One Friday a couple of weeks ago, the kids and I loaded up for an all-day adventure. We had a birthday party for a sweet preschool friend “up north” in the metroplex so I decided to make a full day out of it.
First up, the water park. Yep, that’s right. Our season passes are for the entire CHAIN of water parks. There are five, four in the metroplex and one in Waco. We’ve honestly talked about a trip down to Waco for the day. It’s only 90 minutes away so why not.
After about three hours at the water park, we changed and headed out to the movie theater for Hotel Transylvania 3. Those movies are really adorable. And clean. No random cuss words Mommas in the theater weren’t expecting. (I’m looking at you, Incredibles 2) We smuggled in Fanta’s, goldfish, and gummies, then reclined our lazy-boy-like seats all the way back.
I might have gotten teary at the Winnie the Pooh preview. Saffron and I cannot wait for that one!
We stopped for a haircut after the movie on our way to the birthday party but once we got there, it took the kids all of about three minutes to dive into the pool. Rhys and his friend played like they’d just seen each other yesterday. And, like all boys, they figured out pretty quickly shooting the girls with water guns is just super fun.
The girls swam and giggled like all girls do while my sweet friend and I sat poolside chatting and occasionally refereeing. All while the sun took a little break behind some lovely fluffy white clouds.
A perfect summer day rolled right into a perfect summer evening.
As we were driving home from our day of adventure, I caught a glimpse of Fort Worth in my rear view mirror. The sun was setting, orange and blue hues filled the sky. And I said prayers of gratitude for the entire journey. Not just for the one really good day but all the days and not just for one precious friendship but for all the friendships in our life.
Do you ever have the dream where you missed a test or skipped a class and somehow never graduated? My dad used to tell me he had those occasionally. I only started having them when I left my career to be a full-time momma. As if the timing of that isn’t just about the most boring and predictable thing my subconscious could conjure up.
But I can tell you, I have often felt like I missed the class on how to be a good friend. It’s not something that has come easily to me. Introverts, and that’s me, prefer a small group of really close friends to anything that resembles a tribe or a squad.
Plus moving around frequently, I often felt like I was intruding, the fifth wheel on lifelong friendships, awkward and ill-fitting. As if I walked smack into the middle of a long shared history impossible to understand.
For years, I prayed for just one friend. A person to “do life with.” An authentic, sincere friend who would answer my text messages first and help ease the loneliness of those baby and toddler years. She had to live close enough for daily get-togethers, obviously, and be just as budget-strapped as I was. Someone who needed me as much as I needed her. Someone just like me.
But God never provided that friendship.
Because I was being incredibly selfish and self-aggrandizing. As if there was some poor, lost soul desperately searching for her friend soul mate, just waiting for me to show up in her life so we could rescue each other from our misery.
God tends not to answer prayers requesting our own personal idol.
What He did provide, however, were women almost nothing like me with zero shared history with one another.
Women I met in a new small group.
Moms from the preschool playground.
Neighbors who should really be claiming each other’s children as dependents on our taxes every year.
Heros running non-profits.
Grandmothers leading other moms of prodigal children and making the long drive to the jail every week.
Teachers quietly serving the families in their school who had lost everything.
Preacher’s wives and new business owners and writers building bridges of hope.
And together, these women have been teaching me how to be a friend. Here’s what they have taught me and what I continue to learn…
Invite instead of waiting for an invitation.
Authentically share about your life more than about the tasks on your To Do List.
Serve one another and serve others.
Move past talking about your kids or your job or whatever the common ground you both stood on when you met. Dig into the new ground just beyond that and discover the beauty in your differences.
Our biggest ministries are born from our biggest miseries.
When you see something you know they would love or you read a word they need to hear or find an event to share with them, take it to them. Buy the gift, send the post, book the tickets.
Ask, “How are YOU?” And mean it.
Pray for each other and then ask them about their needs two days, two months, two years later.
Stop searching far off for “just like me” and start showing up for the people standing right next to you.
We live in a world more connected than ever and yet study after study tells us we are more isolated than ever. God did not create us to live separate, solitary lives. We were created to live in community, with God first and then with one another.
Maybe you’re where I was not that long ago. Feeling lonely and praying for friendships. From what I know now, I can tell you to start where you are.
Look at the people standing next to you and pick someone to invite over or out to lunch or to meet you at the neighborhood pool. It’s not easy to invite, I know, but it beats waiting for your friend soul mate to knock on your door.
They don’t have to look like you, have the same career as you, be from the same part of the country, like the same foods, cheer for the same team, or vote for the same politician. They don’t even have to be a Christian (Jesus was particularly fond of the people on the margins of religion.)
God put them next to you on purpose. Almost like He knows what you need and what they need more than you know.
So invite. Gather. Eat good food.
And then, share, serve, ask, and listen.
Be the friend you need.
And maybe one day soon, you’ll find yourself driving home after a long day of adventure and be overwhelmed with gratitude for the people in your life.
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