Monday, June 4, 2012

Friends Forever - Part Two

When Heath and I got married (I was 18) and I moved to Indiana, I left all my friends behind in SC. We set up house in a little apartment while we built a beautiful southern style home with a wrap around front porch. Every day Heath would go to work on the house, driving our one and only vehicle, and I would sit in the apartment alone…all day.

Then we moved into the house, and we got a second vehicle, and we had Faith, and life continued to move forward, but I still didn’t have any REAL friends. I had church acquaintances, but no one I could call when I was so mad at Heath that I needed to say a few ugly words, no one who would tell me which pair of jeans made my butt look smaller (I still don’t have anyone to tell me that…because no jeans on this planet can do anything to help), no one to laugh with over the antics of our kids. I can remember crying and praying and asking God to PLEASE give me a best friend, just one, please, please, please. I was so lonely.
And then, after 5 years, the Lord sent me an angel. Her name is Beth Ann Crouse. She had a daughter the exact same age as Faith (they are 2 weeks apart) and she was pregnant with baby number two…as was I!! The girls were fast friends from the start. Faith would ask for Kate before she could even really say “kate.” So we started having play dates and slowly she became the friend I was looking for. When I had a terrible week, she would come over and watch the kids so I could clean my house. When I got a package in the mail that excited me, she jumped up and down too. When I cried, she cried with me, and when I tried to be funny…she always laughed. She is the one who gave me the idea of doing “favorite things” about people, because she did that with me. If I need someone to pray for me, even if I haven’t talked to her in weeks, I can call her. I don’t have to spend time on pleasantries. I can say “I only have 5 minutes, but I am losing it, will you pray for me?” and she will. Every time. She talks quietly, and when she prays she gets even quieter, so I usually have to hide in my closet to be able to hear her prayers…but even if I can’t, just knowing she is praying sooths my heart. We both have 4 kids now, and she lives MANY states away…but I called her up to pray for me in a crisis just a few weeks ago. Faith still has a picture of Kate on her dresser. I prayed a long time for a true friend in Indiana…and it was worth the wait.

I met Rachel Culver when we did a SHORT stint in Georgia for Heath’s job. She became my friend in a very unexpected way. One day I was feeling especially cooped up in the house with the kids, and so we loaded into the car and went to the park. My daughter, being the outgoing child that she is, struck up a conversation with a little girl she met on the swings, and the girls decided they should be friends…and so Faith dragged me to meet Adison’s mom. Isn’t it funny how the Lord is working even when it seems like a regular day? We only lived in Georgia for 10 months, but Rachel and I seemed to have a friendship on ‘fast-forward.’ We became close quickly. She brought me a care package when I had the flu (she left it on the steps and called me to tell me she’d brought it, but still…friendship only goes so far, right?) we did ‘school’ with our kids together, we laughed…oh my how we laughed. I think I have laughed harder with her than with any other friend I can think of…and that’s saying something, because I laugh a lot with all my friends.

Ellie Strenk started out as a leader in the Bible study I began attending 2 weeks after my sister died. She called me to introduce herself…and she got more than she bargained for. She never complained about having to listen to my sobbing story about why I was such a mess every week. She THANKED me for sharing with her. I thought “wow, she is too good to be true.” Over the last almost 2 years I have come to realize that she is a regular girl, and I still think she’s wonderful. Gabe has clogged up her toilet with too much toilet paper, she has given her kid a bath because of an accident at my house, we have shared a glass of wine at 3 in the afternoon thanks to a stressful phone call, we have been on our knees together, we have been rolling with laughter together. When Ellie first agreed to come over for a play date, I am pretty sure she did it because I was in her study group, and it’s the obligation of the leader to get to know all the gals. But now she is my dear friend. She offered to keep my kids for a WEEK if I wanted to go on a missions trip…I’m pretty sure leader courtesy doesn’t extend that far.

Sarah Stahl…J She’s another gal l am pretty sure agreed to hang out with me because of her role as a leader. She is the wife of our pastor. She has 4 kids too, and we were pregnant with our 4th at the same time. (She was much more adorable pregnant, which almost made me not want to be friends with her.) She brought me supper when Gabe was born, she offered to keep the other kids, even with her BUSY life. We meet at the park for play dates (better known as ‘home school moms VENT day’) and whenever I need to say something slightly inappropriate…she is the one I text. I am pretty sure she deletes all our text conversations after we have them, because if anyone else in the church picked up her phone they would be shocked and horrified. For some reason (and I don’t know what the reason is) she just laughs at all my antics. She is the ‘good girl’ pastor’s kid, and I am the ‘wild child’ pastor’s kid…and somehow we are friends.

Okay, so this is once again NOT all inclusive, but just a snapshot overview of my adult friends. Here is my favorite thing about each:

Beth Ann: she is really good at encouraging words (duh, she is the one who first introduced me to the ‘favorite thing’ game) She tells me she loves me, she tells me she thinks I’m funny. She gives affirmation better than almost anyone else I know. I feel GOOD about myself when I am around her, and that is because she lets me know that I am important to her. And she isn’t just like that with me. She’s that way with everyone. It makes her someone everyone wants to be friends with…and somehow she still likes to hang out with me. (I feel special) Her gift of kindness through her words is one of my favorite things about her.

Rachel Culver calls me to tell me funny things. Once she called me because she was laughing REALLY HARD and she had to share the story. She told me “If you don’t think this is as funny as I do, lie, okay? Because I need someone to laugh really hard.” But I always think she’s funny. I can FEEL her joy, in the Lord, in her family, in her life, and it’s CONTAGIOUS! It’s one of my favorite things about her.

Ellie Strenk is ridiculously beautiful, and amazingly down to earth at the same time. She is willing to show up at my house at 1 p.m. and inform me that she hasn’t fed her kids lunch yet and needs to borrow some bread…and peanut butter…and jelly…and chips and fruit. She LIKES that my house is messy when she comes over. She says it makes her feel at home. She sees each play date disaster as growth in our friendship. She cherishes the things about people that seem like flaws. She sees them as rare, and precious. She makes everyone around her feel at ease, because she accepts them without judgment, and is willing for the REAL side of her to be seen. It’s one of my favorite things about her.

Sarah Stahl is sassy and tough…and TINY. You don’t expect someone who is 5 feet tall and weighs 91 pounds to be able to hold her own…but she can. She has 4 kids, and she keeps them in line. Her husband is a little on the wild side (like me) and somehow she just rolls with it, looking fabulous and at ease, even though I know she hasn’t sat down for more than 5 minutes all day and probably still has hours of stuff left to get done after she puts the kids to bed. When we first became friends I wasn’t sure I could ever be my real self with her, because she was either 1) as fragile as she looked or 2) so conservative she would judge me for my um…outgoing side. I have come to realize she in very gracious, very caring and thoughtful, very sweet and loving…and can also give as good as she gets. Somehow in her busy life, she made space for me. I know it’s a stretch for her day to hang out with me sometimes, but she still does it. She’s very giving, she’s a servant, and she is a strong shoulder I can lean on…not literally, because I would crush her. She continues to accept me even when I am the WORST version of myself. It’s one of my favorite things about her.

Okay, I have several other friends who are new, who I am just beginning to form those lasting bonds with. It seems after 5 years of NO friends when I first got married, and only one for a long time, that the Lord is now blessing me with more friends than I could have imagined. Dana Howerton, Brandy Collins, Christy Meindel, Lindsay Kidd, I love you all. I am grateful for you.

I have one more list of friends to share with you before the grand finale that will have a point, I PROMISE!!!!


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