How are you intentional about the friendships you form? Andrea Jones scoops us up and carries us forward.
By Andrea Jones
My hands trembled as Christina directed me to gently coax small waves of angry grease over the egg-dipped chili relleno. This process was proving much more difficult than my previous mastery of the pot of simmering chili on the back burner. Christina was patient with me as she guided me in preparing the traditional foods from Mexico while sharing her childhood memories and traditions as we cooked in her tiny kitchen in Dallas. This monthly tradition became a cherished part of my world and gifted me with an incredible relationship and so much discovery.
My mother-in-law always displayed a perfect length of ruby nail. Gurgling pots of brown gravy creations on her stove called my stomach to new levels of hunger. Oh the smells! In her cozy kitchen she demonstrated how to stretch every penny and yet provide tantalizing temptations. I learned to make peach cobbler, smothered pork chops, hot ham, greens and sweet potato pie while we listened to southern gospel music from the living room. I determined, I'd be intentional to carry on family recipes and stories I gleaned from spending time with my mother-in-law.
Pursing diverse relationships is an ongoing theme in my life. For as long as I can remember my friends of choice didn’t look like me, often didn’t speak the same language (or just one language) as I did or live like I did. In elementary school my two besties were African American and Asian. We were inseparable and spent nearly every recess under an oak tree, just a rock’s throw from the mayhem on the playground, sharing stories, talking about traditions and explaining what protocol would need to be honored before one of us could come over to the other’s house after school.
My husband is African American, our children bi-racial and we’ve devoted over 22 years to serving mostly Latino families and children through an after-school and summer ministry program. Honestly though, these days my heart is weary when I glance through social media and watch the news. An intense need to be right or offended often outweighs the invitation to be human, to lean in and to suspend criticism.
It seems to me our influence and voice are invited to something different. Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 to represent well the Christ we serve and embrace the people he sends our way.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
As representatives of Christ’s kingdom, we can show up and counter the raging rants of the day and instead carve a new path. I believe this starts in our own hearts and homes. Here are some practical steps to reshape your thinking and actions:
Pray for God to remind you of the new life work he continues to carve within your own heart.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Ask God for “eyes to see” the people and opportunities around you.
Eyes up, hands up, heart open.
Make a plan and take the next step. Invite someone new over for a meal, connect on zoom, take a walk outside, and grab a cup of coffee or tea.
Be intentional, stay focused and take action.
Commit to becoming a lifelong learner of people.
Embrace a posture of curiosity.
Suspend judgment. Take note when you sense criticism creeping in and then lean in. You actually don’t have to be right.
Check the mirror for the proverbial “speck in your eye.”
Affirm, really listen and acknowledge expressed pain - and thank others for their authenticity and willingness to engage.
“All in” communication is key.
Let your words, nods and tone leave a wake of healing, valuable, preserving and flavorful moments behind you. May your friends look forward to your next time together!
Embrace “People are a mystery” rather than “People are hard.” The discovery of how God uniquely wires each of us and how he’s at work through our individual lives can be a sacred adventure.
Embrace the invitation to a ministry of reconciliation!
Jesus lived as an example of love in action and reconciliation. His character models it all for us. He is demonstrative. He is intentional. He pursues us. He wants to be in relationship with us. He invites us to be in relationship with each other. He sees through every pretense and assumption. He knows the reality of our hearts and still insists on knowing us better. This is good news.
Make every day an adventure! Find someone who doesn’t live near you, look like you, speak your language, have the same faith, share the same values or make you comfortable and agree with everything you say. Yes … even there. Go and watch and see God use your faith and your actions to change the world a little every day.
Andrea Jones brings 15 years of development and seven years of corporate sales to her role as Vice President of Development for MOPS International. Andrea is passionate about igniting women’s souls for Jesus through impactful relationships and building vibrant mom communities. Andrea and husband, Jimmy, have invested in the lives of underserved and at-risk youth in Denver and Texas. Together, they walk beside their two adult sons and “caboose” daughter, Alyssa. They are close to extended family and are always looking for an excuse to host a BBQ or head for a hike in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.