Friends don't let friends... go to bed early

How do we sustain a solid friendship long distance?

TBH, this is a post we've been meaning to write for a while now. We are beyond a decade of friendship now (WOW) with more than half of that decade being long distance. And we're not talking like a few hours apart. We've lived an air plane ride apart since after college, not to mention with  international borders between us at some points and always always time zones. We get asked a lot how we manage to stay such close friends and run a blog together when we are hardly ever actually together. It's a valid question and honestly we ask ourselves the same question sometimes. It came pretty naturally for us, but I think there were some key things that happened very early on that built the foundation for a lasting long distance friendship. They may have been things that we weren't even thinking about at the time, but they were habits that we formed straight away that have carried us through the years. 

I still remember my first day in Seattle. I had stayed in the home of some missionaries I met while in college (they weren't even there) and I woke up and grabbed the first bus I could find headed to downtown. I was just wandering the city and taking in the crazy realization that I lived here now, and I picked up the phone and called D without even thinking about it. I wanted to share that moment with her and she picked up. She almost always picked up. And I think the rest is history really. It's that simple. We had become such dear friends in college and we had loved sharing life together and we were not about to let miles and time differences take that from us. So, we just didn't. 

Today we're sharing with you--in really practical form--the habits and practices that have helped us maintain our friendship through the years. 

1. Communicate
I bet you didn't guess that one. Communication always seems to be the fall back word in any kind of relationship situation, and there is a reason for that. It's because it is the feet that relationships stand on. Without it, it will collapse.

In a long distance friendship it will take all kinds of communication. Short, quick, texts. Random check ins. Spontaneous "how is it goings." There will be marathon phone calls and goofy Facetimes. You can't be picky on how you communicate, just take what you can get and give.

One of the biggest glitches in the communication in our friendship is flat out busyness. There are some seasons that are crazy busy for one or both of us, and that stinks. We don't get to call as often. Shoot, we don't even text as often. We tend to be pretty good at noticing if the other is too far down on our recent text list and at least send a text with a simple "I'm alive." There are lots of ebbs and flows within a long distance friendship. But keeping the communication happening.

2. Be intentional
This. Is. Huge.
Long distance relationships are not going to take care of themselves or grow themselves or ":just happen." I think this one flows really naturally down from the one above. You've got to make space and make time and you've got to make the other person a priority---a habit. If you don't, life will zoom by and eat up all that space and before you know it the time and the distance are too much.

Let me interject there---if that does happen--because it might--it's never too late to pick up where you left off and try again. Never. We've been there. When I lived in Mexico, it was messy. I struggled a lot and felt endlessly unlike myself and exhausted and spent most days trying to get up and do it again until I could go back to bed. I didn't have cell data so call time was limited. It was rough. Without meaning to, I put space between us and there were some long hard conversations and a lot of tears to overcome that. It took Dalayna being honest and vulnerable with me, me recognizing how I had dropped the ball, apologies, forgiveness, understanding, offering the benefit of the doubt, and two friends not willing to quit on each other no matter what stood between us.

It took intentionality. It takes it every single day. In the big and the little things.
I think that this is the thread that holds all of these things together.

Communication has to be intentional---text them when you think of them, when something makes you laugh, when you need prayer, when your day is great or really hard. Make it a habit to include them in your life even from afar. Prayer for each other has to be intentional. Investments have to be extra intentional. Thoughtfulness--we never miss a Christmas and birthday packages (though they may come very late) or a chance to send a sweet note in the mail just to remind each other that we're still there. Even when I lived in Mexico and there was no guarantee that the mail would make it through, Dalayna delivered--because she's intentional in her friendships. It also takes intentional sacrifice. Sacrificing time and often times sleep to create space to "be together." I know that both of us have been zombies the day after a phone call because we just had so much to catch up on--D more than me because she's always further ahead time wise....except when I lived in a foreign country and we finally for once managed to be in the same time zone! But yes, it takes intentionality to create that space and make those sacrifices across the board. But they are so worth it every single time!

3. Be thoughtful
I think this is the fun one in any friendship. This is the learning your friend and always looking for ways to let them know that they are known and they are noticed. Again--this can be in big ways and probably more often in little ways. For me, it's dropping a little card in the mail whenever I think of it. Not for any special occasion, just because. Poor Dalayna is literally buried in them at this point! Sometimes I feel like I say the same things over and over again, but I really believe that you can't ever tell someone you love and admire that you love and admire them too many times. That's just not a thing. It can be big things like planning trips and buying plane tickets and road trips just to be together for a couple of days. It's figuring out creative ways to celebrate birthdays together when you're not actually together. At one point, Dalayna and I had a pact that we would send each other photos of leaves or actual leaves that we loved just to remind each other that we were thinking of the other. We've surprised each other (literally within a week of each other--remind us to tell you that story sometime) and we've showed up on each other's door steps for funerals and for birthdays and after breakups and for random weeks in February. It's going to take creativity--I promise--because at some point you'll feel like you've done all the thoughtful thigs you can think of. Dig deeper!  Be mushy and gushy and all the sappy--no holding back on this one!

4. Make investments
Here's the deal, even though we do the whole long distance thing, we still want to be in the same room with each other! Phone calls and Facetimes are good, but getting to sit down across from each other (with coffee of course) is a much more fulfilling way of communicating.

We try our best to get together at least once a year, rotating off who visits who. Truthfully Mexico threw off our rhythm a bit, but we did what we could do. It sounds easy enough, right? Making one trip in the span of 365 days? But it is not something that happens by accident. It takes planning, saving, and follow through. But it is so, so worth it.

5. Pray for one another
No, this is not the emotional, over-spiritualized element. This is a necessity. This is perhaps one of the greatest signs of a true friendship, are you taking your friends and friendships to the Lord? Sure He knows your needs and your friend's needs, but taking those needs to the Lord is a part of the Galatians 6 method of bearing one another's burdens. Yes, it shows a care for that person, but it also grows a deeper care and compassion for them in you.

It's important to not just pray for their needs, but pray for blessing. Pray for your friendship; that God is glorified and amplified through it. Pray for God's best for their life. Pray for things they may not even have the guts to pray for themselves. Be a friend who prays big prayers for their friends. Your faith will be stronger for it. Your friendship will be stronger for it.

One of the first gifts I sent Dalayna way back when, when we had just started grown up life and ministry, was a necklace that read in my own handwriting: "Miles will never matter." I think about that phrase often. It's sort of like a promise that I'm forever trying to keep to her. That no matter where life--or Jesus--takes us, no matter how many miles or time zones are between us, it really doesn't matter. We're in it for the long haul whatever it takes and whatever it looks like <3

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