Never A Bridesmaid… | A Life Lesson In Friendship

friendship_quote1A few years ago, a friend told me about a Thank You card she had received from a girl saying that she was “grateful for their friendship in this season of her life”. My friend said she appreciated this card because it took the pressure off their friendship. To her, it meant that for that very moment, they were close friends, encouraging and inspiring one another but that it would be ok if their friendship would become less intimate when they moved into the next season.

IMG_9364

Little girlfriends

Seasons are marked by changes. They are subdivisions of a year. Like chapters in a book. I never thought of friendship that way. I thought all friendships were supposed to last a lifetime, get stronger as the years go by. What my friend told me back then, changed me, changed my expectations in friends and our relationships, and thus changed the quality of my friendships. And, it helped me deal with the loss of a dear friend. She didn’t die. But our friendship did.

Grab a coffee or Cosmo (depending on the time of day) and get comfy…

A few years ago, a very good friend of mine broke up with me. It hurt. It hurt badly. Even today, that wound is still healing. But the scar on my heart is hardly visible and I have nothing but gratitude for the times we’ve had. No grudges. No regrets. But more importantly, I am forever grateful for the lesson I was taught. Besides lacking severe control of my tongue when I get angry, my expectations in our friendship were nearly impossible to live up to.

Back then, I often measured a friend’s love for me by the frequency of her calls or texts, how many pictures of us she would post on Facebook (sad, ey?), and if I was included in her leisurely activities. I got jealous when Mr. Thrasher and I were excluded from fun gatherings, road trips or Holiday celebrations. I was upset when things that were important to me didn’t (seem to) matter as much to my friends. thought I’d never be asked to be someone’s bridesmaid or the godmother of their child. And why would I always have to throw my own birthday party while other friends had parties hosted for them? It certainly didn’t help that I was miles away from my old friends in Germany. Naturally, those friendships faded away and important, life-changing events weren’t shared instantly anymore. In a nutshell, I pretty much doubted every friendship – old and new, near and far.

tumblr_mblc6sgN6x1ratlsoo1_500

Fictional friendships in TV shows like Friends and Grey’s Anatomy, movies like Beaches and novels like Firefly Lane, created in me an unquenchable thirst to experience the same, intense, romantic kind of closeness my favorite characters displayed on a flat screen. And it certainly didn’t help that Germans form friendships differently. Germans generally draw a strong distinction between their few friends and their many associates, co-workers, neighbors, and others. We have relationships that take time to transition from ‘acquaintances’ to ‘friends’. If they transition at all.

For Americans, friends tend to be people whom they encounter fairly frequently, and that are similar to themselves in demographics, attitude, and activities. While many other cultures value deep trust and meaning in their friendships, Americans will use the word “friend” to describe most people who have such qualities (Stout 2010). ~Wikipedia

After losing my friend, I had arrived at a crossroad. I could go one of two ways: Guard my heart by shutting people out and don’t let anyone get too close ever again (read: Become bitter and angry. And let it all out on my poor husband.). Or I could turn to God to manage my expectations, be vulnerable and humble myself about my shortcomings (read: Learn to be gracious and forgiving. And start therapy.).
friendship_quote3 A few, very good friends put on gloves and hard hats, and plowed through the dirt with me. They remained loyal through that ‘breakup’, never took sides and helped me weed out bitter roots of disappointment and rejection. They fed me with love, patience, prayer and truth.

bob-marley-quote-on-friendship

Today, I cherish those rare, high quality friendships that have solid ways of resolving conflict, ultimately leading to stronger and healthier relationships. I need friends whose wisdom, whose willingness to say difficult things, or whose different perspectives will sharpen me.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” ~ Proverbs 27:17

Friends, who cheer you on from the sidelines, who lovingly discipline you, who forgive, over and over again. They hold your hair back when you lean over the toilet, they make you chicken soup and leave it on your porch along with flowers, they come by to help you with your toddler when you’re too sick to get out of bed, they hold you accountable when you claim you are working on your marriage, they take you to the airport in the middle of the night, they support your cause no matter what, they remember the sad and the good stuff you told them, they speak your Love Language, they hold you accountable for being a good wife, they pray – for and with you.

Lifetime friends teach you life lessons you can learn from and use as foundation for all other relationships. 

A soul mate reflects back to us that which is unhealed while testifying to what is already perfect. Soul mates provide different things at different times: sometimes a safe haven from which we can branch out and explore, and sometimes challenges that bring us to our knees. ~ from The One: Discovering the Secrets of Soul Mate Love by Kathy Freston

I may not have found another cast of Friends to live life with but as long as I have a hand full of girlfriends I could call in the middle of the night with any emotional emergency, I know I am blessed.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Thrasher and I now have a sweet, little goddaughter. God is good.

signature_Wiebke_New

Emma’s Dedication :: The Church Ceremony


This past Sunday we dedicated our daughter at our local church. My dear friend, mentor, eye witness of Emma’s birth and Pastor, Val, did an amazing job with her first infant dedication. I was also quite thrilled that my friend Kym and I were able to dedicate both of our daughters together.

The only sad part: My Mama and sister couldn’t be with us. Obviously, it would have been a bit of a stretch to ask them to make the journey from Germany to attend Emma’s dedication. Mama, Meike, ihr habt mir so sehr gefehlt!

But let me give you some background on the dedication ceremony and what it actually means. We are Christians. At our church we dedicate our children instead of baptizing or christening them. The main difference between these religious rituals (um, that sounds kinda weird) is probably the idea that with a dedication, you, as a parent, dedicate your baby to God as an act of honor, worship and thanksgiving. We think a baby shouldn’t be christened/baptized until they are old enough to make their own decision about their faith.

The dedication is further a public declaration of the parents’ promise to raise the child in a godly way with the support of the church family. The Pastor anoints the baby, the parents and godparents (if parents chose godparents).

Baptism is a part of many Christian denominations, including Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist. Baptism is a water purification ceremony, so at baptisms you will see a small amount of holy water from the baptismal font, poured by the pastor or minister over the infant’s head. During a baptism the child enters the Christian faith and his or her parents and possible godparents, vow to raise the child in the faith they have chosen. (Source: Articlesbase.com)

The anointing of Paul, Emma and me. (Take a closer look at Emma's stunning gown.)

Since I am a sucker for traditions, I was over-the-moon excited that Emma was able to wear the same gown that my own mother had crocheted while she was pregnant with me. The gown was stunning and it meant a lot to me that Emma was dedicated in the same gown that me, my sister and my sister’s son had been baptized in. I love that story!

Another tradition we ‘stole’ from the baptism ritual (at least how I knew it in Germany as part of the Lutheran church) was that we chose a scripture to pray over Emma’s life. Despite an abundance of encouraging, empowering, healing, promising or prophetic scriptures, this was an easy task. Without any doubt, Paul and I knew that everything we wanted God to fulfill in Emma’s life was encompassed in 2 Timothy 1:7.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind (or self-control as translated in other bible versions).

Our fearless firecracker certainly has a spirit of power and love already. We just need to keep praying that she’ll have some self-control as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Come back soon for Part Two of Emma’s Dedication – The ‘after party’ at our house. I’ll be sharing lots of pictures of lots of pretty party decor.

 

Mommy Peer Pressure

Inspired by friend Sarah’s blog name The Truthful Mom, I need to let down my pants (figuratively) and confess something. And between you and me, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only mom in the world who feels this way. If you’re really really really honest with yourself, you may even find some of these thoughts twirl around in your mind.

A single, male friend of mine was surprised when I told him about the mommy peer pressure. He had no idea something like that existed. So he encouraged me to blog about it.

Here’s how it goes: Believe it or not, peer pressure is not just for (high) school kids. It totally exists among mothers too. No matter how good your friendships are and how much you love each other but there is a bit of competition like which baby sleeps better during the day, who has the least problems nursing, which child learns to crawl/walk/speak the earliest and more importantly who looks put together and relaxed while pushing your stroller through the neighborhood.

That's pretty much how I look when I meet up with Emma's playgroup. Photo: Gucci

Come on, mommies! You have to admit that there’s a teeny tiny bit of jealousy popping up when you see how your girlfriend’s baby can fall asleep by himself without ANY crying. Or that girlfriend of yours who somehow manages to straighten her hair, put on makeup and keep her skinny denims free off vomit all day. Well, let me give it to you straight: I couldn’t stand hearing about my friends’ mellow super babies while I’ve been trying to cope with sleepless night after night. And I didn’t want to hear about the successful weight loss of another friend. Or watch her wearing her pre-pregnancy jeans so quickly again. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for them. You do wish your girlfriends the best, right? And you do want them to be blessed, yes? So what was wrong with me?

I’m gonna confess even more. I wasn’t just jealous of them, I was secretly looking at the areas where they had problems just to make me feel a bit better. Oh, God, forgive me for I have sinned. What an awful friend am I!

Now, go ahead, judge me. But before you do that, check yourself and see if there’s not a small piece of you that is a bit envious of another mommy friend. Some possible scenarios (not entirely fictitious):

  • Your mommy friend has lost her pregnancy weight faster than you
  • Your mommy friend always wears perfectly applied make up and somehow manages to style her hair
  • Your mommy friend can afford the Mercedes of strollers
  • Your mommy friend’s husband helps a lot more than yours (Ha, that’s a good one. Comparing husbands is a favorite anyways. Oh, don’t tell me you’ve never done that!)
  • Your mommy friend got more gifts for her baby shower
  • Your mommy friend scored better deals on used baby gear on Craigslist

Ok, enough. You get the idea. I certainly didn’t mean to give you any ideas for negative thoughts with this list but I think you get my point.

The moral of this story: Mommy peer pressure exists. Most of it comes from our own insecurities and doubts. Why else do we compare ourselves to others? If we were truly content and grateful for who and where we are in life, than none of this would be an issue. Correct? So the question is how will you deal with peer pressure? Curious to hear what you think, girlfriend.

Thank You For Being A Friend :: Relationships

Friends. Girlfriends. Sisters. Nothing in life goes without them.

Every woman needs her Golden Girls.

As I was chatting with one of my dear girlfriends this morning, I felt inspired to write a post about the amazing women who travel alongside me on this journey called life and why true friendships are so important.

When I left my friends (and family) to move to the other end of the world, I was scared and afraid that I would never have ‘best friends’ again. I was expecting to find a couple of acquaintances and possibly a few slightly superficial, friendly connections. Little did I know that God had taken His project to provide a home for me in San Francisco very seriously: I wasn’t just blessed with a job, means to enjoy this amazing city, a lovely apartment and delicious food. I also found the best friends in the world!

From Wikipedia:

Value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating the following on a consistent basis:

  • The tendency to desire what is best for the other
  • Sympathy and empathy
  • Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one’s counterpart
  • Mutual understanding and compassion
  • Trust in one another (able to express feelings – including in relation to the other’s actions – without the fear of being judged); able to go to each other for emotional support
  • Positive reciprocity – a relationship is based on equal give and take between the two parties.

or as the apostle Paul writes in his letters:

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~Corinthians 13:4-6, New King James’ Version

Speaking of Paul: When I first came to visit this church Paul (my husband, not the apostle) was going to, I was swept off my feet by the warm welcome I received. At first it felt a bit overwhelming and I was skeptical that these girls were truly interested in me and my story. But the more I let them into my life, the more they shared about theirs. And I was quick to realize that I’ve met some of the most genuine, generous and loving women whose desire is to protect and encourage you to grow, develop, thrive, be successful and have loads of fun and ridiculous-ness.

Of course, there are struggles, arguments, maybe even fights, certainly a few white lies here and there (I’m not gonna lie!), and a healthy amount of gossip. I get mad at them, they get mad at me, we all get disappointed, feel rejected, sometimes hurt. Hey, we are human. And women. Not saints.

Women often guard themselves too much because they are wounded and afraid to open up and get hurt again. There’s jealousy, envy, the fear of rejection, competition and mostly, it’s because we nurture lies in our minds about what others think about us or what we think they think about us (did I lose you here?). But none of those thoughts have anything to do with the truth. And the truth is that your girlfriends love you for who you are. Period.

ENVY is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness and self worth. Each of us has something to give that no one else has. ~Elizabeth O’Connor

By the way, a true friend would tell you that a hair do like this looks hideous.

Whatever the struggle, whatever the cause for disagreement (sounds nicer than argument, doesn’t it?), I can say this with the utmost sincerity, my girlfriends have their hearts in the right place and forgiveness, love and respect are not just empty words but values for them.

Are we hot or what?

While most of my leading ladies are part of my church family, I met other wonderful, honest, trustworthy, fun, inspiring, caring and smart women on my way. I believe that we need many ‘best’ friends, not just one: there are those who are best at encouraging, some are best at listening, some are best at giving spiritual advice, some better at giving mommy advice, there are friends who are the best at inspiring you. See, what I mean?

Image by Carina Olsen

I’ve recently stumbled across a blog post about Cotton Candy friends – a term associated with the Facebook generation where it’s ‘totally awesome’ to have, like, um, a thousand friends or so. Well, we know that the social network friend is not helping us flourish yet alone heal when we get hurt. We may know what they had for breakfast, what their favorite local bar is, and where they went on their honeymoon. But, we miss knowing what they are afraid of, why they worry at night, and if they are really happy right now.

Now, go ahead and call that girlfriend of yours, make time to meet up for a cup of coffee, put gift shopping aside if it leaves you less time to spend with friends, or write a quick note to one of your besties letting her know how much you love having her in your life. Add a genuine compliment and tell her what you love about her, and you may have just made a huge difference in somebody’s life. Who knows?!

Fasting Facebook

For the past ten days, I have been fasting social media. Yes, I have reached a point where refraining from checking in on FourSquare, tweeting my latest blog post, chatting with friends all over the world via Skype and, of course, knowing exactly what my friends are up to on Facebook, has become a major sacrifice. Pathetic, you say? Oh, come on, don’t judge.

Inspired by C3 San Francisco’s recent call to fast for ten days for spiritual growth, I decided to fast Facebook and other addictive social media sites. (Ironically, our pastor was sharing encouraging prayers and scriptures via Twitter and Facebook. Ha!) As you may know, pregnant women must not fast so I had to find a substitute that would equally ‘hurt’.

Well, let’s clarify: The intention of a spiritual fast done right is not to suffer or torture yourself. Spiritual fasting is not an obligation or religious ritual, to me it is like taking a break from the mundane and or from things we indulge in or take for granted too easily – whether that’s food, coffee, TV or candy. Spiritual fasting only makes sense if you fill that void (of whatever you’re fasting) with something meaningful. Like prayer. Or reading the word.

Instead of reading Facebook updates in the morning, I opened up my bible and read updates from God instead. (His wall posts are definitely more relevant and inspiring than anything you can find on Facebook.) Instead of chatting with family, I chatted with God. Instead of checking into venues on FourSquare, I checked into His presence.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27