Most of you probably already know that, because I am a Catholic author, I get a lot of books in the mail to review – gratis – even before they are released to the public. This is both an exciting and daunting consequence of my work as a mom-writer. Truthfully, it’s exciting, because I love to read, of course, but it’s daunting, because I take the responsibility seriously and want to make sure I provide an honest review of the author’s work. I do this for a couple of reasons – one, I know how important book reviews are in the life of an author; and two, I feel it’s a gift of sorts to let someone know how they have touched another person’s life through all of their blood, sweat, and tears.
The Friendship Project by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet was one such unexpected book that happened to show up on an uneventful late summer’s afternoon while I was jaunting through the front yard, waiting to greet Sarah off of her school bus. I glanced at it, leafed through the ToC (which I usually do), and tossed it into a mish-mashed pile of books on my bedside table.
After completing another book, I picked this one up. It took me two days to read. I have to say, it spoke to me fairly loudly at first, because I am so lonely these days. After having recently moved and having our third baby girl, I just feel so alone. Making good, solid friendships takes time. And the old friends here at home I’ve reconnected with, but everything is just different.
Each chapter reminded me that I need to stop looking so much for good friends and start acting like one myself! What a wake-up call. It was a good punch in the gut, though, especially as I got back to the basics: praying for those spiritual friendships I so desperately need in my life.
As a caregiver to Sarah with her craniofacial condition, I have felt ostracized for quite some time from my normal circle of friends. It’s not that I don’t join in social activities or one-on-one get togethers. It’s not that I hole up inside myself and don’t share with any sort of vulnerability. It’s just that there’s a particular chasm within my own heart that separates me from other moms who don’t have a child with a mysterious and rare genetic condition. It’s the elephant that’s always in the room, I suppose.
The Friendship Project somehow was like a veil that lifted the murkiness from my heart, that cloud that settled in somewhere between Sarah and now. It was a fresh spring breeze, a gentle nudge, and a refreshing reminder that good friendships begin with me, not outside of me.
That’s an interesting thought, considering most of us make excuses about how busy we are. But Faehnle and Jaminet dive into those excuses by offering very real and sobering life experiences on times when they neglected their friendships out of selfishness, laziness, or busyness. And they regretted it.
So who am I, despite the fact that I do have some extra challenges, to neglect my friendships? It’s time for me to begin again – make new friends, but keep the old, as the Girl Scout tune goes. One is silver, and the other’s gold.
I can think of at least a small handful of women who have been my rock through every toil and trouble, every joy and celebration. They are secure, holy, strong women who have blessed me and molded me into who I am today. They are my genuine spiritual friends, and I need to do my part in nurturing them.
A small aside…
As I was reading the book, I recalled a time in my life when one of my good friends, Ruth, and I were pregnant together and delivered our baby girls only one week apart at the same hospital. Ben and I had just moved, but we had a guest room all set up and were quite happy to invite Noah and Ruth into our home after traveling over an hour to deliver their baby girl, Regina. That’s one way that friendship pans, out doesn’t it? Ruth and I had our own “Visitation” friendship there (especially since her confirmation saint is Mary, Mother of God, and mine is St. Elizabeth), but Ben and I were also hospitable and offered rest and nourishment to our friends who were anxiously awaiting the delivery of their first live baby.
Another fantastic friend of mine, Julie, has been the only person who really saw me at my worst after Sarah was born – and she stuck around. I’ll never forget what a witness her friendship was to me when I was angry, sobbing, and just a hot mess. She didn’t flinch. She didn’t run away. She stayed with me and brought over a care package filled with self-care goodies like lotion and healthy chocolate (if you can believe it). Julie and I share a spiritual friendship, because we pray for each other, and we can count on each other. She is like my spiritual sister.
So friends are truly gifts from God. The Friendship Project is a much-needed book in our narcissistic, selfie, social media society. We get more and more isolated as we become more and more connected online. This book gets us back to the heart of what matters most – our relationships with others – and makes no bones about the nitty gritty hard work that’s necessary in order for our friendships to not only survive, but to truly thrive.
Written for the potential to be used as a group study, you can view The Friendship Project website for great extras, like videos for each chapter, free downloads, and bulk pricing.
Text (c) 2017 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.