Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Woman ... Friend or Foe?

I've heard from so many women over the years who long for female friendships, but are generally mistrusting of women.

That's a rough place to be. Its like thirsting for a drink, yet fearing you'll drown if you take a sip.

Most of these women's fears are not unfounded. Maybe they had friends in the past who turned on them. Maybe they had female family members who took advantage rather than taking care of them.

Maybe they've been wronged and hurt by "the other woman." Maybe they've been the other woman themselves.

My own friendship fears were anchored in my life experiences which convinced me: women are not to be trusted, but avoided or competed with. That's why I had to learn to walk by faith with Christ, and not by my fears or cynicism.

I had to ask God for good friends, and then trust them with my heart. I had to make space in my life to care about them and what they are going through.

And when they messed up and blew it - as we all do from time to time - I had to learn to grant them grace and trust them once again.A small few I had to phase out of my life because I found them repeatedly pulling me down rather than helping me grow.

I'm not saying you can't be friends with anyone less mature in Christ than you. Besides, that's how mentoring and lifestyle evangelism work. The problem was they were stagnant, yet having more influence over me than I over them so neither one of us were growing. I enjoyed their company but it was more of a guilty pleasure and I sensed God leading me to let that go.

Today I head for Charlotte for one of my favorite times of the year: the annual She Speaks conference. I'm stoked to spend the next several days with some of the best friends a gal could have, the She Speaks team. My excitement continues because I also get to make new friends while I'm there.

This year I decided rather than rooming with a P31 teammate (Micca and I are usually roomies and I will miss that - she cracks me up y'all!) I'm rooming with a complete stranger that I hope will become a dear friend. Her name is Ariel Allison - do me a favor and pop over to her blog and tell her to be nice to me this weekend, and to grant me grace should I happen to snore!

The point is friendship takes risk, and effort, and work, and grace - just like any other worthwhile thing in life. But friendship is one of the things that make life feel more worthwhile. So don't be afraid to reach out, break the ice, make the invite, and touch someone. Forget your former foes ... new friends await. That's what my devotion today at P31 is about.

Can you think of a good friendship movie (besides, of course, Steel Magnolias)? I always return home from She Speaks too tired to do anything but sit on the sofa, drool, and watch movies for about 2 days. Maybe you and Netflicks can hook me up?

35 comments:

  1. Thank you for your post. It is hope that God will send me a couple of friends. I have faced the fact that women I thought were my friend, were using me. And God has sent me one dear woman, I am taking it slow. It is hard to trust. I know I test the water, sometimes with my little toe. I have learned there are more in the category who want you when they have trouble. Who want your prayer. But when you need prayer, not many there. There is hope as I keep praying. Thanks for the post again

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  2. Thankyou... By gods grace I have got very godly girl friends,who helps me to grow in my spiritual life and in intimacy with GOD.... praise the lord...

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  3. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    I have had a bad experience with a girlfriend in the past. I have prayed it out and felt ready for new friends, but most of them are so superficial. They are mostly co-workers who act friendly when it suits them, but go out with eachother and never invite me. A few even claim to be Christians, but their fruit (and speech/gossip) say otherwise.
    There is one lady at church that assists in my Sabbath School class and she and her husband and I sing together in a trio. She is not 100% committed to Jesus and seems more concerned with her grandchildren and friends at work. I feel like I'm open to new friendships, though none are coming my way.
    I have been focusing on renewing and strengthening my friendship with my husband. That has been rewarding. Plus, I feel like all of you Godly women at P31 are my friends. I guess that is good enough for now.
    Thank you for your openness!
    Jennifer

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  4. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    Rachel, thank you for today's devotion and for this post. I have been struggling with this area and this was a very helpful read. I hope you are blessed this weekend.

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  5. Good morning Rachel. I really enjoyed reading your post today over at Encouragement for Today so I had to pop over here and see what you are about. I too have been burned, but in the church, not only by women, but the root of the issue was women. I have been in hiding for a number of months now and am slowly trying to make my way back. I want so much to have healthy fellowship with women, but time and time again, I have been hurt through jealousy, competition and insecurity. I kind of gave up. Been out of church for about a year and a half after getting burned one too many times. The church, I have found, is not safer than the world. It is just as difficult. I was blindsided due to my belief that it would be different in the church. So today I ask that you pray for me and for my husband as we decide what to do next to strengthen ourselves and get back on the path of fellowship with other believers. Neither of us has the desire to put ourselves out there, so to speak.

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  6. Rachel, I totally hear you on this one. I too have had the catty girlfriends, and they suck the life out of me!
    One of the things I am striving to do is meet girls at SheSpeaks who are where I am, as far as ministry. I want girls who understand when I say "I can't come because I have to write" or who don't think I am avoiding them because I am covered in deadlines and engagements. I am hoping to meet women who don't expect me to have it all together, but embrace the fact that I am, well- that I am wacky goofy me who is just trying to live by the leading of the Spirit!
    I will pray for you and your roommate, and hope that you will pray for me too. (although I cheated and got a private room. No one needs to see me wrestling to put on my bra in the morning! ;) But I know that if He owns a thousand cattle on a thousand hills, He can give us the friendships we are craving!!!

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  7. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    Well there is Thelma and Louise (with young Brad Pitt) but i didn't really like that movie much. Let us know if you find some good ones.

    Liked your devotion today.

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  8. Oh, and a great friendship movie- let's see- Second Hand Lions, Bucket List, Beaches, Circle of Friends, but hands down, my favorite friendship flick is Cinderella Man. The way the manager gives from himself to give that family a chance...it reminds me that there are people who believe in others. It's definately top of my list!

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  9. Rachel thank you for making me think this morning!!!

    You write "But a few I deliberately phased out because my own character wasn't strong enough yet to remain Christ-like in their company."
    Could we be selling our Savior short by thinking He is not strong enough to be able to keep "these difficult people" around?

    Phillippians 4:13 We can do ALL things with Christ who strengthens us right?!

    Also, what does forsake mean to you? I struggle with this word.

    Just fodder for thought!

    I have a dear friend who gets her strength by being angry with God and has asked me to not FORSAKE her. She has a point. Do we run in those sticky situations? Or do we adhere, rely, and deeply cling to our Lord and go deeper through these difficult relationships placed in our lives?

    Thanks for any input you may provide!

    Christ's Peace,
    Lisa
    http://lisaloranewilkinson.blogspot.com/

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  10. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    What a blessing your post on P31 was to me today. This very topic/issue has been very daunting in my life for quite awhile. I've learned a lot by being burned. I'm into the genuine not phoney baloney friendships. I've been praying for only the right friends to spend my time with. In and outside the church, this can be a frustrating task.

    Befriending someone who doesn't have a friend (I'm finding) is the best place to start.

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  11. Rachel, you talked about deliberately phasing out friendships that are unhealthy. Do you have any advice on how to do that without hurting their feelings or giving off the impression that you are better than they are because they aren't Christians?

    If you could email me any suggestions I would really appreciate it.

    bobbig@pkcontrols.com

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  12. I've always loved watching Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood...the idea of having a group of girlfriends like that has always intrigued me. It seems that my very best "girlfriends" are my sister and mom and cousins. I've always wanted closer friends who aren't related, but they don't seem to come my way. So I'm just thankful to have so many wonderful female relatives close by whom I see very often. I think they are my "Ya-Ya" group!

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  13. I would suggest watching old episodes of thirtysomething on YouTube-- the friendships in that group of people are wonderful!

    From a true 80's girl, your friend and roommate matchmaker extraordinaire, MB aka Swanker

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  14. Ariel AllisonJuly 28, 2009

    Ah shucks! I'm excited to meet you in person and I promise I don't snore. (If my husband should ever argue about that, ignore him. He's one to talk). I'm quite certain we'll get along famously.

    Here's to new friendships!

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  15. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    loved everything you had to say,It's so true.I have prayed for true men and women of God to enter my life and also my husbands.We all need people to build us up not tear us down.

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  16. What a great reminder for me this morning! I don't have many in-person friends. My excuse, too many kids to distract me and keep me busy. I am very thankful for the very few friends I have, and a husband that encourages me to meet up with them outside of the house! Although it's not nearly enough to keep me sane. I met a group of ladies on a birth message board via the internet. It really was an encouragement to get me thru an otherwise lonely pregnancy. I never seem to have any friends that are pregnant, or near my life stage with me. But as my "baby" nears three, I see how little we have in common and am so ready to give them up. None of them love the Lord it seems, much less live for the Lord. Gossip, backstabbing, ect. is much accepted behaviour with them. I'm so convicted and encouraged by reading Proverbs 13:20 today! I'm really going to pray that the Lord helps me stay committed to a Proverbs study! As well as keeping myself surrounded by "wise" ladies instead of fools. Have a great Tuesday!

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  17. I am so encouraged today Rachel. I have never heard the story about the frog in the pot of cold water, but I think that it aptly applies to me. BUT, I know that I was praying to get out the friendship for a long time, and I kept getting deeper involved because my friend was not a Christian then. I so want to share that story but it is just too long - nearly 10 years of my life. Thank God, I got out, my friend was baptised about a year ago. Even though all that happened I have not been able to relate to her as a Christian sister...she is still a bit set in her ways. But I continue pray for her. God Bless you

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  18. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    Boy does this resonate with me?!!! I don't go to many women's ministry functions at my church because I don't like the "we'll pray for you" and talk about you type of women. I just don't trust many.... but you have challenged me to maybe look at this like you have and take some active steps to readjust my mind-set

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  19. Doris CushJuly 28, 2009

    If ever a message were on time, it was this one! I just had a conversation with a girlfriend yesterday (and yes, she fits the friend bill - smile) about "saving the drama for someone else!"

    Guarding one's heart is a juggling act and I also admit that I have very few "real" friends, but I am thankful that God brings me what I need in the people with whom I know and meet. Maybe for a day or for a lifetime, I've learned to treasure the seasons and pray blessings if and when we part. That's not always so easy with those I may have encountered issues. But over time (and sometimes through alot of prayer), I can walk in peace and not ill will.

    Thanks for your obedience!

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  20. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    I think that sometimes we put too much emphasis on FRIENDS...it is great to have one or two close sisters in Christ, but with today's busy schedule of work, kids, house, and hubby, WHEN does a gal have time for friends?
    I think that God gives us the desires of our hearts (places the desire there and fulfills it as well), and sometimes that "friendship need" is met thru a biological sister, a child, a proven chat buddy, a parent, a coworker whose only contact is during work hours, or no one other than Jesus Himself.
    Do not despair if you have few or no close female friends, for "When Jesus is all we have, we realize Jesus is all we need!"

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  21. Wow! Thank you for expressing exactly what I needed to hear. I wasn't able to maintain being Christ-like around a friend I had either and had to phase our relationship out...I felt bad and still do as if I have abandoned her to remain closer to Christ. The enemy makes me believe I am bad and that in order to help her I need to be her friend regardless of the risk it would be for my Christianity. I am still struggling with this and keep thinking if she could just see or just know what she is missing! I have talked to her about moving toward Christ but am pretty sure she is not at a place to do so and gain a new walk with the Lord. I offered to send her daily scripture and that she can talk to me about it anytime but she did not respond to me regarding this. Sad thing about conversing in email I guess. Any thoughts on this please let me know at tbennett3640@msn.com or my blog Walking With God. Thanks!

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  22. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    Good day Rachel. The article today spoke volumes to me. It was truly a blessing and very timely. I was wrestling with this issue only yesterday. This just underscores the awesomeness of God because I am sure that I am millions of miles away from you..but God is omnipresent. May God continue to direct your thoughts and your pen or perhaps in this case, the cursor always.

    My challenge is that as a pastor's wife, one is constantly surrounded by people even females but there are very few people that seem to realise that even pastors' wives have needs and challenges and get get lonely as well. There are other pastors' wives at our church, but they are all distinctly older than me and their children are all grown. Not that I mind being friendly with an older woman and we do all try to meet every now and then for a "girls evening", but things are still quite diffferent. Everyone , even me is busy in ministry, career, family, etc.

    I think by God's grace I do fairly well in ministering to the needs of people and making sure to check in on the young females especially and ensure that I am available so they can chat or vent, pray or get Christian advice, or just "hang". Yet there seems to be noone that I can share things with that are my age, or at my stage in life where one can discusss family, husband, carer , ministry and being a prayerful pastor's wife. Actually, it can be very very lonely as people often assume that the pastor & his wife are somehow demi-gods. I have shared often with my husband about the predicament; he is sympathetic and even empathetic and has encouraged me to pray about the matter. I do that but quite honestly get frustrated when I would love to discuss something with a Christian female who won't judge because I am pastor's wife and can't find anyone. There was one person but she migrated and while we do keep in touch, of course things cannot quite be the same due to calling costs, time differences, etc. I have been trying to get out of my comfort zone and continue to befriend ladies to genuinely help. But I also pray that I will one day find a true friend. I have often asked myself if I am looking for perfection. This thought seems ridiculous because I realise that I am not perfect but I still wonder what, if anything I am doing wrong. I am cautious because I have encountered one female who seemed to talk well then later admitted to me and my husband that she had a crush on my husband. So quite naturally I recoiled. Although she admitted that her feelings were not caused by anything improper my husband had done, and that was relieving, yet I have automatically become cautious when speaking to her on a general basis. It appears that the feelings that she thereafter called "silly" were caused by challenges within her own marriage. I can understand how this may happen and I was and am sympathetic and genuinely wish to help, yet I naturally wonder when I meet a female and I speak with her although she may be married too, whether I will have to fear that she may have a crush on my husband. It has not helped that I actually have a girlfriend who has had an emotional affair with another mutual friend's husband. Although i was not the wife in question, I have forgiven her as God's grace does abound, but it is sad that these things happen between the ladies. I plan to dig in deeper in prayer about these things but these are some rationalisations that at times I cannot shake. On another level I also do not want such happenings to cause me to be inactive for Christ in reaching out to other women because that is exactly what the devil would want. He would love for us women to have our claws drawn at each other. Please rememeber me in your prayers. Thanks!

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  23. The devotional hit a chord with me. I have trouble making (and keeping) friends. I recently moved to a new city and am praying that God will bring women into my life. I get lonely, but I tend to be a loner, I guess. I don't think my personality is "naturally" a person who wants to be alone. But there is no one to "hang out" with. I have gotten into the "habit" of being invisible (and often I find myself trying to be so by not making eye contact with people, not interacting with them). I don't reach out to people and when I try to get involved in things at church, I get overwhelmed with busy-ness.
    Conversely, I chatter away at every clerk or on business calls and then realize that I am overdoing it! LOL!
    Your post helped me to remember that God knows who I am and what my heart desires. Connection.

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  24. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    It has been wonderful both to read Rachel's devotional/blog and all of the comments made by those who were brave enough to write one. I am a fellow struggler in this area. I do wonder if part of the problem might be my personality. I am a painfully shy person who, as a consequence, also makes the worst 1st impressions when meeting new people. Some friends I have had over the years have had varying reactions, in fact. One girl thought I was mad at her when we first met. Another said she was intimidated by me. And others have said they thought I didn't like them at all. None of these could be further from the truth, but that is how I sometimes come across. Somehow I still managed to make friends with these people, yet because of distance, all but one have dropped away.

    I've always struggled with making true girlfriends. I adore the idea but have never been all that successful. I long for even just one godly friend to be close with, to go out and do things together with, to pray with and maybe even hold each other accountable. I definitely have trust issues, that I know. I want the genuine thing, no fakes, no leeches.

    I very much do appreciate the comments made by peaceliving and the anonymous writer who mentioned how we can rely on Christ to fulfill our need for friendship. I can identify. Most of the closer female friendships I have had over my lifetime have definitely been the women in my family - sisters, cousins, my mom. I do have to be so thankful to God for the close friendships that He has allowed in my life. I never want to be guilty of being ungrateful when He has truly blessed me with so much. I'm even blessed to be so happily married (coming onto 9 months) to the most wonderful and godly man a woman could ever ask for, and also to live so close by to just about all of my relatives. I do want to always be thankful for those most wonderful blessings!

    And I want to grow. To stretch myself to be all that the Lord has ordained that I should be as a woman of God, a wife, and even as a friend to relatives and to nonrelative girlfriends. I pray that the Lord would send close friendships my way - the genuine kind worth every bit of investment!

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  25. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    Wow! Thanks so much! I was hurt terribly by my girlfriends at church. As result, I haven't wanted to fellowship for 9-10 yrs. Plus, I became an agnostic and lived like one. I am no longer an agnostic anymore however I still struggle being vulnerable to my girlfriends. Please pray for me.

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  26. It’s really a teen movie, but Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is what came to mind when you asked for a movie about friendship. Now I’m going to have to try to think of more…

    I hope to meet you at She Speaks – I’m so excited for this weekend!

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  27. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    Thank you for the devotional today. My husband and I moved 3 years ago from our home town and church family where we had many close relationships and friends. We found a church that we love and have been attending for 3 years. I am still unable to connect with any of the women in theh church. They are all there granted if you need prayere but everyone seems to have very busy lives and are not available. Maybe it's me but I seem to have a hard time making friends. I know it will be in Gods time.

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  28. AnonymousJuly 28, 2009

    I loved your post and really could relate. I told a similar story about my girl friends at a women's ministry function a couple of years ago. The long story, short, I closed my heart to having women as friends for many years. God opened my eyes to what I was longing for, and missing out on when I went to see Beth Moore with other women at my church. The ride to the function was not-so-good as I rode in a van full of women. At the conference Beth talked about sitting at the banquet table with Jesus and described how each of us would have a seat at the table. I was surrounded by women that I really didn't like, and God spoke a word to me that weekend. The wall slowly began to fall, and I can happily say that after several years have past I have some great girlfriends! PTL! The ride home from the conference was so much fun and I'm thankful to God for opening my heart. Thank you for being so open about this topic.

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  29. A beautiful post. I had a friend who drove me to distraction and I told her I needed some space. A year later we were able to connect again and since we are neighbors that's a good thing. :D We both have grown in Christ during that time and we have a better friendship than we would have had otherwise.

    Sometimes we do have to apply the brakes.

    Blessings! Nancy J

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  30. I have one friendship that has lasted me through really good and horridly horridly bad...on both sides of the giving scale. I have another friend that I wouldn't say we are super close, but I know I can (and have) called her when I really really need some support. Of course, they both live hundreds of miles away. I have some women around me that I like, a couple I love, but generally speaking, I don't have any close friends, well, close. Women tend to be very clique-ish and very rarely do they open their group to new-comers (of which I am still considered one) in my church. I have been there for 4 years but it is hard to break into those groups that formed back in jr. high. it's frustrating and discouraging.

    I just don't have a lot in common with the women I used to hang out with. It really wasn't a choice to phase them out, it just kind of naturally happened, but I know what you mean. There have been people in my life that just made my old life look too enticing and made the old ways way to accessible. I struggle with gossip, negativity and my language. If I am around anyone displaying those tendancies, I am very tempted to go back to my old habits. Until I am stronger in my control and response, I just don't hang around them anymore.

    I know this sounds silly, but I really love Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The premise is silly, but I just love the story lines for each of the girls and how they drop everything for each other, but mostly because they see and acknowledge each others flaws and failings and love them in spite of them.

    Thanks for todays devo. Very good and definately got me looking at my relationships.

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  31. Wow - I'm really enjoying your comments. And I see a lot of good points and questions raised here. So I want to talk about those with you gals. I'm going to do another post on this today - come chime in when its up!

    ~ R

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  32. Thank you for today's message! I thought I was the only one! This is something that I have struggled with for a lifetime (chronologically age 64/ mentally "still excited about becoming").
    Professionally, I have been sabotaged by women far more than men. And, I have ALWAYS found it difficult to sit through "Endless Drama" and "Trouble Talk" especially when it was clear that they had no intention of taking action to address the problem.
    In the last 10 years I have risked opening my heart to a few women as friends and it has been an enriching and healing experience.
    My heart goes out to the Pastor's wife who had to sign herself "Anonymous" even here in cyberspace. My husband is also a "public figure" so I understand the pressure and necessity to be super-cautious about sharing thoughts and concerns with others. It is a 24/7 restriction and especially isolating when we need wise counsel from other Godly women about personal and relationship issues. Thank God that we have God!
    This is a first! Reading and responding to a 'blog' - and it's written by and for women!
    Thanks, Rachel, and thanks to all who chimed-in with comments - I read them all and was blessed.
    June

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  33. Thanking for reminding me today that God is the creator of all relationships...and that which my heart truly desires is the women He wants in my life. May my eyes stay on Him, may my heart be protected by Him..knowing He will create those 'right' relationships with the women He has for me!

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  34. A lot of the comments here really resonated with me and the topic itself is why I "landed" here. I wanted to add, some of us are so busy with work and other obligations that cultivating friendships feels like somewhat of a luxury and ends up at the bottom of our "to-do" lists. Yet as women we KNOW how awesome it feels to have connections with other women. I work in a job where 95% of the employees are men, and my husband is not a touchy-feely (emotionally speaking) kind of guy AT ALL. So doing that thing that us gals need to do from time to time --VENT--- is typically met with (unsolicited) advice because that's what guys do! So I get frustrated a lot. But when I get to spend time with the gals in my family, it's really refreshing, since gals are more empathetic and communicate on a lot different level than guys. Well, whaddya do...but thanks to all for this discussion, hopefully it will spur me to look for opportunities to develop more girl-friendships.

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  35. Thank you for this awesome devotion!

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