We are excited to introduce you to our September IF:Table contributor, Lisa-Jo Baker. This month, Lisa-Jo challenges us to open up our hearts and homes to see what God could do around the tables that are right in front of us. As we gather together and discuss this month’s conversation cards, may we stay seated at our tables long enough to see the need that is right in front of us. We hope you enjoy getting to know Lisa-Jo and savor her traditional recipe for South African Milk Tart.
No matter how old we are, I think there’s always going to be a teenage girl living inside of us desperate to be one of the “cool kids.” Define “cool” however you like, but inevitably we can trace dissatisfied friendships to this search for the elusive “in” and dissatisfaction with where we find ourselves currently: a perceived, “out.”
The thing we don’t realize in high school, and sometimes we still haven’t learned during the minivan driving years, is that everyone is on the outside of something. But that is only half the story. We are all, each one of us, also on the inside of something – often without even realizing it.
So what we need to learn is that we can either fight to find a way in or we can love on the women right where we already are. We can obsess over who didn’t talk to us or we can focus on the woman right in front of us. We can keep looking for a seat at a more popular table or we can pass the breadbasket and an introduction to the women sitting right beside us.
We can be so short sighted when it comes to friendship. Forgetting that the math of friendship means that more equals less and less equals more. Friendship is always quality over quantity. It’s always better when it’s slower, fewer, deeper. Friendship is not a race. No one is keeping score. It’s not an episode of Hoarders. It’s not a chance to improve our platform or reputation or status or any of that other nonsense.
None of that matters on the days when you’re sick in bed, you’ve lost your voice, and just need a friend. A friend who will show up with soup and offer to take your kids off your hands when there’s absolutely nothing in it for her.
That kind of friendship doesn’t come from table-hopping. That kind of friendship grows slowly through the everyday moments of doing life alongside each other, living in each other’s messes and being comfortable with each other’s kids and weird quirks and stories and fondness for eating ice cream right out of the tub. It’s the friendship that isn’t interested in accolades or titles, but in back porches and honest conversations. These are not small talk friendships. They are built on service, not status.
What will we feed the hungry women who pull up chairs to our blog table, kitchen table, church table, online book club table, Tuesday night table? Forget the hundreds you wish would come, the cool or the trending you want to impress; feed the hungry who are already there. Feed them your best. Lay out your story and your life and your generous love for them. Perhaps our friendships are only as big and as deep as our hospitality.
I don’t want to make the mistake of ignoring the people right in front of me, the people who sometimes show up like neighbor kids with their nerf guns at inconvenient times and my job is simply to open the front door. I can do this. I’m the only one who can do this because this is my house and my yard and I’ve been given this little plot in God’s kingdom and it’s my job to be a good and generous host here. Forget about conferences and stages. If I can’t pull out a welcoming chair at my very own dining room table, what business do I have opening a Bible or a book or a message anywhere else.
I’m not always that good at making this obvious connection. I get irritated and tired and I like my own personal space. But I also want my dining room table to be the boss of me when I’m tempted to set my sights on something “better” than my right now, right here friends and neighbors.
That table with the big, wide, country planks that have crumbs filling up the cracks. That table with the squeaky chairs we constantly have to repair. That table that can seat stray college students and Tuesday night friends. That table that is doing its best work when it’s messy and has sticky streaks and an extra bench added down one side.
That table and my front door are teaching me that the one seat I need to focus on is the one next to me. Not the one across the room or the aisle or even the other end of the table. It’s the seat right next to me right now that is supposed to be my teacher. Whether my best friend, a new friend, a relative, a stranger or one of my own children is sitting in it.
Dear God, please help me not to miss the beauty of the seat right in front of me.
This blog post is an excerpt from Lisa’s new book, Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendship
Lisa-Jo Baker is convinced that the shortest distance between strangers and friends is a shared awkward story. She has been the community manager for (in)courage, an online home for women all over the world, for nearly a decade.
She is the author of Never Unfriended (a Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestseller) and Surprised by Motherhood, as well as the Bible Study, We Saved You a Seat and its companion version for teen girls. She is the creator of The Temper Toolkit and her writings have been syndicated from New Zealand to New York.
She lives just outside Washington, DC, with her husband and their three very loud kids, where she connects, encourages and champions women in person and through her blog, lisajobaker.com. She’d love to connect with you @lisajobaker.