1. You recently moved again, from Kansas—where you’ve lived all of your life—to Nashville, Tennessee. What decisions did you make about community and friendship before you even moved and how has that affected your ability to settle in in your new hometown?

Moving to Tennessee was a major milestone for me. I drew a line in the sand and said, “From here on out, I want to wholeheartedly embrace the life God has given me. I’ve spent too many years stuffing problems under the rug instead of dealing with them in a healthy way. I’ve spent too many years of my life chasing productivity instead of making people and community a priority. I’ve spent too many years trying to please people instead of being who God has called me to be.”

It’s been about 9 months of fully embracing life and I wouldn’t go back to my former self for anything. I’ve made deep relationships. I’ve become more spontaneous. I’ve laughed harder than I have in ages. And I’ve discovered that people are completely okay with my sometimes-messy, very imperfect self.

2. You talked about being the kind of friend you want (advice that I love!)…what characteristics are important to you in a friend, and how do you live those out?

I don’t do fluffy and surface-y friendships. Don’t get me wrong. Those who know me well, know that I love to laugh, I love to have a great time with friends, and I can be goofy.
However, you can be sure that spending any length of time with me will also include hard questions, going deep, and authenticity. In addition to this, three other components that make up a good friendship for me are:

a) Someone who loves me for exactly who I am but wants me to also be the best version of myself that I can be.

b) Someone who is for me — who wants to celebrate what God is doing in my life and who will always believe the best about me.

c) Someone who isn’t too busy for me — who makes time to invest in my life, who is interested in what’s going on in my life, and who truly cares about me as a person.

3. How do you teach your children about friendship and community? Do you just model those things through your actions, or are their actual lessons you’re verbalizing and teaching them?

Not only do I seek to model good friendships in front of them, but it’s very important to me to encourage them to invest in other people and build good friendships themselves. So we talk often about their friends, about what makes a good friend, and what to do in situations where a friend (or someone you thought was your friend) is unkind or hurtful.

4. I think we often view friendship through a lens of needing “girlfriends,” but how important do you think having “couple friends” is for you and your husband? Do you have separate friendships, or do you look for couples that you both connect with?

My husband and I both encourage each other to have our own strong friendships — which usually means that at least once a week I am home with the kids while Jesse is meeting or hanging out with a group of guys that he’s in a small group with and that at least once a week he watches the kids while I go have coffee with a friend or two.

It’s important to understand the needs of your spouse and how the majority of us are really wired for community. Because of this, we need to make sure we’re giving our spouse opportunities to develop those relationships. We are both happier people for making that a priority.

At the same time, we also actively seek to build couple friendships. The whole “couple friendship” thing can be a bit tricky and it’s always hard whenever you get along really well with a gal, but your husbands just don’t mesh at all or visa versa.

One thing we do is to never try to push hard for this to happen. Instead, we just seek to look for opportunities to connect with other couples on a regular basis — by inviting them over to our house for dinner, or out for coffee, or to come to some kind of event with us. By regularly doing things with other couples, some strong couple friendships have emerged naturally — without us working hard to make things happen.

5. How do you handle hurts or offenses in a friendship? I’ll admit that my first response is usually to want to build a wall, even though I know that’s not the answer. How do you overcome those disappointments (when they’re not intentionally hurtful) to strengthen rather than weaken those relationships?

Close friendships will result in misunderstandings and hurts, at times. No one is always going to do everything right all the time. And the closer you are to someone, the more possibility there is for there to be misunderstandings and hurts.

Some days, your friend might say something that frustrates or offends. Some days, your friend might not respond how you wished she would have. Some days, she’s just plain going to bother or upset you.

On those days, you have two choices: you can either choose to forgive or you can choose to be hurt and bitter.

Friendships that stand the test of time are ones where both parties choose to forgive when offenses and hurts come. It’s not easy and it means having hard conversations and sometimes saying things that are difficult to say. But good communication, working through issues, and having a heart of forgiveness will only deepen a friendship.

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