Category: Relationships

When I was in middle school, I was teased for my frizzy, curly red hair. With sound guidance from the early 90’s, I did what many girls did then: I permed it. You know what happened next. I came out of the salon with slightly-green, ammonia-scented, brittle, extra-frizzy hair. Add five years of braces, and being a natural introvert to the mix, and you have middle school memories that I locked away in the “do not disturb” compartment of life. The photos of this season are buried in my parents’ house somewhere.

Then Sanrio came out with the “The BFF book.” I remember the sting of rejection I felt when my name wasn’t written in a friend’s book. I started to think that something must be wrong with me. I determined to be liked. I became a people-pleaser, always seeking approval and validation from others.

In high school, I would go to the grocery store with my mom and look at the magazines at check-out. Most covers showed women with tan, perfectly smooth, freckle-free skin. I bought all the freckle-eraser creams, and lathered on the feelings of not being enough. I felt like I didn’t fit, and believed that, since I wasn’t perfect, I’d never be happy or loved.

As my friend Lysa says in her new book, Uninvited“Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what’s been said to me.”

Or not said.
Or assumed.
Or not written in a friendship book.

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Twenty years later, I got married in my hometown, and went through a painful divorce shortly after. More of my story here. I craved a new identity that couldn’t be shaken by circumstances, or what other people thought, or by the mistakes I would inevitably make along my path. As my friends Jess and Hayley say, I constantly felt like I was too much and never enough. I was deeply in debt, and got a job as a personal trainer at the local gym—-the gym where all those people in my hometown (who had come to my wedding) socialized. I didn’t have any other choices for work at the time though. I needed to make money to pay bills, and the only way forward was to step into what felt like the lions den. Instead of running from it, or trying to fix myself, I stepped right into the feelings of shame, isolation, and rejection.

In that same gym, months later, I met Ari. He didn’t judge me for my past or flinch when I told him about all the baggage I was carrying from the past; he just wanted to know me.

I learned something in that season. There was a way out of the constant cycle of living in lack, believing that I wasn’t ever going to measure up. I started seeking God more. In Christ, I’ve learned over time that I am invited. Always welcome. Always loved.

Something that has helped me is to think about what I know versus what I feel. Feelings aren’t the enemy, but many times they can lead us away from truth.
I may feel rejected at times, but I know Whose I am.
I may feel broken, but I know I’m whole in Him.
I may feel like my heart is a mess, but I know God transforms our messes into our message.
I may feel alone, isolated, and lonely at times, but I know that God never ever leaves me.
Leaning into knowing, instead of letting my feelings inform my worth, changes things.

Lysa posted recently about crushing the lies and lines we’ve believed. I woke up one day a few weeks ago and felt tired of fixing my hair. Always putting it up or straightening it. Hiding my frizz. My curls. My past pain.

So, I washed it and let it go that morning.

Grace played with my hair that night, wrapping my curls around her fingers, putting bows in my locks, and simply wanting to touch my hair. Something clicked. I woke up and let it go again. And again. Each day, I felt more free. But, it wasn’t about a hairstyle, it was about letting go of what years of feeling rejected had done to me. It was about finally expressing gratitude for the way God created me. If I wanted Grace to live loved, I was going to have to show her how, and live it myself. I had to come undone.

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Embracing my curls has been rather life-changing. Apparently I’m not alone in this desire to embrace what God has given us. It’s not about hair though; it’s about our hearts. I look in the mirror now, and I’m reminded to live loved, right where I am.

Rejection is going to happen. It happened to me just last week again and it stung. But, it reminded me to keep fighting to trust in what I know to be true. I am loved. You are too. More than we could ever imagine. Living from the place of knowing we are loved encourages others to do the same. It multiplies freedom.

More in my Facebook Live today.

Have you experienced rejection? How has that shaped you? I’d love to hear your story…

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Yay! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Fruitful Friendship series as much as I have! This is the final post of the series, but it’s just the beginning! We have the rest of summer (and our lives!) to keep letting go of perfect, embracing awkward, and making meaningful connections happen.

Now it’s time to learn how to make new traditions, celebrate each other, and cultivate community!

1. Name your summer traditions.

Traditions help us cultivate connection through meaningful shared experiences. Whether it’s something you’ve done before or a tradition you want to start, use the friendship traditions section in the NEW Fruitful Summer Workbook to make your traditions happen. Need some summer tradition ideas? Try making jam, picking berries, Taco Tuesday’s, a yearly getaway, a watermelon seed-spitting contest (that’s a real thing), camping (or camping in the living room like we did this summer), or simply eating dinner on the porch outside!

2. Celebrate what matters. 

Cultivate a deeper connection by celebrating what’s important to your friend. Simple, but powerful, ask your friend her favorite holidays, her birthday, family traditions, and about special milestones she’s looking forward to. Mark them on your calendar so you remember to ask about them, prepare a gift, or celebrate alongside her. Intentionally celebrating what’s important in her life will help grow your bond for years to come. And celebrate your friendship too—“friendiversaries” are the best!

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3. Shake on it! 

Grace and I have a not-so-secret handshake. It ends by pointing at the one we love (seen below in action!). We do it every night before she goes to sleep, and it makes both of us giggle every time! This little tradition connects us together and makes her feel loved and special. Ari and I also have a handshake that we made up when we were dating. To this day, it still makes us laugh! And, last summer, we made up a handshake with the sisters in our small group, too. I’m laughing right now thinking about it! So, my final tip is to shake on it! Make up a handshake with a friend, spouse, co-worker, or your kids.

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

Thank you so much for joining me for this series! Be sure to pin this post (or any in the series) to come back to next summer, and share this with your friends. You never know what connections it may spark!

 

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Grace taught me a lesson about embracing “awkward.” Every morning, we take a walk through the retirement community near our house. One morning, after chatting with a sweet lady we’ve known for four years, Grace said, “Mom, we don’t know her name!”

Well, um…

Yes, you are right, Grace.

I never asked.

After knowing her for four years—knowing all about her husband’s health challenges, and even what she eats for breakfast on Sunday mornings (blueberry pancakes), it seemed a little awkward to ask her name.

The next morning, I decided to embrace awkward anyways. her name is Shirley, and I’m so glad I asked. The next weekend, Grace and I decided to surprise Shirley by delivering some “Berry Good” homemade jam. Listen to what happened after that!

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Fruitful friendships grow not because we don’t experience fear, but because breaking ground on meaningful relationships becomes more important than our fear. Taking big leaps of faith, embracing the awkward (lots of awkward!), and putting yourself out there to do life with others can change everything.

It’s worth stepping into the hard stuff—and stepping in again and again.

Fruitful friendships are worth embracing awkward for. Fruitful friendships allow us to celebrate our imperfections together.

Fruitful friendship is possible. Here are my three tips to embrace awkward:

1. Become a Master of Awkward.

What if awkward pauses in a conversation are actually invitations for a deeper friendship? Waiting 1-2 seconds longer than normal to reply and “fill the silence” may allow the other person to open up, and to know you are really listening. Practice the art of the pause, and let the pauses be filled with listening. It may feel awkward at first, but it’s the greatest gift we can give to others! When you try this, just keep thinking to yourself, “I am becoming a Master of Awkward!”

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2. Ask a second question.

You can practice this starting today, and it just might change your relationships forever. It did for me! Don’t stop at, “How are you?” Invite the other person to open up by asking a second question. The power of the second question is that it helps take the conversation deeper. Two of my favorite second questions:

How did that make you feel?

Tell me more about that.

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3. Ask for help.

This is a hard one, isn’t it!? But, remember that fruit grows when we tend to it, water it, and work the hard ground. Dig in! Asking for help in friendships—whether it’s advice, prayer, or a recipe—lets the other person know you value them, and believe they can solve a problem for you. Turn this around on yourself: How would you feel if a friend asked for help? I would feel honored, and it would help me to know they trust me. Fruitful friendships are built on trust.

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

This is my real-life friend, Tori! She joins our neighborhood walks almost every morning, where we get to practice all we’ve learned in this Fruitful Friendship series—asking second questions, embracing awkward, and listening well. We’re not perfect, and we don’t have to be. We’re growing a fruitful friendship, no perfection required. I’m so grateful for you, Tori!

 

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For more, grab your copy of the NEW Fruitful Friendships Workbook!

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Maybe your well-laid summer plans went sour, or you didn’t started on any of your goals or that summer bucket list you made with the kids. Guess what?

That’s okay! Welcome back to Part 2 of our Fruitful Friendship series! Be sure to check out five easy ways to grow meaningful friendships.

Your summer doesn’t need to be perfect to be meaningful, and you don’t need to be perfect either. I often feel like everyone has it all together but me. But, it’s not true. Don’t let comparison feed you the lie that you aren’t exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Here are Three Easy Ways to Let Go of Perfect! Much more to come in the next three posts too. Let’s do this!

1. Embrace the mess.

Your summer (or any season of your life for that matter!) doesn’t have to be perfect to be meaningful. Throw your expectations out the window—and keep that window open. Rather than trying to stick to the perfect plan and feeling guilty when it doesn’t go exactly as you expected, make this a grace-filled season and embrace the unexpected. Fill in the blank:

I’m letting go of ______ in order to have a fruitful season!

What’s more important: a perfect life, or a fruitful life?

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2. Define what a “fruitful” season means to you.

Whether it’s full of family time, date nights with your significant other, friend adventures, starting a new project or hobby, or embracing simplicity, write out what it means to you. Chances are, your fruitful season vision does not include mass amounts of time spent stressing over social media numbers, or striving to get ahead at the expense of what matters most. When you take the time to visualize where you want to go, it helps simplify your life. You learn how to prioritize your daily decisions based on that vision. A favorite verse: ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish…’ (Proverbs 29:18).

BONUS STEP: Define one focal word for the season that helps you focus on progress, not perfection. (I’d love to hear your word in the comments!)

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Download the FREE Fruitful Summer Statement (like a mission statement for your intentional summer!) and place it somewhere where you will see it often–your refrigerator, on your desk, or on your bathroom mirror. This will help you prioritize what matters and remind you of where you’re going!

3. Make room.

My arms and calendar are packed from sun up to sun down, but I also know I can waste a lot of time on distractions throughout the day. So, say yes to what matters and a firm no to all the rest. The simple act of writing out the things you are saying yes to and what you are saying no to can help give you your time back. Say no to the distractions, and yes to things that will help you live out your fruitful season—and life! It starts with writing them out, seeing the time-suckers for what they are. This helps me see let go of perfect by intentionally choosing life-giving things to fill my time with!

What’s on your yes and no lists this season?

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Photo by Olivia Wolf of Nancy Ray Photography

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Get your Fruitful Friendships Workbook for much more! This 52-page interactive guide is full of pages with our best tips on cultivating friendships, worksheets to help you make what matters happen, and wisdom from an amazing group of contributors. See inside the workbook and get yours here!

Stay tuned for the rest of my Fruitful Friendship tips coming in the next post! Up next, how to embrace awkward

 

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The blueberry patch near our house has been here for over thirty years, and these bushes keep making sweet fruit. Our friend, Wanda, tends to them little by little, and keeps them well-pruned.

If Wanda let the bushes grow grow grow, the fruit wouldn’t get as sweet. The nutrients would be spread thin.

Are you feeling that way lately? Are your relationships in need of revival?

We learned how to embrace awkward, and now we’re going to learn how to tend to relationships little by little, and simplify our time. When we do, sweeter fruit is going to grow.

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1. Lean In To the Power of Little By Little.

Little by little, you learned how to do what you do, whether it’s a creative skill, motherhood, or your vocation. Little by little, peaches ripen on trees. Little by little, ingredients are added into a bowl to make cake batter. It’s the same with our friendships and marriages. Little by little, meaningful relationships are cultivated. One small seed planted today can grow into a towering tree years from now. The little by little adds up. If we strive for overnight results, we might miss the good fruit that waits for us in the process—the growing part.

What one little itsy bitsy seed can you plant today in a friendship?

Maybe it’s as simple as asking a second question, or finally reaching out to set up that coffee date you keep talking about, or sending a quick text message to ask, “How are you today?”

Deeper friendships don’t have to come from huge acts of affection, but by constant little by little tending. Take little by little action today!

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2. Prune to Make It Sweeter.

We cannot do it all and do life well. Let that settle in your heart for a moment. We cannot do it all and do it all well, but we can choose a few things and grow them intentionally. Choose one area of your life to prune. Maybe it’s your schedule, your finances, your closet, or your inbox that feels overgrown. Write down ONE thing you are going to let go of, simplify, or cut to make room for what matters.

Simplify your goals with PowerSheets, simplify your spending with Nancy’s Contentment Challenge, tackle your inbox with Unroll.Me, and decide if you need to prune your social media accounts or other distractions.

3. Dig Under the Surface.

Vulnerability changes things. But, in order for vulnerable connection to happen, there first has to be a foundation of trust. Think about your own friendships. How have you grown to trust friends in the past or how would you build trust now? For me, that means listening well, praying for my friends, admitting my mistakes (and that I’m not perfect!), being willing to share my struggles, and being curious about the other person’s heart. It means being willing to take risks and ask meaningful questions. Dig under the surface and ask others what you would want them to ask you.

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Get much more in the NEW Fruitful Friendships Workbook.

I’m excited for you!

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