Category Archives: friends

The Importance of Friends

A couple of months ago, my husband and I traveled to Lewes, Delaware, to visit two f/Friends of mine who live in a Quaker retirement-to-nursing home community there (let’s call them A and J). We’ve visited them during our anniversary vacations for the last couple of years, and every year I think the same thoughts before going: What will we talk about? What do we really have in common? This year, in fact, I was considering not visiting them as usual, but my husband, who is often good about not letting me slack off spiritually, insisted that we should.

When I first began attending Third Haven Friends Meeting, I felt both at home and out of place. Mostly, I felt at home, but I also felt out of place because I was unable to drive myself to and from and knew that my husband would not often be willing to drive me, as he found Meeting for Worship “boring”. So, while I felt I’d finally found my spiritual home, I also worried that the distance would be an impediment to my actually becoming involved with the community. Then, after attending my second Meeting for Worship, I was introduced to two Friends who lived nearby. A & J were a good 60 years older than me, had never met me before, but immediately offered to drive me to and from Meeting whenever I wanted.

I was, frankly, completely shocked at their willingness. It took me months to get up the courage to call them and ask for a ride.

But once I did, they faithfully drove me to and from Meeting for Worship for over a year. During that year, we became quite close. When they decided to move to Lewes, Delaware, to their final home, I knew that I would not only miss the rides, but their friendship.

Since they’ve left, my husband has taken up the responsibility of driving me to and from Meeting for Worship, but there are often weekends I don’t make it because he is too tired and needs the extra sleep.

Anyways, what is particularly interesting about A & J is that their marriage is similar to my own in one important way.

Without going into too much detail, there was a conflict at Third Haven many years ago over same-sex marriage. Most members wanted the Meeting to perform same-sex marriages, but a few did not. A lot of feelings were hurt, people felt they weren’t listened to, and the conflict ended in a compromise that many members could not feel settled with. This conflict happened a few years before I joined Third Haven.

Shortly after I joined, I felt a Disquiet about what had happened and felt led to encourage the Meeting to begin talking about same-sex marriage again. As many of you can imagine, this leading was not always welcomed by all members of my Meeting. In any event, the seeds I planted eventually blossomed, and a committee to discuss Same-Sex Marriage was developed last June (see this entry ).

In December, Third Haven finally found unity to perform Same-Sex Spiritual Union Ceremonies, but the word “marriage” was not used in the approved minute. I, and several others, were led to stand aside.

The similarity between A & J’s marriage and my own is a religious one. A was in favor of same-sex marriage when it was first discussed at Third Haven while J was not. In my own marriage, I am strongly in favor of same-sex marriage (at Third Haven and anywhere else!) while my husband is not. A and I are very open to the idea of Quakers having multiple faiths (she is supportive of my Buddhist faith and understands how it can complement my Quaker faith) while J is a bit more Christocentric. My husband is also a Christian.

Over our last meal before my husband and I left A & J’s home, we discussed what had happened at Third Haven over the last year. I mentioned how I’d sometimes felt like my ministry was not listened to as much as Friends who are older, even if we were saying the same thing. In particular, I was slightly hurt that it took an older Friend speaking in Meeting for Worship to get the Meeting to start discussing Same-Sex Marriage when I’d often offered similar ministry many times before. I do enjoy that Third Haven is a very well-grounded Meeting with older Friends very grounded in Spirit, but I do sometimes feel that the voices of younger Friends who may also be grounded in Spirit sometimes go unheeded.

It came to my mind that a Meeting functions best when there’s a strong segment of older Friends and a strong segment of younger Friends as well. Meetings are like a body of water: we need the depth of older Friends to keep us grounded in Spirit and the current of younger Friends to prevent stagnancy.

In spite of the complaint I voiced above, I do feel lucky to have Third Haven as my Monthly Meeting. We have a wide variety of beliefs, from conservative Christians to Buddhists to agnostics to Universalists. We have a wide variety of ages, too; I’ve noticed an influx of people in their mid20s to mid30s in recent years. Most of all, though, I love how gathered our Meetings for Worship are. I love our old Meetinghouse, even when it’s hot and I yearn for the convenience of air conditioning (built in the 1600s, it has no electricity). I love our “new” Meetinghouse, built in the 1800s, with its tall white walls and large windows. I love the grounds, the trees, the squirrels and birds that serenade us during Meeting for Worship. Most of all, though, I love the Spirit that flows through us as we sit in Meeting for Worship.

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Filed under friends, gay love, GLBT rights, lgbt issues, meeting for worship, quakerism, third haven

Gifts from Unexpected People (Again)

Three weeks ago, my husband told me I’d be getting a surprise from my college friends. “What college friends?” I asked and added, “I can only think of a handful or so.”

“I think you’ll be surprised at how many you have,” he said. And he was right.

I’ve had a huge lesson in gratitude and thankfulness and appreciation for people I hadn’t been appreciating enough. I am so overwhelmed with emotion that I honestly do not know what to say.

Yesterday, I was given a Kindle from 18 friends of mine from college with the following note:

Cassie had the great idea for all of us to team up and give you a Kindle for your birthday this year. We’re all Johnnies and we love reading, so we wanted to make sure you had a way to read even when your hands are hurting.

Most of these friends I see once a year or less. A few of them I haven’t seen for over 2 years. And I was, frankly, unaware of the depths of the care all of them have for me.

Yesterday, when I opened my surprise present, I was moved but didn’t really understand what this means for me. Now that I’ve been using the Kindle and have downloaded so many books that I can’t remember even half of them, it has become clear to me what this means for me.

I can read without hurting my hands. For the first time in my life, I can read without hurting my hands.

The depth of this is hard to explain. As soon as I learned how to read, I’ve loved reading. But it’s always hurt my hands to hold the book. And book holders, of which I’ve had several, help, but just are cumbersome to use… and it’s just not possible to curl up with a book holder. I’ve always just continued reading, sometimes way past the point where my hands needed me to stop. I had long ago come to accept that reading was worth the pain.

I don’t have to accept that anymore.

I’ve been friends with these people for years now. And I’ve been taking them for granted and not appreciating them enough.

Sometimes, we have friends that we dismiss undeservedly. Sometimes, we have people who care about us more than we know. Sometimes, we’re shown love from unexpected people.

And I am so, so grateful.

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Filed under friends, gratitude, health, inspirations, love, that of God

Quick Update

I’ve just finished reading “If Grace Is True” and “If God Is Love”. They are two of the most Christ-affirming books I’ve ever read and have made me content to call myself a universalist… and a Christian again:

“… a Christian, one who has come to know God through the life and teachings of Jesus…” pg. 137, “If God Is Love”

That’s me.

My surgery went well (the metal came out) and I’m recovering well enough; but until the dressing comes off on Friday, I’m stuck typing one-handed. I had a revelation about God having a sense of humor before the surgery; I might post about that once I can type with both hands again.

Also, Anne, the clerk of my Meeting and a friend, came over on Wednesday to supervise me as I was recovering from general anesthesia. We had a long talk about our concerns for our Meeting and I’d be interested in sharing some of those concerns and maybe getting some advice from you all… when I can type easier. But I was moved that she was willing to be such a good friend to me and act above and beyond what our friendship required.

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Filed under books, friends, health, Jesus, love, quakerism, universalism

Living Differently

It’s been a momentous two weeks. One of my dearest friends, Squee, has been visiting from Chicago. My sister just turned in her college senior thesis paper today, which I spent two hours proofreading for her this morning. Sugar, my 16 year old Siamese cat, finished her round of antibiotics last week. Tomorrow, I’m participating in the Arthritis Walk for the second year in a row. Next Saturday is my grandfather’s funeral.

I’ve been busy. I’ve treasured each and every moment of silence and solitude that I’ve been given during these last two weeks. For the first week of Squee’s visit, I felt overwhelmed by the busy-ness, by the constant chatter, by the abundance of music. I felt suffocated at times. But slowly, the fullness began to break through my grip on silence. Slowly, I started accepting life as it was instead of life as I wanted it to be.

I’ve been taught by people I never expected to learn from. Squee showed me, gently, how much I enjoy complaining and making a situation worse than it is… how I don’t give my in-laws the credit they deserve and am eager for them to fail in their attempts to reach out to me… how hypocritical it was of me to complain about them trying to change me when I’ve been trying to make them into my own family all along.

And this morning, as I was reading through my sister’s thesis, I was filled with awe and love for her. She and I are outwardly as different as can be, but her thesis is titled: “America’s Consumption and the Long-Term Effects”. In it is the following passage:

From the article titled “Real Simple”, “Keeping it simple does not mean reducing the quality of ones lifestyle; it means putting first things first. It’s fine not to feel guilt over guilty pleasures while keeping your life focused, pleasurable and worthwhile”. In conclusion, simple living is not mainly about spending less, but about living differently.

That’s it, exactly. Simple living isn’t about spending less, owning less… it’s about living differently.

Regardless of the grade she gets on this paper, I’m proud of her for writing it.

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Filed under daily life, family, friends, gratitude, jamie, love, plain dress, quakerism, simplicity, speak and listen with love

Compassion

I’m currently reading a lot about compassion in Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, by Thich Nhat Hanh. His basic premise, which I agree with, is that the only way to truly deal with anger is by feeling compassion for the one you’re angry with. I’ve been kind of shrugging this book off as “stuff I know and do already”, as I’ve always prided myself on my compassion and my empathy towards others. And, in a way, my reaction towards my anger towards my sister-in-law 10 days ago cemented my pride in how I deal with anger and how compassionate I am.

This morning I had a dream that upset me so much that I could barely stay asleep; and after my husband left to go to work and I went back to bed, I slept fitfully for another 3 hours before giving up. The dream was simple: my husband’s company was transferring him to work in an office several states away for several months. Since it was temporary, I’d be staying in our house and he would get an apartment. When he told me, I was angry. “How can you leave me by myself,” I asked him. I used every excuse I could think of to get him to turn down the assignment and stay with me. The thought of him not being with me every day for months on end terrified me and I felt like crying in horror.

Finally, I gave up and called a dear friend of mine. She told me that he had been worried about how to break the news to me because he knew I’d be upset. And I suddenly felt bad because all this time I’d be worried about how I’d deal on my own and hadn’t recognized that he also would be suffering.

When I woke up, I was relieved to see that the dream wasn’t true (though I asked my husband, just to be sure), but it stuck with me anyways. And I thought about the friend I had called in the dream, whose husband is currently overseas in the Army. I realized with a shock that what I had been so scared of in the dream was what she was going through right now.

I don’t know how she does it. I don’t think I could. But I hope that, the next time I talk to her, I’ll be a better friend to her than I have been.

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Filed under anger, buddhism, compassion, friends, pride, speak and listen with love