Translator

Anyone who has kids knows what it’s like to be a translator. Kids learn to speak slowly, starting with a few jabbered syllables. Then they add in a word or two, accompanied by gestures that are also hard to understand because their motor skills are still developing as well. When kids start using sentences, they’re partly real words, and partly nonsense syllables. It’s can be hard to understand kids.

I have a very talkative son. He talked late, but now he talks continuously. He talks to us, to his little brother, to grandparents on the phone or on video calls. He chats with the neighbours out his bedroom window when he supposed to be having quiet time. He talks to the cashier at the Burger King drive thru. He never stops talking.

He’s still a little hard to understand at times. He has trouble with a few letters, like s and f. Sometimes I have to translate for him. One of our neighbours in particular has trouble understanding him. Our neighbour says he, “Doesn’t understand toddler.” Whenever we run across people who don’t “speak toddler”, they look to me to translate.

I know what my son is saying most of the time. I spend all day, every day, with him. I know the words he uses, and the gestures he uses. I know the shows he’s watched, and the lessons he’s had this week. I know what’s been on his mind, and what he’s been talking about all day. I know his go-to topics. I know his favourites. I know what’s been bothering him. I know my son. I know what he’s saying because I know his heart.

Sometimes when I pray, especially during the past couple of years, I feel like a toddler. I don’t know what to say, or what words to use to express the things I’m thinking and feeling. I stumble through half-finished pleas and end up repeating the same things over and over, not sure what I want to say next. It’s been a hard year to pray. There’s so much turmoil in the world right now, and it’s way over my head to even figure out what direction we should be heading in. There are times I just sit there and think about all the things I need to pray about, and hope God gets the general idea.

I need a prayer translator. Someone who knows what’s been on my mind, and the issues I’ve been struggling with. I need someone who knows the articles and social media posts that haunt me. I need someone who knows what I lie awake at night worrying about. I need someone who knows what I’m trying to plan for the future. I need someone who knows what I’m hoping for. I need someone who knows what I’ve missed in the past year, and what I’m looking forward to when we finally get out of lockdown. I need someone who knows how hard it’s been helping my children through this past year, and someone who knows where I’m succeeding and where I’m failing as a parent. I need a mom-like translator.

When it comes to prayer, I have one. Romans 8 26-27 says, “In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (HCSB)

God’s Spirit lives in believers: guiding us, reminding us of God’s word, reminding us of our relationship with God, and helping us pray when we can’t get the words out. He knows what’s been going on in my life. He knows what’s been going on in my head. He knows me. He knows my heart. He “speaks toddler”, and can help me express myself when I can’t do it alone. God’s Spirit prays with me, because He knows what I mean. I can look to Him for help, just like my son looks to me for help if he’s struggling to communicate.

I find it comforting that God always knows what I mean, even if the best prayer I can manage doesn’t involve anything profound – or even anything comprehensible. It’s good to know that I can sit there, just mulling over all the things I need to bring to God, and let Him sort through it. It’s comforting to know that He’s not confused by my inability to express what’s on my heart. He still knows exactly what I’m feeling. I have Someone who can translate my heart into prayer, and that’s such an amazing gift.

My Water Bottle

I drank water from a mug today. That may be the most mundane statement ever written, but it was a big part of fulfilling my new year’s resolution. I have a problem staying hydrated. Water just doesn’t taste very good. Coffee tastes good. Hot chocolate tastes good. A hot cup of tea is a comfort. A glass of juice is a welcome energy boost first thing in the morning. Water? Boring. Tillsonburg water? A little on the yucky side.

I’ve always had a problem drinking as much water as I should, but late last year it was getting really bad. I was almost exclusively drinking tea and coffee, which is not the healthiest thing, even if it was decaf. Tea is acidic, which is not great for the teeth. I’ve heard tea and coffee are not as hydrating as water, and it’s definitely not as refreshing. I decided I was going to drink less tea, and more water. I drank less tea. I forgot to replace it with water. I was going all day on one cup of tea and one cup of coffee, and that was not nearly enough.

One of my new year’s resolutions was to drink more water. I started by finding and washing my old water bottle. It is exactly the right size for a packet of Crystal Light. It tastes like juice, but it’s water. I started drinking one of those every day. Then I made sure to have my water bottle full and within reach at all times.

I got into a habit of drinking what seemed like ridiculous amounts of water. Then I started to run out of Crystal Light. I fought the urge to buy more, and started drinking more unflavoured water. It wasn’t as yummy, but by now it was habit to reach for the water bottle. Today, my water bottle was in the sink. I hadn’t got around to washing it. I was thirsty. I had my tea mug sitting nearby, so I filled that with water. It was an odd feeling. I’m not used to drinking water from anything but my water bottle lately. It was a big moment of progress for me.

It took 18 days to get from hardly drinking water at all, to drinking water even when I don’t have my handy dandy water bottle available.

I’ve learned some things about forming habits as I’ve worked at keeping my new year’s resolution. I learned that habits take time and effort. I had a problem remembering to drink more water, so I found something I could carry with me all around the house. I found a way to make water taste better until I got used to drinking it again. Then, when the habit was starting to take hold, I had to dig in and make sure I didn’t get lazy. When the water bottle was not available, I found a mug to carry around the house with me.

I have other bad habits in my life that I need to work on, but it’s encouraging to make real progress on one that’s very simple, yet very important. It’s a good place to start, because not only does it make my life better, it lets me look at my process for implementing a good habit, so I can learn lessons and use them to form other good habits as well.

Loved Enough

I doubt I am the only Christian out there who often feels that I am not good enough. Everyone has bad days, rough weeks, and long seasons of struggling where we are worn down, frustrated, emotionally and spiritually drained, and unable to keep ourselves in check.

Sometimes when life is just too hard, we lose our tempers and yell at our kids, spouses, coworkers, or the cashier at the grocery store. Or maybe we see someone in need and think, “I don’t like you, and I don’t have what it takes to show you God’s love right now” and we walk away from someone we should have helped. Or maybe we refuse to reconcile with someone over something petty because we can’t muster the humility to apologize, or the grace to forgive.

We all have our weaknesses – areas where we struggle to be Christ-like. I have a tendency to get upset over little things. Sometimes I recognize this, pray through it, and try to show Christ’s love to the person who just cut in front of me in line, or blamed me for someone else’s mistake, or yelled at me because I was standing in their way. Sometimes I react badly – with sarcasm, or muttered insults, or an angry attitude.

When I let my faults get the best of me, I get upset about it. I beat myself up for not being gracious enough, humble enough, kind enough, gentle enough, forgiving enough, peaceful enough. At times I feel like I’m just not good enough – as a Christian or as a person.

I will never be good enough. That’s an impossible goal. I will never be perfect, and I will keep making mistakes, and wrong choices. Hopefully, by the grace of God, I will make fewer of those mistakes and wrong choices as I mature in Christ, and as a person. But I know I will never be perfect.

I know I’m not alone in lamenting my own failings. The apostle Paul (who travelled the world to spread the love of Christ, and who faced hardships and persecution for his faith) lamented his shortcomings as well. He wrote, “For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.” Romans 7:15 (HCSB) Paul met Jesus in person on the road to Damascus, spent the rest of his life preaching and church planting, and wrote roughly half of the New Testament. Still, he had bad days where his faults got the best of him. Even the best of us aren’t good enough to keep ourselves from falling into those same patterns of bad behaviour.

The beauty of Christianity is that it teaches us that we don’t have to be good enough. Our salvation, our self-worth, our place in the church, our relationship with God – none of those are based on us being good enough. What determines our salvation, our worth, our right to belong, and our ability to know God? God’s love.

We aren’t saved by the number of times we avoid temptation. We aren’t saved by the number of times we act the best way we know how. God doesn’t keep a list of our good points and our bad points, waiting to see which will outweigh the other. God knows we’d never be good enough. Instead, God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins, because he loved us enough to go to extraordinary lengths to restore a relationship with us.

When I start feeling like a total failure as a person and as a Christian, I have to remember that it was never about how good I am. It was never about how much progress I’ve made – or lost – along the way. It was never about the list of good things I’ve done that I can present in my defence when my conscience nags at me. God knew who I’d be long before I was born. He knew all my failings long before I started making mistakes. Yet, he loved me. That love is enough to wash away my failures, my mistakes, and my bad attitude, my bad days, my rough weeks, and my seasons of struggle. I will mess up, and I will feel guilty, and I will feel that I’m not good enough. But God will always pick me up, brush me off and say, “I love you anyway. Let’s try again.”

Can I be good enough to earn another chance after another mistake? No. But I’m loved enough to be forgiven. Can I be good enough to belong to God’s family? No. But I’m loved enough to be welcomed. Can I be good enough to feel like I’m worth Christ’s sacrifice? No. But I’m loved enough to be worth it to him.

I can safely say I’ll never feel like I’m good enough. Even the apostle Paul – again, the guy who wrote a significant chunk of the Bible – didn’t feel like he was good enough. But, praise the lord, I don’t have to be good enough. I’m loved enough. And that’s enough.

Spoilers

We recently watched the classic Christmas movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) with our four year old son. Part way through, he asked us to turn it off. The abominable snowman was too scary for him. I don’t know why they put the large, angry snow monster into the middle of the Rudolph story. It’s a story about an outcast reindeer who finds friends when he… proves useful. Great moral there. Anyway, the movie I grew up with decided to add an outcast elf who wants to be a dentist, an outcast toy bird that swims, and a prospector who fights off the scariest snowman ever to be in a Christmas movie. It is a weird movie. And, apparently, a terrifying one.

We decided not to turn off the movie, but we did spoil the ending. “Don’t worry,” we told him. “Santa and Rudolph and Yukon Cornelius will save the day. The scary snowman won’t hurt them. They’ll be okay.” We made it through the movie, though our son did need to come snuggle with the grownups during the scary parts.

It’s usually not nice to spoil the ending, but when your young son is afraid of the ‘scary snowman’, you spoil it to be kind. He’d never have gotten through the movie if he hadn’t had confidence that the ‘scary snowman’ wasn’t going to hurt Rudolph.

It’s New Year’s Eve. I’m a little nervous heading into a new year. Anyone care to spoil it for me? I remember talking with my dad early in 2020 about how 2019 had been a ridiculously hard year, and I was really hoping for an easier year so we could recover a little bit. Then we hit the third day or so of 2020, and that hope went out the window. I’m looking back on 2020 thinking it was a ridiculously hard year, and I’m hoping 2021 will be an easier year so we can recover a little bit. But we’re starting the year in lockdown. That’s not a great beginning.

I really wish there was a spoiler guide out for 2021. I could check if it has a happy ending. I could see if things get better. I could brace myself if it’s another hard one. But there’s not a spoiler guide out for 2021. I have to live it day by and day and see where it goes.

There is a spoiler guide to life, though. I’ve read that one. When Jesus is talking to the disciples about His upcoming betrayal and death, He spoils the ending so they don’t have to be afraid. He tells them He’ll be gone for a while, but He also says, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am, you may be also.” John 14:2-3 (HCSB)

Jesus told His disciples that while things were going to get scary, things were also going to get better. At the end, Jesus saves the day. He’s coming back. When He does, His followers will get to live happily in a place that Jesus personally prepared for them. The disciples had to live through some rough days: the death of Jesus, persecution, infighting in the early church. How did they get through it? Spoilers.

Spoilers can be reassuring for a young boy watching a scary movie. If you know that Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, and Santa save the day, it’s easier to get through the movie.

Spoilers in real life can be reassuring, too. If you trust in Jesus, you can know that He’s coming back, and He’ll prepare a good place for you. That helps when you have a couple of bad years in a row. I don’t know if 2021 will be better, but I hope so. Either way, I can get through it the same way I got through the last two years – trusting that God holds the future, and He’s already given us the spoilers.

2020 Christmas Post (Emmanuel)

It’s time for my annual Christmas post. It’s been hard to write one this year. It’s been a sucky year. Christmas is supposed to be a bright light at the end of the year, full of hope and joy and peace and love. Instead, it’s the last day before we head back into lockdown for at least 28 days, and many of us will be spending the holiday away from family, without the celebratory parties, dinners and religious services we’re used to.

Our family has more decorations around the apartment than usual this year, but it’s a struggle to keep hold of that holiday spirit. I want to see family. I want the big church Christmas dinner. I want to take my kids to the mall to look at all the Christmas trees. I even miss feeling bad for having to turn down invitations because we have so many places to be during the holidays.

Maybe part of the lack of spirit around here is my fault. I’ve felt isolated, and sad, and frustrated, and so I haven’t put as much effort into the holiday as usual. Some of the usual things I can’t do because of covid restrictions, but I could have sent out Christmas cards. I could have baked sugar cookies. I could have watched more Christmas movies. I just didn’t feel like it this year.

I’ve even been getting upset at silly things. Like, why are there no shepherds in my sons’ Nativity scene? The angels appeared and the shepherds went to find the baby. Shepherds are supposed to be there. Their Nativity set has the three wise men, but we aren’t even sure when they came to visit Jesus. Some say it was right after he was born, but other guesses put it closer to two years later.

Why two years later? When the wise men came searching for baby Jesus, they asked King Herod if he knew where Jesus was. Herod did not, and he felt his political power was being threatened by the new king being sought by these foreign visitors. After the wise men found Jesus, an angel warned them not to tell Herod where to find Jesus. When Herod realized the wise men were not coming back, he used the information about the Christmas star that the wise men had given him, and he had all the baby boys – aged two years old or younger – killed to make sure this new baby king didn’t survive. Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt.

That’s a horrific tragedy we often neglect to talk about around Christmas. Of course, if it was two years later, then it doesn’t really fit into the Christmas Day story. But then the wise men also don’t fit in the Nativity scene.

But, that part of the story has more of a 2020 feel to it than the part about the rejoicing angels proclaiming peace. In this part of the Christmas story we see: political power grabs, oppression, untrustworthy and greedy leaders, the unexpected loss of an entire age group, political refugees unable to go home, separation from friends and family…yep, that feels more like this year.

It’s common to lash out when the world becomes a horrible or tragic place. We lash out at each other for not understanding our problems, at ourselves for not being able to fix our own problems, or even at God for letting awful things happen in the first place. Why does God let bad things happen? I don’t know. I can’t explain why God decided to let us have the ability to make our own choices – even terrible ones. Sometimes I wish God would intervene, or at least call a time out to show us potential consequences of our actions so we could reconsider before we went right off the rails.

It’s also common to ask where God is when things are awful. That one I can answer, at least a little bit. When an angel told Joseph who Mary’s son was going to be, he used the name Emmanuel, which means God is with us. Where is God when awful things happen? God is with us. God is angered by power-hungry and greedy leaders. God is living with the oppressed. God is fleeing with the refugees. God is mourning for the lost. God is waiting to gather his people together. God is with us through the worst the world has to offer. In Jesus, he quite literally lived through those things alongside humanity.

This has been a hard year full of tragedy, frustration, anger, anxiety, confusion, isolation, separation, and fighting. It’s been a hard year to find some Christmas spirit. It’s been a hard year to hold onto the things Christmas usually stands for: faith, hope, love, fulfilled promises, family, opening our homes and hearts to others, peace and forgiveness. But I can hold onto one thing: God is with us.

I don’t know how long it will be until things in the world calm down a little. I don’t know how long it will be before I get my Christmas spirit back. I don’t know how long it will be until I stop feeling lonely and anxious and frustrated. But I know God is right here, suffering through the bad with me, being my shoulder to cry on, and promising that better days are coming: in this life or after this life. With God, there is always hope, always a way forward. And that is something to hang onto during a year where everything else feels awful.

The Appearance of Evil, and the Benefit of the Doubt

I remember when I was first introduced to Dad’s root beer. It is a great tasting root beer, and it comes in a glass bottle. I think it was the first beverage I ever drank out of a glass bottle. It was fun to feel like an adult, having my root beer in a breakable bottle.

It was also the first time someone introduced me to label-peeling. If you peel the label off of a bottle of Dad’s root beer, it looks like it could be a real beer bottle. I was too young to really know what beer was. It was a thing some grownups drank. I copied my older, more sophisticated friend and peeled off the label, pretending I was so grown up.

A nearby adult cautioned us against playing pretend too much. We wouldn’t want any passersby to think two underage kids were actually drinking beer. I think I was too young to understand why that would be a problem. Now it makes sense. It would be an accusation that was easy to refute. Dad’s root beer certainly doesn’t smell or taste like real beer, and we were clearly sober. But still, some people do assume the worst and cause a ruckus – especially if you’ve purposely made the circumstances look like something they’re not.

There’s a Bible verse I’ve often heard quoted that applies to this memory. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 “Abstain from all appearance of evil (KJV).” Underage drinking would have been unlawful, and if our label-free bottles had attracted notice, it would have been right for someone to correct our behaviour. But there are times when people are far too quick to judge appearances. There is a difference between appearing to be engaged in incorrect behaviour, and being accused of being engaged in incorrect behaviour. If I’m doing nothing wrong, but someone gets the wrong idea anyway, am I at fault?

I worked at a campground for several summers. I lived in a trailer at the campground for the whole summer. It was exhausting work, and I remember one particular time I fell asleep without getting ready for bed, with the lights still on. I was approached by a woman the next morning, who mentioned she had seen my lights on.

“Yes,” I said, “I fell asleep with the lights on.”

“I was up walking my dog, and I saw them still on,” she said, in an accusatory tone.

“Yes, I was tired. I fell asleep with my lights on,” I repeated, not sure what she was implying.

“You can’t hide anything here. There’s always someone around. I saw your lights on,” she said.

I’m still not sure what she thought I was doing. I wasn’t doing anything wrong by sleeping. I wasn’t doing anything wrong by leaving a light on. Still, someone got the wrong impression. Did I fail in my attempt to avoid the appearance of evil? No, I did not. Is it possible to live a life so perfect that you can completely avoid being accused of wrongdoing? No, I don’t think it’s possible.

You can be as careful as you want to live a life so perfect it’s beyond reproach, but there’s always someone who will insist on seeing faults everywhere they look. Even Jesus had to deal with this sort of thing. He was perfect, sinless, entirely moral, and yet there were people who imagined they saw faults. We see this in Luke 7:33-34 when Jesus noted that the Pharisees insisted on finding fault with his cousin, John the Baptist (known for living in the desert and eating honey and locusts) and with himself (known for dining with the people who needed him most). “For John the Baptist did not come eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

Even Jesus, perfect as he was, was accused of partying too hard. Imagine if he’d left his lights on! I joke, but seriously, how can we avoid even the appearance of evil? In some people’s eyes, we can’t. Some people see scandal everywhere, and that’s not up to us to change.

There are other translations of the Bible that have different wording for 1 Thessalonians 5:22. Some say to avoid all kinds of evil, instead of saying to avoid the appearance of evil, like the NASB, NLT and NIV. It’s still probably a bad idea to peel your labels so you look like a grownup when you’re underage. That one was my fault. Is it my fault if I’m accused of misbehaviour while I’m sleeping? Not so much.

I think the thing that frustrates me most about this is that I can’t fix it. I can’t fix my life so that every detail avoids even the appearance of evil, if the evil is a figment of someone else’s imagination. So what do I do with this frustration? Turn it into something constructive. I can’t control the imaginations of others, but I can control my own.

Philippians 4:8 (HCSB) says, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise – dwell on these things.” I can’t control what others choose to think of me, but I can choose to give others the benefit of the doubt. If I’m really worried about the behaviour of someone I know, it’s not wrong to talk to them about it. But if they tell me they fell asleep with the lights on, I have no reason to call them a liar. If I’m thinking about what’s true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, morally excellent or praiseworthy, I’m not thinking of all the scandalous things they could have been doing.

It’s good to keep 1 Thessalonians 5:22 in mind, whichever translation you use. Avoiding evil is good. Avoiding the appearance of evil – even if evil seems cooler – is good. But if that’s not enough, if someone still makes an accusation despite your best efforts to be and to look moral, all you can really do is forgive them, and try not to do the same to others.

I Need to Learn to Limit My Intake – A Villanelle for 2020

I need to learn to limit my intake.
Tomorrow is the day I stop the binge,
So a new resolution I will make.

To deal with stress I eat way too  much cake,
And when I use the scale I frown and cringe.
I need to learn to limit my intake.

I need something to do besides just bake.
To stuff my face full leaves a guilty twinge,
So a new resolution I will make.

A quest for answers I will undertake:
Can we fit answers into a syringe?
I need to learn to limit my intake.

The politics make science seem opaque.
I read too  much, then I become unhinged,
So a new resolution I will make.

It's time to find a different path to take - 
To back away from fire or be singed.
I need to learn to limit my intake,
So a new resolution I will make.

Yet

The word “yet” is an amazing little word. Few words can pack such huge potential into so few letters. “Yet” gives a whole new meaning to a statement. Let me show you what I mean. “I haven’t killed anyone” is a good thing to say. “I haven’t killed anyone yet” makes people a little nervous.

The word “yet” adds so much potential to a statement. We can use it to imply a whole different world is possible. If given the writing prompt “I haven’t proposed” I would write a sad story. A man sitting in a cafe with a friend, ring box in hand, heart broken. Why hasn’t he proposed? Maybe she left him. Maybe she’s dying. Maybe he was never sure he loved her. If given the writing prompt “I haven’t proposed yet” a completely different world opens up. A man sitting in a cafe with a friend, ring box in hand, eyes sparkling with excitement. Why hasn’t he proposed yet? Maybe he’s waiting for the perfect romantic moment. Maybe she’s on her way home from a trip abroad. Maybe he’s just realized he can see himself spending the rest of his life with her. The word “yet” changes the scene dramatically for me.

Yet is a word that creates room for changing expectations. It’s a word that allows for hope. It’s a word that allows for improvement. I need the word yet. I have many, many frustrated thoughts in a day. They are statements of failure, and of regret. They make me depressed, disappointed, and anxious, yet I have found a way to combat those thoughts. I allow myself to add “yet”.

I’m not the mom I want to be…yet. I’m not the author I want to be…yet. I can’t get things around here organized…yet. I can’t find the purple sippy cup…yet. I haven’t been successful at trying to lose weight…yet. I can’t get the kids into a routine we’re all happy with…yet. I haven’t figured out how to make meal planning easier…yet. My kids don’t like vegetables…yet. I haven’t caught up on my reading…yet.

Yet can be either an adverb or a conjunction. As an adverb, it qualifies a sentence. It tells you how things stand, but not where things are going. It gives potential for a turn in events. Things aren’t what I want them to be yet. As an adverb, it allows for imagination.

As a conjunction, “yet” gives life to that potential turn in events. “I’m not the mom I want to be, yet I’m far better as a mom than I was four years ago, and I will keep improving as I gain experience.” The word yet allows for growth over time.

“I’m not the author I want to be, yet I know that what I have accomplished so far is worthwhile.” The word yet allows for the appreciation of smaller milestones.

“I can’t get things around here organized, yet I still believe it can be done, and I continue to look for better solutions.” The word yet allows for hope and innovation.

The word yet can take a statement from set-in-stone to ready-for-change. It can also move a statement from ready-for-change to already-changing. When I’m feeling negative, I’ve learned to start adding “yet” to my thoughts to remind myself that though I may be unhappy with something at the moment, this moment – and the negativity it holds for me – is not permanent.

“Yet” is an amazing word, yet it is not given nearly the recognition it deserves. I don’t use it as much as I should yet. But I am learning that adding “yet” to my regular vocabulary can make all the difference in my perspective, and my attitude.

Why I Don’t Purge My Facebook Friends List

Today I checked how many friends I have on Facebook: 170. I was surprised to see I had that many friends. Do I even know that many people? Actually, no.

I scrolled all the way through my contacts list, and there are people I can’t place. Former classmates? Former coworkers? Some person I met somewhere once, who added me just because they like adding people? I really don’t know.

There are other people on my list who I do remember, but whom I have not talked to – in person or through Facebook – in years.

A number of times I as I scrolled through my friends I caught myself thinking, “Wait, I have you on Facebook? How did I not remember that? I don’t ever remember seeing anything you’ve posted.”

If I can’t remember who someone is, or if we haven’t talked in more years than I can count on my fingers, some might think it’s time to purge the Facebook friends list. I’ve seen other people do it. Occasionally I see friends post something like, “Purging my contacts! Post if you want to stay friends!” I’ve thought about doing the same, but there are reasons I’ve never done it.

  1. There are people who I’m not close to anymore, but I still want to keep tabs on them. I like to know if my friends are having kids, getting married, changing jobs, still alive… I may not talk to you every decade, but I like to know you’re still around, because you make the world a better place.
  2. I’ve been unfriended before, and it hurts to be on the receiving end of a severed relationship, particularly when it’s unexpected. I remember one time when I was looking at the friendship suggestions Facebook had to offer. I saw one of my friends in my friend suggestions. I thought, “That’s weird. Did Facebook glitch? Oh, I see what happened there. They dumped me as a friend. Thanks for pointing that out, Facebook.” That kinda sucked. I’d hate to do that someone else.
  3. Sometimes the people who I can’t place, or who I haven’t talked to in years, post on my wall. I read their comments, check their profile, look at our mutual friends, shrug and think, “Thanks for the positive feedback, kind stranger!” I may not have any idea who they are, or why they decided to pop back into my life right now, but it’s nice. And I’m sure I’ve been that person to others as well. Sometimes I find high school friends I haven’t talked to in forever and check out what they’re posting. If it’s cool, I “like” it or comment. I’m sure they’re thinking, “Oh, we’re still friends? It’s been 13 years since we’ve talked, but cool.”

Sometimes I think I should purge my Facebook friends to a more realistic number. There are not 170 people I talk to on a regular basis. But keeping people on my friends list isn’t hurting me. It’s barely effecting me. All it does is allow people I’ve already vetted to see what I post. And I like to leave those bridges intact, just in case either of us wants to cross over again.

Intentional Friendships

I left the workforce last week. As I was thinking about the ways this will change my life, I realized that I won’t be required to spend time with specific people for eight hours a day, a couple of times a week. I have no obligation to leave the house and be within conversation range of other adults for any amount of time. If I want maintain friendships with the people I’ve come to know over the last eight years of my life, I’ll have to do it on purpose.

Workplace friendships aren’t like other friendships. At work, you see people at their best and worst, their most genuine and most fake, their most stressed and most exhausted. You see all these sides of a person and you stick with them anyway. You support each other, no matter what. Because you have to.

As I was thinking about how some of my friendships with coworkers will largely take place over Facebook and text messages in the future, I realized that this is currently true of most of my friendships. Between childhood friends moving away, college friends moving away, and adulthood friends being stuck in a never-ending lockdown, I don’t really see anyone in person anymore. I’m finding myself having to work to maintain friendships.

That’s always true of some friendships. Some friends live far away, and it’s always an intentional effort to stay in touch. Some friends live nearby, and in a normal year, I let things slide a bit because I know I’ll see them around soon enough. Work friendships largely take care of themselves, as we’re going to be in the same place, at the same, multiple days a week, until one of us quits: We couldn’t drift apart if we tried.

Now, with my exit from the workforce, and with the province enforcing social distancing, all of my friendships will have to be intentional. Ugh, effort.

I’m an introvert. Going out of my way to interact with people goes against my nature. But I will fight my nature on this one. Friendships are important. We need friends. We need people with whom we can laugh, cry, face challenges, recover from hardships, and work through our thoughts and feelings.

I’m not great at intentionally maintaining friendships, but this is a skill at which I will try to improve. This year of social distancing, and quitting my job, has really helped me cherish my friendships, and has enforced the need to make time for ‘scheduled maintenance’ when it comes to friendships. Sometimes friendships start easily. Sometimes they can coast for quite a while. But if a friendship is going to last, it needs intentional effort.