Last weekend, my dear childhood friend and her four smiling children came for a visit. Her husband works for a university and was out of the country teaching for a while. We thought it would be a great opportunity to see each other, so she squeezed in a weekend visit while on her way to see family.
Having four giggling children between the ages of 1-6 running around the house was exhausting but a ton of fun! My heart was full of joy because I had the opportunity to chat with a close friend while also playing with her four small children. A few times, the thought crossed my mind that things should be like this all the time. I wish that she lived in the same city as me like we had done for so many years. I loved spending time with her and was frustrated by the 23-hour drive that now separated us.
However, what I want and what God wants are a bit different sometimes. After years of living almost parallel lives and attending school together all the way through college, God called my friend and me to different paths. We found ourselves in different states, and at one point different countries. She married right after college and now has four beautiful children that keep her quite busy. I worked for a few years before meeting and eventually marrying Matt, and my first child is praying for us in heaven. Things didn’t play out exactly how we had planned.
We live in different states, have chosen different career paths, have different numbers of children, and our phone calls are scattered between the cries of children and nap time. Despite this, our friendship has remained strong. Her children know who Isabelle is and that she prays for us from heaven. They are also excited about the newest addition to our family. As they were getting in the car to leave yesterday, her six year-old smiled, pointed to my belly and said, “I can’t wait to meet Mark when he is a lot bigger.”
My friend is still very much a part of my life despite all of the miles. This is because one thing has remained constant amidst the last eight years of craziness since she moved away after college. That constant is our faith, which has always been the center of our friendship.
It was this dear friend who, almost fifteen years ago, dragged me to a youth group meeting after church and encouraged me to keep going. That was the kick I needed to move me forward on a journey of faith that started when my parents had me baptized. My soul is grateful for that invitation and for her constant encouragement in the years that followed.
Now that my house is quiet and her van full of children has departed to visit their grandparents, I can’t help but think back on the people God has put into my life. So far, He has blessed me abundantly with several very dear friends. As adults, our lives have all taken different paths, our faith has always remained constant. I know that I can rely on their prayers during the good times and during the difficult times, as well.
On August 1, 2014, as I sat completely brokenhearted and devastated in the reception area after Isabelle’s funeral, for just an instant I was reminded of how incredibly blessed I was as many of those friends came to give me a hug. They had driven from all over the country just to be with Matt and me, and to pray with us during that difficult time. In the midst of tragedy, I discovered that God always provides.
I remember once a number of years ago, my wonderful youth minister encouraged the group of teens in front of him to choose their friends in life wisely because they can be a source of strength and encouragement. Now, more than ever, I understand what he was trying to convey. It is the friendships that are centered in God, that seek to encourage, and that are both honest and genuine that will withstand the test of distance and time. Those are the friendships that regardless of how much time may have passed between emails, phone calls, or texts, when you talk or see them again, it is as if no time has passed at all. They have celebrated joyous events with me, prayed with me, encouraged me, and also mourned with me.
In my lifetime I have been abundantly blessed with several of these friends. For that I am very thankful.