Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: friends (page 1 of 5)

Best Friends

I met my first best friend, Diane, on the first day of kindergarten. She rode with me on bus #5, and she sat with her big sister, Amy. In a foreshadowing of my future life, I sat down in the seat across the row and turned to them and asked their names. I promptly forgot the names, but I stuck with them when we got to the school, down the stairs and into the room on the left.

Later, probably not the next day, but in my mind it sticks together with the bus ride introduction, I sat by Diane as Mrs. Mouser reviewed addresses. She asked us each our zip code. We were both 43345 and we thought this was a sure sign we were destined to be BFF forever. (Nevermind you, the class was divided by town – all Ridgeway kids went in the AM, the Mt. Victory kids in the PM. Which means, every single kid in our class was a 43345. But, whatever man. Destiny.)

I managed to keep her around through my elementary years – even when the 80s fashions were at their height and I wore biker shorts under everything. We were equally book nerdish-enough to not apologize for spending the weekend reading The Babysitter’s Club newest release. We would regularly stay the night at one another’s house and staying at her house on a Saturday was a special big deal for me because that meant I went to church with her on Sunday. Though I often went with my mom to our own little country church, her church was something else. Their sanctuary! It was huge! I returned to that church years later, on Diane’s wedding day, to discover the room seemed so large because I was so small. As a 23-year-old, the sanctuary was quite ordinary.

Diane and I played in the band, rode bikes, and explored the outdoors. I helped her with her chores in the dairy barn. Her dad teased me about anything and remains one of the most hilarious people in my memory. I saw my first living being birthed in their barn – a small calf, which the mother had trouble delivering. John had to help pull it out. Diane’s mom asked questions about our days and our friends and when we were disappointed she would sympathize, saying, “aw, bummer!” She would serve us breakfast of fried doughnuts, made from those biscuits in a can, fried in a fry daddy and tossed in a bag of sugar, with a side of whole milk, straight from the cow. Or Tang.

In our teenage years, we parted ways. It was amicable, mostly a result of interests – I took readily to sports and cheerleading and she enjoyed band and music. We ended up in different classes, only seeing one another in Spanish or Advanced Math. She started dating her boyfriend-now-husband and I flitted around social circles as the seasons changed.

In my more typical teenage raucous years, as rumors piled up, Diane never treated me differently. I think it was one of those things where you love a person at a deeper level – not for how they act in a given day or year, but for the true nature of the person you know them to be. Maybe she did roll her eyes or shake her head – but I never knew. She treated me as a good friend would, and that’s what mattered to me.

A friend once told me Diane’s mom had called my mom with concern about my behavior. I have no idea if it was true or if my friend made it up. I didn’t respond with fear – I felt loved. Someone cared enough to ask. Someone cared enough to call. It was a brave thing that her mom did, if the tale is true. I hope I have that kind of bravery in my soul, that kind of love for another person’s child, to call up a fellow mom and say, “hey, is everything okay?”

JJ told me that a boy in H’s class referred to my son as “his best friend.” This is the first time in his nearly seven years of life that the title has been spoken. I’m thankful another person on this planet appreciates him, and even elevates him to a VIP level. The boys trade Lego love and he’s coming over to play this week. It’s a special time, probably more for me than even him. I’m anticipating many years of sleepovers and pizza nights and baseball games and lego-athons.

There are no guarantees that my kids will develop the kind of relationship that Diane and I shared, one that I revere still today. I realize kids tend to have hot-then-cold patterns to friends and things change over time. I feel it would be a tad bold to ask God to give each of my kids a Diane, though I would be thankful if He did. I do hope my kids each find families full of Bettingers. Good people who hold hands as they pray and work hard and ask us to each pitch in as we visit. People who make you feel loved and accepted and welcomed.

But I can’t control their friends, nor even their choice of friendships. I can’t dictate them to my choice of friends or families and it wouldn’t be fair of me to do so. What I can control is what I offer to the future BFF’s of my children. I can fry the (gf) doughnuts and offer to take them to church. I can listen to their stories from school and create space in my household where they feel safe and free and alive and loved. I can care enough to call in those troubling years – not judge or advise, but to listen and to be present.

I want them to have friendships filled with enjoyment and like interests and special secrets. I want to give them a place to keep that friendship safe, alive and even sacred.

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Hipsters, generosity, a movie spoiler, and the long road of faith

Warning: This post is the living room conversation that I know will never be, but wish it were. In my ideal world, we would sit in the living room while JJ popped popcorn, enjoy the show, and then discuss afterward. But my sense of reality seems to be growing in my old age, so we’ll settle for me giving some thoughts, you going an watching the movie, and then returning here to agree/disagree/share.

JJ came home the other night with a movie he “thought we’d both enjoy.” It included Ben Stiller, was called While You’re Young and had a sub-plot centered on getting older and having kids. What’s not to love?!

At :45 into the movie, we both hated it. It was slow, we got annoyed with characters, and our expectations were way off. This was not “Meet the Parents” Stiller. This was artsy Stiller (who, btw, shows the depth of his talent) but I was tired and unprepared for the mental work of a thinksy film. Also, there’s an entire scene full of puking and I hate vomit.

By the end, the film redeemed itself. The climax, truth-telling scene pushed me to the back of my seat in awe.

The storyline centered on a middle aged, childless couple who become friends with a young hipster couple in the wake of their best friendship being siderailed by a baby. The hipsters introduce them to other ways of living (“They make everything!” Stiller tries to explain to his SAHD friend) and become saturated with the idea of generosity.

The hipster dude is a budding filmmaker who seeks Stiller’s advice in making a documentary, and – in the spirit of generosity – Stiller helps him. He even offers resources. Along the way, Stiller’s father-in-law, a world renowned documentarian, also gets on board.

Then things get weird. (Enter: puking scene). Distrust for the hipster couple starts to grow. All of a sudden, we’re faced with the fact that not everything we know to be true about the hipster couple is, indeed, true. In fact, there are manipulations to the truth. When Stiller confronts the young filmmaker, he writes it off, appealing to the relativity of truth.

It turns out, the young hipster couple did not live a life of generosity because they believed in world made better by being generous. Generosity appealed to them because of the ways in which it made their life easier. They didn’t do the hard work of life and become generous with its fruits – they simply expected others to do so.

We see this in their approach to friendship. While they invested time into the Stiller couple, they did not do the hard work of honesty, vulnerability and truth-telling. They told the couple what the couple wanted to hear. They weren’t honest with their own beginnings and, in fact, entered into the relationship under false pretenses. But the older couple did do the work. They wrestled. They lost out on other friendships. They were vulnerable with the hipsters in sacred ways.

At the end of the movie, the hipster makes it big with his film. He edited the content in less than 24 hours and held a party/screening. Meanwhile, Stiller returns to sifting through his precious 6 hours of film, tasked with reducing it and maintaining the integrity of the story he wants to tell.

As a person who teeters between the two generations portrayed in the movie, I resonated with all characters at times and became struck with the honesty the movie laid out in front of us. (It was one of those movies that you think “ok, now I can go to bed” when it’s over, and then at 3am you wake up parsing through the subplots. You don’t do that? Oh, never mind. I don’t either.)

I personally spent the last few years intentionally trying to grow in the spirit of generosity. It resonates well with me. Truth-telling – another buzzword of the day – means something in my life. They are grounded in my understanding of God as the source of generosity and in our duty to reveal his nature.

This morning I read (from The Message translation) Matthew 7:13-14:

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.”

I couldn’t help but think of this young hipster couple and their approach to life. How simple it is to wave a flag of ideas like generosity and love and friendship without doing the hard work of weaving them into the fabric of our lives? This young couple wanted the world to live them out so that their own lives could be easier, not for the world to be better. In fact, I wonder if they believed that if their lives were easier than the world would be better. (Ironic, said by the woman who just whined and complained about school forms being an utter inconvenience, eh?)

Despite my highly aware eating habits, I’m not a hipster. I’m not cool. But I was born into an era of convenience – foods, entertainment, and lifestyles. The generation behind me has experienced it at a heightened level. With a change in pace comes effects on our life that I don’t believe have ever been calculated, and I believe they will hold great bearing on the way in which we practice our faith. I can identify and even sympathize with the challenges of accepting a faith that says it requires total attention and a lifetime of vigorous work. Who wants that? We want to do what we love and retire at 40. Following Jesus when it’s hard does not appeal. Loving people who don’t love us has little appeal when they’re mean. “Serving” becomes a noble concept, especially when we’re the ones served, but as another teacher once said, “We love the idea of being a servant until someone starts treating us like one.” Ouch.

At first I felt this movie played with the young generation’s approach and handling of the concept of truth. But for myself, it shed light into our human (not just youthful) propensity to gravitate toward what is easy over what is good. The bootstrap generations ahead of us might be shouting Amen behind me, but I’m not talking about the easy way of working hard for yourself and leaving the rest of the world to fend for itself.

Truly, this doesn’t come down to how many hours you spend at an office (or not) or if you expect people to make your life easy (or not). Life is much more than that. I believe that’s the idea behind Generosity, and more so, the Gospel. We give to the world not in relation with what we have but because we want the world to have it. Not because it’s owed to us.

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Balloon Heart

The past two nights I’ve retired to bed with my heart singing with joy. We enjoyed days at the lake with our friends who used to live down the street from us. We played on the boat and went to the beach and enjoyed delicious meals and swam and played cards and drank beer and laughed and told stories. Our biggest worry was if the toddler was too close to the water or if one of the girls had taken the other’s preferred life jacket. Life was easy and good.

Perhaps it’s age, or perhaps it’s my yoga practice, but I remained fully present to this joy the entire time we were together. I noticed in my mind I would say, “this is an amazing weekend” and “I think this will go down on my list of top favorite lake trips.” I was aware of the joy expanding my heart.

Photo Jul 26, 11 06 52 AM And then the dreaded time comes, as it does any time we go to the lake, that we all must go home. I could barely stand the goodbyes. I watched them hug my children and we made promises to see one another soon (and confirmed the date). But as they pulled away it felt like someone had taken my heart and stomped on it, leaving it completely deflated. The sadness I feel is even much greater than when we pulled away in the moving truck.

This probably has a lot to do with our friends being completely fantastic, for sure. And it also is likely related to missing the comforts of our old life amid the transition into a new community. And, it’s Sunday and I get weepy on Sunday.

I’m inclined to believe, however, that it has much more to do with the elasticity of the human heart. Only when it expands does it know how it feels to be empty. And, as it does when pumping blood throughout the body, as it does this more often and with more power, it actually grows stronger. Perhaps we get better at loving people by loving people. The more we do it, the better we get.

The downside to an ever-expanding heart is the process of deflation – the missing people, the sadness, the ache. By not filling your heart, you never realize the weight of its emptiness. Like a real balloon, our hearts become lighter as they expand.

In many ways it would be easier to deal with the rest of this day – the tired toddlers, the cleaning, the return home – if that dull ache of loving people could subside. I can be so much more operational when I’m not feeling all of the feels. But today I have a bit of gratitude for my current deflated state. I’m taking it as a sign that I’m loving well. I’m going to choose not to numb the sad because I want to be able to experience the sense of joy that precedes it.

May we love well. May we feel the sad as and indicator of the joy that led the way.

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