There’s not too many anybody could love more than my friend Sophie Hudson. We’ve gone up the Amazon together in a canoe and wore matching Columbia mosquito gear and laughed till our sides hurt and I hold this woman in the absolute highest esteem. Sophie knows words, the best of ’em. She was this habitual journal keeper from ages 15 to 25, but after she got married, she stopped writing almost completely. That all changed in 2005, when she started her blog because she wanted to do a better job of documenting her little family’s life, and that’s where I started devouring her hilariously good words almost a decade ago now. Since Sophie has never participated in any form of scrapbooking activity due to the unfortunate and chronic twitching that would be the result of having to use some form of specialty scissors, she thought the blogging thing might hold some promise. Much to her surprise (and our crazy delight!), she stuck with it. This is huge, she says, because prior to blogging she had pretty much only stuck with two other hobbies: 1) sleeping and 2) eating. You may think those two things are necessities, but she finds that they can also be quite recreational. It’s a grace to welcome a friend I flat-out love as much as Sophie to the farm’s front porch today…
So when I was in the middle of writing my second book – a book that I started because I wanted to tell stories about God’s faithfulness through friendships –
I developed a habit of getting up early on Saturday mornings and driving to the closest Panera Bread for some quality time with strong coffee and Microsoft Word.
I stuck to that routine on the weekends that our family’s schedule would allow it, and week after week, every Saturday was pretty much like the one before.
Except, of course, for the Saturday morning a couple of months ago when I pretty much fell apart right next to the pastry case.
There I was, sitting at my favorite Panera, probably doing more people watching than writing, trying to find my way through a chapter about a friend’s bachelorette party in New Orleans.
And when I got to the part of the story where it was the end of the night and we were all walking back to our hotel, I had to stop typing when I realized that tears were running down my face.
And we can pretend that they were delicate, dainty tears, but the reality is no, no, they were not. They were crocodile tears. There may have even been some mild sobbing.
I was so embarrassed by my unexpected reaction that I pushed my computer to the other side of the table and put my face in my hands.
It took me the better part of 15 minutes to pull myself together.
I’d think the last wave of emotion had passed, but then my bottom lip would start to quiver and I’d try to distract myself by thinking about something like college baseball or green vegetables or favorite colors of nail polish. But the tears just kept falling.
And here’s the crazy thing: I wasn’t even sad. Not even a little bit.
I was just wildly, deeply, profoundly grateful.
Because as silly as my friends and I could be, as impulsive as we could be, as flat-out loud as we could be (especially when something hit our collective funny bone all at once and there was no possible way to stop the onslaught of laughter) we truly did love one another.
We were genuinely FOR each other. In a hundred different ways we were each other’s biggest cheerleaders.
And you know what just lays me out if I think about it long enough?
We still are.
So as I sat in Panera that morning and pondered the ways the Lord has used those friendships to change and shape and impact my life for 25 (TWENTY-FIVE!) years, I found myself thanking Him for the blessing of healthy, life-giving friendships.
And then I spent the next hour, probably, wondering how in the world our mamas taught us to love each other like that.
Because mamas and the other women we looked up to? They are absolutely, positively the ones who taught us how to love each other like that.
So in the spirit of celebrating friendships where your heart and your spirit are safe (and your secrets are, too), I thought I’d pass along five things I heard my own mama say over and over again when I was growing up.
I’m sure there were times when I rolled my eyes or finished a sentence for her so I could get out of the house a little quicker, but these words absolutely shaped how I interacted with my friends.
I still hear them in my head at the strangest times. In fact, these words have continued to teach me now that I’m a mama myself.
Slow learners need patient teachers, don’t we?
“I sure do love to hear you laugh.”
This was Mama’s favorite expression when I’d have friends over and we’d laugh so hard that we doubled over and held our sides.
It didn’t matter what made us laugh – a strange noise, a Saturday Night Live sketch, a funny scene from a movie, whatever – but Mama’s reaction to our laughter taught me such a valuable lesson: This laughter? It matters. It’s important.
And what I learned is that when laughter comes from a shared sense of humor and a genuine enjoyment of one another’s company, TEND TO THAT. It’s precious. And it’s an integral, pivotal part of a healthy friendship.
“Water seeks its level.”
If Mama was ever concerned that I might be tempted to do something I’d later regret, she used this expression as her go-to.
I didn’t understand it at first, but over time I figured out that there were certain environments where it would be easy to lower my relational expectations.
However, if I’d stay out of those situations and invest in relationships with people who really did have each other’s best interests at heart, the temptation to “seek” and “sink” wouldn’t be nearly as great.
What I love about this expression is that Mama focused on a principle, not a person. She didn’t bad-mouth anybody, she didn’t make judgments or assumptions about other people’s character. She just reminded me of something that’s true, and it’s stuck with me for years.
“I don’t feel good about it.”
By the time I was 13 years old I knew that this was Mama’s BIG RED FLAG OF WARNING. If I happened to mention that one person had been teasing someone else a lot, or maybe even that I wanted to invite two of my friends somewhere but didn’t really care what friend #3 or friend #4 thought, or maybe I just wanted to tell somebody off because she had made me feel left out at the skating rink, Mama was always quick to offer this little nugget of wisdom.
It was her way of letting me know that she had a flag in her spirit about something I wanted to do or something someone else wanted to do, and it taught me to pay attention to the flags in my own heart.
That didn’t mean that I always made great decisions or did the right thing – disobedience was and is always an option – but over time I realized that the fruit of heeding the Holy Spirit is peace.
“Even if you’re not best friends with someone, you can always be kind.”
You know those things you heard your mama say that you swore you’d never say yourself? This one was that for me. Because my mama said it approximately 4,825 times during my elementary and junior high years. And now?
I say it ALL THE TIME.
Granted, I’ve probably only said it 2,891 times, but our son still has a few years before he’s finished with junior high, so I feel like I have plenty of time to catch up. Honestly, I wish I could paint this particular sentence on the walls of every high school – post it in every Instagram feed – because I really don’t think we can emphasize it enough.
Somehow “kind” has gotten confused with “pushover” (or maybe even “weak”), but just look at Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
“Be sweet, now.”
This was Mama’s constant reminder to WATCH MY WORDS.
My personality tends to err on the side of sassy, and since I talk a mile a minute, I can say a whole lot of stuff that I don’t necessarily mean in a really short amount of time. “Be sweet” was my cue to slow down, to think things through, to make sure that I was choosing my words carefully.
This is such a tough thing to teach our kids in our current culture because texting, social media, etc. make it so easy for them to be impulsive with expressing their thoughts and reactions. But there’s not a doubt in my mind that if technology had been prevalent when I was growing up, my phone, my Twitter, my Snapchat, ALL OF IT – my mama would have made that her business.
There are just too many opportunities to either be mean or suffer from someone else’s meanness. We have to insert ourselves in that conversation.
A few days ago I found myself all fired up and riled up because of something heartbreaking I read on social media, something about mean girls making other girls feel like they’re unworthy and unloved and inherently unlovable.
I felt a fresh fire rise up in my belly because I get so stinkin’ mad at all the ways that our brokenness, our culture, and our insecurities convince us to mistreat each other, to diminish each other, and to dishonor each other.
And really, there’s no simple solution.
We can’t just put these five expressions on a billboard and BOOM! EVERYONE’S FRIENDSHIPS ARE NOW HEALTHY!
But I absolutely think it’s worth thinking about how we’re teaching the generation behind us (and reminding ourselves) to walk out Romans 12:10: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Mama never said it directly, but she was forever reminding me to seek out relationships where I felt safe, where I felt loved, and where I could trust – and also encouraging me to be a safe, loving, and trustworthy friend to other people.
Because in sincere, God-honoring friendship, you don’t compete – you serve.
You don’t push people down; you lift them up.
Mama knew these things all along, of course.
I’m so grateful she didn’t keep those lessons to herself.
Sophie Hudson loves to laugh more than just about anything. She began writing her blog nearly 10 years ago and she hopes that through her stories, women find encouragement and hope in the everyday, joy-filled moments of life. Sophie is also the author of one of my favourite page-turner reads A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon.
Straight up warning: Be careful where/when you start this book: YOU WILL NOT PUT IT DOWN. You will laugh out loud too loud, you will love every single page, you will love your people more. This is a book you will give to your friends and the people you love because this woman can WRITE — she’s like Erma Bombeck meets Jerry Seinfeld meets Patsy Clairmont and I can’t get enough. Every mama, every woman, neck high in her people, needs her February to have the feast of Home is Where My People Are: The Roads that Lead Us to Where We Belong. Perfect soul treat and absolute FIVE STAR.