The Bell Family

Random ponderings on God, life, and the humor all around us


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Carrie Q.

I love her.  A bunch.  To finish my short series on friendships, I want to honor one of the best I have.

I have known Carrie for almost four years now.  I was in community group with her during almost all of my CG adventures during Sojourn.  We have been in accountability together for a year and a half.  She has three girls, too, and her oldest, Noelle,  is the same age as my oldest, Liam.  Noelle has announced that if Liam buys her a butterfly ring, she will marry him (of course she said she would marry a different little boy we know if he bought her a diamond ring).  Carrie and I have also lived 1/2 mile from each other for 3 1/2 years now. 

I can laugh hard when I’m with her.  I mean really, really hard.  We can sing Amy Grant, Sandy Patty, and Backyardigan songs together.  We swap funny kid stories.  We love drama, not the real-life kind but the kind on a stage with spotlights.  The bigger the crowd, the more we can ham it up.  We are both lovers of choir and men who play guitar (O.K. each of us only loves one man who plays guitar, and it’s not the same man).

Those are bonuses of what I get by having Carrie in my life.  The real reason I love Carrie is she can sharpen me and point me to Christ better than almost anyone I know.  This woman is full of wisdom and grace.  She is sinful like everyone else but is quick to confess that sin and seek repentance.  She takes my legalistic tendancies and points me nowhere but the cross and the forgiveness I have already received, encouraging me to rest in His strength and wisdom, not my own.  I have called her to get her input on how to deal with touchy situations with others more than once because I know she is careful with her speech and her words are full of scripture.  This is the kind of friend every believer should pray for, and I am grateful to God for giving me so much goodness through Carrie.


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Unbelieving Friends

When Bill and I were at Sojourn, at one point we literally were setting aside 17 nights a month for ministry with other Sojourners.  This included coaching meetings, community group leader training, counseling other couples, our own community group, and accountability.  While most of those times were simply fulfilling the role our pastors had called us to as coaches, I was challenged one Sunday as one of our pastors said, “Most of your day should be spent with unbelievers.  Your time with believers should be the exception.”  One passage among many he pointed to was the passage stating we are to be “in the world but not of the world.”  So often believers misinterpret this to say we should have no part of the world, but that would be disregarding the first part of that verse–“in the world.”  Though yes, we are to live lives that reflect Christ and that stay away from sinful behavior by God’s grace, we are called to go and make disciples.

In Acts, though there were some situations of people coming to Christ after one “sermon” given by a man they had no relationship with, most of the time apostles would go and spend a year or more with people, really getting to know them and ministering to them in the gospel.  That is to say, though God can most definitely use things like tracts to bring someone to Himself, the pattern in Scripture seems to be one of truly forming friendships with those who don’t know Him, sacrificing our own preferences for the sake of the kingdom (we are to become all things for all people).  I was convicted by this to see how much of my drive to spend so much time with believers was because it was easy.  Almost always when I leave those meetings I feel built up, encouraged.  Sometimes when I leave times with unbelievers, I feel sad, unconfident, and often sinfully fear what they might think of me.

We have been extremely blessed to have many friendships with unbelievers–neighbors, co-workers, etc, and after that sermon we were convicted to shift our schedule so we could make room for more time with our unbelieving friends.  I want to clarify here that our reasons for drawing closer to these friends was not to manipulate them into feeling loved so they would believe in Jesus.  I think this is often the motive behind some of these friendships.  Instead, the motivation is simply to love them as they are and to be challenged ourselves by them.  Through this love, yes, we pray, sometimes while weeping and begging, that God saves them and that all of our actions and words glorify Him, but we love them because we have been loved, not to get them to do what we want.  That’s not true love, even if it is veiled with concern for their souls.

Through these relationships, we have developed an extremely deep love for our friends who don’t share our love for Jesus.  Yes, it’s harder to find common ground sometimes since we don’t have Christ as our bond, but we seriously love our time with them, and in case you’re wondering, yes, they know we love Jesus.  Almost every conversation goes there at some point, but it’s not forced.  By God’s grace those doors are naturally opened.  One time it was through a TV program one friend watched and wanted to discuss, one time it was a friend who asked Bill if he believed in demons, one time it was through a phrase I used that my friend asked me about.  God wants us to talk about Him, and He will provide ways for us to do that if we are prayerfully looking for them.

One note about the pastor’s quote I mentioned earlier.  Spending more time with non-believers than believers is not a scriptural mandate, and we don’t have to literally keep a log of how many hours we spend with believers vs. non-believers.  God has given everyone roles and giftings.  For example, the average full-time staff pastor will have a difficult time doing this.  His job calls him to be with believers almost exclusively (often 60-80 hours/week), and most of the rest of his time is spent filling his role as husband and father.  Many times (like in my situation) stay at home moms automatically spend most of their days with unbelievers because their children don’t yet profess Christ.  All that is to say this isn’t going to look the same for everyone.


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How to “Drop” Friendships

I want to begin by reminding anyone who’s reading that all tips I give are just that–tips.  The way we do things are right for our family but not necessarily for everyone or even anyone else.  There is freedom in the gospel, and we don’t (or more accurately try not to) judge others who do things differently. 🙂

In the last post, I talked about some ways to decide who your closest friends should be according to the season God has placed you.  Once we have made these decisions, we begin to pull out those friendships that we feel should no longer have as high of a priority.  Obviously we are in the midst of a big transition–joining with a new church which comes with new roles.  We have never had as close of friendships as we had at Sojourn, so the changes we have had to make have been the most difficult so far, but we also understand that in order to make room for new friendships those changes are necessary.  We have dropped out of our Sojourn community group in order to join a small group through Oak Park, we handed over our Sojourn coaching responsibilities to someone else so we can embrace our new roles of pastor and pastor’s wife, and we are most likely going to transition into Oak Park accountability groups.

The next part I’ll talk about is a little trickier.  “What about those friends whom I’ve known forever but who don’t fit in those roles?”  I will say this first.  The more people who have high priority in your lives, the less room you have for new people whom God desires to place there, both unbelievers and believers.  It also gets easier and easier to make things like family or your walk with God a lower priority.  We live on this earth not for our own pleasure (though by God’s grace he certainly give us plenty of it!), but to further the kingdom.  If you feel like you absolutely can’t give up any friendships, I would encourage you to ask yourself, “What is more important to me, keeping things comfortable or glorifying God?” and “Do I fear man or God more?”

In the last post I addressed that there will be a few people who don’t easily fit in your lives but who should still have a high priority.  To decide who those friends are, you need to evaluate your season of life.  For instance, my season is a wife and mom over several small children whom I homeschool–thus, I don’t have much free time for lots and lots of friends.  You should also evaluate the kind of conversations that take place each time you’re with those friends.  We Bells love to laugh, and we laugh a lot, but when my friendships are based on what a good time I had, my priorities are turned upside-down.  If you meet with someone and consistently have conversations where Jesus’s name is never brought up, that probably is not a super edifying friendship.  We can often discover what we worship together based on what we talk about the most.  If Christ is our connection, then speech about Him and how we relate to Him should pretty much dominate our speech with one another.

If we discover we have friendships that need to take a back seat, first remember that this doesn’t mean you are no longer friends with them.  It just means you can’t give them as much attention as you once did.  In this situation, I would encourage you to sit down with that friend and discuss what’s going on.  Pray with them, thank them for the role they have played in your life, and encourage them in Christ.  If you are letting this friendship go because of unedifying talk or other sin, you would love your friend most by bringing that to their attention, asking forgiveness if need be and sharpening them in the word (The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend–Prov. 27:6).  I have had to do this a couple of times, and each time by God’s grace my friendship with that person becomes sweeter, even if I rarely see or talk to them anymore.

None of this is to be done lightly.  Do everything in prayer and according to the Word and your conscience.  God’s plans for you are for wholeness and not for evil, so if He calls you to “drop” a friendship, trust Him that He is helping you make room for others who will grow you in Him in new ways.


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Close Friendships

When Bill and I retreat, one of the things we almost always look at is our friendships, evaluating who we need to keep close, who we need to spend less time with, & who we need to make a higher priority.  This is especially important since our seasons of life are frequently changing.  We can’t possibly remain close to every single person we have ever loved.  There are many ways you can evaluate friendships.  I’m going to share how we go about this process in two posts–deciding who gets top priority and deciding where change needs to take place.  This post only refers to believers, BTW.  I’ll get to our unbelieving friends in a later post. 

We begin by evaluating our personal walk with God, our family, & our church.  We then move on to friends since our friendships come after these things & since evaluating those things helps us understand more clearly how much time we have & the responsibilities God has called us to.  Afterward we make a list of all the people we can think of who are currently in our lives & evaluate each one. 

We begin with the roles God has called us to through our church.  Bill is a pastor of worship, so his current top priorities are the other pastors at Oak Park, musicians, and interns.  Since we are just now settling in with this church & see my primary ministry to the church as ministering to my husband, I am currently focusing on spouses of some of those men and female musicians.  Their phone calls and emails will be answered first and their meetings will be scheduled first.  Bill and I also make it a priority to pray for them together.

Next, we look for those friends who are most important in sharpening us.  “Perfume & incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” (Prov. 27:9)  For us, this means our accountability groups and small group (we’re still settling into this at Oak Park) take a front seat.  This is where we share our hearts, receive encouragement or rebuke, and return the favor all for the sake of godliness.

After that we look to see if there are other responsibilities or giftings God has given us.  For example, Paul in a sense teaches Timothy that everyone is called to be mentored & to be a mentor.  So Bill & I are giving priority to finding new mentors and giving priority to a man and young woman we both mentor separately.  Again, a post on mentoring is in the future. 

Though I am going to address in the next post the danger of keeping too many friends who don’t fit well in your current season of life, there is something to keeping a few close friends for the long haul.  These are the people who are particularly gifted at sharpening you, the ones who energize you for the Lord each time you are in their presence.  They know you almost as well as your family does, and you feel as connected to them as Jonathan and David did to each other.  One of those friends for me is Carrie (post about her later).  Granted I’m cheating a bit since I’ve been in community with Carrie in some form for almost four years, but even if that role disappeared, I would imagine she would still get top priority in my life.  Two other friends who fit that role are Lindsey and Kacie.  Though I can’t give as much attention to either of these friends as I could in a different season of life, these friends are particularly special to me.  Lindsey and I still get together sporadically in less busy seasons, and our family visits Kacie’s family each year.  I leave these times of fellowship feeling like I got a glimpse of Christ.

Once we have decided who God has given us to be a high priority, we move on to see with whom we need to make changes.  That post is next.


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Fun With Friends

This summer, we got to have some of our dear friends’ four children over for the whole day to spend time with us.  Below are some pictures:

Sandbox fun

Swingin’

and more swingin’

Lauren loves Nati so much.  And she’s going to prove it by shooting him with a water gun.

Silly Silas

Miki on vocals

Resting after a long day  🙂


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Worthwhile Chatting

I had mentioned in a previous post about my conviction of not having Christ-centered conversations when I was meeting with other Christians, so Bill and I have been evaluating that lately.  Basically, we came up with a few questions to help keep Christ in the middle of the conversation, most of which are on the Girl Talk blog.

When we are meeting someone new…

1.  Tell me the story of how you got together (this is an ice breaker question that really helps you learn about the other Christians, but you can obviously only use it if you’re meeting someone who is married or dating).
2.  How did you come to Christ?

When we are repeatedly meeting with someone, particularly for accountability or discipling (though they work great with any believers)…

1.  Describe your current practice of the spiritual disciplines.
2.  What passage of scripture have you been meditating on recently?
3.  What fruit of the spirit are you cultivating?
4.  What sin are you seeking to weaken?
5.  How can I pray for you?
6.  Here is an evidence of grace that I observe in your life.
7.  How are you seeking to grow in spiritual masculinity/femininity?

To get conversation going with unbelievers, Bill recommends “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  There is absolutely nothing Christian about the book.  He is actually trying to teach you how to make sure everyone loves you–not what we’re going for here.  Bill finds it useful, though, for learning how to take the focus off self and have a sincere interest in others lives for the purpose of building relationships.  Prayerfully, that relationship will quickly turn into an open door to share the gospel.


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Good Friends and an Amazing Husband

28 years, and never a trip to the ER–for me or my family–until Tuesday night.  Monday evening I began having stomach pains and vomiting.  After a completely sleepless night and no relief, Bill took me to the doctor, I had an ultrasound done to check my gallbladder (everything was fine), and was given a Rx for the nausea.  When the meds did nothing, my doctor was concerned and sent me to the ER to rule out other possibilities.  The doctors ruled out everything they could without a colonoscopy, and with my Crohn’s history they assumed I had an inflammation in or around my colon that was causing the pain and sickness.  After morphine (oh, yeah), some nausea medicine, and some fluids for an extremely dehydrated woman, I started feeling much better.  I was sent home late that evening.

Besides being grateful I didn’t have to have any of my insides removed, I have become increasingly grateful for the friends God has blessed me with.  One of our good friends, Angela, was preparing for a trip to D.C. the next morning, but she dropped all she was doing and was at our house within 30 minutes to watch our children.  Because she did eventually have to leave, some other dear friends, Drew and Lindsey, gave up some of their time together (which they don’t get enough of) to relieve Angela and take over the kid watch.  Lindsey also brought us dinner tonight.

On top of that, Bill took off two days and has completely taken over household duties like a pro.  He has had kid responsibilities, meal prep, house maintenance, and sick wife care.  The greatest part is that he has had the largest smile on his face the entire time he has been tending to my work.  I’m not kidding.  I haven’t seen him without a smile (except when there was a little scare I might have major surgery) since the whole ordeal began.  It has been beautiful to watch him serve me and the kids with such amazing joy.  It is making me feel like I’m falling in love with him all over again.  It is also reminding me what a great job I have–being a wife and mother.  Who could ask for anything better than that?  Basically I’m just bursting with love for my family, friends, and the God who gave them all to me, and I wanted to share His glory with you all.