These words from Point of Grace's song Circle of Friends have always been words that have spoken straight to my heart. But I am realizing even more how important and amazing it is to have friends grounded in God's love.
Growing up, I had a hard time making friends. I was an emotional child. And I also was the kid that was picked on and bullied (in some senses of the word.) There were many who picked on me relentlessly. As they hurled those words at me, tears always ran down my face. I remember being called "cry baby" and "orange juice spiller" and other names. Little did these individuals know the brokenness that I was experiencing in my life. Their words continued to add to my brokenness.
In elementary school, I met my best friend Mandy. Mandy was a year older than me but she was held back because she had a kidney transplant. Mandy and I were pretty inseparable growing up. And we always stood up for each other. After high school graduation, we both went our separate ways. I went off to college. While at college, Mandy met a really great guy.and shortly after I graduated college and started seminary, they got married. I came home to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. During my seminary days, Mandy and I lost touch a little bit. But every once in awhile, she would call and we would talk like old times. I graduated seminary and moved back to North Dakota/Minnesota. While I was working in Dilworth MN, Mandy's mom called me one day to let me know that she had passed away. I was heartbroken. Even though we had gone our separate ways, she was still my best friend; my very first best friend.
While working at camp, I made some really great friends. At seminary, I was blessed with great friendships as well. And while serving at Dilworth Lutheran, I met and made some amazing friendships as well. All of these friendships were/are grounded in God's love for God's people. Many of these friends were there when I needed them the most! My best friend Joni was someone that I met through camp. She is a dear soul sister in my life and has been there for me in many ways. There is also my friend MW who is a dear brother in Christ. I am so blessed that God had our lives cross. We have been there for each other through thick and thin; through the joys and the sorrows.
As I have grown older, I will admit that finding friendships has had its challenges. In fact, when I moved a year and a half ago, that was my deepest darkest fear; not being able to find friends. Yet God has blessed me immensely. (I should have known that our good God would come through like God always does!) There is my friend EG, my friend CT, my friend KW, my friend MJ and my friend KG. KW and MJ have since moved away but I am so glad that God had our paths cross. These individuals are my prayer partners. They are my soul sisters. CT and her hubby have shared their home with me. We have broken bread together. I cannot even begin to describe how thankful and blessed I am to have these individuals in my life.
And to my surprise, I have been blessed by amazing friendships through online community as well. I have never met these women in real life but yet I feel like I have known them for a long time because they have been open and shared their stories with me. I grieved for dear Kara Tippetts (and her family) because she was open, vulnerable, and taught me; taught us how to love well. There is power in community! At Kara's memorial, they shared a quote from her that reminds me of God's great, great good; a great, great good that is found in dear friendships and relationships in my life. Kara wrote "The absence of suffering in my life is not my good. The nearness of God is my great, great good!" And, my friends, I believe one way that great, great good is manifested is through friendships; friendships that are with us in the midst of our suffering.
I hope and pray that I am as good of a friend to my friends as they are to me. I want to be the friend who brings a meal when my friends are suffering. I want to be the friend who always lifts her friends up in prayer. I want to be the friend who drops everything to be there for her friends. I want to always be that listening ear and shoulder to cry on. I want to be, in the words of Jennifer Dukes Lee at InCourage today, the kindness giver, the Kleenex bringer, and the joy donor. (Read Jennifer's post here: The Secret to Being the Best Kind of Friend)
I want to be those things MOST OF ALL!