J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 57.
L: So I always say, “I'm looking for friendship and I'm trying to be a friend that's, you know, not your skinny jeans version of friendship, but more like your sweatpants version of friendship.”
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: Welcome back to Vibrant Happy Women, I'm Jen Riday, your host. And on our last episode, I was talking with Orly Wahba all about kindness and that viral video she made called the Kindness Boomerang. Well, she amazed me and so many of you have written to me talking about Orly and how much you love her energy and all the things she is doing. So I'm so glad you enjoyed that; I thoroughly enjoyed talking with her as well. Today, I'm talking with Lisa-Jo Baker. She is the author of ‘Never Unfriended’ and she talks all about friendship in that book, the kind of friendship that we all used to have before social media, I feel like. So much, we fill our time with social media, these artificial forms of friendship, but they're not the full type of friendship that really fulfills us. We've got to have some of that in-person interaction, whether that's on the phone where we can hear the tone of someone's voice or in person. I love how Lisa-Jo talks about being a sweatpants kind of friend and not just a skinny jeans kind of friend; that kind of says it all. So let's go ahead and dive into this interview and I hope you love it as much as I did.
Welcome to Vibrant Happy Women, I'm Jen Riday and I'm here with Lisa-Jo Baker today. She has been the community manager for incourage.me, an online home for women all over the world for nearly a decade. She's the author of ‘Never Unfriended’ and her writings have been syndicated from New Zealand to New York. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and their 3 very loud kids where she connects, encourages, and champions women in person and through her blog, lisajobaker.com. Welcome to the show, Lisa.
L: Hi there.
J: Are you Lisa-Jo or Lisa?
L: Yeah, in true southern fashion, Lisa-Jo.
J: Cute, I love it.
J: We always start out our show with a quote, and what would you like to share with us today?
L: Well, my favorite quote is actually from the book, ‘Never Unfriended’, and it's this that, “The shortest distance between strangers and friends is a shared awkward story.”
J: Hmm, so elaborate on that one; that has to have some meaning.
L: (Laughs). Well, I think part of when you're trying to get to know somebody, if we just… you know, if they ask, “How are you doing?” and you say you're fine, well, there isn't really much to go on after that, right? But I'm guessing for the same reason that on podcasts we ask about low points or high points or some difficult thing that you're trying to get over or, you know, your favorite kitchen gadget, those are things because we're trying to connect beyond just ‘fine’. So I find, if you're willing to share maybe a somewhat awkward story, you cut past ‘fine’ pretty quickly and you're able to connect.
J: Yeah, I like that. And would that lead into your low point in any way or, you know?
L: (Laughs). Sure, sure, we can go there. I’ve had it in my mind because I've been trying to think, “What's a good story to share?” because I mean, as you know, a lot of our low points often can feel a little bit raw because we've just lived them. But minus from a few years ago (and I actually talked about it in the book too), you know, I've really been on this journey of the last few years to figure out, “How do I connect deeper and in more meaningful ways with my friends?” And we grew this incredible group of friends, we called ourselves The Tuesday Night Girls because we had a Bible study every other Tuesday, and when the Bible study was done, we continued meeting at Panera and it's just been this incredible community that grew up. But I had a night a few years ago where we were at church for some kind of evening event, and I forget what it was. And, you know, how it is, you're at the end of a long week, you're tired, all you want to do is change into your pajamas. And I was trying to wrangle my kids out of church to get them home. And as we were walking through the church's cafeteria, like coffee shop area, I saw one of my Tuesday Night Girls. And she was standing there, she had her back to me, and I thought to myself in that split-second, I knew, “Okay, I can walk past her and then it's going to end up being a conversation and it's going to take quite a long time or I could kind of like dodge backwards out a side door and then I wouldn't, you know, get trapped in a long conversation.” And I did the thing I wish I could take back, I cut out past her so that I didn't up having a long conversation with her; a dear friend of ours from this group. And what's so painful is that, several weeks later, she ended up having a stroke…
L: … and she passed away and I never had another chance to talk to her. And I carry that story, man, it is a burden in my heart; the night I stole something from my friend, Connie. Because time isn't even something that we created, it's a gift from God, and I stole time from a good friend I could have spent talking to her that evening. And it is a sore reminder to me, but I carry it forward with me now and I think about Connie every time I have a chance to talk to a friend or not, to engage a friend or to rush, you know, to say, “Yes, I have time to talk,” or to say, “I'm too busy.” And it lives on as a legacy in my mind to remind me that, if we really want to connect with our friends, we have to be willing to be inconvenienced to make time because time is the thing we don't always have enough of.
J: Hmm. So when you were bowing out or dodging, you know, out the door…
J: … what… what kind of thing did you have to get to? Can you remember?
L: Oh, it wasn't even anything important, it was just late at night, I was tired, I was done, you know, my kids were crazy, I needed to get home and get them into jammas into bed; it was way past their bedtime. So it's not even like I have a great excuse, it was just inconvenient for me in the moment. And so it will live with me for a long time, and so I get to carry my friend Connie around with me because she would be the woman, the voice in my head, that always reminds me to make time, even and maybe especially when it's inconvenient.
J: Mm, wow. So what does that look like now, making time for your friends (kind of paint a picture in a typical week)?
L: Yeah. You know, after had that moment with her, I've spent the last few years working on this book. And so I've spent a lot of time studying Jesus's model of friendship. And the thing that's so fascinating to me is he was never too busy and he was constantly interrupted by people, I mean, right? Like, everywhere he's going, someone stops him and then it's like, “Oh, you're on your way to Jairus’ house to heal somebody, wait, here's a woman who needs… you know, has a problem too,” or, “You're on your way into the city, here's a blind man calling out for you.” And at no point ever do we have on record Jesus saying he was too busy or it wasn't a good time or it was inconvenient. And it's been such an example to me because I think what we don't realize about friendship is, if we want it to grow deeper, we have to be willing to be inconvenienced by the people around us. And sometimes that's just our own kids, but I think often on a day-to-day basis, what it looks like for me now is when a friend calls or messages or texts or the neighbor kids come over and knock at the door when I'm making dinner to open the door to make time, to stop what I think is really busy and important for the people that are right in front of me. And it's a living reminder I carry with me from Connie and then from Christ too to be willing to be inconvenienced by my friends.
J: So how many times would you hang out with friends in a week? I mean, do you schedule things or just wait until they start this, you know?
L: I think you have to schedule them or else they will never happen.
L: So, I mean, I know what it's like when we have kids and we have all of their schedules too. So we lived in Virginia for 7 years and so this group of friends, The Tuesday Night Girls, we got together every other Tuesday; so that was just on the calendar, that was a non-negotiable. And what helps is letting your family know. So I find, if you schedule it and it’s routine then everybody knows, right? Your family can adapt to that and they just know, “Oh, it's Tuesday night, mom's going out to Bible study or book club or whatever.” And the strange thing is that, it's not like I was always super excited to go, right? Like, some nights you're tired and you don't feel like it and you're not in the mood is how you feel when you're driving there. But after you spend that time together, you always come home feeling like, “Oh, that was so great, you know, I'm so filled up; I'm so glad that I went.” So, yeah, we schedule it. And then, of course, in this technology age, there's so many ways to keep in touch. Because I moved from Virginia to Maryland and my biggest loss was that group of Tuesday Night Girls and so we started what… I don't know if you've heard of this app called Voxer.
L: We started a Voxer group. So Voxer, for listeners who might not know, is really basically an online messaging app that lets you leave a voicemail that people can listen to or fast-forward or respond to you whenever they feel like it. So you can create groups as well, and so our Tuesday Night Girls talk all the time; we keep in touch there.
J: Ah, I like that.
L: And so, yeah, it's really special. So that is just really great; because it's a messaging app, you can save the messages for a time that's convenient to listen to them and then respond as well. So I think we do both, you know, we schedule time together. That group of friends just went together last October for a weekend away together in Pennsylvania to spend deliberate time catching up. And basically, we just ate and talked for 2 days straight (Laughs); it's so great!
J: That is great.
L: But otherwise, when we're not together in person, we use Voxer.
J: So would you say that's part of the secret to keeping those friendships strong?
L: Absolutely. Yeah, I think you have to feed them. They're like plants, they require, you know, water and sun and food and all that good stuff. Anytime you're not sowing into a friendship, then it has the opportunity to just kind of wither away.
J: Well, so I agree. I've had to make a conscious effort to stay friends. My best friend lives in New Hampshire.
J: Her name is Kit. And so what would you say would be some tips to kind of always feeding those friendships, whether they're long-distance or close?
L: Well, I'll say this first, while it's good to remain intentional (and that's what we do), I think it's also important to have an agreed upon breathing room. And so what we say and our friendships is that we believe in guilt-free friendship, which means, if you haven't had time to respond to that email or that message or that group or you had to miss the last gathering, you know, nobody gets to call you out on it or be mad at you or make you feel guilty or be passive-aggressive towards you because friendship can't live in that kind of atmosphere either. So I always say, “I'm looking for friendship and I'm trying to be a friend that's, you know, not your skinny jeans version of friendship, but more like your sweatpants version of friendship that leaves room to breathe and to connect.” And so, I mean, I have friends overseas that we probably only, you know, get back in touch every few months, but because we just sort of have as a ground rule that we believe in guilt-free friendship, you can just pick up where you left off, you know, without first having to say, “I'm sorry,” or apologize or getting, you know, someone's mad at you because you haven't responded. And it's such a relief; it's such a relief when a friendship can breathe like that.
L: And there's just a place to catch up. And you just always… it's always a gift then anytime you hear from someone, rather than a checklist where you're, you know, kind of like who responded last and who didn’t. We don't keep score, we keep in touch.
J: Well, so I've been thinking about, there's some of those people that somehow seem to be very draining. So what would you say are signs of a healthy friendship and signs that maybe it's time to end a friendship?
L: I know, it's so painful to think about that, isn't it? And I think, as Christian women especially, we suffer from what I think of as the disease of politeness. And so sometimes, we stay in friendships long past a time when they've been healthy for us. And so while scripture might say, “We need to bear one another's burdens,” I don't think that means we need to bear one another's passive aggression or manipulation or control or comparison, all of those sort of things. So I'm not talking here about saying, you know, “You were inconvenient or rude,” or, “You hurt my feelings and now you're dead to me. I will unfriend with the swipe of my finger.”
L: You know, I'm not talking about that. You know, the whole book, ‘Never Unfriended’, is about walking deeper and deeper into friendships even when they're difficult and challenging, because most of the time, the person who needs to changes is me, you know; not the friend, I need to change things about me. But I do think that we can start to recognize unhealthy patterns in friendships when we're codependent or when we're constantly trying to twist ourselves into a pretzel version of ourselves for other people, and those things are not something I think that we're called to. We're called to have healthy boundaries with our friends so that we can both thrive. And I think if we're in a friendship where both of us are growing away from the Lord and away from each other, probably time to re-evaluate whether or not that friendship is really honoring to the Lord. And so even in those situations when we might feel like we need a break or a pause, my hope is we don't slam the door on that friendship, you know, maybe we just take a break and invite the Lord into it to grow us separately for a while. But the hope is, if the door is still open, maybe that friendship picks up or, you know, resumes again in the future when we're both in a healthier place.
J: Mm, that's a good idea; yeah, just taking a break instead of ending in forever.
L: Yeah, right, right.
J: Well, you mentioned Jesus in the Bible and how he never said no to anyone. But while you were sharing that, I thought, “You know, but there were times when he went to be alone.” So speak to that a little bit, taking care of ourselves and if we're an introvert, for example, or we get our energy from alone time, how do we balance that with friendship?
L: Right. I mean, friends come in all different shapes and sizes, right? The most important friendship of all is really the one with Christ himself, and he models that because there he is taking time to spend with the Father God. And I love that we have a 3-in-one God; he is a God who’s Father, Son, and Spirit and takes time to connect and sow into that relationship. And so we really can't be good healthy friends to other women if we're in an unhealthy place ourselves. So I don't think there's anything wrong with recharging in the way that you need. So I have an introvert self too, and especially when you have 3 kids and you might be speaking or traveling, and then there are times of the night I just literally need to sit in my hotel room and stare at the wall…
L: … until I'm at a better place. And I think when our friends know us, they love us for who we are, not some version of ourselves we're trying to pretend to be. And so being honest with who we are is a gift that we give our friends. And being in a healthy place and being a friend to ourself first, I really do think is what enables us to be a good friend to others.
J: Yes, exactly, taking care of ourselves; that's huge for me as well.
L: Right, right.
J: Well, tell us, what do you hope women will gain from reading your book, ‘Never Unfriended’?
L: I just hope it's a call back to the old fashioned art of believing the best about each other; you know, investing in friendships at a deeper level beyond 140 characters or a Facebook update. I hope it's a reminder that it shouldn't be easy to unfriend people, that, you know, people are Jesus with skin on and what does it mean to take time to be inconvenienced by them and to get to know them better and have them change us. So I really hope it's a reminder that while Taylor Swift might have squad goals online that makes friendship look like it's somehow needs to be scored by a music video…
L: … the reality of friendship is that it happens on a slow daily basis between small groups of women who do life together, and that there's such reward in that.
J: Yes, that's true. And you're talking about small groups of women, tell us about your online group, Incourage. That's probably not a small group of women, how would that help with friendship?
L: Oh, I’d love to. So Incourage is spelled I n courage.me and it's because we like to remind ourselves that encouraging other women sometimes takes courage and that we want to be in community and in friendship and in Christ, and so that's why it's Incourage. And it's really a global community of women. Women from all over the world gather there, and it's where we share stories of what I call everyday faith. So not just your Sunday faith or your Bible study or your best version of your faith, but like faith that meets you between the dirty dishes, you know, or when the kids had a meltdown or when you've had that really bad day at work; every day stories of everyday faith. And it's a place where women are welcome to just come and connect with each other, to exhale, to put their feet up, to say, “It was a rough day and I need to change into sweatpants and eat popcorn.” And I have had the honor of getting to serve as the community manager there for the last 7 years. So they're just some incredible women who come and write their stories every day, every day of the month for 7 years, and a community that reads there, but also champions that encourages one another. So I love the fact that Incourage is a bit of a lighthouse in the storm these days where there's a lot of tension on line and how we treat each other and who said what and what you believe politically and, “Now I need to unfriend you because we don't agree,” but…
L: … Incourage is that place where we could just exhale and sit down on the sofa and say, “Gosh, today I'm exhausted,” and you're… you know, our tagline is, “It's the place where you will find yourself among friends.”
L: “The women who are there to hear your heart and tell you, ‘Me too,’ basically,” it's a ‘Me too’ place.
J: Hmm, yeah, that's great. So that's that incourage.me.
L: … me, that's right, incourage.me.
J: Okay. Well, we always talk about a few of our guest favorite things here on Vibrant Happy Women, so let's start with a habit that contributes to your success.
L: I don't know if ‘success’ is the right word, but it certainly contributes to my mental health.
L: I work from home and so I'm okay with there being a certain degree of chaos in each of my children's bedrooms, but I need the main living area to be cleared off every night; I can't handle it if we go to bed with chaos there. And it just helps when we start the next day, you know, it just helps with a sense of order and that we're all going to survive.
J: Mm-hmm, that's a good one; I agree with you. And a favorite easy meal.
L: Ooh, a favorite easy meal. Okay, I actually own a cookbook called ‘The 4 Ingredient Cookbook’. (Laughs)
J: Ooh, I need this.
L: That is the cook I am (Laughs). And there's a recipe in there for like… I think they call it like crunchy oven-roasted chicken. Literally it's just chicken breast covered in smashed up cornflakes and baked in the oven for an hour, and it's… my kids love it, it's fast, it's easy, and it's delicious.
J: Hey, and you have 2 food groups right there (Laughs); carbs and meat, right? I like it.
L: Well, we mashed potatoes on the side and you're all set to go.
J: Yum. And a favorite kitchen gadget.
L: Ooh, I'm glad you asked me this; I have a new one that I just got for Christmas. So, like most women, I enjoy my Starbucks, but I don't feel fancy enough for like a huge fancy coffee maker at home. So what I bought up Amazon (I mean, I must have been like $7), it's a milk frother.
L: And it's a little tiny handheld one and you… and I also splurged and bought like, you know, the $10 a little stainless steel milk jug. You pour your milk into the jug and you put the little frother in, push a tiny button and like 30 seconds later, you have Starbucks froth milk to put on your coffee (Laughs); and I love it so much.
J: Mm, that's really neat.
J: Frothed milk, okay, it's called a milk frother; okay, Amazon.
L: Yeah, yeah. And mine is like turquoise blue; it's very cute.
J: Ah, pretty, that's my favorite color. And your favorite book.
L: Ooh, my favorite book, okay.
J: Or a favorite book.
L: It's hard to choose. I have… it's a series, it's a trilogy, and I wonder if anyone will have heard of it. It's called ‘The Riddle-Master of Hed’, H e d, and I love it. Second to the Bible, it's my favorite book.
J: ‘The Riddle-Master of Hed’, okay.
J: And the best advice you've ever received.
L: Ooh, let's think, that was from my dad. When I was in college, I was dating my then to be husband who was overseas and I hadn't seen him in a long time. I said to my dad, “I don't know if I feel like I love Peter anymore, you know, I don't feel that feeling,” and my dad said to me, “Oh, that's because you're confused. You think love is a feeling. Love is not a feeling, love is a choice.” And that has been the advice that 20 years later has been the most valuable as both wife and a mother.
J: I agree with you 100%. You don't fall out of love as much as you choose not to engage in that.
L: Yep. And the feeling comes and goes. And, sure, it's great when it's there, but there are some days when you have to do the discipline of making the choice.
J: Right, right, that's great advice. Well, I want to remind our listeners they can find links to everything we've talked about by going to jenriday.com/57. And now to our final, you know, happiness formula question; what 3 things would you say most contribute to your happiness?
L: This is going to sound so shallow.
L: I can give you the shallow answer and then I can give you the deeper answer.
L: But the shallow answer is, I am happiest when I am by myself watching Netflix alone.
J: So you are a true introvert; I feel you.
L: Oh yeah.
L: I love it. I mean, like my ideal Mother's day would to not be with my children, it would be…
J: (Gasps) (Laughs). That’s funny.
L: … in my room alone watching Netflix.
J: You know… you know, this fact about you makes your message all the more powerful because…
J: … if a true introvert can go out and be willing to be inconvenienced for friendship, then we all can; so I love that.
L: Right? And, I mean… and so honestly, I am happiest though when I am with a few very good friends who know me inside and out. I mean, that is my… my most comfortable place, so I do… I absolutely love that. So as much as I like to be alone watching Netflix, put me in a room for 8 hours, you know, in my sweatpants with my best friends, good coffee and just, you know, an endless list of things to talk about, and that is truly one of my happiest places.
J: So when you mentioned I'm happiest when, “I'm with friends who know me inside and out,” and I just had this image in my mind of some lonely woman listening somewhere who doesn't have that. You know, she wants the friends who know her inside and out, but she hasn't quite developed it, what advice would you have for somehow starting that when you've never had it before?
L: So here's the thing. As much as we wish that friends would fall from the sky into our laps, unfortunately in real life, that doesn't happen. And so I really do believe that whether you have friends or not, it's entirely up to you, and it will require you taking the first step. And it will feel awkward sometimes and weird and they might say no and then you'll have to decide to try again. And, really, that's what it is. When we move to our new neighborhood here in Maryland, I looked at my husband and I thought, “Well, here we go again, you know, here we are signing up for the hosting home group at our house or going to the women's event or volunteering in the Sunday-school,” because I know, if I want to have friends, I will actually have to do something. So that's what it takes; friendship takes showing up.
J: Mm, friendship takes showing up; great advice. Well, one last thing before we say goodbye, what challenge would you like to leave for our listeners?
L: Ooh, that's a good one. What is one thing you could do to be inconvenienced this week for someone else? Because I think sometimes, if we're just willing to be mildly inconvenienced, we can make a big difference in somebody else's life.
J: Okay. So, everyone, decide that one thing you're going to do to be inconvenienced for someone else; so many choices I have.
J: Again, my 6 kids and… (Laughs)
L: Right, so many choices.
J: Right, right. Well, thank you so much for being on the show Lisa-Jo; this is amazing. And, everyone, make sure to go out and get Lisa-Jo's book, ‘Never Unfriended’.
L: Thank you for having me, Jen.
J: Yeah, take care, Lisa-Jo.
L: Thank you.
J: I hope this interview really got you thinking about your friendships; how you can improve them and stay connected. I love the idea of getting the Voxer app and chatting with friends over that. So, you know, use those apps and those technologies that are available to foster those friendships. And also, speaking of friendship, I want to invite you to join us in the Vibrant Happy Women Facebook group where we'll be talking about friendship all week and where we kind of have a lot of fun supporting and encouraging each other in a friendly type of way. Now, I'm not going to say that we're all best friends in the group (I hope you all have real life, in-person friendships), but it is really nice to have a positive happy place to safely share your thoughts; kind of like an online book club. So, again, that's Vibrant Happy Women, you can find it on Facebook; we'd love to have you. Join me next week when I talk with Emma Bell. She shares her story about learning to live authentically; to truly listen to what she wanted and to give up that corporate job and become an authenticity coach. And that's kind of a cool thought because we all want to be our authentic best selves, but sometimes we don't know how to take that leap, and so she talks about that I really loved chatting with her. So I will see you next week for that, and until then, make it a great week.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.