A love letter to friendship

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." – C.S. Lewis

This year I have been busy building relationships. Like … "in real life" ones.

I know this might sound silly coming from a 34-year-old woman, but it has taken me this long to finally figure out how to be a friend to someone and how to be on the receiving end of friendship. 

For 13 years (ten of which we have been married) I have been fortunate enough to have my husband as my number one best friend. We are the kind of married couple who shares just about everything.*

{*Disclaimer: non-withstanding is personal information about people whom he counsels in confidence. I feel like because of the nature of John's job as a pastor I need to say, out loud, that no … he does not come home from a long day of work and divulge everyone's deep, dark secrets. He feels that keeping people's private information is a very important part of what he does, but also important to compartmentalize in terms of our marriage. I appreciate this about him and I know that others do too, although there is sometimes the assumption that I automatically know everything that is shared with him in confidence. This is not the case, unless someone has specifically asked him to share something with me or if he has asked beforehand if it's all right for something to be shared with me. Those are the only two occasions when something like that would make it home to me.}

SO! Aside from … "job things," John and I are very open and communicate a lot. It's in his nature to talk a lot (moreso than mine), and I trust him 100%, so we have pretty open dialogue despite our sometimes converse introvert/extrovert personality leanings. We drink out of each other's cups, we share food, we swap phone chargers (although I now write my initals on mine because he sometimes accidentally borrows them into his backpack and I never see them again, oops), we share disciplining our children, we share our financial management, we make all major decisions together, we have all joint bank accounts, we share household duties, we share. We are one of those couples.

Because of the nature of our relationship, sometimes I have depended on him too much for, you know, regular old Friend Stuff. I have always had a few friends sprinkled here and there, but when I have moved away I have invariably kind of drifted apart from people. And in your twenties I think this happens to a lot of people who get married young and move away (I was a child bride at the recently aquired age of 24, ha). I connected with people who I worked with in ministry and kept up with them over the years, we made friends with a married couple here and there, but I never felt like I had a super tight bond with anyone that survived the tests of life disasters or geographical change. In my defense, I went through a lot of hardship in my twenties and often felt very disconnected from people because I didn't have healthy coping strategies and was so terribly hurt and bereaved at times. I was terribly crippled by the fears of being hurt and betrayed by anyone who got close to me, and if God forbid those people had any life disasters or tragedy that I had to be available to help them deal with? Man, that just didn't work. I was so spiritually and emotionally depleted that I just didn't have much, if anything, to give. I had my husband with whom to have a meaningful relationship, anyway, so why would I need much more?

Hate to break it to you, Self, but that was probably kind of hard on the guy.

A few years ago I showed up at Sydney's preschool to enroll her with a 6-month-old Elijah on my hip. There is no question: I was a total and completely exhausted disaster. Elijah was a particularly difficult baby to follow Sydney's even-tempered and breezy babyhood. He didn't sleep much unless I was nursing him, he wouldn't take pacis or bottles, and he really would only allow me to hold or take care of him. John started a new job that was a huge blessing to our family, but it left me at home alone for a vast majority of the time with a toddler and a demanding baby who never napped, which was hard for me because … see above. I depended on my husband too much. He was one of the two people I was willing to ever ask for help (the other was my sainted mom-in-law who lives about 30-45 mins away by freeway). I really didn't have any friends that I trusted. I was a keyed-up hot mess.

I wish I could tell you here that things instantly got better when Syd started school but that was not the case. At our tiny co-op parents volunteer at our play-based school every other week (and that's for kids that are enrolled in the 3-day-a-week class. Kids who are enrolled 5 days a week or full days volunteer longer). Volunteering entails basically being a "teaching parent" for the entire school day. You set up the school, you greet children when they come in, you clean, you paint, you break up fights, you take kids to the potty, you sweep, you put on suncreen and help kids change their clothes and find their cubbies and help them with their snack and oh MY LANDS is it exhausting. I did a lot of this that first year while wearing Elijah in an Ergo on my front. It was so, so hard for me. I would show up at the school already exhausted from not sleeping and trying to manage Sydney, who was a force to be reckoned with at that age (AND SHE STILL IS but at least now she's potty trained Praise the LORD), and yep. It was discouraging how hard my life was on those days. I have written before about how hard being a parent has been for me at times – and it still is so hard for me most of the time – but those days were dark.

One of the bright lights of that year was, however, that I finally had contact with adults who I had things in common with: our preschoolers. I took a parenting class at the school and still remember how good it felt to sit on the floor in a circle with these other people who were pulling their hair out trying to manage their kids too. I wasn't alone!

Fiona was one of the people I met that year. And let me tell you about her: She is this tall, beautiful, enigmatic Belgian woman. She wears beautiful, colorful clothes always topped by a bright scarf, she smiles all the time and hugs everyone, she laughs loud, she has this artistic free spirit, and her daughter (the youngest of her three children) is six months younger than my oldest. She had been around the block as a parent, was so confident with kids, was so kind to others and so bold. She had a husband who kissed her hello and goodbye and was obviously nuts about her, and she wasn't afraid to admit to anyone who wanted to know that she was a sold-out follower of Jesus. Talk about meeting your spirit animal … Fiona was mine. Here I was – this little, dowdy, dark Eeyore of a person, so obviously struggling along in life – and there she was: My new hero. We got to know each other a little bit that year, and when our daughters were in the same class the following year we started winding around each other in tighter circles. I sponged off her and asked her every parenting question I could come up with. She is very tight with our preschool director (another person I came to depend on heavily that year: she taught our parenting class that year and took me – and my wild child of a daughter – under her wing and is now the person who puts stars in my son's eyes. Oh Teacher Joyce!), and through that connection Fiona and her husband Alexis started asking us questions about our church community. Alexis and John finally met, and Alexis instantly became John's best friend, and the rest is kind of history. Alexis and Fiona and their children joined our church community and just started "doing life" with us. We hung out several times a week. The guys had coffee together every Thursday morning. Being friends with Fiona was the beginning of the end of a very long dry spell for me. Between her and another precious friend (my marathon training partner, Lindsay) God was coaxing me out of my lonely cave. He had plans for me. He had plans for us. He was going to teach me how to be a friend.

Soon two other dear girls, Breanna (who was also a preschool mom and a Team World Vision runner) and Lynne (an aquaintance I'd had for many years but had never been able to properly connect with until another thing happened … a long, good story for perhaps another day) were tossed into our mix and we all just instantly connected. We started texting each other daily and I heard God tell me very clearly that I needed to invite these women into my home … into the very vortex of my life. I needed to be brave with them about my shortcomings, I needed to be honest and open with them about my faith, I needed to make space for them in my life face-to-face. At first the idea terrified me. Would it be awkward? Would they judge me for my less-than-perfect house? Would they even SHOW UP?

The short version of the story is that yes, they showed up. And they kept showing up. And over the course of a year these three women became the best friends I have ever had outside of my marriage. We have laughed and cried about everything. We have watched our children play and fight and in the process form their own deep friendships. We have worshipped God together, we have fed each other and others, we have had awkward moments, we have prayed, we have drunk a thousand cups of coffee, we have gone to IKEA, we have cleaned each other's houses and folded each other's laundry, we have hugged and kissed and disciplined each other's children, we have introduced each other to our family and friends, we have texted just about EVERY DAY since we first joined together as friends. We have welcomed a baby (Lucy!) and we are about to welcome another (Breanna's baby boy is due in Sept), one of us has moved away (Breanna), one of us had major surgery (Lynne), one of us has lost her husband (Fiona), we have gone on a road trip together, we have trained for and run races together. Sometimes it has taken work, most of the time it has been as easy as breathing, and through all of it we have been forever bound together.

It occurs to me now that Jesus was a friend … his circle was not much wider than mine: of the twelve disciples he had three friends who were as close to him as brothers (John, Peter, and James). They walked together, they ate together, they ministered to people together. They talked things over, they made plans, they trusted each other. Friendship is valuable. It is a gift. It is a choice.

I never knew that I could share this deeply with people who were not in my immediate family. I never knew that there were people out there who God could use to stitch back together the parts of me that were deeply and intimately hurt and broken. I am thankful that I didn't make it through the rest of my life before I figured it out. I am so glad I didn't miss out on this blessing. I am thankful for my friends.

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One thought on “A love letter to friendship

  1. Lindsay says:

    Love this and I relate to it so much. Glad to see you are blogging again. Blogging/reading blogs has always been my favorite form of social media. It kind of bums me out that seemingly no one does it anymore even though I can understand the many reasons a person would stop.

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