The Art of Ambushing

The Lord said, “and she shall be hospitable” and it was so. Even before I married Brent, I constantly had people stopping over at my apartment to visit. I always had food, always had a clean abode, and I was pretty easy on the eyes. So yes, there were male friends who were “in the neighborhood” – – and hungry. Okay, they came for the food. Let’s just be real. This girl knew how to dress up some Hamburger Helper back in the day.

After Brent and I were married, though, people still would just show up if they were in town. I never minded. In fact, it was one of my favorite things that would happen to us, and it was most certainly one of my favorite things to do to others. Just drop in on people.

The Art Of Ambushing

I call it “ambushing”. You show up, unannounced, no plans made. If you’re NEARBY you DROP BY. That’s the only rule. Sometimes we knew we’d be nearby someone later on, and we’d make a little plan ahead and show up at their door with dinner. Ambushing someone by bringing food is Ambush Level: Expert.

In Wyoming, it’s a little trickier to do because some “neighbors” are literal miles apart. But even country-dwellers need to be ambushed now and then.

I remember one time I was driving from Powell to Cody (a distance of approximately 24 miles according to Google Maps) after class one afternoon. I had this stirring in my spirit that I needed to ambush my best friend, Tiff. I felt like the Lord was telling me to see her.

As I have a horrible habit of doing when the Lord tells me to do something, I argued with Him. “But God, um… she’s like several miles out of the way in the middle of nowhere. So…. that’s a great idea, but I’m just going to keep driving… on the highway… because it’s paved…. and go home.”

But the feeling became stronger. Even so, instead of submitting to the Lord, I started bargaining with him. I said to God, “If she calls me before I get to the turn [to head to her house] I’ll go and see her.” I knew I was golden because it was not her favorite thing to talk on the phone. Granted, this was before the days of texting, but I still had a cell phone, dinosaur of a machine as it was back then. I knew she wouldn’t call. I knew I could go home.

The second I reached the outermost edge of the road to turn to her house, my cell phone rang. And it was Tiff. I pulled over and answered the phone by saying, “I’m supposed to come see you.” Bewildered, she replied with momentary silence before saying “…..okay…..” and I said, “I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.” And I showed up. Granted, I didn’t exactly ambush her because she had a few minutes warning I was showing up, but even God is in favor of the friend-ambush. And He’ll make it happen if you don’t.

Since moving to North Dakota, we haven’t done it much. First, it took us a long time to find real friends in the sea of friendly people. We had Brent’s friends who we love dearly, but we couldn’t exactly bother them all the time. Once we found new friends after moving here, we didn’t want to scare them away by just showing up at their home randomly. The thing about midwesterners is they’re pretty protective of their personal space. And when I say personal space, I mean a good 250 ft. radius. “North Dakota Nice” translates to, “I’ll support you with a smile, but just stay over there…”

Now that we’ve got some lovely soul-level relationships with so many dear people here, though, it clearly should be easier for us to ambush people. So why haven’t we done it?

What’s the deal with planning anyway? Aren’t we planning our lives away? Appointments. Errands. Meetings. Activities. Here. There. All the everywheres.

No. My life lately has been nothing but scheduled. These hours I do these things, those hours I do those things, then I fall into bed exhausted and completely depleted. No. I don’t want that.

So today! We had a unique opportunity to ambush someone. After we showed up a whopping THREE WEEKS EARLY to volunteer for an event, we found ourselves in the neighborhood of a couple of friends. We wound up at the front door of some dear friends from church. The lights were on, the window was open, but no one was answering the door. Did I give up? No way.

I walked to the back yard and wouldn’t you know it – there they were, playing and enjoying the fall weather. I poked my head over the fence and before I could even say, “Can we stay?” I was waved on in and told, “Come on in! I’m so excited you guys are here!”

Successful ambush.

We joined them in their living room, we had some fantastic conversation, we let the kids run around together, we had dinner (and dessert!) and it was an incredibly enjoyable evening.

We didn’t plan it. We didn’t schedule it on our calendars. We didn’t really give it a chance to not work. We just ambushed them.

And people, I think ambushing is a fantastic way to foster relationships. When you love and are loved enough to accept one another in whatever kind of state you’re in, that’s authentic relationship. It doesn’t matter if the house is clean, if you have no idea what you’re having for dinner, or if you’ve put makeup on. Just love people in the middle of the life and mess they’re in. Also, and maybe more importantly, allow yourself to be loved on impulse. Allow the ambush.

Just don’t come to see us three weeks from today, because we’ll be volunteering at some event….that we thought was….today….

The Letter That Changed My Life

The Letter That Changed My Life

I spent the first 12 years of my life as a valley girl. I lived only a few blocks from the beach in central California. I had naturally bronze skin, naturally bleach-blonde hair, and – like – totally talked – like – I was – like – a valley girl. Watching home videos is painful for me.

The summer before I turned 13, we moved from our home on in Grover Beach (though it was Grover City when I lived there. Random fact.) to a tiny apartment in Powell, Wyoming.

It was the worst summer of my life.

It hailed. I had never seen hail before. And it would hail while the sun was still shining. It was the craziest weather I ever witnessed. I made two friends. My sister and I shared a room with bunk beds, and I grew pretty sick of hanging out with her. Both parents were gone to work every day. And when they were home, they argued. That summer was tough on everybody.

I missed my own room, I missed the beach, and I missed my friends. Especially my best friend.

Thankfully, we kept in touch through letters and phone calls. “Rose” as I’ll call her, was my saving grace. When I knew it was her on the other end of the line, nothing else mattered. She got me. She’d always get me.

Until the day she wouldn’t.

I’ll never forget getting her letter. I tore it open to read the latest goings on. What I read instead was a break up letter.

I never got a definitive answer as to why, but I distinctly remember the phrase, “I will always look back on our friendship with nostalgia.” Just like that, for the cost of a 29 cent postage stamp, my best friend became “someone I used to know.” The longest relationship I ever had was nothing more than memory. A vapor. Poof.

I was devastated. Crushed. Rose, my best friend, had now become a painful thorn in my memory bank. Not only was I struggling to make new friends, but my old ones didn’t want anything to do with me. For 13 year old Val, that was brutal. I’ve never liked the word “nostalgia”.

Thrust into the pits of loneliness, I had to make my new friendships really count, and I had to find more friends. Eighth grade was tough. I hated being the new kid in town. With gigantic glasses and an even bigger fro, it wasn’t easy.

I built a wall few people found their way over. Born a social butterfly, I suddenly tried to make a bigger, stronger, impenetrable cocoon.

In one of my most vulnerable, confidence-lacking moments, I gained a new best friend: Tiff (or Tigger, as I affectionately called her). She even had (has) huge hair like me.

Not only did I have a new best friend, but I began to develop several meaningful and long-lasting relationships. My 20 year reunion (in three years….is that right? It can’t have been that long…) will be full of hugs and high fives from some of the dearest people on the planet.

Tiff & Val

I tend to be a hoarder of relationships – I don’t want to let any of them go. Even if I have to keep them at the furthest arm’s-length distance possible, I can’t ever quite cut ties. I never understood how people could be so comfortable parting ways with other people. “Rose” was the first of many painful breakups for me. After Rose left my life, and after others bypassed the door that continued to my future, it stung.

As intense a sting any of them may have been, the pain hasn’t lasted forever.

I came into better relationships. I found my husband after my heart had been trampled on by a few former suitors. Tiff and I have a friendship that spans over 20 years, and 700 miles. I’m a lousy friend, but she loves me anyway.

Here in North Dakota, it took a long (l-o-n-g) time to connect with anyone on a real meaningful level. Now, especially after everything we’ve been through, I know we are genuinely loved and supported no matter what. At any given time, I could call a long list of people and know these midwesterners would give me everything they had to make sure I was taken care of.

I have the best people.

I’m glad Rose was brave enough to let me go. Maybe she looks back on our elementary friendship with nostalgia, or maybe she never thinks about me another day in her life. More importantly, I’m glad for the deep, nurturing relationships I have today.

Whatever you’re up against in relationships – know it’s a struggle for everyone. Life changes. People change. Some of us are revolving doors, and some of us use revolving doors. It’s not necessarily right or wrong. It’s life. Be encouraged.

But just know if any of you break up with me, I’ll have to blog about you.