Can I Figure Out Friendship as a Grown-Up? With Lisa Whelchel [Episode 155]

Figure Out Friendship Grown-up Lisa Whelchel

Studies have shown that the health benefits of friendship include a stronger immune system, faster recovery time from illness, lower anxiety levels, and an increase in your generosity. We all need some of that, right?

Well, today on the 4:13 Podcast, one of my dearest friends talks about how to make all that true for you through friendship as Lisa Whelchel unpacks the importance of friendship for grown-ups.

Lisa first entered our hearts while playing “Blair” on the 80’s television show, The Facts of Life, and in 2011 she toughed it out for 39 excruciating days on CBS’s show, Survivor. But her favorite role—by far—has been as a mother to her three (now adult) children. Lisa has authored over a dozen books and is an inspirational speaker and highly sought-after life coach. Beyond that, she’s one of the warmest and most wise women I know.

You’ll love getting to know Lisa in this vulnerable and practical conversation about the value and difficulty of making friends, especially as a grown-up.

Jennifer’s Highlights and Take-Aways

Our conversation began with reminiscing about Lisa’s time on television with The Mickey Mouse Club and The Facts of Life. As I listened, I was struck by the contrast of our lives.

When I was in junior high, learning how to do friendship, she was on a Hollywood TV set, learning to be a professional actor. She explained that her last year of traditional school was the sixth grade, so she didn’t have the same opportunities to navigate friendships as most kids.

Lisa described that even as a teen, she used work as a distraction from the feelings she didn’t want to feel. She said she didn’t have time—or even want—to make room for friendship.

To know somebody else intimately, you need to know yourself intimately. And to know myself intimately felt a little too scary, so I thought it was all around better to just stay busy,” Lisa explained.

Married with Children

Lisa finished The Facts of Life at age 25, and shortly after, she was married and had three babies in three years. She quipped, “Mrs. Garrett really did teach me the facts of life!”

As a young mom, she was busy and distracted which caused her to become fairly isolated. She stayed home with the kids and homeschooled, but she was desperate for adult conversation.

So, Lisa invited some women from church to her home. It was so needed by all that they began to meet weekly and called themselves “The Good Medicine Club.”

This was her tiptoe into friendship.

But Lisa confessed that she avoided deep conversation. Even after years of getting together, her friends told her that they learned more about her from her books and blog than from spending time together. She opened her home, but not her heart.

Lisa and I agreed that proximity is not the same as intimacy.

It’s Okay to be Needy

Lisa described that because she had been on her own since childhood, she had a strong sense of self-sufficiency. But she shared a story about when she realized that self-sufficiency hinders intimacy.

During a meal following a speaking event, Lisa asked the other speakers, “What is God teaching you right now?” She asked because she was genuinely curious, but this was also her way of remaining at arm’s length—not allowing herself to be vulnerable to these other women.

One of her fellow speakers said that she was learning that “it’s okay to be needy.” That woman’s comment struck Lisa so deeply. She never realized it was okay to be needy!

The thought of being needy was scary for Lisa, and she feared not being self-sufficient.

“When we give up our defense structures, we feel like the age when we first built them,” Lisa explained. She feared that giving up self-sufficiency would make her feel like a scared, insecure child.

But this was a breakthrough.

Lisa acknowledged her neediness and desire for connection. “There’s a longing in each of us for intimacy and connection,” she said. “And you can’t connect head to head. You only connect heart to heart.”

Taking the Risk

Lisa began to walk into friendship on wobbly legs, and after some time, found herself in a growing friendship.

She described how a woman became her BFF, and yet, it ended poorly. Lisa learned she overwhelmed her friend when her friend told her, “I think I’ve written an emotional check I can’t cash. You need to find a new best friend.”

Lisa was devastated.

She had just begun to trust someone and open herself up to intimacy. But Lisa’s desire for connection outweighed her fear of rejection, so she kept trying. And even though she kept getting hurt, she learned it was worth it.

Finding Your Emmet

Lisa discovered that “we are wounded in the context of relationships, but we can only be healed in the context of relationships.”

She described attending a conference where Dr. Henry Cloud spoke. She recounted that Henry’s mom got through a hard crisis because of her friend, Emmet, who was there for Henry’s mom.

Lisa wept in hearing this because she realized she didn’t have an “Emmet.”

But at that very conference, God brought Lisa to a lovely older woman named Ney Bailey. After having coffee together, Lisa and Ney spent every Tuesday for the next five years together.

Lisa described how God gave her her very own “Emmet” in Ney. And it was within the context of that growing friendship that she learned what grace felt like.

Feeling Grace Through Friendship

Ney told Lisa, “You delight my heart in a million ways.” Lisa always tried to earn love, but Ney expressed love and grace to Lisa without her doing anything to deserve it.

By understanding that she delighted Ney’s heart even though she wasn’t perfect—and knowing what it felt like to receive it—helped Lisa learn how to receive love, grace, and acceptance from God in ways that surpassed her understanding.

This conversation with Lisa was such a beautiful testimony of God’s kindness and how He uses others to show His unconditional love and grace.

Lisa learned grace through friendship, and that’s how it should be. So let me encourage you: If you want to experience grace in friendship, be grace in friendship. Make the first move, show kindness, and give grace in your relationships.

Sister, grace can grow healthy friendships no matter how old or young you are. Grown-ups need friends too, and I know you can be that friend, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

Related Resources

Books & Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild

More from Lisa Whelchel

Links Mentioned in This Episode

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Episode Transcript


4:13 Podcast: Can I Figure Out Friendship as a Grown-Up? With Lisa Whelchel [Episode 155]

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, 4:13ers, this is Jennifer. I want to give you a heads up. There is a special bonus "I Can" power boost episode coming up with Coach Mark Richt. You know him. He was the head football coach for the University of Georgia for 15 years and the University of Miami for three. He's had a storied career and has led his teams to major successes over the years. But this year he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The honest, vulnerable conversations that you will hear from his home in Athens, Georgia, will give you a whole new definition of success. It is so good that I just do not want you to miss it. So follow the 4:13 Podcast to make sure you know when the "I Can" power boost episode with Coach Mark Richt drops. It's coming soon. But first, today's episode of the 4:13.

Lisa Whelchel: You know, I've been on my own since I was 12, so it wouldn't have been safe to be too needy. I had to be self-sufficient in order to survive in a lot of ways, and so to give that up in a lot of ways felt like giving up a survival mechanism.

Jennifer Rothschild: Studies have shown that the health benefits of friendship include a stronger immune system, faster recovery time from illness, lower anxiety and an increase in your generosity levels. I mean, we all need some of that, right? Well, today I have one of my dearest friends here on the podcast. Beside you, K.C., of course.

K.C. Wright: Thank you.

Jennifer Rothschild: And she is talking about how to make all that true for you through friendship. Lisa Whelchel is going to unpack the importance of friendship for grownups. You know her. She first entered our hearts through TV screens on the 80s show The Facts of Life, and then recently as she toughed it out on that TV show Survivor. She's an author, she's an actress, she's a life coach, and she's one of the warmest and most wise women I know. You're just going to love getting to know her on this vulnerable and practical conversation. So get comfy, here we go.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and Biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Now, welcome my buddy. She is legit, y'all. The female version of me.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: She has no beard. Would you please make welcome Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: I don't know. The older I get, that might not be true, K.C. I don't know. But no one will ever know. Hey, welcome, our friends. We are so happy you're here. This is going to be a really good day for you on the podcast. And I'm just here to help you be and do more than you even feel capable of as you live this "I Can" life of Philippians 4:13. And we always say it is just one topic -- now, what is it, K.C.?

K.C. Wright: It's one topic --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

K.C. Wright: -- two friends, zero stress.

Jennifer Rothschild: Zero stress, right. Do we do that usually in a different order? Two friends.

K.C. Wright: Oh, is it? Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Two friends.

K.C. Wright: It's two friends. Boy, we need coffee.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah. Two friends, one topic, zero stress.

K.C. Wright: There you go.

Jennifer Rothschild: And I'm feeling a little stressed. No, I'm really not. Listen, I opened up -- K.C., you heard this -- talking about the health benefits of friendship. Well, I thought I would share with you just a little bit more research before we hear from Lisa. OK? Because researchers have found that the hormone oxytocin is for women especially, the elixir of friendship. Now, by extension that means it's the elixir of health. So let me tell you why. OK? Studies at UCLA and Stanford both confirmed that in times of stress, when women are feeling stressed, women don't just experience the drive toward fight or flight -- no. Is it fight or flight or fright or flight? Fight or flight. Man, I should have more coffee. Let me just pause here, my people. I said to K.C., "Do you need any coffee?" He says, "Yeah, I do." I'm like, "I'm good." Well, clearly I'm not. OK. But anyway, women, they feel this -- they don't just feel this drive to either run away, you know, or fight -- fight or flight, right? -- but they also release oxytocin, and this hormone surge can also compel women to do what I call unite. Now, here's what that means. I read that the researchers call this this urge or this need to tend and befriend, or as I like to think of it, to protect and connect. OK, it's really interesting that women respond this way. In other words, a woman tends to go into protect mode. Like, if she's got kids or anyone, she just wants to protect and nurture them. And she also feels this really deep need to connect with other women. Ya'll, this is so true. I have felt this way whenever something happens that's super stressful. I mean, I know we're supposed to go to God first -- right? -- but I am so tempted to call my BFF. I want to say, "Paula, here's what happened," or, "K.C., let me tell you about what happened, or, "Lisa." And it's just that amazing response we have, and it's healthy. And here's the thing. When women engage in friendship, oxytocin levels rise, and with that prolonged exposure comes a calming, warm effect. We feel nurtured and validated when we hang out with friends who can be totally ourselves with. In fact, some research shows that women actually need to do this twice a week. Right? You need to have twice-a-week encounters with your friends. I mean, if you could actually be with them face to face, that's awesome, or at least talk on the phone. But just that amount of engagement is going to help you be healthier. So I don't get twice a week anymore with Lisa Whelchel like I did years ago, and we've been through seasons where we did do that twice a week, but I did get to hang out with her recently at one of my Fresh Grounded Faith conferences. We were hanging out in the Green Room and we were just sitting on the couch with cups of coffee and having this conversation. So we talked about just the value and the difficulty of making friends, especially when you're a grownup. And some of you know exactly what we're talking about. So, K.C., I think we just need to hear from our friend Lisa.

K.C. Wright: This is going to be so good. I'm excited. Lisa Whelchel was always one of my favorites. I remember watching The Facts of Life, so --

Jennifer Rothschild: Let's just pause. Did you have a crush on her?

K.C. Wright: I'm going to be honest with you. I didn't want to mention it --

Jennifer Rothschild: But you did.

K.C. Wright: -- but of course I did.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, my husband did. What teenage boy didn't, K.C.?

K.C. Wright: Yeah. I mean, hello. I mean, she was a beautiful blond, and you're a teenager -- hormone with a hairdo.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, she's worth a crush. I got a girl crush on her. I think she is the bomb, so yeah.

K.C. Wright: Oh, yeah. But I remember watching -- I remember loving all of the -- you know, all of the different characters in that. Was it Tootie?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, Tootie.

K.C. Wright: Tootie? I love Tootie.

Jennifer Rothschild: And Jo. Mm-hmm.

K.C. Wright: Oh, Jo?

Jennifer Rothschild: And Natalie.

K.C. Wright: And then the caretaker, the mom.

Jennifer Rothschild: Mrs. Garrett.

K.C. Wright: Mrs. Garrett.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

K.C. Wright: Oh, Mrs. Garrett.

Jennifer Rothschild: Do you know that they loosely based that show on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, "Little Women"?

K.C. Wright: Huh.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. And so if you read "Little Women" and then think through the cast and the scripts of Facts of Life, you'll see the connection. It's pretty cool.

K.C. Wright: Wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: Well, dreams come true. See, I had a crush on her and now she's on the 4:13 Podcast.

Jennifer Rothschild: There you go, babe.

K.C. Wright: Let me introduce her officially. Lisa has lived at least as many lives as a cat in her fifty-some odd years. You may know Lisa Whelchel best from her days playing Blair on the 80s television show The Facts of Life, or perhaps from her 39 excruciating days on CBS's show Survivor in 2011. And if you're old enough, you may even remember watching her as a kid on Walt Disney's The New Mickey Mouse Club in the 70s. How cool is that? Hey, you may even have one of the cassette tapes of her Grammy nominated album, "All Because of You." Lisa's favorite role by far has been as a mother to her three now adult children. Lisa has authored over a dozen books, is an inspirational speaker, and a highly sought-after life coach. She's the real deal, and you're going to love hearing and learning from her in this incredible conversation between two good friends, Jennifer and Lisa Whelchel.

Jennifer Rothschild: Lisa, growing up, you grew up on a TV set. So, like, when I'm going to junior high and high school, you're going to a TV set every day. And so I'm curious if you'll give us just kind of a picture of what that was like and how that impacted, you know, just your ability to know how to do friendship.

Lisa Whelchel: Well, what it looked like is I went to work every day, and we were expected to act like professionals. So even though when I was on Mickey Mouse Club at 12 and 13, it was a bunch of kids, and then even Facts of Life, a bunch of girls, we still had a job to do. So there really wasn't much time to just be kids. We were, but it wasn't a place where I could learn how to navigate friendships. The last year that I was in school with sixth grade. And so in junior high and high school, when it's even more so you're kind of learning the nuances about friendship and what to say and not say and what to expect, and then you get hurt and then you repair and all that, I didn't have those life lessons. And so I really didn't have any -- I also used work as a distraction from the feelings that I didn't want to feel, and so I didn't have much room for friendship in my life, conveniently. Because to know somebody else intimately, you really do kind of have to know yourself intimately, and to know myself intimately felt a little bit too scary, so it was just better all the way around to stay busy.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's interesting too, because developing friendships, especially in your adolescent years -- but this applies to any time -- you're going to have -- like a baby calf, you're going to start walking on wobbly legs --

Lisa Whelchel: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- you know? And so you never really got that opportunity during the time in life when it would be expected and appropriate. So I think that's interesting how it's impacted, then, the way you've done life since. OK? So let's kind of talk through that. So you finish Facts of Life. And you're how old at that point?

Lisa Whelchel: Twenty-five.

Jennifer Rothschild: OK. Which you must have looked younger still, eh?

Lisa Whelchel: Yeah. Well, we were supposed to be in college at that point.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's true. That's true. OK. And you meet your husband, OK? So you marry and have how many babies?

Lisa Whelchel: Three kids. 1990, 1991, and 1992, so three years in a row. We got married in '88, so boom, boom, boom. Obviously Mrs. Garrett taught me the facts of life.

Jennifer Rothschild: She did. She did. OK. So as you are then having little babies -- and you're home, I assume, most of the time with the kids?

Lisa Whelchel: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: How did that impact your ability to meet other moms or have friendship with other ladies your age in the same seasons of life?

Lisa Whelchel: Well, in one way it just was another distraction to keep me busy, because I had three little kids in diapers, and so I didn't have to think once again about anything that I didn't want to feel or think about. So I stayed isolated. I was a full-time mom, and I didn't want to go out with those three hyenas in public anywhere. So I stayed home a lot, and I homeschooled, so I remained fairly isolated. And it wasn't until they were a little older that I was desperate for some adult communication and so I invited a handful of ladies that I was teaching Sunday school with, I said, "Hey, why don't you come over one Friday afternoon. We'll put the kids down for a nap, I'll make some lunch, and we'll play a game or have some adult conversation." So they came over and they were as desperate as I was. We had so much fun. We laughed for two solid hours. It's the kind of laughter where you know that nothing was really that funny.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right. You're just desperate.

Lisa Whelchel: You're just desperate to laugh or you're going to cry. And so we thought, you know, we need to do this every week. For one thing, the kids woke up from their naps, and we liked them again, and we knew, okay, this is going to be good for everybody. So I started that game club, what we called Good Medicine Club, because laughter is good medicine. And so it was my kind of tiptoeing into friendship, but I was still -- we were playing games. And they used to call me the Game General because they would want to talk, and I would go, "Nope. Come on, come on. We're here to play games. Come on, let's play."

Jennifer Rothschild: Interesting.

Lisa Whelchel: I didn't really want to have the deeper conversations. So we had close friendships and we were friends for years, but I would -- I know for a fact none of them would have called -- would have felt an intimate connection with me. They would even say, "Lisa, we find out things about your life, you know, by reading your books --

Jennifer Rothschild: Interesting.

Lisa Whelchel: -- or your blog more than we do one on one." I wasn't very open. They said, "You opened your home to us," you know, "you opened your life to us in books, but we don't feel like you've opened your heart to us."

Jennifer Rothschild: It's interesting. What you're describing, I think, is a lot of people's world. Sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of just settling for less because they don't realize there's more, you know. And proximity's not the same as intimacy. So let's fast forward. And then you can kind of pick this up and do what you want with it. But I'm going to fast forward to the fact that you've written a book called "Friendship for Grown-Ups." So that means you evidently had to have something that gave. There was some change, some transition, where you went from the distraction, the inability or unwillingness to acknowledge the needs, to exploring what it felt like to actually maybe opening your heart? So talk to us about what that looks like as you go through Friendship for Grown-Ups, what that looked like for you.

Lisa Whelchel: Yeah. What that looked like for me is I was really fine, I was staying on top of everything. And that was where I felt safe and I didn't have -- you know, I stay on top of my emotions, I stay on top of project, I stay on top of everything. I didn't have to get, you know, down into it where it was scary for me. And part of staying on top of everything was just being very self-sufficient. And it was actually at a speaking event that one of the things I would do around the Good Medicine Club table is -- you know, occasionally when they demanded conversation, I would come up with a question. I'd say, okay, let's --

Jennifer Rothschild: That you would ask?

Lisa Whelchel: I would ask. Which, of course, I was interested, but it also kept me from having to be too open.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Lisa Whelchel: But it was at a women's event. We were all eating. We'd all gone out to dinner afterwards. And I said, "So let's all go around the table and just say what God is teaching us these days," and so everybody went around the table. And there was one of the Bible study teachers there and she said, "Well, I'm learning that it's OK to be needy and that God doesn't, you know, think less of me because I am so needy." And, man, it sounds crazy, it had never crossed my mind that it was OK to be needy.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow.

Lisa Whelchel: I wouldn't allow myself. That's too vulnerable and too scary, especially if -- you know, I've been on my own since I was 12, so it wouldn't have been safe to be too needy. I had to be self-sufficient in order to survive in a lot of ways. And so to give that up in a lot of ways felt like giving up a survival mechanism. And so when we give up our survival mechanisms or our defense structures, what we feel like is the age when we first built them.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah.

Lisa Whelchel: And so to give up this self-sufficiency would have meant that I had to feel really tiny and really young --

Jennifer Rothschild: A child.

Lisa Whelchel: -- and like a child and scared and would somebody, say, show up for me? And yet just that concept it was OK to be needy was enough to break through, because obviously there's a longing in each one of us for intimacy and connection. And you can't connect head to head. You only connect heart to heart. And people don't connect with shiny Teflon, they connect with Velcro, which is, you know --

Jennifer Rothschild: Rough.

Lisa Whelchel: -- rough and loopy and full of holes and collects dust. And so that is what opened me up and I began to crack. And at that point, I realized I can't put the toothpaste back into the tube --

Jennifer Rothschild: It's out.

Lisa Whelchel: -- it's out. I had to acknowledge my neediness and my desire for connection.

Jennifer Rothschild: So as you have acknowledged that, then you start to pursue friendships. And I think I recall one of the friendships that you pursued, it didn't turn out so well and you were hurt.

Lisa Whelchel: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: So how do you manage that?

Lisa Whelchel: Yeah, that was very painful. I got my heart broken, and I didn't even know you could get your heart broken that badly by a girl. I mean, I had boyfriends break my heart a million times, but, you know, never a girl. And I think it hurt even worse, and I think it's because the first person I really let close to my heart, because I had started a friendship and I thought I had a best friend and I was beginning to really share things and be vulnerable. And the truth is, I had so much need and I just overwhelmed her, you know. I'm going to give her some mercy here because it would have been too much for anybody to carry. So when she sat me down after about a year and said, "You know, Lisa, I think I've written an emotional check that is too -- I'm not able to cash and I think you need to find a new best friend," of course that devastated me because I had just begun to trust and let somebody in and need another person. But I was cracked wide open and decided that, you know, I really -- my desire for connection outweighed my fear of rejection, so I just kept trying and I kept getting hurt. Because you know what? That's part of it.

Jennifer Rothschild: That is part of it.

Lisa Whelchel: When we open our heart, it's with vulnerability. It's only vulnerable if you're possibly going to get hurt. And a lot of times we do and -- but it's worth it.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, it is worth it. And when you have a sense of safety in your primary relationship with the Lord, it allows you to try to keep taking these risks. And there's some women who need to take these risks because they're desperately lonely and they're waiting for so and so to come around and be their buddy.

Lisa Whelchel: Mm-hmm.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so I want to ask you to tell us the story about Emmett.

Lisa Whelchel: OK.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because I think that is such a perfect illustration of how we can kind of pursue some friendships and take those risks and -- because they're not all going to -- not all risks turn out poorly.

Lisa Whelchel: No, that's true. Yeah. So I had been invited to a Women of Faith event, and the speaker before the first night was -- it was like a Friday session -- was Dr. Henry Cloud, who wrote the book "Boundaries." And he was telling a story about a time when his mother had gone through a really rough spot in her life. And when he was studying about psychology, he was learning that we are wounded in the context of relationship and really can only be healed within the context of relationship. So he called her up as an adult and said, "Mom, I remember this really hard time you went through when I was little, and you recovered, but I know you couldn't have gotten through it without support. So who was there for you?" And she said, "Oh, you're so right, Henry, I couldn't have gotten through it without my friend Emmett. There were days that I couldn't even get out of bed, but I would call Emmett and she would just be there. And sometimes just hearing her breathing made me realize I'm not alone." And as she's telling the story -- I mean, as Henry was telling the story about his mom at the event, I just began to cry. And the woman who was sitting next to me was a friend of mine who had brought me. And she put her arm around me and she said, "Do you have an Emmett?" And I said, "No, I don't have an Emmett and I really, really need one." And she said, "Well, I would be a sucky Emmett, but I will pray that God will send you an Emmett."

Jennifer Rothschild: I'm glad she was honest, though --

Lisa Whelchel: Oh, man.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- right? Way to be honest.

Lisa Whelchel: That was a safe friend.

Jennifer Rothschild: That is a safe friend.

Lisa Whelchel: Somebody who knows their limitations and is able to just express it without -- you know, without shame.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's just what it is. That's love.

Lisa Whelchel: Yes, it is. Because if she had tried to give me what she thought I needed in a codependent way and then she really couldn't, it hurts worse later.

Jennifer Rothschild: It does.

Lisa Whelchel: And also, she wasn't supposed to be my Emmett. She would have stayed in -- you know, gotten in the way of God's plan, because my Emmett was in that building, I just wasn't going to meet her till the next day. And it was the very last session, and in the break I was sitting there alone, and all of a sudden the sweetest face I'd ever seen just kind of appeared in front of me. An older woman, looked to be in her 70s, and she said, "I notice that you're sitting alone, and my sisters and I are going to go backstage to use the restroom. If you don't want to fight the concourse crowd, you're welcome to come with us." She said, "Oh, excuse me. I'm sorry. My name is Ney Bailey." Well, I recognized her name because one of the speakers earlier had said her Emmett was in the building and her name was Ney Bailey. And I thought, oh, my goodness, maybe she can be my Emmett too. So I went -- I didn't know if I -- I don't even think I had to go the bathroom, but I was going to fake it. So I went just to be with her, and I'm so glad I did, because, you know, just being in her presence, you could feel the love of God oozing out of her pores. I found out later through you -- I think you're the one that told me --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, because I knew who she was.

Lisa Whelchel: Yes. And you're the one that told me that she is affectionately referred to as the fourth person of the Trinity.

Jennifer Rothschild: She is. She is just such a godly, amazing woman.

Lisa Whelchel: She is. And so when I sat back down after that break, I just bravely, boldly, desperately wrote on a little piece of paper, you know, "I'd love to have coffee with you someday if you're ever available. If you're up for it, I would -- you know, I would love that." And I gave her my email address and just wrote -- folded the note and sent it down the aisle. And she sent the note back and said she would love to. So we met for coffee. And I had been reading a book called "Tuesdays with Morrie" about a journalist who spent every Tuesday with an older man who was dying and learned just life lessons. And so I asked Ney if she'd be willing to meet with me every Tuesday, and we met every Tuesday for five years.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow.

Lisa Whelchel: And it was in the context of that friendship that I learned what grace felt like. I'd known the concept of grace all my life. I'd taught on it, I believed it, I had laid my life on the truth of it, but I didn't know what it actually was to experience it until I felt it in the context of another person. And I think it's one of the reasons why God sent his son Jesus in the form of a person in a body for us to know what these concepts of love and grace and forgiveness actually look like and they're not just abstract concepts. And then when Jesus died, he called us the body of Christ.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Lisa Whelchel: And so we can read our Bibles, we can go to church, we can know and believe things, but there's a knowing that's in the head and then there's a knowing that's in the body. And the knowing that in the body comes from the body of Christ.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow. So I want you to end this conversation with one of the ways I think that Ney most beautifully illustrated the safety and the grace that comes from friendship when she said something to you that just kind of shifted your perspective of what it means for someone to delight in you.

Lisa Whelchel: Yeah. Every once in a while she would just say this out of the blue. She'd look across the table at the restaurant and she'd say, "Lisa, you delight my heart in a million ways." And, of course, immediately I think, well, what did I do so I can do it again and make her, you know, love me even more? Because it was always about doing and earning love. But then I realized it was never about something I did great. She would always say it if I had said something either childish or naughty, you know, or foolish. And I was talking to God about it one day and just saying, "God, I'm learning so much about Your grace through this servant of yours, Ney." And then I kind of just wanted to make sure he knew that I was not thinking heresy and I said, "But I know that I don't delight your heart in a million ways when I'm being childish or foolish or naughty, so I'm not going to take it that far." But he stopped me in the middle of my prayer rant and he stopped me with an image that came into my mind. It was actually a picture that I had taken of my little girls when they were three and four years old. And I put them out in the backyard with a Little Tikes easel to paint. And at one point I looked out in the backyard and they were not there, and I got scared and I went looking for them. They weren't in the backyard, they weren't in the front yard. I found them hiding behind the storage shed on the side of our house. And they had taken off all their clothes and they were painting each other's naked bodies. So I ran inside before they could see that I was there and I got a picture of them. And that's the picture that God brought to my mind after 15 years -- I didn't even remember that picture -- when I was telling Him, "I know I don't delight your heart in a million ways when I'm being childish or foolish or naughty." And I knew by Him bringing that picture to my mind, He was trying to say, "Well, why can't you believe that? If that's the way you feel about your little girls, why can't you believe that's how I feel about mine?" And so by understanding that I truly delighted Ney's heart, even when I was not perfect, when I was childish or foolish or naughty, and knowing what that actually felt like to receive that kind of love and grace and acceptance, it enabled me to be able to receive that kind of grace and love and acceptance from God in ways that passed understanding.

Jennifer Rothschild: I just love that Lisa learned grace through friendship, because that is how it should be. But, you know, sometimes we hear a conversation like this and we think, hmm, I wish it were that way, you know, for me, that's just not my story. But let me encourage you, if you want to experience grace in friendship, well, then, my friend, you can be grace in friendship. You know, make the first move. Show kindness, show grace. Because grace can grow healthy friendship, no matter how young or how old you are.

K.C. Wright: And, of course, Lisa's book can be a great companion on that journey. We will have a link to her book, "Friendship for Grown-Ups," on the show notes at

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. And we'll also have some other links, because we talked about some other people, you know, and things today, like Ney Bailey. So we'll make sure we can connect you with her website and books, and same with Henry Cloud's books, and just even some research on friendship that may be interesting to you. So check out those show notes at

K.C. Wright: OK, our people, until next week -- it's so far away -- remember, whatever you face, however you feel, you can truly do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

K.C. Wright: And you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, you can. Now Jennifer is getting some coffee so I can engage my brain better.

K.C. Wright: You need some caffeine.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know what is. My brain and mouth just --

K.C. Wright: Some coffee beans.

Jennifer Rothschild: I think caffeine is the living water between my brain and mouth.

K.C. Wright: Do you remember the theme song from Facts of Life?

Jennifer Rothschild: Da da da da da da da da, bum pa da da da da da. I don't remember the words. I haven't had coffee, K.C. He's very demanding.

K.C. Wright: You take the bad, you take them bad, you take them both --

Jennifer and K.C.: -- and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life.

K.C. Wright: I didn't even know that was in there.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. We remember that. I love it.


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