything–he could bring to me that would bring me comfort. Each of these people reminded me daily that they loved me and couldn’t imagine life without me. Their kindness baffled me, but it kept me going.

I told my friends the truth about what brought me to the hospital, and they didn’t gasp in horror at my frailty or shun me because of my inability to “deal.” Rather, they prayed for me, comforted me, reassured me. I am so lucky to have such friends.

Honesty has been my friend through this difficult time. For several months, I had encased myself in a wall of deception, pushing my feelings down so far that I couldn’t even identify them. I needed the 63-face feeling chart the nurse in the out-patient program gave me in order to find a name for the emotions stirring within me. While at first I was afraid to share my story, I found that when I did, lots of people were helpful; others were thankful for my insight. I realized that by sharing my storing, I was healing myself and others.

I am still afraid in many ways: I’m afraid about moving back home; I’m afraid about going back to a job that I find unfulfilling; I’m afraid I won’t find love again. But another part of me feels beautiful for the first time in my life and is confident of who I am and what I have to offer.

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Well, I went to the wedding I blogged about in August (“What Would You Do?”). Am I glad I did? Yes and no. It made my friend feel good that I showed up. There were only about 30 people there, so my presence was noticeable. Wendy looked beautiful and happy, the bridesmaids and flower girls were lovely, and the music was nice. Also, I saw an old friend who gave me some real estate advice, which I really appreciated. (Kind of goofy that I’m glad I went to a wedding because of getting advice on buying a condo, but what the heck!  🙂  )

Was it easy? No. I sat in the back of the church in case I wanted to bolt, but I didn’t do so. I listened as the minister reminded Wendy and Jim again and again how they needed to keep their vows no matter what, and my heart sank. I was happy for them, but, of course, I was thinking about my marriage not working out that way.

What else can I say?

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I have an opportunity to set my feelings aside for the sake of an acquaintance, and I just don’t know if I can do it. Wendy and her husband were on the verge of divorce only two years ago, but somehow–they would say “by the grace of God”–they made it through the turmoil and found love again. To celebrate that rekindling, they decided to have a full blown wedding-like re-commitment ceremony. Having never had a real wedding at the beginning, they thought it would be nice to have one now, nearly 20 years later.


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