Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Beauty of Kindred Spirit Friendships

{above picture-my sister + I with five new kindred spirit friends we've just gotten to know this year. Love you girls!}

I'm so thankful for friends. They add such spice and beauty to life. God gives us friendships to show us an outpouring of His love, I think. The community and closeness that comes from my friends is such a blessing in my life, and I am so grateful for it. My siblings are obviously my closest friends, and the ones I hang out with the most (and I will be talking about that soon here!) but it is good and healthy to have other friends in addition to family, and today I want to talk to you about those "other friends" that you need to have in your lives.

You may be surprised to hear that I'm not really a social girl. I can have a good time in a crowd, but, at heart, I'm really more of an introvert that an extrovert, and I love quality time spent with...silence!

Enter tour life, ha!

I had to teach myself how to be sociable and enjoy time with lots of people. I had to learn how to enjoy being with hundreds of new people, everyday! The truth of the matter is, even introverts need and are blessed by the beauty of friends in their lives. You might be a social butterfly with thousands of IG followers + dozens upon dozens of "kindred spirits". You might be like me with hundreds of friends but a much smaller number with whom I stay in regular contact. Or you may be something in-between. Either way, no matter what your personality, I am here to tell you today that good friendships are important and needed in our lives. I believe very strongly that it is absolutely vital to have good friend circles, specifically with those that are the spurring onward, kindred spirit types.

"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24

However, as with anything good, there is a downside to friendships. And that is that it is so easy to
A) get caught up in bad ones
B) spend too much time on friendships that don't benefit
C) lose sight of the importance of GOOD friendships

Friends will influence you. You will influence friends. And that influence (both ways) will either be good or bad. If you want to be making and receiving good influences, then you have to be intentional about that. It won't happen accidentally.

Life is too short to just go through and have all friendships just be one big party. Don't get me wrong-I love friends who can have fun and laugh lots because that's me too! But at the end of the day it's not the party that is going to count-it is where and how you INVESTED your friendships. Were you benefited and grown from the time spent in a friendship? Were you blessed and encouraged? Or was your time squandered?

We all, most likely, have friends in every "set" I'm going to describe here. And, contrary to what you might think, I personally am of the opinion that it is good to know people and rub shoulders with the different kinds in each of the categories listed below. If all your friends are kindred spirits, then chances are you aren't doing a whole lot of outreach. However, if all your friends are of the outreach type, then you are gonna get burned out in no time flat, and you are also going to be pulled down to the level of your "outreach" friends.

In friendships, it is very important to have a balance of giving/pouring out, and getting/coming in.

There are so many stories in the Bible about friendships. Daniel + his three friends. David + Jonathan. Naomi + Ruth. The list could go on. We can see in each of these stories how friendships not only strengthened and edified these people, but they were a means of furthering the gospel and giving us beautiful examples to follow.

"Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." 1 Corinthians 15:33
*This is that friend who you maybe have known for years. Or maybe you've not known them long at all. Sometimes it is the friend to whom you have tried to reach out repeatedly and received a cold shoulder. This friend is more of an acquaintance. You often feel like when you are with them you are wasting your time. (note: this might be your fault, not theirs!) They are shallow and have no desire to "go deep", to really make a difference or even have conversations that matter. For me, I have found that most who fall into this category are the boy crazy, shopping crazy, movie crazy lot. I love movies and shopping as much as anybody. (boys, not so much, hehe!) But if those things are driving someone's life...than I'm probably not going to be getting much encouragement out of constantly hanging out with that friend. And chances are if they are consumed by those things, they aren't going to be very interested in intentional conversation anyways. We need to always be on the lookout for not allowing our lives to be overrun with these kinds of friends. They aren't true friends anyhow, and they're just going to drag you down. Hang out with people you want to become like.
"Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future." -unknown

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend...." Proverbs 27:6a
*This is that friend who is growing, who wants to learn, whom God places in your life (often just for a season) to encourage. These are mentorship type friendships and are absolutely vital as well. It is important to be giving and pouring out, in the same way that others (our mentors and/or kindred spirits) give out and pour into us. Don't ever let all that love just sit and pile up onto you---give it away again to others! Often this type of friendship occurs with those who are younger than you and needing advice/a listening ear from someone who is just a few years further on down the path of life. As I mentioned, sometimes these friendships are more seasonal/for a time, but sometimes they are friendships that turn into the kindred spirit type later on. Either way, you need some people like this in your life.

"Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friend." John 15:13
*And finally, the kind of friend that this post is mainly about. This is the friend who has your back. Always. The friend whom you will send a text at a crazy hour to let them know that you need prayer, because you KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will get on their knees and intercede for you. This is the friend whom you will drop everything to be with you in a time of need. This is the friend who just "gets you". The one with whom you can be serious and brutally honest. But also the one who has seen you in your craziest moments and loves you even when you're weird. This is the friend who is your spiritual hero; who spurs you onward spiritually. With this kind of friend, your conversation can be broad and varied but will always be coming back to praying for and challenging one another in the Lord. Always. Your closest friends must be this kind.
If you want to grow more like Jesus in your friendships, you have to surround yourself with these influences who are also know Jesus and are actively seeking to serve Him with their lives.

Now, some of you are asking, "But I don't know people like that! How can I have close friends like this when I don't even know anybody who fits in that last category?"

First of all, ask Jesus to send you friends like this. Second of all, don't just expect them to land on your doorstep dropped from a hot air ballon. You have to be friendly, open, available, and you have to go places. Be a social person! Even if you are an introvert. Get out of your shell and your house and find some people somewhere. =) Host events at your home. Find a good church/s to attend. (I have several friends who attend one church on Sunday but throughout the week attend Bible studies at other churches that have strong groups of godly young people attending) I'm not including links today, but it is amazing how many Christian family/fellowship/etc networking groups there are these days! It isn't nearly as hard to meet good friends as it used to be. Yes, godliness is becoming less and less, but there are still people out there who love Jesus and want to meet others who love Him too.
Note. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, God gave us family first, and they are amazing friends. And it is also important to have friends of all ages. But it is ALSO good to have strong Christian friends in your own stage of life. 

Well, this has gotten waaay longer than I intended! (would you believe me if I said I wrote half of this in October of 2015 and the rest of it today? #truth) There's much more I could say, like how important it is to have strong sibling relationships, or strong friendships with older people, or strong + good friendships with guys...but I will save those thoughts for another time, and close with a little wisdom from the Anne girl, who had some great thoughts on friendship + the importance of it. =)

"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. 
It's splendid to find out that there are so many of them in the world." -Anne of Green Gables

I would love to hear how each of you build + invest in your friendships! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When Your Younger Siblings Get Married First {An Older Sister's Perspective}

This post isn't what you might be thinking it will be. If you want a sob story post of the older sister who is wallowing in depression with her three baby brothers getting married before her, well, wrong stop here. =) This is a post of so much hope and happiness that I'm thinking a little of the love might just rub off onto y'all after reading it! I've been sitting on this post for EVER (I was waiting til all three were engaged because, well, that just would make it quite legit) and am so excited to finally share it!

It has actually been something on my heart for years. Call it sister intuition, or whatever, but for so long already I have expected to have my younger siblings get married first. Probably partially because they were always mature for their ages, whereas it took me a little longer to grow up, and then partially just because I really thought it would end out this way. It never bothered me; on the contrary, I was ecstatic for it. I prayed for it. For the last several years, in particular (as they've been getting older) it has been one of the greatest cries of my heart---for my brothers to find and have peace about the right girl with which to spend the rest of their lives. I was totally thrilled with the thought that they would probably "go" before me. It didn't bother me in the slightest, rather, it was my chief wish and dream that my brothers would get married first. At the time I started more seriously praying for them (in my early twenties, when they were getting to the age where they could get married) I knew that there were no guys I was interested in, and at the time I honestly had no desire to get married, with other things in my life that I was focusing on. The thought of wanting my brothers to wait until I was ready and married first, never even crossed my mind.

And here we are. The boys all started relationships in the fall of 2016, (Mitchell in August, Josh in September, and Carson in October) and now all three of them are getting married this fall, 2017. It was all so God, the timing of everything. Recently a friend told us that a rumor is going around our home community that my Dad "finally allowed his boys to get married". That story got the loudest howls of laughter you can imagine, around our dinner table! Without going into the whole long stories of their lives the past five years, let me just tell you that the reason my brothers are all getting married now, virtually at the same time, has nothing to do with planning it all perfectly, or the timing being just what they would've picked, or any of that. For everyone of you who knows their stories, and for me, their oldest sister, we can only say, "the hand of Jesus was all over those stories, and the timing was perfect, because it was ALL JESUS."

Last fall, when all of this was beginning, Allison was living in Mexico, and I was at home, trying to keep all three of these brother lovebirds on the straight and narrow, haha. And you know what? It was, and continues to be, one of the happiest times of my life.
I vividly remember one October Sunday, when all three girlfriends were over for dinner. I texted Allison pictures and said something like this: "Sister of mine...from my place at the kitchen window, washing dishes, I can faintly hear Mitchell + Bryn chatting in the schoolroom, I see Josh and Cassidy swinging and talking on the swings in the front yard, and Carson and Carolina are deep in conversation, still at the dinner table, the only ones left there. ALLI! God is so good! I might just sit down and cry from sheer happiness! How are we so blessed? So much answered prayer! So much grace and beauty poured down from Jesus!!"

For my sister and I, it wasn't hard. People asked us if it was. (hashtag most asked question ever!)
I felt like I should have some big response thought out, but all I wanted to say, every time, was, "How could I be anything but happy at so much answered prayer? At so much beautiful young love? At so much joy? How could I be anything BUT the happiest girl in the world when Jesus gives such good gifts to my best friends---these brothers of mine?"

All these questions, and this constant expectation for my sister and I to be knee-deep in depression over the situation, got me to thinking about something.

A) Why is it expected to be hard for an older sister if her younger siblings get married first?
B) Why do we allow those expectations to be the norm?
C) What needs to happen for them NOT to be the norm?

I don't claim to have all the answers. I'm quite new to this whole business, having never had any siblings married up to this point. All I know is what I know as a girl who fiercely loves her brothers and is more happy than should be legal, about their upcoming weddings. =)
And as such, I have a few thoughts that I'd like to share from my heart, to whoever is reading this.

The first thing that comes to my mind as a foundation for setting a new "normal" is close-knit sibling relationships. If your siblings are your best friends, your closest confidants, your greatest blessing...than why would you feel anything but joy for them when God brings along their life partner?

The second is the answering of prayer. When there is something that has been such a big part of your heart and life and prayer list for so long (aka godly girls for the brothers) your first thought, when God answers, is "glory hallelujah!" Am I right? After all, this is how we respond to every other answered prayer, so why not the same to this one?

The third thing I think of, is a subject I have touched on before, and will continue to talk about in the future, and that is joy in the current journey. When you find joy right where God has you, and desire God's perfect best + timing for all of your life (marriage just being a drop in the bucket of God's gifts) and the lives of those you love, then when He answers those prayers and brings your favorite people together, it is so amazing. 

Why do we put God in such a box? Why do we think everything has to happen in order? Why do we think it is fair, and right, and "how it should be", for kids to get married in age order? It is so bizarre, if you actually think about it, and it basically never happens that way anyway!

My answer to this is that I think we put God in this box of "our perfect timing" because we think we know best. We think that we know how it all should be. I really have no idea why we think this; in every other area of our lives we would say God knows best. (at least I'd hope we would!) So why not in this area of one of the most important decisions of our lives? Why wouldn't God know best on this one, too? And if we know He knows best, why would we not be absolutely delighted with His timing and plan? Not only for us, but for all of the people we love, also? Regardless of age.

Honestly, age has nothing to do with it. If people could just get that idea out of the way, it would be a much better world. (can I get an amen from from the single readers here?) One of my beautiful sister-in-laws-to-be is nineteen. I could not be happier for her and my brother. She is an absolute gem, and one of my heroes. God's perfect time for her to get married is now, when she is young! I sure wasn't ready when I was nineteen, and I'm relieved that I didn't get married then, because if I would've it would've been disaster. But that was me. It wasn't God's time for me then. It is God's time for her now. See, it is all about timing and following the Spirit, and nothing about age or situation.

Yes, my brothers are getting married first.
Yes, as most people think and say, we "went" (as in relationship/marriage timing) topsy turvy and all "out of order".
Yes, it has been the most wild and beautiful past nine months that you could imagine.
Yes, it is going to be an incredible fall. Hey, not just every girl gets to gain three sisters within 24 hours!! Talk about party time, overtime! (cue all the confetti + heart eyes) I still can't believe it!

No, it isn't hard, and no, it isn't a struggle. God has answered my prayers and given my brothers these gifts-these three incredible women-that I prayed for. It is the most beautiful thing to watch God answer prayer in such exceedingly abundant ways. My heart is filled with so much happiness!

"I will worship toward Thy holy temple, 
and praise Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and for Thy truth:
 for Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name."
-Psalm 138:2

Please feel free to share this post wherever, simply linking back to my blog. 
I feel very passionately that this is a subject that needs to be talked about in our generation!

And as always, I would love to hear from y'all. 
Thoughts, questions, comments? Leave them below!

{Note: My sister Allison also did a post along this same vein, over on her blog. Read it here!}

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Double Header Northern Weddings Sister Roadtrip

Can't believe I totally forgot to post this! (actually I can believe life these days...can't remember anything!)

It is so very long after the fact that I hesitate even posting...? Buuuut. Our sister road trip posts are my favorites, and I really want this one in the archives. So here it is, all of eight months later!

It was the first weekend of October 2016. Would you believe it---we had invites for two weddings in the north (Minnesota + Wisconsin) and not only were they on a weekend that we were home, but they were also on a weekend that we were home AND available, and the wedding locations were two hours apart from each other, and last but definitely not least, they were on a Friday evening and a Saturday afternoon.

Can't get it anymore perfect than that, my friends!

So off we set, sista love and I, bright and early (think 4am!) on Friday morning, heading to the twin cities of Minnesota. 
The first girl getting married was an old friend of ours, and she brought us in to do the hair/makeup for her bridal party. That was definitely such fun, as always! 
Classy ladies, with hair + makeup done, hanging out before dress changing + pictures. Unfortunately when the photographer in me turns into the hairstylist in me, the hairstylist in me forgets about the photographer in me. (so frustrating!) So I usually get home from these weddings and say, "whaaat?? How am I a photographer and I took NO PICTURES?" To save myself from that embarrassing scenario (because a photographer with no pictures is just weird) I try to grab random shots at random times. You'd think I could've gotten something the real deal? Like the bridesmaids in their dresses or something? Never even entered my mind until days after. 
It was a marathon but we got all of those eight ladies done in the time allotted! I will say that by the time we were finished we were very hungry and very tired. In addition to all that it was absolutely freeeeeeezing cold that weekend. (it had been warmer at home, but the further north we went, the temps kept plummeting!) So we were also underdressed. 
Next came the saga of finding Chipotle. GPS informed us that there were only nine in Minneapolis-the closest being seven minutes away-this definitely should be easy! 
You would not believe the hassle we had finding that place. I should've tracked our time (and miles!) but it was a good hour after leaving the apartment that we FINALLY located Chipotle #5. 
Never, no never, has Chipotle tasted SO good. 

After Chipotle it was on to a little hipster coffee joint we found across the street. We were chilled to the bones and I seriously considered taking a nap on that little couch in the shop. (but refrained =)) 
So very much fun to bump into friends at weddings. The world really is so small and I feel like one never knows WHO one will meet from event to event! At wedding #1, I got into a conversation with the ladies in our pew, and discovered that they were cousins to the girl that MY COUSIN was marrying the following day, and that we also had other mutual friends. So fun.
And here we have the charming little air B+B place where we stayed Friday night.

Got to tell y'all about this place. Oh goodness, what a story. I really wanted a fun little place for us to stay at Friday night. Something not too pricey (because we were literally only going to be able to be there to sleep and for a few hours in the am) something cool, something hip, something homey, something kinda funky and out of the box...I had a whole list, and Allison had a few ideas too. =) I was in charge of our lodging details, so I set out to find the best place I could.

After looking through dozens of options, we settled on this one. It looked perfect, and it was right on our way from wedding #1 to wedding #2, in the middle, in St Croix Falls.

The saga of getting there after the wedding was...well, just that-a saga! We left wedding #1 quite late, and headed to St Croix Falls. On the way, a variety of things happened. Amongst other things, roads were out, we lost cell service, and at one point it looked like we possibly would have to spread out under a bridge in a very sketchy part of the country.

We finally rolled into the town around midnight and were able to find our little apartment without any trouble. We had to park behind/underneath; the parking situation was quite something. As we unloaded in this strange town, at midnight, after several hours of quite the adventures, I turned to Allison and said, "some things...we will NOT mention to our mother. She will sleep better if she never knows about some of tonight." =)

Love technology these days---we had a code for our the rental "nest" and never even talked to anybody at all. Just let ourselves in with the pre-given code, and checked out at the agreed time. Dream situation.
The whole place was so eclectic---totally random styles of decor/tiling/colors/etc.
Allison was in charge of our food, as usual. She packed a delicious  little breakfast for us---sausages, her famous fire roasted tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. We also had energy balls, fruit, and chocolate covered something. (can't remember, sorry!)
Grabbed this sister selfie right before we left---it will always be one of my favorites, I think.
The view of the town from our little "perch" apartment. The whole town was set on the side of a hill overlooking a river. Would've loved more time to explore there!
Got to wedding #2 early enough to spend a few minutes with our cousin, the handsome groom! So excited we got to be there for his special day.
Literally THEE coolest wedding favors I have ever seen. Perhaps this is just because I have a real affinity for maple syrup. But the bride's family is maple syrup farmers and so they gave a little container of maple syrup to each guest. So sweet. Literally. =)
Love these cousins of mine! 
Family weddings are such fun, because there are so many favorite people at those. =)

And that's just another one in the sister book of road trip adventures. 
Hope y'all enjoyed following along. =)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

New Look!

I've got my domain name back, I have a fresh new design, and I'm back in business, of sorts! I'm very grateful for the team of ladies who helped me get this together!

*Photography credits go the incredible HannahElise, as usual. She nails it every time + I am always SO HAPPY with her pictures!
*Header designed by the skilled Rachel (Wissmann) Busenitz, who designed my last header as well, and has a great eye for clean lines + layout, which is just what I love!
*Domain Name Resolving + Redirecting Assistance + things of that sort by the talented Anna Maxwell, who knows far more about these tech issues than I could ever dream of knowing!

So blessed by the help of these three + the skills they have shared, that enable me to have this new, fresh look.

I'm excited for what God has been doing + is continuing to do. Got some very big topics on my heart and I'm thrilled to share more in the coming days, as well as continuing to tweak + add new features/elements to the blog here!

What do y'all think of the new look? Yes/no?