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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 27th October 2015

the five friends we all need — #TellHisStory

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately, and what it means to be a good one.

Maybe it’s because I have been watching as my daughters figure out how to navigate the ever-changing landscape of teen and preteen friendships. Maybe it’s because I went through a recent bout of loneliness that nearly did me in. Maybe it’s because as I’ve gotten older, I have observed how people come and go through different seasons of our lives.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to cherish the rich relationships — past and present — that have folded into the fiber of my soul.

Social media will tell that the more friends you have, the better you are.

But that’s not true at all.

Friendship is about depth, not width.

Blessed is the woman who has a handful of really dear friends. The kind of friends who will bring the Kleenex on the hard days, and be gentle with your messiest self. The kind of friends who will overindulge with you at the Cheesecake Factory, and who will help you find some shred of humor before getting a mammogram or a root canal.

We all need that friend who will love us through the crappy days, the awesome days, and the meh days. We need friends who aren’t intimidated by our successes, scared away by our tears, or astonished by our mistakes.

We don’t need 2,000 friends to do that. Most of us need five.

These are the five friends we all need.

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1 – The friend who doesn’t settle for fine

The best kinds of friends don’t take “fine” for an answer. They see through your Sunday smile.

I have a friend like that, and when she sees me at church, she has a way of seeing past the fiction I sometimes try to manufacture. It’s called Friend X-Ray Vision.

When life is hard, we need the friend who doesn’t settle for pat answers. She’s the kind of friend who asks, “How are you?” And then she sticks around to hear the long answer. The friend who doesn’t settle for fine is a creative listener, hearing what others don’t hear.

But the coolest part of all? She doesn’t try to shove you out of your lament. Instead, she sits down in it with you. She doesn’t force you to heal on her own timetable. She doesn’t prod you into cheerfulness. She lets you be un-fine and messy with mascara running down your cheeks. She’s the one who brings out the Kleenex, and sits close enough so you’ve got a shoulder on which to rest your weary head.

Friends who don’t settle for fine remind me of Piglet.

Pooh told Piglet: “I don’t feel very much like Pooh today.”

“There, there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”

This is one of the best ways we can look after each other. We can bring good words and cupcakes and hot tea and honey and hope. We can be the ones who are the kindness givers and the Kleenex-bring-ers and the joy donors when they are running on empty.

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2 – The older friend

Have I ever told you about Hazel? She’s in her early 90s now, and if you’ve read Love Idol, you’ve met her in the last chapter.

The thing about having an older friend like Hazel is that nothing shocks her. She’s been on the earth, after all, for nearly a century. She’s survived great personal tragedy, deep grief, the Depression, financial strain, unmet expectations, and more.

There’s hardly anything I’ve gone through, that Hazel doesn’t understand.

Older friends have the perspective of years.

They also help us slow down. Our older friends didn’t grow up in an on-demand culture where we get whatever we want with a click, a scroll, and a few keystrokes. Last time I asked her, Hazel had no idea what Twitter was. And if I’ve got a problem in my life, her first instinct is to go to God, not Google.

Every one of us can benefit from the older friend. JesusNeighborhood

3 – The friend unafraid of vulnerability

I spoke at a conference recently when I was reminded about the power of our vulnerability.

A woman who attended the conference came up to me afterward, holding her sleeping baby. The woman told me that she had heard me speak during a webcast several months earlier and had cried through the whole thing. She was pregnant, and had been feeling very insecure about her pregnancy, her body, and the overwhelming nature of adding another child to their already busy household.

“You said all the things I had been feeling, but until then, I thought I was the only one,” she said. “That night, I went home, looked at myself in the mirror and was genuinely happy, at last, to be pregnant. The next day my water broke. In my entire nine months of pregnancy, I had only one day when I was happy to be pregnant. That was the day you were vulnerable, and let me know that I wasn’t the only one who felt scared and overwhelmed.”

That’s the power of being vulnerable. That’s the power of “going first,” and taking off our masks.

When we dare to be deeply seen and fully known, we give other people permission to deeply see and fully know themselves. When we are vulnerable, we are awake to who we really are.

A true friend is someone who dares to be herself– and shows us how to do the same.

Vulnerability is a strange and scary land. It makes us feel so fragile, but once we turn ourselves inside out, it’s actually what makes us strong.

We all belong to each other, and we are best together when we offer the realest versions of ourselves.

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 4 – The friend who is different from me

I lived the first half of my life with friends who looked a lot like me. Everyone in my neighborhood — almost everyone in my little world of northwest Iowa — was white.

My limited exposure to people of color came through the Zenith console TV in our living room. Hunched over a bowl of dry AlphaBits, I would watch Gordon on Sesame Street. Or the Cosby’s. Or the Harlem Globetrotters. That was a rural Iowa white girl’s brush with diversity.

Maybe I was afraid to have friends from other cultures or other races because I was afraid I’d say or do something stupid. Maybe I was afraid I’d mess something up. But fear has always been a horrible excuse for not doing the right thing. 

If God went to the effort of thinking up all these colors and cultures and languages, it seems we ought to get to know each other, and learn from one another, and risk making mistakes.

The friend who is different from me will teach me things that I could have never learned if I stayed in my homogenous circles. The world’s a pretty cool place. Let’s get to know some of the people who live in it.

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5 – The friend who believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself

I had a full-on freak attack the other day with a friend.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” I told her. “I don’t know that I’m ready or equipped. I know that God is strong in our weakness, but some days, I feel like the exception to his rule.”

My friend reminded me who I was, and she reminded me who God was. She was a safe place to take my worst fears, and to shed my pride. I laid bare all of my inadequacies and self-doubts, and she held them carefully in her hands.

She built a little scaffolding for my shriveled-up self with these five words: “Jennifer, I believe in you.”

I don’t know what I would do without friends who believe in me, even when I don’t believe in myself. We all need a friend who trusts that we are going to make it, even when we aren’t so sure ourselves. We need the kind of friends who remind us how far we’ve come, and who hold a candle to light up the path ahead. We need the kind of friend who is willing to loan us her faith when we’ve lost our own.

This is the kind of friend I want to be.

I want to be the friend who will fight for you, even when you aren’t sure how to fight anymore.

I want to be the kind of friend who holds a candle to your path. There is nothing quite so life-giving to me, as speaking life into another woman.

None of us loses our light when we share it with another. We only make the world a brighter, better place.  Together. 

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CosmeticsBag  

$50 Giveaway for Dayspring’s New BETTER TOGETHER Collection

SubCategoryImage-BetterTogether Today, I’m happy to introduce you to the new Better Together collection at Dayspring.com. One lucky winner will win a $50 online gift card to use in the Better Together collection. Find the entire collection by clicking here. Items featured in the post above include, the cosmetic pouch, the inspirational globe, the luggage tag, and a printed canvas block.

Use coupon code BETTER20 for 20% off the collection! Code is good through 10/30.

To enter the $50 giveaway, let me know in the comments that you would like to win! Shares on Twitter and FB earn more entries. Be sure to let me know that you’ve shared, so I can put your name in multiple times — once for each mention, and once for your comment!

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#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live 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! Our featured writer this week is Micah Maddox, and I’m thrilled to pass along her message that you don’t have to always be strong. God’s got it, remember? Find Micah 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


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  • Tara Ulrich

    The better together collection looks awesome. I would love to win that gift card. I also will go and share on Twitter too. I am so thankful and blessed to have these kind of friends in my life. I also hope that I am that friend to them too! Reminds me of the Point of Grace song “Circle of Friends”

    • Hey Tara! The Better Together Collection is beautiful. I have several pieces here in my home — some of them are quite useful, as well as pretty! 🙂

      Love that song, too!

  • Anita

    Amen! I’m so glad you left the “friend I always whine to” off the list–because that’s not much of a friendship ;). I’ve had to learn to step away from my whiny friends in order to protect my own sanity. I try repurposing the friendship, first, or course, and if the friend only wants to be a foul-weather friend, than I gently cut her loose (moving to a new part of the country helps with this, of course 😉 ). After all, friendships need to be a two-way street of give and take. Of course, I’ve had to do some self-evaluation, too, and make sure that I’M not the friend who always whines ;).

    • Oh … yes…. We have to protect our hearts from toxic, one-sided, negative relationships, right? Thanks, Anita. And thank you for alerting me to the trouble with the linky today. I have no idea how that happened!

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  • So beautiful! I love the diversity of your few heart friends–and your photos are heartwarming! I’ve struggled with women friends for many reasons, but I can say I have 3 friends who are my heart friends for life — vulnerability, creativity mutual encouragement and seeking more than what everyday life on the surface offers seems to be our common bond…interesting, I just realized 2 of the 3 aren’t Christians..and yet we hold a deep love for one another, accepting one another’s spiritual journey. I would like more close Christian women friends, too..I do have 2 other Christian women I share a special bond with! Thanks for sharing this beautiful post!

    • I’m so glad God has blessed you with the company of good friends, Kathy.

  • DeanneMoore

    So true…Have you heard Sophia Nelson talk about how important the people are who are your “front row?” She say they are the people you have speaking into your life. I think there should be at least one of each of these in our front rows and we need to be willing to sit on other’s front rows…consider our place there with the weight it deserves. I am thankful for you, Jennifer and for the gather your blog friends around the table here on your blog…Today your words called me to gratitude for all the great friends I have; reminded me of the kind of friend I want to be.

    • Dea,

      I have not heard about the front row friends, but I will check into it. I love what you say about making sure we are filling a role in someone else’s front row, too. So important! We need to be the kind of friend we want to have.

  • I super love the globes!

  • I would love to win! Thanks for the opportunity!! 🙂

    • You bet! And check out the coupon code, good through Oct. 30.

  • This is beautiful. <3

  • Krista Dowdey

    Love this. Been thinking about friendship a lot too. My closest friend went frm being a stay-at-home mom to full time 4th grade teacher this year so staying close and invested in each other’s lives takes much more intentionality — fewer chats during play dates and more evening text conversations or wuick visits at church. Hard.

    • Oh, Krista. That would be a hard transition. Glad you’ve found a way to make it work out!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Jennifer,
    I am truly blessed to have these kinds of friends in my life, and it’s my prayer that I can be that kind of friend for others. We need each other and the more we dare to be real and vulnerable, the stronger the friendship bonds we can forge. Great post…and yes, I’d love to win 🙂
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • I’m so glad you have these kinds of friends in your life, Bev. And I’m certain you ARE this kind of friend as well.

  • Miranda Miller

    Im blessed to have a couple of these friends! My older one is family though but still counts. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity and for the link up. Look forward to it each week. Thanks or being faithful with it!

    • I suppose some of our friends fit into one, two, or even three of the categories. What do you think?

      • Miranda Miller

        I know I have some that definitely fit in two categories

  • Alicia

    I almost skipped reading this today but so glad that I took the time. I’ve always had a hard time being ‘open’ friends. This has given me a lot to think about. Thank you for these words. PS I’d love to win.

    • I’m glad you took a moment to stop by, Alicia.

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  • Pam

    Beautiful post, beautiful friend… 🙂 Yep, I’d love to win…

  • Jennifer! Total goose-bump post. Yes, these are the friends we need and I so want to be. I think the almost century old one would be a stretch…but I’m most definitely ready to sit in the mess. Love this and will definitely share.

  • bluecottonmemory

    I call these friends “God’s people” that He sends us. Some people don’t want vulnerability – honest, real – and that’s made me often feel like I was on the outside looking in. Those 5 friends you talk about make me think of the word “holistic” – they are part of the relationship “trinity” – spouse, family, friends:) We were designed for these friendships! Your post was a beautiful tribute to real, God-kind of friendship – made me smile!

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Would love to win… thank you for this post!

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Shared on Facebook

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Shared on Twitter as well. 🙂

  • Joyce

    Would love to win. Shared on facebook.

  • So glad I stopped by today for your beautiful words, Jen, even if I didn’t have a post ready this week! Obviously, would love to win, and sharing to twitter, and FB!!!

  • Shari Z

    Thank you for helping me to appreciate my friends on a bigger, deeper level. So very grateful for your wise, loving heartfelt writings. I would love to win something.

  • Nicole Smith

    As always, beautiful post! I am slowly becoming a blogger and you have been a huge inspiration! I needed this tonight! Thank you for that! Would love to win any of them! Shared on FB and Twitter! <3

  • This was huge and so well said – people throw the word community around like it’s the latest gluten free chocolate chip – but what you defined and illustrated is the real deal. You are blessed. I am blessed, and I appreciated your words (and fb and tweeted and pinned – but just because. ) (: A friend said just last week, Sue, I believe in you – do you believe in you? It was a big deal.

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  • Thank you for today’s Words of Wisdom.
    I would like to win and I also shared on facebook, google+ and pinned it up.
    Blessings to you Jennifer

  • This is great, Jennifer. Over the years I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to be a certain kind of friend, and also had a lot of expectations of my friends. It’s been freeing to realize we cannot be all things to all people, and they cannot be all things to us. We only need to be ourselves and that opens the door to true, rich, vulnerable relationships.

  • What a beautiful post, Jennifer. I want to be that kind of friend. Sharing this post because I love it so much. What a great giveaway. Love those products.

  • This is so incredibly true, Jennifer: “Friendship is about depth, not width.” And you are right about social media, it really tries to tell us the opposite. Women have become so important to me lately. We are community type creatures. Such a meaningful post!

  • A most beautiful post, Jennifer! As I read, I found myself longing for friends like this. And then I thought, NO! I want to be that friend. As we each ask God to mold us into that sort of friend, we will find Him creating meaningful and authentic community. What a beautiful giveaway too!

  • Micah Maddox

    Jennifer, thank you so much for featuring me this week! I love this post on friendship. I reconnected with a friend from grade school this week and we didn’t miss a beat. Time and years have passed, but our hearts are knit. Friendship truly is about depth, not width. Thank you so much!

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  • Susan

    Friends – we all need at least one! I’m blessed to call many “friend!”

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  • Eva Bridges

    I love giveaway!

  • Jessica Wilbanks

    Beautiful post! Thank you! And thanks for a chance to win the giveaway!

  • Anna Smit

    I love this, Jennifer. God really did create us to be in community and I love how you show the importance of both the gift of unity and of unique giftings. I’ve been blessed (challenged, inspired, built up, carried and encouraged) with these five types of friends in my walk with God and pray that I have been and will continue to be one of these five to others. And do you know that your book Love Idol was a friend to me as a new Christian and still inspires and challenges me today? It spoke God’s love and approval into my heart and challenged and encouraged me to face up to, and with God’s guidance and strength, start breaking the hold of the love idol I had been worshipping.

    Sadly, I cannot take part in the giveaway, as I live in the Netherlands, but I have linked up (nr. 48: PTSD, Grief and God’s Presence) to TellHisStory for the very first time with my new blog (an attempt at giving the gift of vulnerability in obedience to God’s calling).

    • Anna! Thank you so much for sharing your heart, for linkup up with #TellHisStory, and for sharing how God worked in your heart through Love Idol. You made my day!

  • Deborah Will

    Jennifer this is the best post. You are truly blessed.

  • Deborah Rhodes

    I love this post so much that I share it on FB and tagged my friends! I’m so blessed to have so many incredible women in my life.
    I love the new DaySpring collection and I would love to win this Giveaway!!
    Happy Wednesday to you!

  • Pam Ecrement

    I absolutely love this, Jennifer! This is so very true! I write this from the home of a very close friend who moved 8 hours away with retirement and I was so blessed to find this today! Blessings on you! Pam

  • Tammy Brouwer

    I am so thankful for my friends and want to be a good friend to others. Thanks for the challenge! I would love to win one of the items pictured. =)

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  • Oh how I love P-p-p-piglet! I’m so thankful I have a small handful of really, REALLY close friends. I’m so thankful we can be vulnerable with each other. Thank you Jennifer, for opening the dialogue!

  • Karrilee Aggett

    Oh friend… I hate that you have fought off loneliness lately but I know we all go through that from time to time! I’m so thankful for the friends whom God has placed in my life… the inrl ones, and these online ones too! I’m so thankful we live in a time where we get to have both! I’d love to win because – Dayspring… and more specifically – THAT GLOBE! #Swoon! Off to share on fb and twitter, because – of course! Love you so!

  • Oh what a beautiful post and reminder for us all. Thank you!! I would really really really love the metal hammered world print. I LOVE that!!

  • Shared on FB and Twitter! 🙂

  • Jennifer,
    Thank you for sharing what is on your heart and for being you 🙂 I’m thankful for the friends God has put in my life. Keep sharing the message God has given you 🙂

  • Loved this, Jennifer. What a beautiful testament to the healing power of friendship! 🙂

  • FirstGrace

    Beautifully written. Shared on facebook and twitter.

  • What a beautiful account of the incredible people that God has brought into your life. Your words are bittersweet for me. Because I can see the sweet folks in my life who fit their spot one through five, and bitter because I’ve lost some that I thought would stay in the roll call a bit longer than they chose too. It’s hard to see them go, but God is teaching me that His hand is on the friendship seasons as much as all the others in my life. And love the Dayspring collection – FB’d and tweeted. 🙂

  • Alisha

    I love your openness and vulnerability. Already shard on Facebook. 🙂 would love to be entered in the giveaway! I LOVE the sign that that says “people aren’t interruptions or distractions. People are the entire point”. That is how we roll in my house. 😎😍

  • I count myself blessed to have had friends like all five through my different season in my life. Please enter me in the wonderful giveaway too. I am sharing on Twitter and Facebook. 🙂

    • Mary, You won the giveaway! Congratulations!

      • Hi, thanks sent my info via your contact form. 🙂

  • Amanda Jones

    I know you are probably going to hear this a hundred times, but let me be a hundred and one: I needed this today. Thank you.

  • True friends are such a precious gift. When I moved out east 8 years ago I felt like I was in a friend drought season…slowly, I have made friends and I am grateful, but I don’t have the variety you spell out here, but I’m working on it! These words…balm for the soul. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing them.

  • This is such a beautiful piece, I shared it with my friends on twitter. I love the new collection from Dayspring, especially the block canvas prints!

  • I would like to win. 😉 I have a couple of your “5” friend types listed, but not some of the other…..sometimes I wish my sisters just lived closer to have that one that I can share really any thing with and hear back SOUND advice…..and sometimes I am OK with living 4 hours apart. 😉

  • Kelsey Thompson

    I’d love to win! As someone who is searching out new friendships in a new city, this advice is just what I needed!

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  • Katrina S

    I really like the Home letterpress block – it’s perfect 🙂

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