Tag Archives: friendship

That’s What Friends Are For

Today’s blog requires you know the following:

I am not good at admitting I’ve run out of resources, ideas or strategies for solving problems. I am overly responsible, even about things that are not my responsibility.

I am also not great at showing how I truly feel about something. That is partially created by the training I received to be a pastor and my professional need to appear as if I have it all together when speaking, teaching or leading worship services.

For the last fifteen years, my extended family has been dealing with a family member who is not doing well due to mental issues and substance abuse. This has been a long, worrisome, exhausting, roller coaster of a journey. In the last months it as taken another downturn and lately I’ve come to the brick wall understanding that I’ve run out of resources.  Maybe you or someone you know struggles with something similar. Maybe you understand the heartbreaking feeling of wanting to help yet being unable to.

As luck, schedules and providence would have it, a friend and I spontaneously got together for coffee. For some reason, she asked about this family member. She knows the journey I’ve been on. We had lots of other things to talk about, yet she asked about this first. She remembered.

Then, she listened to my latest heartbreak over no longer knowing what to do. See point one above.  She helpfully shared a couple of examples of her own of this dynamic and how it has played out in real life.

As we wound our way through the conversation, I cried. I don’t cry in front of others much, especially in the middle of Starbucks. See point two above. She cried with me. She literally cried with me. Real tears were rolling down her face.

She prayed. She stopped talking and prayed with me. She just took my hand and prayed a one line prayer for God’s help because it seemed too big for both of us.

Then she took a breath, looked me in the eyes and spoke truth to me. She said, “You need counseling. This is long, ongoing and sticky because it is family and you need outside counsel. You just do.” I told her that’s what I usually tell other people, not what they tell me. She said, “I know but I’m telling you.”

She was right. Her words pierced my heart.

This what friends do for each other. She remembered and asked. She listened. She felt it so hard. She cried with me. She prayed. And, then she told me the truth, to my face, briefly, adamantly, with love. When she spoke that truth, it resonated in my soul and I knew she was right.

Oh my goodness, I am so grateful for her in that hour, on that day, with this situation.  I want to be exactly that kind of friend.

Above all, love each other deeply. 1 Peter 4:8

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and struggling family member. 

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A Mom’s Broken Heart

She called with the most devastating news. Her 15-year-old great nephew, David, had taken his own life. My stomach dropped. I sat down to be able to hear what she was telling me.

Rhonda and I are breast cancer friends. Despite living in the same community, we’d never met until we were both diagnosed with the same kind of breast cancer within a week of each other. We had the same set of doctors,  same insurance, same treatment plan, same prognosis. We met and have clung to each other these past seven years.

At my last radiation treatment, my skin was burned and my fatigue relentless. Rhonda used her old patient key card to get to the radiation waiting area. Because she’d been through it all, she knew I would be there after that last treatment to gather my things, change and leave.

She had pink roses and fudge. Fudge! You bet I’m going to cling to a friend like that who  breaches security to bring flowers and chocolate. I could sob now just thinking about it.

When a friend like that tells you her sweet great nephew, a boy she’s known his whole life, held as an infant, played with as a toddler and a big boy, seen grow into a teen, celebrated birthdays, holidays, family milestones and vacations with has taken his own life at age 15, you listen, you cry, you go to God in prayer for her, his parents, teachers and friends, the whole reeling family.

David’s death was tragically connected to cyberbullying. I hate thinking about bullying. I don’t like visualizing children being cruel to each other. I hate hearing stories about that taking place in our neighborhoods, families, schools, churches, anywhere. It is especially hard to get my mind around cyberbullying because I don’t understand all those dynamics about how people communicate these days. I know when parents figure out one medium, like Facebook or Snapchat, we are already behind because new cyber-ways to communicate pop up daily.

I’ve known several families over the years who have lost children. Some of them, despite their grief, have bravely risen from the loss to make a difference. David’s parents, Maureen and Matt, and his brothers, Cliff and Chris, started speaking out almost immediately against cyberbullying and the responsibility we all have to wake up. They founded David’s Legacy, http://www.davidslegacy.org, a non-profit to end cyber-assisted bullying, promote kindness and change laws. They have made great progress in a short time.

Maureen, David’s mom is coming to our school district, Grapevine Colleyville ISD, on Wednesday, May 16  at 6 p.m. at Dove Elementary in Grapevine to share her story and to raise awareness for how we can help our children and youth and prevent cyber-assisted bullying. Event Flyer

She is flying in from San Antonio just to speak to us and flying home late that night in order to work the next day. Why? Because her broken mom’s heart does not want us to lose one more precious child to this.

May is the fullest of months. We all have so much to do. This event is open to everyone in our community not just the Dove Elementary family, not just to GCISD families, teachers, parents, grandparents but everyone.

I do not like to think about bullying. I do not understand this cyber world our children and youth use to communicate. But, when my friends hurt, I hurt. When moms and dads with broken hearts speak to us through their tears for change, I will listen.

Lets pack to overflowing the cafeteria at Dove Elementary in Grapevine on Wednesday, May 16 at 6 p.m. because David’s voice deserves to be heard and we need to listen.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and co-founder of Connect in GCISD. 

Whispers

I never knew why older people cried at weddings. It seemed obvious to me that it was  a happy time. I didn’t get it.

I met Julie when I was an 18-year-old freshman at Texas A&M. We decided to be roommates the next year and have been close friends since then.

I’ll never forget the day I picked her up from her workplace for lunch. My newly married friend got in my car as pale as the palest ghost. I said, “What is wrong with you?” She swallowed her nausea and managed the word “pregnant.” We were both stunned. We’d never done pregnancy before.

Five babies, many milestones, lots of life, challenging jobs, countless lunches and shopping sprees later, the baby she was pregnant with thirty years ago got married, this past Saturday night.

Suddenly, I’m the person in the congregation crying because, oh my goodness…life!  Her baby boy looked the same as he always had except now he was the groom. My friend looked gorgeous as the glowing groom’s mom.

Our weekend was filled with celebrations and people we had not seen for years. The entire time I’m asking myself how this happened. How did the college girls get to be moms of adults?

When I was younger older people used to whisper to me the secrets of life. I was moving too fast to listen. It seemed like they were telling me something about babies growing fast and time flying.

Now, I’m the one whispering and crying happy tears in the pew because, to me, a wedding is so much more than two people marrying. It is a lifetime of moments, relationships, parenting, angst and friendship all squeezed into a few sacred Holy moments where love and hope once again emerge.

When all that awareness hits you at once, it’s bound to seep out in joy-filled tears.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, writer, mom, Mimosa to Keller, breast cancer survivor and tearful wedding guest. She is speaking at The Well women’s event at First UMC Grapevine, Texas on February 8, 2018. Some tickets are still available at http://www.fumcg.org/cindyryan 

In Celebration of Women

I just spent an entire weekend at a women’s retreat. In between my speaking segments, I listened to lots of women’s stories. It helped me remember all over again how much I love the bonds between women and our strength, compassion and resiliency, especially when we have each other. While we were retreating, other women marched, spoke up and found their way to the streets all over our nation to express their hearts. Recently, through the Me Too movement, women are drawing lines in the sand about what we will tolerate. Something is happening, women are in the middle of it and I love it.

Recently, I had a request to republish a column I wrote that ran in the Colleyville Courier in 2013 in a newspaper column I had at the time called Real Life. Today seems like a good day to do just that.

It happened 25 years ago. To me it was a non-event; to another person it was a major event. How could two people have such different recollections of the same thing?

I have two girlfriends I still talk to regularly who were my friends then. I called both of them and asked for their memories of the event. “Do you remember that day when…?”

I am grateful to have women friends I have counted on year after year. And, of course, both of my friends remembered the event like I did and immediately took my side. That’s what girlfriends are for.

Gale Berkowitz writes, “Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our female friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach quivering-stress most of us experience on a daily basis.” She cites a UCLA study on friendships among women, which reports that women respond to stress differently than men. Women produce hormones, which make us actually seek one another out to “tend and befriend” rather than the male stress response of “fight and flight.”

The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely we are to develop physical ailments as we age, and the more likely we are to be leading a joyful life.

So there it is, scientific proof that women need women and that spending time together is good for us.

Jennifer Louden, in The Woman’s Comfort Book, suggests women should ask themselves the following questions regarding friendships:
Who do I call when I’m down?
Who energizes me?
Who do I like to play with?
Who would I call in a crisis?
Who would bring me food if I was sick?
Who would I give my house key to?
The answers you give are clues to your nurturing network.

Another set of questions:
Who makes me feel tired?
Who causes me to have tension in my jaw or a stomach full of flutters?
Who do I find myself breathing shallowly around?
The answers are clues to your toxic relationships.

The rest is simple. Spend more time with the life-givers and less time with the energy-drainers.

Today, I celebrate energy-giving friendships among women…where we can talk for hours and never run out of things to say; where we can ask each other, “do you think it’s menopause or am I just always this snappish?”; where we can commiserate about men and children and what’s wrong with society; where we can trust that our tears, our laughter and our occasional inappropriate words are going to be heard in the spirit intended; where we are given the “just right gifts” that our friend just knew we needed; where we can compare parenting techniques, recipes, work and body issues—and wonder of wonders, live longer and stronger because of it.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a writer and pastor. This column is written in honor of L.P. and her amazing circle of friends. 

Rich

Over the weekend my husband and I attended a wedding in Kansas City.  It was a rich time. I’ve been friends with the bride for forty years, forty!  Imagine the shared stories and intertwining of lives all those years of friendship have allowed. It was rich, too, because the last few years have been tough on both of us. You learn to grab the celebration moments when you can.  I’ve seen her children grow from infants to the young adults who stood beside their mom as she married.  I could scarcely take it in.

It was also my birthday weekend so I was treated to surprises, cards, calls, texts from friends I’ve accrued all along the way.  Then as life would have it, we got word of two friends we’ve known for decades who lost loved ones over the weekend.  We will love and support these friends through their losses because that’s what friends do.

Anne Lamott in her book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, said it well, “Most humbling of all is to comprehend the lifesaving gift that your pit crew of people has been for you, and the all the experiences you have shared, the journeys together, the collaborations, births and deaths, divorces, rehab and vacations, the solidarity you have shown one another.  Every so often you realize that without all of them your life would be barren and pathetic….The marvel is…that somehow you lured them into your web twenty years ago, forty years ago, and they totally stuck with you.”

Today I’m so grateful for the lifesaving gift of my pit crew of people.  When she was alive, my husband’s Mamaw used to take my face in her hands, lock eyes with me and say, “Cindy, do you know you are rich, rich, rich?”  Yes, Mamaw, I do.