Someone’s Going to Get Hurt.

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Once, I swung open the front door of my mini-van, jumped inside, heard a growl, peeked over my shoulder and found myself face to face with two black dogs.

Seriously, who the heck put their stinkin’ dogs in my mini-van?!

Um. Yeah. Not my mini-van.

It’s a bit terrifying how long it took to realize my mistake.

No one in the van was happy…and somebody definitely peed a little.

Here’s the deal: Don’t climb into someone else’s mini-van uninvited. It doesn’t matter how much it looks like yours. Same goes for our lives. Someone may appear to have a similar life, outlook, circumstance, parenting triumph or woe – but until you’ve entered in, you’ve no clue what’s really going on inside.

Never assume. It’s a waste of time. And don’t barge in. It’s too risky.

Wait to be invited.

This can be so tricky. Especially if the door of their life appears wide open.  Dusty goldfish are pouring out, the leaking juice box under the backpack has puddled next to a runaway credit card. You just want to offering a suggestion…right?! Stop. There could be some snarling teeth in there. Someone’s going to get hurt.

I can’t tell you how many friendships in my life have been strained because we’ve felt judged by one another.  It makes all of us shut down and pull away. Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Have I established mutual trust with this person?

If you haven’t known this person long, and you get all up in their business, it can feel like judgement. It may not be your heart! But remember, they don’t trust you yet. It’s not fair to expect them to know your intentions. Be wise and hold your tongue. But love them like crazy. Be a constant in their life.

  1. Has this person indicated they want your opinion?

I have friends who I know don’t want my opinion- even though they love and trust me. Bummer is, I’m still prone to give it. We’ve got to know our audience y’all.  It’s hard for this Italian/Irish girl to shut it down! I’m learning at the speed of molasses – I need to discipline myself in this area.

Does your friend let her kids watch rated R movies at the age of nine…guess what?!

That’s not your mini-van!

Or maybe a friend doesn’t believe in vaccinations, or home-school, or private school, or public school, or any school!!

Yeah. That’s not your mini-van either. Get out girl!

It’s hard to be a mom these days. Everyone and every book out there hisses, “You’re doing it wrong” or, “You can do it better.” Our generation has trouble trusting God can equip us properly.

We turn to the next, “How to…” book, before we turn to God’s book.

We ask Siri before we ask the Spirit.

I believe the enemy’s in this; undermining our God-given instincts to parent our children well. He uses social media, articles and most aggressively- he baits us to tear each other down. We don’t need to be another blasting horn of judgement towards our sisters! God’s heart is for us to, “Encourage one another and build each other up.”(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Don’t know how to do this? I think it starts with less worrying about getting into someone else’s life, and inviting them authentically into your own. Living out grace is a powerful witness and gift; loving people regardless of their parenting choices. If a friend does ask your opinion, it’s a safe place to practice honesty. Any fiery pups in her mini-van should know you well enough not to snap.

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P.S. If you feel convicted that God truly wants you to speak into a certain area of someone’s life, be obedient! But pray over it. Then pray again…and then three more times. Be sure it’s from the Lord and not your inner-conscious.  When this happens, frame the conversation cautiously and with grace, “I’ve had you on my heart lately.”  That’s it. Then pray God leads the conversation.

Keep the Advice…I’ll Take the Sucker

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Sometimes Mamma’s need help. But all the time, they need grace.

Once upon a time, at Trader Joes, I allowed my three angels to push their own mini-carts. So…they decided to play bumper carts down the aisle of wine bottles. Smack in the middle of the horrific scene, another mom sauntered by, her two children peacefully pushing one cart and said,

“You know, it’s really not the best idea to let each of your children have a cart.”

I don’t remember what I said. But I did not say,

“Wow, that’s such wonderful advice. You’ve helped me feel like a non-idiot. You clearly care about me and the six shattered Merlots I’m about to pay for.”

Yeah. I did not say that.

Moments later, a heroic Trader Joe’s worker, rushed to my side as I confiscated the horrid mini-carts. I was attempting to balance all three on top of my big one.  She gently offered the kiddos a sucker while I completed my mission.

I look back on this day and ask myself- Which character in this embarrassing story do I want to be? Our words and actions, even well intended, are pathways.

Here are key questions I’m learning to consider:

  • Is what I say or do, leading someone down a hallway to God’s love? Or, is it a route to my own self-validation?
  • Will this help them feel better, or me feel better?
  • Which corridor am I nudging people towards when I come to their aid?

I don’t think the mamma at Trader Joe’s had a heart to help me.  She wanted to make it clear, she knew more about this parenting thing than me. I’m super guilty of behaving this way, too. We all struggle with insecurities when we seek validation outside of God’s love.

Once I shamed a mamma for packing her daughter marshmallows as a ‘healthy snack.’ Not my finest moment. But advising her how not to feed her children, validated the way I chose to feed mine.  It was vain. God’s word makes it clear, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

Holding my tongue is just as hard as the Bible says. God’s shown me, sometimes I don’t really want to help, I want to be heard. If being heard by others becomes more important than loving them, we’ve missed the mark big time. This is true in our friendships, marriages and everyday encounters.

Jesus didn’t say, the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with your heart…And the second is to give judgmental advice to all the tired moms on your street.”

Nope. He said, “‘Love the Lord your God…  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)

How did you feel loved when you were in this bleary-eyed stage? Consider those things…and then do them for others. Next time you see a crazy mamma balancing mini-carts in Trader Joe’s, help her get the third one up with a smile.  She doesn’t need your advice, she needs your grace.

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Three Ways to Comfort a Friend When They’re “Ugly Crying”

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Definition of Ugly Crying: The kind of crying that scrapes at the bottom of your tummy, leaving you raw and sore; Crying that sounds like a wailing cat; Crying that renders all make-up, ice-packs and chocolate – useless.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years. One, I need to grieve alone. Some people drive quickly to friends or family and throw themselves into their arms, sobbing when soul-breaking hits. Not me.

Leave. Me. Alone.

Jenna, want to walk and talk it out today?

No.

Jenna, let’s grab a coffee and you can process with me.

No, thank you.

Can I at least call you and affirm you?

Nope.

I’ve wondered if something is wrong with me? Am I too proud to accept help?  I’ve come to find, telling my precious friends I’m not ready to talk…IS asking for help.  I’m asking them to help me grieve in the way that works for me. Finding friends that don’t take offense to this = ginormous blessing!  All of us process heartbreak in different ways.

This is what it looks like for me:

  • A LOT of ugly crying.
  • Lying face down.
  • Uglier crying.
  • Praying.
  • Grisly crying.
  • Reading the Bible.
  • Civilized Crying.
  • Prayer journaling.
  • Dainty crying.
  • Repeat for minimum of one week.

True friends give us the space to ugly cry alone- if that’s what we need. Seriously, if I even look a friend in the eyes during this time, I burst into uncontrollable tears in school parking lots.

I just can’t.

Profoundly, the women in my life honor my request. They don’t come bursting through my front door. They stand outside my door and patiently wait for me to come out.

I recently had a season of mourning and each time I opened my front door, there was a mocha, or a croissant, or flowers or chocolate, or a note saying ‘You are loved’…even homemade Tabbouleh salad (UH-mazing).

Each treasure a reminder, “We’re here for you – when you’re ready.” This helped me in the healing journey more than the physical solitude. Because,  I don’t really want to mourn alone. My body wants to be solo, but not my spirit. My spirit was being loved and prayed for as my body was huddled on the floor. I could feel it. And it made all the difference.

It’s teaching me to ask questions about my own role as a friend. How do my friends feel loved by me? How do they grieve? What makes them feel seen? How am I showing them I’m here?

This is sincere friendship. Meeting others in the spaces they understand as support. It may not match up with the way we receive support.

Three ways to help a friend who’s having a brutal week:

  1. Ask them what they need and accept the answer. If they don’t want to hang out, don’t push the subject. Find a way to love them outside the door – a thoughtful note, their favorite chocolate, cozy slippers. If you offer a coffee date and they say, ‘yes!’…jump in your car and hustle over there. Elijah affirmed his friendship with Elisha saying,As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” (2 Kings 2:2)  The point is to affirm they’re not alone.
  2. If they don’t want to talk, text them your prayers. I have a best friend who texts me prayers as though she is speaking them over me. Complete with, “Dear Lord” and “Amen”. Sometimes a simple, “I’m thinking of you right now,” is all we need. “My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God. (Job 16:20) The point is to affirm you care enough about them to carry their pain to God.
  3. Bring them joy. Make them laugh. I have a dear friend who knew I was having a rough week, and instead of asking how I was feeling over and over, she texted me a photo of her newly cracked treadmill with the line, “I killed it with my fatness”. I literally laughed out loud. This gorgeous Mamma isn’t overweight, she’s 8-months pregnant! Laughter brings our spirits up for fresh air. “The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.”(Psalm 30:5 MSG) The point is to affirm perspective. They won’t feel this way forever.