Today we have an interview with a special guest. Kristen Strong of Chasing Blue Skies is here talking about friendship, getting along with other women, and true community. Don’t miss this!
Caroline: Hi Kristen! Welcome to Kindred Grace! Thanks for joining us in this place to talk about friendship, conflict and that reoccurring theme, grace. We appreciate you sharing your words. First, tell us a bit about yourself.
Kristen: Hey there, lovely you! I am wife to David and mom to three kids – twin sons who are 14 and a daughter who is 10. We live in Rocky Mountain country of Colorado, and my blog, Chasing Blue Skies, is where I do my best to use authentic words and inspiring pictures to tell of the fresh-air hope that is Jesus.
Your husband, David, is in the Air Force. Have you had to travel much because of this? How have you found community in the midst of this?
We have traveled quite a bit, although not as much as many other military families. But as a girl who grew up in the same house in the same town, it feels like a lot! After moving from our native Oklahoma, we’ve lived in Ohio (twice), New Mexico, Hawaii, and now Colorado. We’ve usually lived in 2-3 places within each location, too. My husband has lived in other places including England, but that was before we met.
Sometimes it’s been easy to find community, but more often it’s been difficult. Over time, I’ve learned to put myself out there and introduce myself to others first. Also, I’ve met other friends by showing up at regularly scheduled events like church and (when my kids were younger) playgroups and Barnes & Noble storytime. This is harder with older kids, but I’ve still met some great people through church and the kids’ activities. Of course I don’t click with everyone I meet, and I’ve had seasons when finding friends was hard in spite of doing all the “right” things. But I always keep trying because it’s worth it.
Forming friendships with other military folks is a bit easier. One reason is because the warming up “getting to know you” period with military families is very short. For example, you might meet a new neighbor or friend on a Monday and then spend Thanksgiving with them on a Thursday. Shared experiences and distance from family make for faster friendships, I guess. Having said that, I’ve made plenty of civilian friends, too. But sometimes it is harder to maintain those friendships long distance once we’ve moved.
We sometimes have preconceived ideas of what we need from a community. What do you see as essential to a healthy friendship?
That’s a good question. When it comes to essentials for healthy friendship, I look at how Ruth from the Bible interacted with Naomi. Ruth was committed to her and vowed to not do anything that would separate their hearts or drive a wedge between them. With her heart in the right place, Ruth’s outward actions expressed love in her day-to-day decisions. It’s a wise model for all women to look to for healthy friendships.
For me, one of those day-to-day decisions involves reconciling the fact that I don’t always get to have my say. I think the ability to be a good listener – to take a step back from the spotlight – and let a friend have the floor is one of the most important qualities of a good friend. I also believe the hallmark of healthy friendships is when both people do this. But if I find myself caring about what I want to say more than what I want to hear, I’m not being the best kind of friend.
Tell us a bit about your personal journey to community. Do you have any life-long friends?
I keep in touch with a few friends from high school via Facebook, but the girls I consider “life-long friends” are probably those I refer to as the Juniper Court gang. Several years ago, we all lived on the same street – Juniper Court. And while we now live all over, we’ve all managed to stay connected through the last 12 years. Growing kids and busier schedules mean we don’t talk on the phone as much as we used to, but we text and just check in on each other to see how things are going. Every once in a while, a few of us are able to get together face to face and catch up over a long weekend. Those times are magical!
Do you think personality is an excuse to not get along?
It’s a hard thing, but yes I do. Finding solid, healthy friendships is kind of like dating. You aren’t going to gel with every person you meet. While friendships – like all relationships – take work, time, and commitment, there has to be an easy familiarity that makes the friendship a safe place felt for both people.
Are you friends now with someone you used to clash with?
Heck ya! One particular friend I met because her husband and my husband were best friends growing up. For a while we lived in the same town, and it didn’t take long for our differences to show up in glaring neon. We ended up getting into an ugly argument, each hurting the other deeply. So, we parted ways for probably six months to a year. When I heard she had a baby, I felt God nudging me to offer an olive branch. And my olive branch looked like a CD of lullaby music.
So one day, while shaking in my boots, I knocked on her door. She answered and after a little small talk, I handed her my gift. That was the beginning of a new relationship. When my friend opened her door and accepted my peace offering, we both opened the doors of our hearts to friendship again. And today, I count her as one of my most cherished friends. We still have differences, but we both do a better job at seeing each other as Jesus does and therefore appreciate our differences rather than despise them.
What are the main enemies of good relationships between women today? What can we do to combat those?
I’ll be honest and tell you I’ve not always been a good, encouraging friend to other women. Growing up in the same place, I never had to work to make friends – they were simply always there. So when I married my Air Force man and moved away, I struggled to make friends. And once I did make them, I put all kinds of unreasonable expectations on them. I was a suffocating, demanding kind of friend, and who wants to be around that? Recently, I heard Ann Voskamp say expectations kill relationships. Oh, have I learned this the hard way!
Instead of offering expectations to your friend, offer her a gift instead. Offer her your time, your ears, your heart as gifts with no expectations in return. In God’s economy, giving is how you get in return. Be there for her, even if that means saying something that might be difficult for her to hear. And remember no friend can be your everything. Only Jesus gives us never-disappointing, always-fulfilling friendship and support.
About Kristen Strong
As a child growing up on the Oklahoma prairie, Kristen would steal time under shady oak trees to play with words. Today, she steals time between her morning chai and afternoon carpool to do the same. With a degree in music education, creativity — whether with words or music — has always been a central part of her heart and soul.
Kristen is passionate about giving meaningful encouragement to all in her circle of influence and helping others see themselves as Jesus does. She blogs regularly at Chasing Blue Skies where she tells of finding fresh-air hope in looking up.
When she’s not tapping out words, she’s managing her family’s schedules, helping with homework, and building everyday stories with her favorite four. Kristen and her Air Force husband David have three children: precocious twin sons and a vivacious daughter. Together, they have zig-zagged across this country (and one ocean!) and enjoy their current home under the wide-blue-skies of Colorado.
Photography: JenniMarie Photography