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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 9th June 2015

#TellHisStory: The First Step To Authentic Friendship

She had a choice to make.

The girl had brought her “lovie” to our house for a sleepover we hosted in honor of our youngest daughter’s birthday. But that girl’s lovie was still hiding in her duffel bag.

Her choice: Would she unpack her lovie when she needed it, or would she keep it hidden?

The lovie was a ragged blanket that she’d slept with for ten years straight. It had moved with her from her crib, to her toddler bed, to her “big-girl” bed. The blanket had taken long car rides with her, and it had soothed her when she felt lonely or hurt or afraid of the dark.

When she was around the people who knew her and loved her best, she was never afraid to bring the lovie into the light. But as she grew older, she kept it hidden from everyone else. She couldn’t quite put a finger on the reason why. Why did something she loved so much feel like it had to be hidden? Somehow, the blanket had become a bit of a secret. Admitting that she slept with a lovie made her feel vulnerable, and maybe a bit ashamed.

As night came, I dimmed the lights in the family room, where the girls would sleep. All the girls snuggled under blankets for a late-night movie. I pushed play on the remote. But that girl? She  wanted her blanket. I could see on her outsides how she was fighting a quiet battle on her insides. This battle was about the risk of vulnerability.

If she’s like most of us, the girl was asking herself the most paralyzing question in the universe: What will people think?

She made her choice. I watched as she walked to the bedroom, unzipped her bag, and quietly pawed through her belongings to find the love-worn blanket. From my seat in the family room, I saw what happened next.

The girl walked back into the room, with her blanket tucked under her arm. But just then, one of the girls saw what she retrieved from the bag.

She had been “found out.”

“What’s that?” asked the friend, pointing a finger at the lovie.

I was so proud of that little girl. Because here’s what she did next:

She lifted her chin, lifted her voice, and took the first step toward authentic friendship. She sat cross-legged on the couch and told her room of friends the truth. She told them how her mom’s friend made that blanket for her when she was a newborn, and how it had traveled with her on a hundred car rides, and how she once lost it at the park, and how it fell apart a few years ago, so Grandma had to sew it. She showed everyone the long stitch mark, and it looked like a scar.

Everyone listened. No one laughed at her. No one judged. And then, the most beautiful thing happened. One by one, each of the girls pushed back the covers, walked into the bedroom, and unzipped their duffel bags. Out came the ragged tie-blankets, a bear with a missing eye, a Taggie blankie, a plush doll. EVERY GIRL IN THE ROOM WAS HIDING A SECRET IN HER BAG.

That was the Night of the Great Unzipping.

Each girl dragged her own lovie into the living room, and then they took turns telling their stories — about lovies loved, and lovies lost, and lovies found again.

And everyone slept better that night. Because someone had the guts to “go first.”

There’s a C.S. Lewis quote that goes like this: “Friendship begins in that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

Friendship, C.S. Lewis

The first step toward friendship — deep friendship — is vulnerability. True friendship requires a terrific amount of emotional exposure. With it, comes risk and possible rejection. But it also comes with the likelihood that someone else knows exactly what you’re feeling.

Deep friendship grows only when we are deeply known.

But the only way to be deeply known, is to allow yourself to be deeply seen.

The best friendships begin by letting ourselves be seen. The best friendships begin when we un-hide everything that we’ve zipped up. They begin when we stop asking ourselves, “What will people think?” Friendships deepen when we tell our stories about the sleepless nights, the darkiest-darks, and the sewn-up places that look like scars.

And when we do all of that? We find out that being “found out” is the best place to start.

And all around us, we shall hear a Great Unzipping.

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#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It’s always a joy to gather here every week. The linkup goes lives each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great. And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! A former journalist from the Kansas City area, Lois Flowers is our latest featured writer. Find Lois here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 )

xo Jennifer


  • Aw, this made me tear up a bit. I was also the girl with the worn blanket. It went to college with me, too.

    Great post- and thank you for the encouragement to be brave in our relationships!

    • I took my “Runny Babbit” to college, too. 🙂

  • What a beautiful story, and what encouragement to share our hearts with our friends. My big 18 year ol’ still sleeps with “Cubby,” a stuffed bear his AWANA Cubbies leader gave him 14 years ago. That thing’s had all the fur rubbed off. It’s gotta be “real,” walking around in some forest for sure.

    • Oh my gosh. I love that story, Betsy.

  • Loved As If

    What a wonderful story. I will remember the Night of the Great Unzipping and let it encourage me and share it with others too so that they will be encouraged. Thank you so much.

    Drusilla Barron
    http://lovedasif.com

  • HolleyGerth

    So grateful for your sweet friendship! XOXO

    • Right back at you, Holley. I’m DYING to see you again. One more month!

  • Sharon O

    I love this story. gave me tears, why is it so hard to be real? we hide, we cover, we do whatever we can to ‘not’ show our real selves to others. I posted this with your blog information on my blog today. just amazing.

    • Thanks for sharing my post, Sharon. You mentioned having some trouble getting it to post on FB. So sorry about that! Hope it got sorted out. 🙂

  • Veronica

    Ah Jennifer, this story about the little one’s “lovie” and then all the other little girls who unzipped their own “lovies” was incredibly beautiful. “The Night of the Great Unzipping.” This was such amazing encouragement!
    Thank you, Sweet Jennifer. Xox

    • I’m so glad these words encouraged you, Veronica.

  • Mary

    What a joy to know that friendship and loves still exists. We are talking about relationships at church right now and friendship was the topic this past weekend. One of the key points is that covenant friendships elevate us to a higher place. That is exactly what happened that night at your daughter’s sleepover. Thank you for this story to remind us what friendship looks like.

    • So glad this story was timely for you!

  • MsLorretty

    Ah…. the safety of being known and loved and the freedom to know and love others. Precious!

  • Kristi Woods

    “She told the truth.” Wow…this one cut to the core.
    “Every girl was hiding a secret in their bag.” Praise the Lord for unzipped bags. Beautiful, beautiful mental picture on this one.
    Jennifer, your posts are always good, but this post touched me deeply, like God-to-the-heart deeply. LOVED it!

    • I’m so glad, Kristi. It means so much for you to say that. xo

  • I love this story, Jennifer! What a brave little girl! And what a great picture of authenticity and friendship. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Beautiful, Jennifer. Sheridan slept with her lee-lee far longer than I thought that she should. And then one day, it had just magically disappeared. She knew intuitively when it was time. Besides being willing to reveal vulnerability, maybe we can’t tell people when to take action just because it’s what *we* feel they should do (as I had felt about Sheridan). Maybe we just have to come alongside and be supportive and vulnerable, both. Love all the beautiful lessons you share here.
    Love
    Lynn

    • Her “lee-lee.” 🙂 I love that.

      I have an adult friend who still sleeps with her lovie. I think that’s ok actually. What do you think?

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Funny, but I don’t recall now why Sheridan called it that. 🙂 I actually still have my baby blanket. It’s beautiful–pink and blue satin with a lovely felt-type rabit (but nicer fabric) sticked onto it. My mother’s English pen friend many it for me, and I’m so glad she was able to preserve it for me. When Sheridan marries and has a child, she’ll have two pre-used famly baby blankets! 🙂

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  • WOW! This is the best story I have ever read on this situation. I wish I had been bold many years ago or someone else had so that I could have been. It is beautiful for 10 year olds to walk in this way.

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Jennifer,
    Being truly seen and known can be one of the scariest things in life…but being truly seen, and known, and accepted…that’s one of the greatest blessings in life. Lord, help me to see, know, and accept others when they dare to be brave and help me be brave myself. Thanks for a simply beautiful post!!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Praying that prayer with you, Bev.

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  • Brave and accepted.
    Seen and known.
    This is what we all long for.
    What a lovely picture of friendship and authenticity — in a single sleep-over!

  • Janet

    I love this story, what a precious witness of courage and kindness. Did you have to wipe away tears? I know I would have! I have three sisters. Two of them are very good at deep friendship. I am good at immediate friendship, but find it very hard to unzip. Baby steps, right?

    • Nope! I didn’t have to wipe away any tears. It was pretty casual. They all just went around the circle and shared … and then they snuggled up for the rest of the movie. 🙂

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Lord, help me to be a safe place where others can unzip their vulnerabilities. And give me courage to do unzip mine! Thank you, Jennifer, for a touching metaphor-lesson.

    • You are so welcome, Nancy. Thanks for stopping by.

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  • Aww…that precious, little girl! Such courage she had! I remember being that little girl at a sleepover in a similar setting. I wasn’t nearly as brave as her and kept my “secret” hidden for fear of being rejected. It is amazing how we carry those secrets into adulthood and still feel like those little girls inside, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing this touching story.

    • Yeah. We can drag our stuff around all our lives, you know?

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  • Kamea Hope

    This brought tears to my eyes. The story itself is very sweet, but the parallels with our own lives is so obvious. How true that to experience true friendship, we must risk vulnerability. Coming from someone who has been hurt, this is a huge risk. But I understand the truth of what you have so beautifully shared – an unwillingness to risk being hurt guarantees a lack of loving relationships that have the potential to bring amazing joy.
    May we be willing to take the risk!
    Blessings and hugs,
    Kamea

    • Veronica

      Love this Kamea. “an unwillingness to risk being hurt guarantees a lack of loving relationships that have the potential to bring amazing joy.
      May we be willing to take the risk!” Deep past hurts make it hard to risk being vulnerable, but I have missed out on real joy in connecting with others on a deeper level. Needed this reminder. Thanks!

    • It is a huge risk, isn’t it, Kamea? I’ve been hurt, too. In a broken world, love is always risky. But the greater risk is not loving. Keep at it, my friend. Your love and friendship makes such a difference!

  • Tara Ulrich

    I love how that one little girl went first. There really is power in being vulnerable and sharing our stories. It took me a very long time to tell my story but I think I’ve finally gotten to a place where I cannot not tell my story! Thankful for tjose who know me and my story…here in real life and over the interwebs.

    • So glad you’re telling your story, Tara!

  • This is beautiful, Jennifer! What a courageous little girl and what a testimony to true friendship. As I was reading your post, I have to admit I was holding my breath, wondering if she would “tough it out” as I have so many times. But her willingness to be vulnerable is beautiful. Thank you for giving me something to think about tonight.

    • Yeah. It was kind of a breath-holding moment. She was hear again, the other day, and promptly pulled out her lovie. That’s when I snapped the picture. So glad she feels comfortable to be who she is.

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  • Love this! The rejection or betrayal can hurt so badly, but the gift of true friendship when found is so worth it!!!!

  • Oh my gosh, this is beautiful! And don’t we all have some sort of ‘lovie’? Something that makes us feel secure…it may be food, our families, our ________________. There is something for each of us. Bless that sweet girlie!

    • Yeah. You’re right. We all have our “lovies.” Thanks for that, Leah. You’ve been on my heart lately. Praying for you xo

      • Thank you, friend. Your prayers are what sustain me.

  • Just beautiful >> “The Great Unzipping. Deep friendship grows only when we are deeply known.” May we each be moved to know & to be known. A most precious lesson for us all!

    • Amen. Thanks for sharing, Joanne.

  • Bethany Boring

    I’m going through Rene Brown’s study on vulnerability and WOW does this moment just define the ability to walk in and dare greatly in your arena. This is beautiful! I wrote about my cancer journey today, sharing one of my original posts during the actual moment of brokenness. I’m done hiding these posts that nobody has seen….and pretty much biting my fingernails today too. “Please God, please tell me there are others who can relate!”…Here we go! Love your blog and your purpose! I’ve been linking up for a while and I really need to stop the rush and leave more authentic comments. Thank you for your post today! I can’t even begin to tell you the affirmation it gave me reference sharing my words! I see God’s fingerprints all over this!

    • Hey Bethany! I’m so glad you shared today. I’ve read some of Brene Brown’s stuff. She is so wise … so very wise.

      And … yay you! So glad you pulled that post out of hiding. So “proud” of you, and delighted for your readers who will no doubt be tremendously blessed by your own vulnerability and authenticity.

  • Ruthie Gray

    This story resonates with me. I don’t do well with surface friendships, don’t handle chit chat, I’m here for deeper fellowship. Parties are not my thing, but if I can get down with a close friend or two, that’s where it’s at. But the hard part is truly sharing that inner self, being real – and it’s hard to expose that side – therefore, a very small circle of friends are given the free pass to enter my life. Trust is a hard concept! But oh, the fellowship derived from those sweet, sweet friendships! Two are better than one, any day of the week!
    I love the CS Lewis quote!
    And my daughter had a blankie too. From age 18 months until she married!
    Thanks for this word of wisdom and encouragement! I need to remember – 4:00 Tuesdays – thanks for hosting, I’m late to the party!

    • I think that you and I are a lot alike, Ruthie. You expressed so well how I feel on the inside.

      And don’t worry if you can’t get here by 4! The linky stays open for six days. 🙂 So you’re not late at all.

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  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    Beautiful storytelling, Jennifer. Beautiful message. May we all find such courage, moment by moment.

    • Thank you, Kelly. Means so much, coming from you, Ms. Storyteller. xo

  • Debbie Prater

    Love your blog. It’s a beautiful message. It can be so hard to “unzip” ourselves. I’m pretty closed in about certain things although I’m better than I was some 20 years ago.

    • I do think it has gotten easier as I get older. But I have noticed that when I speak to groups of older women (70+) they seem especially zipped up. I wonder if it’s generational? I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m not sure if that’s my DNA, my up bringing, my age … Maybe all of the above.

  • Just beautiful, Jennifer. And comes at a time when having more authentic relationships is very much on my heart. I’ve been doing a bit of refining (not sure if that is the word I want to use) to make room to go deeper with those I know I really want to do life with. It was fun to link up with you today; not something I do so much these days with less writing but it’s always a nice way to meet and connect with fellow bloggers. Thanks for how you open your home up for us to do so.
    Much love.
    xoxo

    • So glad you linked up with us, Beth. I treasure your words. Thanks for your comment too!

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  • You are just lovely, Paula. You know that? and I love that you still sleep with a lovie. 🙂

  • Ellen Chauvin

    Beautifully said, Jennifer. And this: The only way to be deeply known is to allow yourself to be deeply seen. Praying we’ll all be brave enough to bring out our lovies for all to see!

  • Susan Burfoot Mead

    Oh I can so identify, Jenniifer. This pulled at my heartstrings. Deeply.

    My youngest son, Kyle, when he was about 10 years old told me, “When I grow up and get married, I’m taking my blankie WITH ME.” And off he strutted, proud and confident, blankie tucked under his arm.

    Then we lost the blankie on a trip, never to be found.

    (Then we lost him too when he was 20 and in college. But I really know where he is-DanceWithJesus!)

    Thanks for sharing this powerful story Jennifer.

    • Susan, you’re right, your son is with Jesus, no better place to be. I’m sorry for your loss here on earth though. This story was an eye opener for me.

      • Susan Burfoot Mead

        Thank you Christina. God pulled a book out as I healed. Dance With Jesus: From Grief to Grace. In it, I don’t pretend that grieving is easy, yet in Dance With Jesus, I prove healing is possible. Blessed for sure to KNOW!

        • Hi Susan! I apologize for the delay in responding. I’m new to Disqus. I would love to read your book. So many in the world need ministering to in this area. I’m glad you allowed God to use you to comfort others. Though I haven’t faced this circumstance, I really want to understand what people may be going through and know how to bring comfort.

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  • saltshakmk@msn.com

    Oh, Jennifer! What a great story! I see it as a picture book and possibly a theatrical–a musical, in fact! So many treasures in biblical principles to draw from this snapshot of life. And, a true story. Thanks for sharing it.
    Joy!
    Kathy

  • Oh, this is a priceless story, Jennifer! May we all never be afraid to unzip and be our authentic selves! Blessings!

  • Love, love this story! The Great Unzipping. May we all unzip a little more today. Thanks, Jennifer.

  • Anita

    Oh, Jennifer! This brought tears to my eyes. I’m so good at hiding my lovie (we called them cozies in our house). I probably worry way too much about what other people think. I’m getting better at brining my cozies out, but it’s still a very vulnerable act. May I always recognize a fellow traveler in the act of ‘bringing out her lovie’ and react in love and compassion.

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  • Wow, this hit me really hard tonight. My heart so longs for this “unzipping” as I figure out how to find real, authentic friendships with other women in a season where they seem hard to find!. Thank you for sharing. So beautiful!

  • Ginger Harrington

    Oh my starts, this is powerful! Thanks so much!

  • karen

    I hope those girls NEVER forget that night!

  • What a blessing to witness such authentic grace. We all need to take lessons from those sweet girls. I just smiled as you shared this story… love it. Thank you.
    Blessings,
    Dawn

  • Christina Drake (Sunshine)

    I am moved by this story. It’s true, we all feel like we are the only one sometimes. Very heart warming.

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Every once in a while I spend my weekends with women I have never met in places I have never been. This is what I... fb.me/1iACZgLaz