I was a wreck. I could hardly believe that my grandfather was sick, let alone dying. I didn’t cry at first, because I don’t think I could absorb the words.
Cancer. Advanced. Hospice.
They are words for other people, until they are suddenly your words for someone you love.
And now, I was flying across the country to see him.
She came over and helped me pack. When my brain turned to mush and I was preparing for the last time I would see this man I loved so dearly, she showed up at my front door. She helped me think about the weather in Southern California in January. She folded shirts and pants. She knew some of my favorites and put them in the suitcase and made sure I was ready to go. She held my hand and prayed with me.
Another friend came in the midst of packing armed with two new books to read and chocolate. She wanted me to be ready for my flight and to enjoy it as much as I could. I could see in her eyes how much she wanted to help and I didn’t have the right words to tell her how much it meant that she was there too.
My uncle made all the arrangements and before I knew it, I was at the Philadelphia airport, boarding my plane for California.
Sometimes when I think back to that day and the decision to take off work and go, so much is a blur. I only remember how it felt and how taken care of I was. There wasn’t just the friend who packed and the friend who brought me my in-flight care package.
There was my friend who saw how torn I was about going and staying to work and gave me permission to go. He went to our boss and advocated for me and helped make the plan for me to be gone.
There was my friend who held me and cried with me when I found out the awful news.
There was my friend who covered some of my work duties and held down the fort while I was gone.
There was my friend who sent me the bouquet of chocolate and fruit, sending love all the way from Boston to California.
There was my friend who emailed me a lifeline of hope from Hosea 2:15, reminding me how loved I was.
There was my friend who let me cry.
There were the friends who prayed for me.
There were the friends who prayed with me.
There were the friends who welcomed me home with a huge banner in my apartment and hugs and gluten free brownies.
Sometimes in this new season, I think I see everything my friendships are not and I forget the beauty in them. I see the difficulty in fighting for adult conversation when there is a baby present. I see my lack of transportation most days and how hard it is to get to people. I see the time it takes to invest in someone and find myself longing for the condensed, intensified version I was given in my years of Residence Life. I see the transition my heart has been through in recent years between moving across the country (several times in only a few years), marriage and parenthood and feel like I can barely catch my breath long enough to show someone else what is in my heart. I see all the work that is in friendships and forget the gift they are.
As I read The Gift of Friendship, I was so grateful to remember the grace the Lord offers us in other people. I honestly went into the book feeling skeptical. Friendships feel hard in the newness of this season and I didn’t want a pep talk about how amazing friendships are that would leave me feeling terrible. But instead, I got an honest look at the pain and the beauty to be found when we risk letting other people see our mess.This collection of stories and essays on friendship was a gift to my heart, as I was often reminded of this friend or that friend. By the end, I felt like I was surrounded by the multitude of people the Lord has given me through the years.
Laura Parker shares about how she is relearning what it means to share life with people and be in community.
“We can wait around for community to happen to us and then complain when it might not, or we can pursue it and fight for it like our lives depend on it. Because they do.” (38)
I think I can so easily take a glance at the work friendship takes and forget how I was made for this. I see the effort without the grace behind it. I love what Shauna Niequist says about friendship,
“Friendship is an opportunity to act on God’s behalf in people’s lives, reminding each other who God is. When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. We get to remind one another about the bigger, more beautiful picture that we can’t always see from where we are.” (Savor, 267)
I think these last few months, I’ve been looking at what I don’t have, instead of what I do. I’ve been looking at all the changes and transition. I’ve been looking at how different I feel and how lonely a new place can be. I’ve been looking at what I want, not what I have.
But in the midst of all of that, the Lord hasn’t left me alone.
I have a writing buddy to share my heart through emails all the way around the world.
I have mail love and emails and texts from a dear friend in Texas.
I have the best cheerleaders and prayer buddies in a few special people.
I have the sprouts of new friendships starting here.
I have pizza and cookies with one of my favorites as we talk about all the transition in both of our lives.
I have texts and phone calls and emails from people who know me and love me.
I have surprise packages showing up at my door, declaring that my friend remembers me.
I have the chairs around our kitchen table filled once or twice a week, as friends share a meal with us.
I have a book club over Skype with one of my favorite friends, which honestly means we talk once a week, and sometimes talk about our book.
I have a tiny person who is learning to be a friend, who puts her chubby arms around my neck and gives kisses to my knees.
I have brothers and sisters who have become my friends.
I have Instagram comments and love from people who cheer me on from their corner of the world.
I get to live with my dearest friend, who eats chocolate pudding over superhero movies with me and is beyond kind.
When I look at everything I don’t have, I forget to look at the many gifts the Lord has given me. In this season alone, there is an abundance of grace through the people he has placed in my life. And when I look back on past seasons, I’m utterly overwhelmed and undone by his kindness to me. I may feel lonely and displaced, but the truth is that I am not forgotten or alone. The Lord has given me so many people to show me the divine in the daily. He is giving me so many friends to remind about the bigger, beautiful picture that we’re part of. I am rich with friends.
I don’t want to pretend it is easy. Friendships in this season still feel hard for me. But I’m reminded once again that they are worth it. They are a taste of grace and life and goodness. They are a glimpse of who our God is. They are worth fighting for. They are worth the risk. I love these words from Anna Rendell, as she reflects on the kinds of friends she dreams of for her daughter. They fill my heart with courage for friendships.
“It starts with a deep breath. It starts with responding when we don’t want to. It starts with praying over our words before pressing “send.” It starts with simple honesty when it would be easier to stay silent. It starts with asking the hard questions and being willing to answer them ourselves. It starts in our kitchens, in our living rooms, on our phones, and with our coffeepots. It starts in our own lives and it starts in our own hearts.
I’m putting out a call to be brave. To embrace the sweetness and the depth of real friendship. To hold ourselves to a higher standard than silence. To become the kind of friend we pray our daughters have. This kind of friendship isn’t easy. It’s hard and messy and can come with real heartache. But it can also come with richness and love and someone to really do life with too, and it is so worth it.” (57)
Revell Publishers has generously offered me a copy of The Gift of Friendship to give to one of my readers! To be entered, please leave a comment below answering the following question: What does it look like for you to be brave as a friend today? Answers can be silly or serious. Good friendships need both! A winner will be picked and emailed on March 4.
Here’s my answer: Being brave today means calling a friend and not waiting for the “perfect” time to call. It means showing up and dialing her number and telling her she’s loved, even if I have to leave a voicemail.
*Revell Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “The Gift of Friendship,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255