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Building Deeper Relationships - Issue 351
August 08, 2014
Hi there! ....


This week We’ve done some study, some painting in the bathroom (Naomi’s had a badly sprained ankle which has hindered her climbing up and down ladders with a paint brush), Daniel helped plant out some seedlings and helped stack wood with Grandad (until he got a stick poked in the eye). So there has been a balance of study and life driven projects. Both Josh and Daniel graded with Taekwondo taking them up to a Blue belt level. I think though that our biggest news is that today Daniel is getting baptised, so we are celebrating with him and renewing our commitment to stand with him as a young Christian man.

If you are a new Australian reader I would appreciate you reading this special request.



This week I wrote a blog post Curriculum Plus More so click over to my blog if you missed that through the week.


Building Deeper Relationships

Over the last week or so I’ve had a few different things happen that have highlighted not only the importance of relationship with others but the variety of expression of those relationships. One phone call I had we talked about how hard it is to develop meaningful relationships and yet how precious they are when we do take the time. Our family is going through a season where we are faced with the challenge of ‘how are we going to be intentional with building and maintaining relationships.’ I think this is a good question for every family to ask of themselves as a part of their yearly review of goals and purpose.

It takes time and effort to connect with people. We have to pause from our tasks, and actually shift gear in order to focus on a person – to focus on their life, their pain, their story. It takes effort to give ourselves physically and emotionally.

There are three reasons for this effort

  1. We don’t factor in people time in our day or week so we have to squeeze it in to an already busy day/week.
  2. We think it needs to be fancy, just right, and last for a few hours (like an event) and we don’t have time to make it perfect, so we don’t do it at all
  3. We are reluctant to be honest, real, exposed in at least some of our relationships so we keep relationships shallow (though maybe fun and enjoyable).

Here are some ways that caring and Christ-based relationships have been expressed to me over the last fortnight:

  • An email reminding me of God’s faithfulness
  • A coffee date (where we drank tea). My friend, who has little children, structured her family’s activities so we could have some chat time
  • A family invited us for dinner, we sat around their outdoor fire and ate, talked, laughed. After dinner the kids (who are all now older teens/young adults) played a card game.
  • A friend has just dropped in for a quick catch up
  • I have received a cheery good morning text message
  • A friend who I haven’t spoken to for close to a year, phoned and though we set out to talk for 30min it stretched to an hour!
  • I have chatted with my sister on Facebook Messenger
  • I have had time around the table with my family – both at meal times, and over a cuppa

Some of these acts of love have taken time and effort to make happen, others have been quick and spontaneous but all happened out of a desire to be a friend. The challenge to me is to see how simple and yet meaningful these acts were and to grow in the habit of showing love in the same way to others myself.

I was reading a short ebook about the meal table being central to building relationships. The author encouraged the reader to see that we have 3 meals a day, 7 days a week – that equals 21 opportunities to spend time with someone over a meal. Whether you want someone over for breakfast on Monday morning or not, is not the point – the challenge that I took home from this short e-book, The Table Experiment: Loving your neighbour One meal at a Time, by Ryan J Pelton, was to look at the times in my week and be intentional about using them to be involved with others.

We are all familiar with sharing meals with others but sometimes we need to get creative with that idea too. Here are some ideas I’ve written on my list to help me give more than 6.00pm dinner invites (though they are good too):

  • Breakfast – Sunday breakfast is our family breakfast time, but maybe we could invite others to join us every so often. Maybe breakfast would work as a ‘date’ time for Peter and I. One time I met a mum for breakfast in the park – I took along a few green smoothies and some fruit and we enjoyed the freshest part of the day together.
  • Lunch – everyone eats it, so why not share it. I could take a packed lunch to join a young mum during her baby/toddler’s nap time. We usually do dinner invites, but maybe lunch would work as well – in particular Saturday or Sunday lunch.
  • We could arrange a fellowship picnic lunch after church for all the Christians (we live in a small town, so it is easy for all the Christians to get together this way).
  • Dinner in the park – I had a friend who cooked up a large crockpot of dinner, and invited another family to join them for an early dinner in the park (or swimming pool).
  • Drinks after work – (late afternoon till sunset) this could happen on our veranda, down at the park or river-side. Substantial nibbles could maybe pass off for a light dinner.
  • Potluck weekday meal – Invite a family to bring their dinner to your house. You eat yours, they eat theirs (or of course, you could share from both pots!) The one rule though would have to be – bring what you were going to eat anyways.
  • Camp oven potluck – I went to a party a while back where everyone brought their potluck meal in a campoven and we caught up with each other while dinner cooked on an open fire.
  • Share a meal with someone who knows how to cook a different type of cuisine: Fondue, Mongolian Hotpot, Curries, Thai. Be adventurous!
  • Go bush – find a bush spot where you can cook sausages on an open fire and toast marshmellows. Invite a family to join you.

But we can make the time and effort to connect, but relationships can still remain shallow. The next step is really heart attitude that only we can make ourselves. It is internal – we have to value relationship, we have to decide to be honest, open and that makes us vulnerable. Being prepared to go there though is the only way deeper relationships can form.

I have a friend who used to ask me “What are you reading Belinda?” or “What is God saying to you Belinda?” I found this a very challenging and yet meaningful. She wasn’t keeping me accountable (though sometimes I found it intimidating when I knew the question was coming and wasn’t sure I had an answer!) she wanted a glimpse into my heart. It was often the beginning of a great conversation. We could have continued to talk about the weather, or happenings around town, but her willingness to cut to the important stuff built our relationship stronger.

One thing that cuts off inviting a deeper relationships is when asked how our week has been, to give a simply reply of ‘busy’. This tells the person nothing: nothing of our activities and nothing of our emotional response to those activities. Busy means that our days are full, but infers that our days are too full. Our response hints that maybe we don’t even have time to talk about it! The question may well be the standard surface chit-chat, but if our response is real and personal, it is likely they’ll respond in much the same way when you return the question. When this happens we have an opportunity to get to know a person a little bit more.

I’m reminded of a lesson Jessica learnt when she spent time in Uganda. She came home saying that they valued relationship – when they said “Hello, how are you?” They actually stopped to hear the answer; they expected an answer, an honest answer. They made time to hear you. This is such a strong contrast to stereotypical Aussie – “Hi-how-are-ya?” and we move on not expecting an answer at all. It is really one word meaning “Hi”. Sometimes we do just pass by and say “Hi” but we cannot afford for that to be our standard interactions with the people we meet.

Over the last little while we have been aware of a couple of marriages breaking down in our community. We know these people, but not in a personal way – we know them because we live in a small town. How our heart hurts for these people. How we wish we could be there to hug and support them in their pain. But in a sense we have to earn the right to do that and we earn that right through spending time, building relationships in the good times. Of course, we can be caring to the stranger and we need to be, and there have been times where we have done that in our community, but the challenge is there – am I building relationships with people, or do I just know who they are.

So all these things are going through my head and turning over in my heart at the moment.
A desire to build and maintain relationships.
A desire to be creative in finding time and opportunity to be with others.
A desire to be honest and let people see the real me.
A desire to see the real them.


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Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!


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