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Dear Hypothetical Nonexistent Future Husband,

My friendships aren’t training me to be your wife.

Love,

Cherilyn


I saw a blog post on a Christian site about things you can do today for your future spouse. Being someone who hopes to have a hypothetical nonexistent future spouse, I read it. Read is probably the wrong word. I skimmed it, reading certain sections if they stuck out to me. I nodded my assent at things like making wise financial decisions, making health a priority, working hard, sharpening your mind, etc., even though you should do all of that anyway to be a well-rounded human being, with or without a spouse.

But then I got to one that I couldn’t just let go of so easily: cultivate community. I read eagerly, hoping to see something like, “Your spouse shouldn’t be the only person you rely on because he or she is a human too. Having deep, meaningful friendships outside of your marriage allows you to not become dependent on one person and reminds you that we are the body of Christ and we are not all the same.” Or something like that. Instead I read this: view your close friendships as practice for marriage (paraphrased).

My friendships throughout the course of my life have taught me much about relating to others. I have learned how to love unconditionally and without an agenda. I have learned to serve, even when I would rather selfishly whine. I have learned how to forgive and let go of little and big things, even though it’s not very pleasant and I still struggle with it. I have been encouraged and have learned how to better encourage the people I care about. I have learned what quality time is and how to fight for it with the people that matter most. My closest friendships have taught me what it means to be fiercely devoted to other people, to a degree that most of them don’t realize.

But they’re not practice for the “real thing.” They’re not training wheels that you take off once you figure out how to be a good spouse and get married. And they are certainly not placeholders for your spouse. They are friendships, a fundamental part of the human existence, whether you are single, married, widowed, divorced. Whether you are a child, a teenager, a twenty-something, middle-aged, or an octagenarian.

Sure, friendship should teach you how to be a better spouse. But only in that every relationship you have should be teaching you how to be more Christ-like, which is something you should be doing anyway. So here it is: cultivate community to become more Christ-like, whether or not that will benefit your hypothetical future marriage. Cultivate community and friendships because your spouse shouldn’t be the only person upon whom you rely. He or she is a human too. As a matter of fact, not to get too spiritual or anything, you should be depending on Christ, not people. (But I get it, friends are pretty great.) Cultivate deep, meaningful friendships outside of your marriage so you don’t become unhealthily dependent on one person. We are the body of Christ, each of us as individuals make up the body of Christ. Not as a couple. As a person.

Don’t spend your life practicing or training to be a good spouse. Spend your life being a good friend and becoming more Christ-like.

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Reasons My Cat is Meowing

I love my cat, as I’m sure you know. He’s a goofball. He purrs super-loudly. There are mornings that he’s so cute I find myself rushing to get out the door because I get distracted petting him. But he has his quirks that can be annoying. For example, he meows. A lot. Basically, whenever he’s not sleeping. These are just some of the reasons, in no particular order, that he is meowing.

IMG_5450

  1. There’s a door closed somewhere in the house. He’s sure something cool is on the other side.
  2. He forgot that it’s -15F and he thinks he needs to go outside. When I open the door, he sniffs at the air then turns around.
  3. He wanted a piece of my apple but he doesn’t like apples and thinks I should give him something else to eat instead.
  4. The bathtub doesn’t have any leftover water he can drink. Also, his water dish is too full.
  5. His sister is laying somewhere where he wanted to walk. (To be fair, she does hiss whenever anyone walks by…)
  6. I’m in another room and he thinks I’ve abandoned him. He doesn’t want me to pet him or look at him. He just wants to be adored from a few feet away.
  7. I decided to talk on the phone within 6 feet of him and my voice is too loud.
  8. I won’t let him have the milk left in my cereal bowl.
  9. He thinks he heard a can opener. 20 miles away. I’m supposed to give him tuna now…
  10. I made him move off my pillow so I could go to sleep.
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I’m _______________’s Best Friend

Confession: I play Trivia Crack. I happen to have retained a lot of obscure knowledge from various sources, not the least of which is my participation in Scholastic Challenge in high school. (Yes, it IS as nerdy as it sounds!) I actually started playing Trivia Crack at the behest of my friend’s ten year old daughter. And then, as the name implies, I became pretty addicted. I have approximately 17 ongoing games with various people. Sports is my worst category. (Shocking.) And I will basically play anyone who asks.

trivia-crack-wallpaper

A notification popped up the other day, indicating that I had a “in-game” message from someone. I had recently been ranting about the spam messages I’d been receiving and half expected it to be yet another game cheat message I would have to delete. When I looked at the user name, I knew instantly who it was. It was the friend of my friend’s ten year old daughter. The message read as follows (names changed, of course. No one has a single letter for their name. That would be ridiculous): Hi Cherilyn this is L’s best friend G. I do soccer with her 🙂 !!!

I said hi and stuff and she asked if I wanted to play Trivia Crack with her. I said sure, of course. I always feel bad though, playing with kids. Sure, a lot of the questions are easy enough that they can get them but still. I try not to beat them too badly and I hope for a lot of obscure sports questions so that I’ll miss more. But I digress. This post is not about my philosophy of playing games with my friends’ children and their friends.

“Hi Cherilyn this is L’s best friend G. I do soccer with her 🙂 !!!”

That introduction of herself made me smile. And the more I thought about it, the more I smiled. I didn’t really know if they’re best friends but L’s mother verified that that terminology would be fitting.

I’ve introduced myself in a lot of different ways. “Hi, I’m Cherilyn, David and Charlene’s daughter.” “Hi, I’m Cherilyn. I’m Charanna’s sister.” “Hi, I’m Cherilyn. I’m Margie’s (Bruce’s, Laurie’s, Brody’s, Leslie’s, Hope’s, Casie’s, Rachel’s, Christen’s) friend.” “I’m Cherilyn Wise. I work with the after-school program.” “I’m Cherilyn, I used to work in the dining hall. I’m sorry for your loss.” (That last one was recent, and basically really awkward because I’d actually met the individual before but assumed I wasn’t memorable enough.)

Again, I’ve digressed. But isn’t that a great way of introducing yourself? Not just friend, but best friend. What confidence in their friendship that shows! I’ve had some very good friends from middle school on. I’ve called many of them “best” friends. For the most part, they were best friends. But things change over time and now they’re not. But the surety G has in the friendship she shares with L was impressive. Since college, I haven’t had that kind of confidence in my friendships. I worry that people pretend to like me and that one day they’ll wake up and decide to stop being my friend. (Before you start professing your love and friendship, stop. I won’t believe you anyway. But it’s ok. It’s my problem and I’m working on it.)

The nature of friendship has been on my mind lately, for a lot of reasons: some books I’m reading, Valentine’s Day and its impending focus on love and relationships, and generally just being stuck in my own head. And possibly a short essay I helped L write during the best snow day I’ve ever had.

What is a friend? What is a best friend? As a former English major, classic literary friendships jump to the forefront of my mind. Tom and Huck. Holmes and Watson. George and Lennie. At the thought of that last one, I jumped back. I still vividly remember reading ahead of my class during my senior year. I still remember how angry I was, not necessarily at my teacher for “making” me read about *Spoiler Alert* Lennie’s tragic end, but more because I couldn’t talk to any of my classmates about it. (Look at that, another digression.) Anyway, none of them really fit what I was thinking of; Tom and Huck get into a lot of trouble together, Holmes and Watson solve crime together but it’s really all about Holmes, George literally shoots Lennie to save him from being caught and likely killed by an angry mob.

So I started thinking about friendships in the Bible. The first one that came to mind was that of Ruth and Naomi. (L had actually been writing about that particular friendship last week, which is probably why it was on my mind.) I wonder if Ruth would have said, “Hi, I’m Ruth. I’m Naomi’s best friend” to people she met when they went back to Naomi’s home. She certainly sounded like a best friend when she said,

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16 ESV.

That sounds like best friendship to me. And if we were to keep reading, we’d find that she acted on the promises she made.

Then there’s David and Jonathan. I can easily imagining both of them introducing themselves as the other’s best friend. I Samuel 18:1-4 ESV says,

“…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”

Again, if you continue reading, you’d see that these two behaved like two best friends would. And when Jonathan had died, David remained true to his friend, seeking out Jonathan’s son and taking care of him.

I started thinking about who I would call my best friend. Based on the above criteria, I don’t know if I have a best friend right now. But I have about three people that I talk to about the important things in my life. We do things together, when we can. We talk on the phone. We text throughout the day. And I love them. I would do pretty much anything for them. Truth be told, I love them more than mozzarella sticks, which is kind of a big deal. I also thought about who would call me best friend. That one I don’t really know. I think I’m a pretty good friend. I just don’t know if there’s anyone right now who would call me their best friend. Which is ok.

Still, I kept thinking. And I realized that there is at least one person who would introduce Himself as my best friend. But He doesn’t exactly walk up to people and say, “Hi, I’m Jesus. I’m Cherilyn’s best friend.” Nope. I’m supposed to live in a way that shows that He is my best friend. That’s how people know that Jesus is my best friend and that’s how they, ideally, come to know Him as theirs. It’s not a Facebook Friend Suggestion, as Jon Acuff writes. It’s not by me going to church on Sundays and not doing a bunch of stuff that’s deemed “evil.” People are supposed to know that Jesus is my best friend by the way that I love people. I don’t always do a good job.

I need to spend more time praying, reading, listening, etc. My friendships with humans don’t grow by me talking to them once a week about the weather, offering nothing deeper about myself or never listening to what they have to say. Most importantly, I know I need to work on loving people in general more. Because I’m not sure that the message that He’s my best friend is coming in loud and clear. I’m good at loving those who are closest to me. But I often neglect to show love and compassion to those outside of that inner circle.

As for my human relationships, in short, they are one of the most important things to me. I’ve said recently to friends that while I am not 100% satisfied with my job, I love that it allows me to put time into my friendships. It is more important to me that I be able to be the best friend possible to those I care about most. I want to be able to listen to, advise, help, and care for my friends. Being a close friend or even a best friend,  means that they’re stuck with me, no matter what. And that I’m willing, if necessary, to ask hard questions and say hard things. Being a friend means that my needs come secondary to my friend’s. My time, my money, my existence are all at my friends’ disposal, if they need it. (Mind you, I’m talking real friends, not just casual acquaintances. That means the Nigerian prince who insists he needs to wire ME money isn’t included in that.)

So what about you? What qualities do you look for in a friend? Do you have those qualities? Who would introduce themselves as your best friend? About whom would you say, “I’m ____________’s best friend”? And would people know that Jesus is your best friend?

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Success

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends.  To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am twenty-seven years old. I am single. I live with my parents. My Jeep is 11 years old. My job is… alright. Most days.

I have friends who have been at the same job since graduation and have gotten promotions and raises and are experts in their fields, indispensable to their companies. I have friends who are married, buying houses, and having babies. They have newer cars and better phones. They are SUCCESSFUL. And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little jealous.

But I was rereading some Emerson the other day. (That’s something English majors like to say to make themselves feel smart. I was REREADING this classic author’s BRILLIANT work! Look at how LITERATE and INTELLECTUAL I am.) But really, I was rereading Emerson. Bits and pieces anyway. And I found this quote. I began to evaluate my life based on these principles.

  1. To laugh often and much: I’d say yeah. I laugh a lot. I like funny things and I have surrounded myself with funny people. Ok, check.
  2. To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children: those people who are more “successful” than me are pretty intelligent. Even though we’re at different places in our lives, I’d say they respect me. As for the affection of children, my middle schoolers like me, as do my friends’ children. So… ok. Check.
  3. To earn the appreciation of honest critics: ok, this one’s hard. I don’t take criticism well… but that’s usually because it’s done maliciously. Let’s see. When my friends are honest with me, I can usually appreciate their candor. So… half a check?
  4. To endure the betrayal of false friends: Oh, yeah. *thinks over several tough experiences* I haven’t given up on people completely. I have made new friends since those occasions. I might not be “over” it but I am ok with it. If that makes sense. So… check.
  5. To appreciate beauty: I am a photographer. I love taking pictures of the natural world around us. I like art and poetry and literature. Check.
  6. To find the best in others: This one is tough. I’m a cynic. I try to get along with most people. I should work on this one…
  7. “to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived…” I don’t know. I’m only twenty-seven. We’ll see.

Emerson said that “this is to have succeeded.”

I’m not saying that reading this quote calms all my fears about my future. That’s not a job for literary figures. I’m not saying that this is the only measure of success that matters. Certainly there are biblical standards of success that are also a factor in my life. But not one of these things has to do with how much money I make, what I drive, where I live, or what I do for work.

I am successful, not because of any of the things I have but because of the things I do. I am successful because I try to be the best friend that I can to all my friends. I just sometimes need to remind myself, every time someone I know gets engaged or buys a house or has a baby or gets promoted.

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Back to the beginning…

Like most sane people, one of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. So many wonderful moments, so many unforgettable quotes. (I mean, who doesn’t go to a wedding, silently mouthing “Mawwiage. Mawwiage is wot bwings us togevver today…”)

One of the perhaps lesser known parts of the movie has recently become one of my favorites. It’s probably two thirds of the way through the movie. Westley has bested the Spaniard, the Giant, and Vezzini. He and Buttercup have navigated the treacherous fire swamp. Westley is lying on a table, literally having the life sucked out of him while Buttercup prepares to marry Humperdink then commit suicide. Meanwhile, Inigo is lying inebriated in a literal gutter.

Inigo:  I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have. This is where I am, and this is where I will stay. I will not be moved.

Assistant Brute:  Ho there!

Inigo:  I do not budge. Keep your “Ho there”.

Assistant Brute:  But the prince gave orders.

Inigo: Draws sword.  So did Vizzini. When the job went wrong you went back to the beginning. Well, this is where we got the job, so this is the beginning. And I am staying till Vizzini comes.

While I don’t condone the abuse of alcohol when one screws up, Inigo makes a valid point. When things go wrong, go back to the beginning. When my room gets out of control, go back to the beginning. Take everything out and put it all back in order. When a computer has too many viruses and malware, go back to the beginning. (i.e. reinstall the OS etc.) When I sin and wander away from the God I love, go back to the beginning.

Paul wrote a letter to the church at Ephesus, commending their faithfulness. As usual, he writes encouragement to them and clears up some issues they were having.  A while later, we read in Revelation written by John, this:

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

You were doing so well, Ephesians. What happened to the love you had for God? Repent and GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING.

I was recently afforded the privilege of seeing a friend “go back to the beginning.” Though raised in a Christian home, he had long since walked away from whatever faith he had as a child. But God has bigger plans for him. Things had gone wrong… but he went back to the beginning. And as awesome as it has been to see such a major event take place in his life, the principle is something that I think should be embraced by all of us, daily. You see, I screw up daily. Some days are “worse” than others. But it’s true. I say something I ought not to say, or think it at least. I do something I shouldn’t. I lose the love that I had for God an hour, a week, years before. So I need to go back to the beginning. I need to check myself and find that love again.

I need to go back to the beginning where it was new and fresh and REMEMBER God’s love for me. I’ve had the opportunity to read Luke along with my friend. I’m seeing things with fresh eyes, reading things in ways I’d never read them before.

In a lot of ways, one a large scale, I’ve gone back to the beginning as well. But it’s not just a large scale thing. Daily, I need to confess my sins and go back to the beginning. And that’s one of the many cool things about God. The old testament tells us that “His mercies are new every morning.” He keeps no record of wrongs and our transgressions are as far removed from us as the east is from the west. He’s buried them in the deepest trench in the deepest ocean. And we get a fresh start.

That’s grace. And I’m so glad we get to go back to the beginning.

Hey God, it’s me. Thanks for the chance to go back to the beginning. Every day or every hour, as much as we need it. As often as I fail to trust you, you’ve already forgiven me. Thank you.

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April Fools’ Day Poem

At the beginning of February
Groundhogs peek their heads from holes
See the ground still covered with snow
And retreat
Back to their holes
To deep slumber
At the beginning of April
We fools emerge from our homes
Only to have days filled with foolishness
Broken cell phones and accident prone friends
We should have crawled back into bed
And waited for winter to truly dissipate
As soon as we saw the ground still covered in snow.

*dedicated to Bruce

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Possible

“The impossible dream

isn’t”

I read on the car wash sign

in Not-My-College Town

at eleven o’clock on a starry night.

Maybe it’st he fact that I’m exhausted,

but the wisdome from those plastic letters

seems more real

than anything I’ve been told lately.

and maybe it’s irresponsible

to take advice from a cliché sign

at a car wash…

But it’s optimism is as refreshing

as jumping into a cool lake

Naked.

So here I come

I’m diving

into an unplanned life

where dreams that seem impossible

aren’t.

And anything can happen.

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Ode to the Final Straw

Ode to the Final Straw

Thank you.

Thank you. So. Freaking. Much.

Others have come before you,

With their challenges,

Their inconsistencies,

Their ubiquitous, frustrating nature.

Others before you have tried.

Others before you have failed.

But you,

You,

You came along and changed everything.

For a moment, all the rest paled

Compared to you,

As if they never mattered.

But now,

I’m standing in the middle

Of a windowless room

While straws rain ceaselessly

Around my outstretched arms.

As I fall to my knees,

The rain slows, then stops.

One

Final

Straw

Wafts down and lands on my head.

Thank you. So. Freaking. Much.

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Over and Over Again…

I could live yesterday over and over again. The weather was hot but beautiful. I got to have breakfast with a good friend. I sat outside for half an hour before class, drinking a can of mocha flavored Starbucks Doubleshot. Then another friend and I left class early. We went to the gas station where she bought the same drink I had earlier and I got a slice of pizza so I wouldn’t be starving at work. We hung out in the park for probably 45 minutes, taking ridiculous pictures. It was glorious. Work was way too hot and busy. But I still wouldn’t change it. After work, I ran through the shower and watched TV for a bit then went to another class, which we had outside! Then I came back to the house, made some tuna salad so it would be cold later, then went outside and read for over an hour. Another friend stopped by so she could do laundry at the Commons. Then House was on.

Sure, some stuff wasn’t great, like putting too much mayo in my tuna or having to work in the hot dining hall. But it was a really good day. And I would live it over and over again, every part.

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conquering fears…

I found myself at (big surprise) Margie’s house on Wednesday evening. Sam was reading the Reese’s Puffs box which had a list of things to do before you turn 18. We went through the list. I hadn’t done a lot of them.  Neither had he.  He read one about conquering one’s biggest fear. Then he said, “I did that! Last summer, remember, the tree stumps!”

Sam used to be afraid of tree stumps in the water (long story but yes they are there). There are, in fact, several in the water by Sam’s house where he’d swim. I found one and I was standing on it being silly, as usual.  I tried to get Sam to come out to it. He was hesitant. But he put on his crocs and swam out all the time asking, “Where is it? Am I going to hit it?” “No Sammy, I’m standing on it.” As he got closer and could no longer touch the bottom I could tell he was scared. I held out my hand and Sam stepped onto the stump. He was so proud of himself: he kept going off and coming back and made us mark it with a big rock. When his mother got home he made her come out on the deck at least a dozen times to see him standing on the stump.

I really like that kid. I like that he remembered that and that it actually had meaning to him.

I wish I could conquer fears like that. I wish I could swim out into the lake, not being able to necessarily see what I’m afraid of, and find myself standing on it, conquering it.

Joshua 1:9

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