Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friends with Benefits

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" ~ Jeremiah 29:11

I know what you're thinking and STOP! its not that kinda blog. But I got your attention, right? heee heee

A few weeks ago, Tam received an assignment to go to California for her new job. She invited me to join her on the journey. At first, I was hesitant. Afterall, I'm not working right now, still waiting for MY next assignment. But, I talked things over with my husband and he agreed that if the price was right, I could go. Knowing that we paid nearly $700 last year for my daughter to travel to California, I seriously doubted this was going to happen. Its amazing what God can do when He has a plan. Would you believe that Tam found tickets for $300??? Its impossible, with gas prices going through the roof, but seriously she did! And so our journey began!

Day One

The alarm went off at 4:20 am. An unreasonably early time of day but when you're spending it with your BFF who cares, right? Although it was a long day of hour and half drive to the airport followed by a six hour flight to San Francisco followed by one hour flight to Burbank followed by a half our drive on a California Freeway to our was a day filled with moments I won't forget!

Tam and I spent the day chatting about our families, our struggles, our decisions and our dreams. We caught each other up on the little details in our lives and the big ones too. We bought coffee and read books and napped. We giggled (yes we still think we're 14 sometimes) and we just enjoyed the presence of each other's company.

As we left the airport and navigated our way through Downtown LA, things became more serious, we became more focused. It was important to pay attention, look, listen and communicate well. We did. As we arrived at our hotel, I was well, dumbfounded, I guess. I knew we were coming here, I'd seen the pics on the internet, I'd watched many episodes of The! The sight of the skyscrapers, the snowcapped mountains in the distance, the feel of the 80* sunshine on your skin. It was amazing.

Our hotel is beautiful. We're being treated like royalty. Valet parking, gorgeous rooms, a state of the art gym and fine restaurants. Speaking of restaurants. We ventured out last night and  found a "little" place called Border Grill. The head chef Mary Sue Milliken will appear on Bravo TV's "Top Chef" next week. I could write a whole food blog based on that experience alone. Let's just say the guac and the mojitos were to die for!

We walked to a roof top garden/park nearby after dinner. We laid in the lush thick grass, looking up at the glass and mirrored buildings around us, surrounded by blue skies. Breathtaking, seriously I didn't think it could be more beautiful. Until we went back to our room. I watched the sunset, reflect off all of those buildings and turn the loveliest shades of pinkish-purple, over the tops of those snowcapped mountains, amidst the twinkles and sparkles of the city lights. Incredible. Really, truly, incredible!

This is an experience that this stay-at-home-for-now mom wouldn't have had if it weren't for the generous loving spirit of her BFF. Tam's invitation opened my eyes to a window of the world I probably wouldn't have seen otherwise. I am so grateful for my friend.....and all these benefits. As I've said before, its taken me a LONG LONG time realize what true friendship looks like. I was blind, but now I see.

Tam left for work early this morning. I'm here in the hotel room, sipping room serviced StarBucks coffee and having my "quiet time" with God. I have the day ahead of me to do with as I please. I can read, go to the gym, go for a walk and do some shopping.

The realization came to me yesterday that Jesus is the ULTIMATE "friend with benefits". He alone has changed my life. He's changed my heart. I have such a different state of mind than a few years ago. A love, a peace, a joy and a thirst that I never thought possible. Forgiveness for people who have hurt me soooo deeply I thought I'd never stop bleeding. He has opened my eyes to a whole new world that I would never have seen. I was blind, but now......I see.

My walk with Jesus has been alot like this journey with Tam. There have been moments of absolute breathtaking beauty. There have been moments of astonishment. There have been moments where I needed to focus, listen, communicate. There have been tears and laughter and absolute AWE. I never thought I'd get here. This girl who was afraid to walk into a church, so broken, so hurt, so confused is now the girl telling other people how beautiful it can be.

If you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus, you're missing out on something absolutely amazing. A life adventure you don't want to miss. Are you blind? Do you want to see?

Dear Jesus~I'm not sure I can ever express how grateful I am. Thank you for changing my life, for showing me the beauty around me, and  for healing my very broken heart. I pray for those who don't know you . I pray that you will use me to speak truth to their lives and show them the way to you. Give me the courage and grace to share with them how you have changed me. In your name I pray~Amen

And so my friends, that was just Day One. I'm not sure what will happen today or if I'll even write about it. Maybe next week will be Tam's turn? Thanks for supporting and following me along this road. I love you all.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Designer Labels

" Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."~Colossions 3:12

A good friend of mine, lost his wife earlier this month. It was sudden and tragic and literally knocked the breath out of me. It isn't exactly clear what happened but her weight was definitely a factor. She left this world far too soon. She also left a husband, children and grandchildren reeling in pain, sorrow and grief.

Her passing made me very aware of my own weight issues and how desperately I want to get out of this cycle. I do NOT want my friends and family to have to deal with the agony my poor friend's family is experiencing. And so began my quest for really get to the bottom of my weight issues and to start living the life I want to live. For the first three weeks I did really well. I was focused and committed and worked hard. I tracked calories, drank water, and exercised until I didn't think I had another drop of sweat in me!

On Monday, Tam and I  met at the gym to workout. As we huffed and puffed our way up and down the arch trainer, I vented to my  dearest friend. I was stuck in a rut. I was frustrated and having a pity party. It certainly wasn't my first pity party and I'm sure it wasn't my last. What!?  you weren't invited?! Maybe next time.......anyway, we're moving on! I complained to Tam about this going wrong and that going wrong. I whined and fussed and then whined some more. There was no major life event happening. I just felt unsupported, frustrated and honestly, I felt like giving up!

Being the great friend she is, Tam told me like it is. It was a pretty stern talking to actually. It was hard for me to hear and I'm sure pretty hard for her to say. The basic gist of it all was "MAKE A DECISION". Tam made me very aware that this is not anyone else's responsibility, choice, control, or decision. It is all mine. And then I came to the painful awareness that I do not know how to be anything but....."the fat girl". I have been overweight for so long that my entire identity has become "the fat girl".

I'm not exactly sure when I became aware of the this label, but its been around quite a long time. Even when I'd lost 150 lbs and was in the best shape of my life, I still saw myself as "the fat girl". The fact that I was "normal" never really registered in my brain. Its so difficult to admit that, but its true. I would walk past a mirror at be surprised to see the person staring back at me. Physically I'd done it, emotionally, psychologically, I never made it there.  Eventually, "the fat girl" is label I accepted and adopted as my own. It limits me. It confines me. It restrains me. I allow it to. There are certain things I can't do, certain things I won't even try, certain places I don't like to go.

Like me, Tam has a label. She's "the perfect girl"...Somehow, somewhere, someway, she decided that she needed to be the "perfect girl".  Eventually, Tam accepted and adopted perfect as her label. It limits her. It confines her. It restrains her. Imagine how hard it must be to make a mistake if everyone thinks your perfect. Imagine how hard it must be to make a mistake if YOU think you have to BE perfect. Ugh.

We live in a society where labels are important. Its starts early in life....The Straight A Student, The Jock, The Loser.  Everywhere you go there are labels......Coach handbags, Manolo Blahnik shoes, BMW cars. They are symbols of status, wealth and power. They are indications of success. Right?

Wrong. I am more than the fat girl. Tam is more than the perfect girl. We are God's chosen girls, holy and dearly loved. We are women who work hard every day to provide and care for our families. We stay up late loading the dishwasher and folding laundry. We get up early to sweat at the gym and finish our bible study lesson. We are girlfriends who are committed to supporting our friends through difficult times in our lives. We are women who are creative and sensitive and strong and ambitious. We are so much more than the labels we place on ourselves.

I've decided to break free of my "fat girl" label. I don't know how to live as the "fit girl" but I'm gonna find out!!!!!! What label have you put on yourself? Are you willing to live with that label or do YOU have a decision to make?

Dear God~Forgive me for the labels I have placed on myself. By doing so, I put limits on what you are capable of doing with and through me. Help me to trust you, follow you and obey you, so that I am set free from the labels, lies and confusion. May I always see the God given potential in myself and in others that you see in each of us. In Jesus' name, Amen


Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Golden Handcuffs

Many plans are in a man's mind, but it is the Lord's purpose for him that will stand. Proverbs 19: 21

I have worked for the same company for 22 years.  I really just cannot stand the way that sounds.  It makes me sound archaic, stagnant.  In undergrad school, students are taught that they will change jobs or companies every 3 years.  The will change careers 2 to 3 times before they retire.  I feel so “old school”.  Believe me, I have TRIED to leave this company, and actually did.  Twice.  I used to have such an issue with the fact that I could not completely cut ties.  My husband called it the “golden handcuffs”, I called it pure torture.  Such a love/hate relationship.  I spent soooo many days and nights praying that God would place another opportunity right into my lap.  I had big dreams for working with a creative and progressive company where I could really strut my stuff.  Spread my wings and fly!  I applied for job after job, contacted a couple of search firms – all of whom thought I had a “lot to offer” yet nothing seemed to happen.  I got a few interviews here and there but nothing materialized.  At the time, I thought it was because no one wanted a one-company gal.  Who could possibly want someone who is only one-dimensional?  UGH.  I was destined to retire from this company.  My death sentence had been served. 
Now mind you, during this time it wasn’t like I was ball and chain to the desk and fed bread and water every 2 to 3 hours.  I was doing some cool stuff.  I wrote and facilitated leadership programs, piloted programs that were considered visionary.  I got to travel, yet work close to home when I needed to.  All the bennies with a nice salary too.  I wasn’t sitting back fat and happy, I was working hard yet I could see the impact I was making and how influencial the work I was doing was to the organization and more importantly, to people directly.  Can you see where I’m going here?
Clearly God was trying to tell me something that I couldn’t get through my thick brain…my purpose is here.  At this Company.  He’s telling me that the Corporate World is my mission ground and my role is to develop leaders that reflect integrity, humility and grace of the only one true leader.    Hello??  This Somerworth gal is THICK!  He was telling me this the entire time.  He has been carving the path for me in this company to have the forum to influence leaders and managers at all levels.  Once I realized this, I began to see examples all of the place.  Opportunities to demonstrate what genuinity looks like, and to call people out when ego’s get in the way or simply to offer myself as a sounding board.  A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to present to the Business Unit President and his executive team on a process to identify managers who demonstrate the potential to take on more significant roles.  We talked about really spending time getting to know our managers, what their aspirations are and how to help them succeed.  How cool is that?! 
So for others like me who may be looking around and seeing only the “handcuffs” and ignoring the fact that they are “golden”, take the time to notice and see the opportunity in your current circumstances.  What is God trying to tell you?  What are you not able to see because you’re too frustrated with your burdens?  Take the time to look.  Truly, once you shift your perspective, the view is amazing!
Dear Heavenly Father ~ May I never again take for granted this opportunity you have given me.  I am so thankful that I finally was able to see what you have been trying to tell me for so long!  I love the fact that this is my purpose and I now truly see how I can use my gifts to fulfill YOUR purpose.  May I never get lost in the hub bub of corporate life, may I stay humble, and inspire others to do the same.  In Jesus’ Name ~ Amen

Xoxo ~ Tammy

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mission Impossible

"Just as lotions and frangrance give delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul."
~ Proverbs 27:9   The Message

Do you remember that very first blog I wrote about my "best friend" Tammy and I?

We were sitting on a beach in Cozumel, Mexico. She challenged me to write this blog. She went so far as to set the entire blog up...and then said "DO IT! " I mentioned during that first entry that we had been friends since 7th grade. I also eluded to the fact that there was more to the story and I would share it another day. Today is that day.

Tam is beautiful, athletic, intelligent, and articulate. She is the All American Girl. We met in middle school. The boy I liked , liked her! That seems so silly now but back then, it was big! I always admired everything about Tam. She possessed a lot of the qualities that I wanted to have, but didn't feel like I did. In addition to that, she had a great, intact family. She had parents who loved her, supported her. Brothers who protected her.

So....our friendship started in middle school and progressed to high school. We went to dances together, had a few classes together, did track together. We worked on the Prom Steering Committee together, had sleepovers, you get the idea. We were normal teenage girls and for the most part life was pretty good. Until that day during our senior year when Tam climbed into my car and announced that she was pregnant. Although she was confident and matter-of-fact (she chomped on an apple while she told me) I knew this was a moment that would change everything.

The last few months of high school, other students became aware of Tammy's pregnancy. Of course, there was gossip, speculation, stares and lots of questions. It became apparent very quickly that people were NOT choosing to support Tammy or her decision to keep her baby. I vowed I would not  be one of those people. She was my friend. I loved her and I committed to supporting her, through the fun stuff AND the rough stuff.

That summer after graduation, I remember shopping for baby clothes together. We floated together in the pool, watching her ever-growing tummy bob above the water. Tam's mom and I supported her and coached her through Lamaze classes and celebrated with her during her baby showers. In November of that year, Tam gave birth to the most beautiful BIG baby boy I have ever seen. Because of complications during the delivery I wasn't present at his birth but I was in the hallway, waiting with Tam's Dad. It was, and still remains one of the most beautiful memories I have.

It wasn't long after his birth that my relationship with Tam began to change. Distance grew and words went unspoken. Too many months passed and too many awkward moments transpired. It hurt. It hurt us both. In our immaturity, stubbornness, who knows what it was, subsequently , we let the friendship fade. When that friendship faded there was a deep deep sense of regret and loss. We missed each other's weddings. We missed more babies being born. We missed supporting each other through the trials of life. We really missed, ya know?

And then one spectacular day 18 years later, came a phone call. One I never, ever, expected to receive. I immediately recognized the voice but I could not place it. One sentence changed all that. "A long time ago, you supported me through a very difficult time in my life". I instantly started to cry. IT WAS TAMMY <3

Since that time, Tammy and I have obviously re-connected. We started having lunches together and sharing simple facts about our lives. We went for walks and talked about our families, our friends, and occasionally our faith. We started attending church together and Sunday school. We went away to a women's retreat for the weekend. Each time we spent together, the friendship grew. We went on vacation together last October and truth be told we were once again the 14 year old girls, giggling late into the night.  Again, a precious memory I treasure in my heart.  To this day, each conversation, visit, email, leaves me with this incredible feeling of love, peace, and as though God has his hands all over it!

That phone call was 5 years ago. It doesn't seem possible. Actually it seems IMPOSSIBLE. This friendship has been transformed into one of my greatest joys in life. Tam and I can talk about anything. I share secrets with her I would never tell another soul. We celebrate the victories of life, a job promotion, losing 5 lbs, or finding a great bargain. We also share the trials of life.....the argument with our husbands, the difficulties of raising teens, the frustrations of not being able to do everything that needs to be done. We share the big details and the smallest. Our husbands will attest to that! They are both quite certain we hold the world's record for text messaging.

We also share a deep and passionate faith in God. I am convinced that God whispered to Tam that day in the car "call Michelle ". I am convinced God has whispered to me more than a few times "you can trust her, let her in". The fear of losing this friendship can paralyze me at times.  I am convinced that God has used this friendship to love and support each other through difficult times. I am convinced that God uses both Tam and I to speak truth to each other, to challenge each other,  to be real with each other and to show others the healing power of forgiveness.

It is incredible, unbelievable, IMPOSSIBLE that a friendship that went 18 years with barely a word spoken,  could be transformed into the most beloved friendship I have ever experienced. I have had a lot of friends since high school, even a few I thought were "best friends". But until you see what a true friendship looks like, you don't have anything to compare it to.

Who is your BFF? Have you told them how important they are to your life? Have you thanked God for them? If not, why?

Dear God~

I will forever be grateful for the restoration of my friendship with Tammy. Thank you for showing me what a "best friend forever" looks like. Make me  the kind of friend to Tam that she is to me. Give me the grace to extend forgiveness and love to others around me. May we always give honor and glory for this friendship to YOU. In Jesus' name  ~Amen.