I use to believe that the definition of “friends” was someone who is close to the same age and in the same state of life that a person closely interacted with for most anything and/or everything. I’m not real sure why I thought this way, but probably because I am a pretty straightforward literal type thinking person and that just seemed like the logical thing. I can’t say that I believed this to be true because of what was modeled for me or what I saw occur in the lives of people around me, but it is what it is.

When I look back on my life and think of those that I have deemed as friends, the above self described definition rings nothing of truth. Using the the self definition of “friends”, I would tell you that I didn’t have many friends growing up because my “friends” were people of various ages and life stages. Some of my closest “friends” in life were even family, like both of my grandmothers. Those ladies, I would have chosen to hang out with them anyday over hanging with girls my age (that is until I hit that awkward phase of life and began to internalize that above definition and felt like a failure because I preferred “my ladies” over girls my age). Or my friends were those that lived at the Natchitoches Parish Long Term Care Unit where my Uncle B.A. lived most of his life and because of one of those “ladies”, I visited the NPLTCU weekly and not out of obligation but out of longing to see how the residents were doing.

Today, I would define friends or friendship as people that a person chooses to intimately connect their life with because both parties involved want to and are willing to walk through all circumstances of life no matter what the case may be. (Not advocating abuse here.) Notice this definition has nothing to do with an age or life stage. . . it simply is the choice and decision to go deep, be intentional, and to love no matter how it may make you feel. Now, before we go further, what I am NOT saying is that a person chooses to be in a friendship with someone who abuses them in any way shape or form. Mentally. Spiritually. Physically. Emotionally. That is not okay! Not appropriate and should not be tolerated. If you have those friends and you truly care about their well being (because being an excellent friend doesn’t mean it’s always about you) then the best thing you can do for them is point that friend to someone or something that can help them grow past whatever circumstance it is that keeps them in the cycle of hurt or hurting others.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of spending it with my friends! For three years, Craig and I have been in a group we affectionately refer to as #elochos. . . .the eight friends. Yes, we are well aware that is not the literal translation but that is who we are. This group started with a simple text message that went out from one husband to the other husbands of the women that said husband’s wife was friends with or wanted to get to know better. It was an attempt, and the beginning, of trying to form couple friendships. Couple friendships are so hard. . . it’s like dating but it isn’t just what you think of one person, it’s what you both think of both people and sometimes that doesn’t add up! Many more couples initially responded yes to the invitation. . . as time approached the others backed out for various reasons and so the journey of the 8 began!

Over the course of the three years, planning Valentine’s Day has unintentionally evolved alternating from wives (#locosquatros) to husbands (#elhombres) and so on. It has become a healthy competition of the #battleofthesexes to see who can out surprise the other.

First year the #locosquatros hired an uber driver, sent #elhombres out on an adventure to a local vintage arcade where they could enjoy the games and a variety of IPA beers.

They then returned to a homemade dinner and framed lists of “10 Things we love about you” from each spouse. Pretty good right?!? We thought so.

Year two #elhombres secured babysitters, rented hotel rooms all at the same swanky hotel, made dinner reservations, had flowers waiting at the restaurant, hired uber drivers, and took us to a night of dancing at a local grown adult night club. . . aka live music and with the median age of attenders being 35 years old! Ok, so that definitely TOPPED the chart!

Challenge accepted. Fast forward to this year, 2019.

The text messages and marco polo’s began and #locosquatros quickly came to a conclusion of what our Valentine’s Day celebration would look like. We met for a “planning session” lunch and ironed out the details. And then we patiently but anxiously awaited for the time to come. Broken Bow here we come! #elochosValentine’sDay weekend was a complete success! The #elhombres never figured it and #elochos HAD A BLAST!

Grateful Head Pizza and then to the cabin for the weekend!

The pictures will have to speak for themselves, because the conversations, well they are sacred! For #elochos ears only! It has taken three years to get to this level of intimate conversations and trust. My prayer is that as we continue to grow together for years to come, that our level of intimacy continues, and we continue to challenge and encourage each other to strive for what is deeper and more meaningful. The whole as iron sharpens iron we sharpen each other type of thing.

So remember how I gave my personal definition of what I thought a friend was and how I thought I was a failure because my reality didn’t measure up to my idealistic definition? Ironically, thank you to many years of counseling, trial and errors, heartache and JESUS, I have learned that my realistic definition is what I prefer and the idealistic version is for the birds.

Going deep and being intentional is hard. It stretches us as individuals and the people we go deep with. . . it causes us to be introspective as well as retrospective. It causes us, in love, to challenge our friends to look beyond themselves always attempting to set our aim on that of Christ Jesus. Honestly, it really isn’t anything about ME or WE or YOU or US. It’s about HIM and HIM in US (or me, we, you, etc). . . . and IT’S SO HARD! That mind set goes beyond anything that is literal or logical. . . . it is against the grain and can hurt. Not hurt in a bad way, but a good growing pains kind of hurt.

Headed back to reality after a weekend of great memories made!

#elochos isn’t a group of same age same life stage kind of friends. It’s a group of friends from all decades and all life stages. Because we are humans and humans aren’t perfect, we cover a multitude of sins (past and present) and we don’t try and hide it. Instead we call it is what is and then seek to move past it. We seek to lean into each other trying to keep Christ first then our marriages second. Are we all at different levels of the growth? Yep. Are we secure in that? I believe we are. I am but one opinion of the #elochos, so forgive me if I step over the line. . . Here’s the bottom line, friends and friendships come in all shapes and sizes. . . all ages and life stages. . . all circumstances and all personalities. It’s what we do with those friends that makes them stick and makes them worth it. If we are seeking to put Christ first then the rest is history.

These are the faces of #elochos. And this is what we use to grow as individuals and as couples.

Three years in and #elochos is continuing to age well with time. Who is it that you find in your inner circle? Who do you allow to speak truth into your life and who do you call when life hits? These are just the tip of the iceberg questions that are answered through our #elochos group. It requires a level of vulnerability and a level of commitment that honestly sometimes I don’t want to do. . . but I can say 100% without a shadow of a doubt that I am so thankful that my flesh is willing and because #elochos strives for the common goal (of becoming more like Christ Jesus) that His grace is sufficient and intercedes into the places where my flesh was hesitant.

So, what’s your definition of “friends” and is it realistic or idealistic?

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