A testimonial as read at the First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn’s Women’s Day Apart, on Friendship.

Last Sunday afternoon I found myself staring out the window of a very slow moving car full of 4 other women, racing slowly, so slowly toward the Denver International Airport for flights home that at least one of us was certainly going to miss. We had left with plenty of time to get to the airport—3 hours for a 1 and a half hour trip—but we didn’t anticipate that everyone in the state of Colorado would also be on this road, heading toward the two lane tunnel that was miles away on this very day, at this time, when we all needed so desperately to return home to our families.

You have to know one thing about me before I continue. I am a nervous traveler. It may be just my nature. It may be that I tend to lose things—important things like IDs and plane tickets and phones. (At the eye doctor this week I asked the doctor if he still had my glasses somewhere in his office. He pointed out that they were on my face.) Or I may be a nervous traveler because I have rarely gone anywhere in the past 7 years—during that time two children who are half of my heart have needed me for uncountable diaper changes or wipe assists, and thousands of night time songs, and piles of piles of snacks, and hours of alternating hugs and fight break ups and hugs again. So several months ago, when girls from a past neighborhood Bible study said they were planning a girls’ trip, I said Yes! A thousand times yes. Is there any answer other than yes?

So here we were, wishing we were speeding in practically stopped traffic, heading toward an airport that may or may not have planes still there to take us home by the time we arrived. When we first checked our arrival time according to Google Maps, we gawked. Twenty minutes after one of the girls’ flight times. It’s not possible! We all thought. But brake lights ahead shouted at us, “Yes, this is happening!” Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And so we slowed, just as our hearts and thoughts raced. What would we do?

Our weekend had been glorious. We had stayed in one of the girls’ houses—halfway up a mountain, with a view of the Rockies for miles. We had tubed, snowshoe-ed, explored the ski towns. We had eaten raclette and played charades and cards late into the nights and laughed and laughed. We had named one of the girls’ very fuzzy hats Count Alexander Rostov, The Count for short, and we had taken it on adventure after adventure. We had taken a break from our families and work and the worries of day to day life. We had restored our souls.

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Here, I think I need to take you back even further to how I found these girls. Three years ago, we moved to this town, and I was lonely. It had been years since I had girlfriends—before our move, I was waiting to settle in a forever place, so I delayed friendship—perhaps a little too long. By the time we moved, I was desperate for friends. So I did what any smart mom would do—I hit up every playground in the town. It was only then that I realized… I was out of practice at this making friends thing. Making a friend on the playground is a little like dating—someone’s eventually got to “make the move.” At some point one of you has to be like, “Can I get your number?” And I was rotten at this forwardness. Even so, every day, I’d come home to report to my husband, “I made my new best friend today!” After the 100th new best friend, he rolled his eyes.

In the meantime, my husband took a very different approach to meeting people. He played basketball one night a week here at open gym, and when I asked who he played with, he couldn’t name one person. “But you spent an hour with them,” I’d say. “I know,” he’d reply. “Don’t you talk at all?” I’d ask. “No,” he’d say. “Then what do you do?” I’d ask. He’d shrug. “We play basketball.” Clearly, he was a little less desperate.

So for a year, I pressed on. Besides my desperation, though, and my inability to ever “close the deal,” I made one other mistake. I grasped this problem too tightly. I decided I could be the one in charge of this. I could make friends. I could do this. I never once invited God into the process. At the time, friendship didn’t seem important enough to pray about. It didn’t occur to me that God would care.

Eventually, though, with every “new best friend” that wasn’t to be, my heart was chipping to pieces. It had been nearly a year, and I was beyond weary from the process. The loneliness had settled. Actually…it was with me always, I constantly thought of it, it knew me through and through—loneliness was my new best friend.

At this point, finally, I prayed. By then, I had put in so much failed effort that I was beyond the point of even asking God to help me find friends. Instead, I said, “God, I’m lonely. I’ve tried to fill this space in my life. I give up. I was hanging on tight to my idea of a new best friend, and I am done. I’m letting go.”

And I did. I stopped obsessing. I unclasped my hands. I went for a run (which I do not do, because sweat). I ran my kids to the playground so they could play, and I sat in my sweaty clothes enjoying that only one other kid was there, and I was going to focus on my kids and not talking to anyone else. Because sweat.

But of course, my son recognized the other boy. “That’s Rocket Ryan!” he said. “From where?” I asked. “From the new church we’ve been visiting,” he said.

At this point the other mom walked over from across the playground. “Do they know each other?” She asked. We got to talking about the basics, and church. A few minutes into the conversation, I asked how long they’ve been going to First Pres. “I have a confession to make,” she said. I braced myself, as anyone would after a statement like that. “My husband is the Pastor.” I laughed, and we talked a while longer. And she didn’t even mind my sweat!

A few weeks later, I met a woman named Susan who had kids near my kids’ ages. When I told her the ages of my kids, she said, “Where have you been all my life!” She ended up inviting me to a neighborhood moms group Bible Study. Because of a hectic schedule, I was waffling with my decision, and said so in an email to the leader of the Bible study group, who I didn’t know. She replied, “I love waffles. Waffles are my favorite breakfast food!” I knew then that I had met my people. This just felt right.

I joined the group, only to discover that it included the confessing pastor’s wife who I had just met at the playground, a few women from my street, and several women who I had met here and there throughout the year of the search for the new best friend. It only took a little time for me to discover the final flourish—the thing that my husband would laugh the hardest at—most of the women in the group had husbands who played basketball—with my husband. So while I was on my never-ending quest for my new best friend, laughing at his approach to making friends, here were the pieces, already being put into place. It’s like I was, in my desperation and loneliness, looking only one way—and all of God’s plans were being laid the other. If that doesn’t speak of the divine plan of a joyful creator, I’m not sure what does.

And we did two years of weekly study together. We prayed for each other, learned together, and brought each other meals and hugs and chocolate when things weren’t going well. No matter what was happening in my life, I knew they were cheering me on, standing behind me, lifting me up. And this awesome group of Godly women was only the beginning of several meaningful connections I’ve made since then.

And now we can revisit last week. Last Sunday, I was in the car with several of these women after a weekend of restorative connection. And we were sweating, nervous, internal wrecks. We were considering outrageous flight change fees, or overnight car rental road trips. We were fighting impossibly full bladders, since we had no time to stop. We were ready to tear up at any moment thinking of children who missed us and husbands who would probably arrange private jets to ensure that they don’t have to be the only one in charge of little monsters for one more minute than they had to. We were nervous, worried, scared. And we were laughing.

My “waffles for breakfast” friend was the one who would certainly miss her flight. And yet she was the one who occasionally declared something positive, like “At least we’re not that guy with the flat tire!” She joked to those with full bladders about being led by still waters. She was the one who turned around to me, the nervous traveler, at least 15 times during the drive to ask with incredible compassion, “Are you doing okay?” And she was the one who invited us to pray when we still had an hour left in the drive. She said, “Lord, thank you for watching over us on this drive. Thank you for technology, which is helping us to make arrangements and figure out what we’re going to need to do here. Thank you for keeping us safe. Thank you for an incredible girls weekend, and lots and lots of laughter.”

She missed her flight. But, she was able to find a connecting flight that got her home a few hours later than planned. The rest of us made our flight. And later, that same friend found her Bible’s verse for the day incredibly apt, especially considering the view throughout our weekend and three hour drive.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 121:1-8 NIV

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