Door Holders: Diane Cornelison

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni says that most everybody is fairly good at having conversations – even about conflict – that give you an honest 90%. It’s in that ‘last ten percent’, Lencioni says, where reality happens, trust is built and organizational health begins.

My workplace has adopted this concept and “having a last ten percent conversation” is a common axiom for all of us. It’s an important step towards relational health and functionality.
After I heard this teaching, I realized that someone else had taught me the value of sharing the last ten percent many years ago. I didn’t realize the importance at the time, but Lencioni helped me connect the dots. It added to my great appreciation for my friend Diane Cornelison.
Celebrating Christmas in 1999
Diane and I met because our husbands at the time were both pursuing an education in ministry. They were on different tracks, coming from very different experiences. But Diane and I were both in the throes of raising kids; we each had three girls, and we each added a son to the family only months apart. We lived a few blocks away from one another in a small, conservative town in central Texas.

I was always in awe of Diane. She and her husband, Dennis, were disciplined. They were creative. They could built entire houses out of scavenged wood. They up cycled like crazy, way before it was cool. Diane planted an herb garden and brewed tea that we would share on her Victorian couch, surrounded by beautiful antiques and glassware. She let me nap in the living room when needed. She organized her kids – and mine – to clean, to do chores without complaining, to keep things tidy.

She loved Jesus, and she loved the church – although the church we attended at the time did not demonstrate their love in return. I witnessed hurtful things done to them in the name of righteousness, but she and Dennis shrugged it off and kept pursuing Jesus as per their calling, with no bitterness or rancor. 
I was always slightly intimidated by Diane, as she seemed to have it all together in ways I did not. Diane organized everything in life; I lost things on a daily basis. She homeschooled her kids and managed it with aplomb and order; I could barely keep my kids clothed. 
Diane organized a baby shower
when I was pregnant with Sydni.
We were very different, and yet she was a good, good friend to me, in ways that I failed to fully appreciate at the time. Diane understood recovery, and she understood people and faith in a way that I didn’t quite comprehend at that stage of my life. She demonstrated hospitality in the deepest, most holistic sense of the word. 
These days, I’d give just about anything to have her living a stone’s throw away again. I’d walk across those railroad tracks to see her every day if I could.
During those few years in Joshua, Texas, we shared a lot of things- time, meals, joys and sorrows – and kids. Also, stuff. Clothes, dishes, toys. 

And a stroller.

Diane let me borrow a stroller one spring. I used it and, in typical fashion, kind of lost track of it. It was just in the backyard – but I kept overlooking it. One day, Diane mentioned the stroller. I don’t mind you borrowing it – but don’t leave it outside, okay? It’s getting rained on. It’ll rust. It’ll get ruined. Just don’t leave it outside…

I heard her, and I took her seriously, but in a manner that still remains an often shameful part of my daily existence, I forgot. I got busy with other things, and I didn’t prioritize her request, and some part of my mom’s teaching to Take Care of Things That Belong to Other People fell completely out of my brain, and the stroller stayed in the yard.
Getting rained on.
Diane came over a few days later and said, Hey. I’m taking the stroller. I asked you not to leave it in the rain and you didn’t and that really bugs me, that you didn’t hear me and didn’t take care of my stuff. 

She didn’t yell. She didn’t cry or make a scene. She just told me the truth, and she was a little upset, but she said her piece and that was it. 
And I was mortified.
In hindsight, it was a little thing; but I had big issues. I was compelled to be perfect at all things. I believed it was expected of me, to be perfect (it was part of the religion that was all around me, but that’s a completely different story…) 
I thought I was supposed to be perfect, which is completely unreasonable and untenable, of course; so I had a lot of good coping mechanisms – one of which was to hide from the things in which I could not manage perfection. I was good at avoiding conflict.
Diane didn’t go for that. She never shied away from the truth and she wasn’t afraid to be honest. Diane called me on something I did wrong. She stated her case. It wasn’t a big deal for her – she was much further along in her journey of acceptance than me! – and that was the end of it. We were still friends. She forgave me. It was nothing in the grand scheme of things, and our friendship seemed fine.
Diane and her family in 1999.
But it stung in me for weeks. Months.
I simply did not know how to cope with having failed a friend, even in this simple way. I didn’t know what it was like to be found wanting, but forgiven. This notion of being vulnerable in front of someone, of having it all on the table, of the “secret” revealed – that I wasn’t perfect – was devastating to me. (Ridiculous, I know. But still…)
The emperor had no clothes. I didn’t know how to cope. 
But Diane did. 
This was my first true taste of grace. Blatant, in-your-face grace. 
Diane showed me how to be a friend, in the truest sense. Diane was the person who said all the right things – both the easy words and the harder ones – when I called to tell her about the collapse of my marriage to my kids’ dad. And today, Diane is the one person that I long for, when I wish I could curl up on the couch with a cup of tea in front of a fire and talk, honestly, about everything. 
I am thankful that last October, we visited Texas and got to do just that.
Diane held the door open for me to experience grace and true friendship in a way that was new and necessary. I learned to trust her, because of that last ten percent stuff – along with everything else she offered. And because of that, the pump was primed for me to appreciate the value of trusting more friends along the way. She reset expectations for me when it came to friendship, and I’m better for it.
Thank you, Diane, for being a door holder for me. And a friend.
Diane and I, catching up, last October at her home in Texas.
So much love. 

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