25 August 2013

Pencil v. Ink Pen Friends

In case you don’t know this about me, I am BIG on relationships. Friendships mean a lot to me – even when they are not mutually reciprocal or are lopsided in importance when it comes to me and the other person involved. Maybe it stems from being an Air Force brat who was constantly moving, every other year, for the first decade of my life. Kinda hard to forge lifelong friendships when that is the reality of your life. So, once I was in a “stable” place, I started forging friendships that would last an eternity. My best friend from childhood, Beth, and I have maintained a friendship since seventh grade, and I could tell you how long ago THAT was, but then I would have to inflict bodily harm – and nobody wants that.

Then when I was transplanted to New York City, my home life was one of such turmoil that, once again, I was unable to forge friendships of a lasting sort. In a recent visit back to NYC, I met with a group of high school friends who told me that when I was in high school, I was perceived as “snooty” and “stuck up”. ME?! ARE YOU KIDDING? So, I shared with them the story of my life at that time (which I never shared with anyone while living it) and it became clear(er) to them why I acted the way in high school. It wasn’t about snobbishness – it was about survival. (But that’s another story for another day).

Then came college, where at “The Oaks” (Oakwood College, now University, in Huntsville, AL), I was again able to forge friendships with men and women that have stood the test of three decades. Scroll through my Facebook friends list and I will guarantee that at least 40% of that list comprises of the names of people that I either met at the Oaks, or have made the connection with because of our mutual love of that school. (ok, maybe 50%). And then there are the friendships from the theatre, and from church, and from work, and…the lists go on and on.

Recently, I realized (again), that while I may value these friendships and relationships, they are not equally valued by the person on the other side of it. And where before the realization of that would have put me in an emotional tailspin – not so much anymore. I have come to realize that there are some people who are “pencil” friends, and some who are “ink pen” friends. And you have to know who is who so that you don’t lose your mind when dealing with them.

The “pencil” friends are the ones who only “pencil” you into their lives when it is convenient or necessary for them. You know the ones who call you up when they need your help – or advice on a restaurant to go to – or to see if you know what is happening around town – or to get travel tips on a destination spot. The ones who when you call them, they rarely answer the phone, or if they do, they “will get back to you later”, or who, when you make lunch/dinner/theatre plans, always call you the day before (if not the day of) to cancel for a myriad of excuses … I mean, reasons. You know the ones. What I had to do was recognize and realize who those friends were, accept them as they are, and then decide whether having them on the periphery of my life was necessary. Some people, I decided were – and others, I have distanced myself from them – and for the most part, they haven’t even noticed. And I’m ok with that.

And then there are the “ink pen” friends. The ones who are there for you when the chips are down. The ones who answer every phone call – even the ones at 2:00 in the morning. The ones who, when they say, “Let’s meet for lunch, I haven’t seen you in a while” actually mean it and will meet you for lunch, even if it doesn't fit in with their normal lunch routine - just because they know YOU work a nocturnal schedule and sometimes being up at 12 noon is just not do-able. (Ok, maybe that's just me). The ones who are your friends, even when it is inconvenient and/or uncomfortable to be so. The ones who champion your causes, celebrate your successes, grieve your losses and just support you when support is what you need. That is the type of friend I strive to be. Not always successfully, but I think I do better than most.

There’s nothing (necessarily) wrong with being a “pencil” friend. If that is all you can be – then, that’s all you can be. But the thing about pencils, the marks they leave on the paper of your life, eventually fade and are erased away. There might be a faint impression or a spark of memory years down the road, but it’s the “ink pen” friends that make the lasting, indelible, mark on your life.

There is one “ink pen” Friend that we all can have. You know who I’m talking about. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” is a promise written in His book of love to His children. And I’m glad to know that when I am in the throes of depression or in the midst of a trial or suffering another heartache – when I reach out to my friends here on earth and they are not available, there is Someone who is always there to answer and listen and soothe whatever is going on. Jesus is the ULTIMATE INK PEN FRIEND. If you don’t know Him, maybe you should get to know Him. He’s a good Friend to have.

Be blessed.v ©2013 Kristina E. Smith

24 August 2013

My God is an AWESOME God...

I had a very interesting telephone conversation with a friend last night. She said to me, (paraphrasing): "You have a very unique way of looking at God and your relationship with Him. You say things that I have never even thought about..." Really? So, what led her to say this? What outlandish statements have I made?

1) "When I get to heaven, I need to have a conversation with God. I need to ask Him if the life I was given was the ONLY life I could have that would lead me to salvation? I mean, couldn't I have been married to Shemar or Denzel or Boris and still made it into the Kingdom?" I already know His answer: Uh, no, my child. The life you were given was the life you needed to live in order to draw you closer to Me." And I will be ok with that - AFTER my transformation - because right now, HE AND I NEED TO HAVE A TALK!

2) I also know WHEN I will have that conversation with Him: See, it is my belief that when Jesus returns to take us to heaven, there will be a 1,000 year period (known as the Millenium) where the saints of God will be able to ask any questions they have, review any books they feel they need to review (like, why did SHE make it up here when HE didn't?). All this so that we will be satisfied that God is ... well, God. And that He made no mistakes in who was saved and who was lost. [SIDENOTE: That is why I have to be sure I make it to heaven, to see for myself that my blood-stained book of forgiven sins is indeed blood-stained. Y'all don't need to know ALL my dirt.] Anyway, I figure the line to talk to Jesus is gonna be pretty long when we initially get there, so I've already put it out there that I want to talk to Him on my birthday, year 898, so we can have to conversation mentioned in statement #1 above. A pastor friend of mine, upon hearing me say this, told me, "Kristina, when you make it to heaven, you will forget all about asking God any questions." My response to him: "Maybe so, but the God Who loves me will remember for me, and on that day, He will tap me on my shoulder and say to me, 'Uh, Kristina, aren't we supposed to be having a conversation today?' - and I'll be like, "oh yeah" - and I'll ask my question, He'll answer it and then I'll invite Him to my birthday party on Pluto. [I can't wait to visit Pluto - it was always my favorite (non)planet.]

3) (and this was what prompted my friend's statement today): When I get to heaven, my mansion is going to be a beachfront mountain cabin, because I LOVE LOVE LOVE the beach and adore the mountains - so why can't I have both? Ok, here on earth, no such place exists - you don't have mountain regions next to large bodies of water. But in heaven, anything is possible. I remember having this conversation YEARS ago with my godsister, Linda, and another good friend, Sue, and them shaking their heads at my imagination, but watch! You are all invited over for a Sabbath meal in said mansion.

4) Finally, one of my favorite foods is LASAGNA. Just call me "Garfield' or as my grandparents used to call me, "The Lasagna Monster". Loves me some lasagna, and have often remarked that heaven will not be "heaven" if there is no lasagna. Now, this has prompted all kinds of debates about how we will revert to the original diet when we get to heaven (fruits, nuts, grains). But won't there be cows in heaven? Won't they still need to produce milk (meaning, I can have me some cheese) and it can be veggie lasagna, I'm good with that (since we won't be killing animals anymore). Why can't I have me some lasagna in heaven? A friend of mine hearing this said, "You know, God could work it out that there will be a tree in your yard that bears purple fruit (my fav color) that tastes just like lasagna." See! That's what I'm talkin' 'bout! He could! (Probably won't, but He could!)

All that to say this: I think we limit the awesomeness of God. I think we forget that He knows us, loves us and wants us to have the desires of our hearts - not only when we join Him in heaven, but also while living here on earth. We just have to open ourselves up to the possibilities of His power and then stand back and watch Him work it out on our behalf.

I also know this: I truly need to serve Him better to ensure that I am on the right side of salvation, so that I can prove all the naysayers to my beliefs wrong when I serve purple fruited lasagna at my birthday party on Pluto. By the way, you're all invited.