Friendship through the Layers

Friendship through the Layers~ As each year wraps yet another layer over my past experiences, I’ve found myself wondering how new friends will ever know the true me without knowing all that lies beneath the surface.

My aunt likes to give gifts in the form of the “birthday ball.” She begins with a small gift and wraps it in crepe paper until it is completely covered. Then she adds another object and wraps that gift as well. She continues this process until the final object is about the size of a basketball, but conceals at least ten different gifts.

I am this birthday ball.  

My barefoot-in-the-backyard Florida childhood covered by my idealistic teen years, then by my baggy-clothes-no-makeup-wearing college self, then by my idealism-crushed early 20’s, then my living free in China self, then my married and fighting to be content in America self, and now my mother to teeny ones self.  

I have layers. You have layers. Our layers usually lie dormant and unseen, though our oldest friends know the former versions of ourselves.

So as each year wraps yet another layer over my past experiences, I’ve found myself wondering how new friends will ever know the true me without knowing all that lies beneath the surface.   

Last year our family moved cross country and I spent the first few months “picking up” women at the park or during library story hour. We visited nine different churches and at least five different small groups. Friendships, needless to say, have been slow in coming. I miss the ease of a friendly face who also knows my layers.

A wife and mother does not have the advantage of casually building relationships with women the way we did when we were single. Before I got married, I used to get so annoyed with the choppy conversations I’d have with moms while their children were around. Now that I have children of my own, I am still annoyed, but have realized that may be our only shot, so I’d rather feed my extrovert self with what little contact I can find than wait for perfect circumstances to connect.

During freshman year of college, I collected tons of friends, but most were of the “inch deep, mile wide” variety.  It was my first discovery that more does not always equal better when it comes to friendships.

Though written in 1955, Anne Morrow Lindbergh could have easily written the following in present day as she says, 

“For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals and so on. My mind reels with it. What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives” (p. 20, Gift from the Sea).    

And this was pre-Facebook, smartphone and internet!  The number of relationships we have can be overwhelming. Currently, I have 540 Facebook friends (my husband has twice that–but who’s counting?), and I’m also active on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Now that I’m blogging, I add a “friend” or follower almost daily to my “ever-widening circle of contact.”  Meanwhile, I’ve had a difficult time staying in contact with my life-long friends from the past and struggle with feeling guilt for what a bad friend I’ve become.

But last year an experience changed me.

Right before we moved to Colorado, I discovered that a friend I hadn’t seen since my wedding five years before was actually living in the city we were moving to and I didn’t even know it. I felt so ashamed that I had lost contact with her and fully expected her to treat me with coldness for being that friend who ditches all her friends just because she gets married.

I nervously dialed the phone to chat before our move. But instead of bitterness, this friend expressed only joy and excitement that we were going to live in the same place. Grace poured over me in that moment and washed me free of guilt. I was reminded that true friends understand, forgive and delight in the relationship.  

So now I’m giving myself grace.  I’m allowing myself to lower my expectations for how frequently I should be keeping in contact with old friends. We are all in the thick of it—marriage, children, careers, extended family, moves and callings. And my closest friends are unfazed by my lack of communication and truly understand.  

It’s been eleven months since we moved.  We finally found a church and are slowly beginning to feel at home. I’ve met a handful of women who I’ve connected with (in spite of them not knowing all my layers) and I’m trying to be intentional, but also to just be patient and relax. When I look back at who I now consider to be my closest friends, many of those relationships grew out of years of being together—and they weren’t always the ones I thought I would be close to at the time.  

As I’ve begun to add more women to my circle, I’m beginning to have hope and believe that “kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world” (Anne, from Anne of Green Gables).

Thank God for that.

So if you’re feeling lonely, remember that when it comes to friends, less is more.  Give yourself grace.  And be patient and relax, because the world has more kindred spirits than we know.

~~~~~~

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Friendship through the Layers~ As each year wraps yet another layer over my past experiences, I’ve found myself wondering how new friends will ever know the true me without knowing all that lies beneath the surface.

Friendship through the Layers~ As each year wraps yet another layer over my past experiences, I’ve found myself wondering how new friends will ever know the true me without knowing all that lies beneath the surface.

14 Replies to “Friendship through the Layers”

  1. I understand those disjointed conversations. I thought they would get better as my kids get older but so far it hasn't too much. I love thinking about the presents your aunt gives. Do you have any pictures?

    We are in our first year out of country and figuring out relationships has been complex to say the least. I love what you said about giving yourself grace!

    I have a friend who broke relationship with me about 16 years ago. about 4 years ago she stepped back into my life and it was so great to see what God had done. It was a tale of forgiveness and reconciliation. Don't shortchange yourself into thinking God can't do miracles!

  2. So they don't get better?? Maybe we're getting so reconditioned that we'll never be the same…But that's why I'm a fan of meeting friends WITHOUT kids if at all possible! And making friends when I came back from China was SUPER difficult (check out my 31 days series on re-entry for more than you wanted to know about what was going in my brain at that time). But that part does get easier over the years. And one thing I love about getting older is finally getting to see what happens in my life–like that relationship that you thought was lost that came back into your life. I love grace like that. Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your voice to the conversation!

  3. Oh, Leslie. This post is amazing. I especially needed your conclusion – "So if you're feeling lonely, remember that when it comes to friends, less is more. Give yourself grace. And be patient and relax, because the world has more kindred spirits than we know." Grace upon grace, friend. It's changing me today, and I need that.
    Love.

  4. I second Kimberly's words, it IS amazing, Leslie. "I was reminded that true friends understand, forgive and delight in the relationship." I really appreciate those words today as I struggle with guilt about friends that I WANT to stay in contact with, but haven't been able to as much as I'd like.

  5. I'm not sure why we spend so much time beating ourselves up when our good friends completely understand. I'm SO thankful for friends like the one I wrote about. It is so freeing to know that you are loved unconditionally.

  6. Wise words and grace is always the best option. Sometimes I forget that I am not always the easiest person to befriend, or they really can't read my mind. Now that I have 13 and 20 yo daughters, I get to see the same old issues played out again and again and all I want them to do is let go and love on others so that they can build a few of those enduring relationships. Mine didn't actually come till I was an adult, married and a mom, but they came and they are still my dearest friends.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Blessings,
    Dawn

  7. It will be interesting to have that kind of perspective when my children are older and going through relationship issues of their own. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  8. I love any discussion on friendship. I think to find true friendship, we must first look to Jesus. He is the only one that is capable of filling the void we often look for in friendship. It's not a one and done proces. It's continual. Friendship with Jesus is a lifelong, l layered, "birthday ball." I loved that. I'm so doing that. It reminds me of the "many small gifts in one very large wrapped box" gift.
    Visiting from LMMLinkup!
    Happy Tuesday!
    Megs

  9. Thank you for the post, Leslie. So true and not just for young mamas. I've added many, many more layers as an empty nester and still find your words to be true.

  10. I know, I'm so amazed to watch my mother, who just moved to a new state last year as well, STILL able to make new friends in spite of all her layers. It's encouraging. Maybe it gets easier once you get used to the fact that new friends won't know all your younger year shenanigans?

  11. What an encouragement! I ran across your post on Arabah Joy and I'm so glad I did. I grew up moving around the world, and being surrounded by others who moved often as well. That has left me with a multitude of friends I now keep in touch with via Facebook; but parenting, a divorce and another move (and now remarriage) have made it difficult for me to connect as deeply with people locally. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not alone in my struggle for deeper friendships! Yes, life definitely can get in the way sometimes. Have a wonderful day and God bless!

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