Best Friends

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I bought this frame from a thrift store months ago. It just sits in the top of my closet because I couldn’t think of who I’d want to put in there. My face alongside another, smiling so bright. Who is my friend… the one who knows me completely? Inside and out. The one who knew me then and knows me now and still wants to be by my side.

Before I moved back home six years ago, there was no question. There were two women I considered my best friends. The only issue would have been which one? Because they were both so close to me. Closer than any sister could be. And we’d spend hours (HOURS) on the phone. No particular reason. Just chatting because that’s what best friends do. Just to hear each other’s voices. To feel close.

But that doesn’t happen anymore. For some reason, the two I considered to be my “best” are no more. Phone calls few and far in between. Oh, they’re still in my life but something’s shifted. Busyness, perhaps? Or life just leading us along different paths.

Whatever the reason, it makes me sad. And sometimes a bit lonely.

And the frame? It just sits. Because I don’t know “the friend” I should put in there with me…

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

I was never one to have lots of friends. I always had one or two that were special, though, Jennifer being my first. And what a joy it is to see her face at my son’s school… the very school I attended. Yep, when I registered him for kindergarten, there she was bouncing down the hallway as if she’d never left. She happens to work there and even though we’re not close anymore, shared memories warm my heart.

Fourth grade brought me Hannah. Amy and Cindy in the ninth. And later, it was Sarah. We were so close, spending all our free time together. She was just like a sister.

Next came Shannon and we joined the Air Force together. A miracle that we attended the same tech school. And when I felt lonely at my first assignment, I’d just pick up the phone and call. My phone bills astronomical because we talked several times a week. For hours (HOURS). And when we ran out of things to say, we just sang to each other. Even if it was the theme song to an old TV show like “Alice.”

“I used to be sad. (da-da). I used to be shy. (da-da). Funniest thing, the saddest part is I never knew why…”

The Air Force brought me new friends. Carmen and Cheyenne. Nicole and Stacy. And then, before I knew it, I was married. Alas, old friends were left behind as life moved me in other directions.

And here I am now. Uncertain as to who my “best friend” is. And then I am overcome with guilt for even having such a thought. Because there’s so much happening in the world that trumps loneliness, right?

“If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be complete. This is My command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. This is what I command you: love one another.” John 15:10-14, 17

Oh, it’s true I no longer pick up the phone and talk for hours with someone I consider my best friend. But you know, that’s allowed something wonderful to transpire over the past six years.

See, I no longer spend countless hours in chit-chat with a gal-pal. Instead, I’ve been moved to pick up my Bible and spend countless hours with Him. Yes, feeling lonely drove me to seek a new Friend. And He is the One who is truly closer than a brother (or sister).

Along the way, I’ve developed such a friendship with God that I cannot go long without seeking His voice. I just can’t. When I don’t hear from Him, I begin to wither inside…

And so, I consider those occasional bouts of loneliness blessings, really. Because if I continued to spend hours calling my best friends as I did when I was younger, would I have ever called on Him? Would I have made time for both? I really can’t say.

 

But what I can say is I know Him. Personally. And He calls me His friend.

Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Today I had one of those God moments. I felt compelled to look up 1 Peter 4 because I was tracking something, however, the above verse stood out instead. Lo and behold, not an hour later I saw the same verse on my calendar for March 22.

God spoke right there in “love one another.” He means our friends. Our companions. But also, our fellow man. Other people. For Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. The greatest commands.

Unconditional love. And that’s so hard to do.

But you know, a particular friend comes to mind when I read about this kind of love. We met when I was five and she’s one of my oldest and dearest friends. Last week happened to be her birthday and I missed it.

But it came to me this morning… honor our friendship. Honor my friend for her birthday.

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See, Carolyn is truly one of the sweetest women I know. She shows interest in everyone she meets and doesn’t know a stranger. She can talk to anyone. ANYONE. But also, she listens. She genuinely cares about people and how they feel and this is a gift.

She used that gift on me when I was in kindergarten. I was crushed and she could sense it. She sat by my side and petted my shoulder. When she looked up at the teacher, she said, “Isn’t she precious?” And I was comforted. She loved me when I felt unlovable.

Later in life, when I was in my early twenties, she said something that struck me. She probably doesn’t even remember. We’d been talking about a mutual friend and I disagreed with his lifestyle. So I spoke meanly. I judged and criticized. I then said, “He was so nice.” Carolyn’s response. “He’s still nice.” That hushed me right up.

The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive. Proverbs 27:6

We never discussed it, but my friend’s comment chastened me. I felt embarrassed because her words pointed to my very conditional ways. I was being harsh and unkind and who am I to judge my neighbor (James 4:12)?

Carolyn? She just loved our mutual friend. And it’s an example I’ll always remember.

And so, I want my friend (and others) to know this about her. That she’s not only beautiful but she’s also kind. She does not judge, she loves. And she’s who came to mind this morning when I contemplated love.

I thought about how she loves me.

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Oil and incense bring joy to the heart. And the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel. Proverbs 17:17

My friend, Carolyn, brought me these flowers for my birthday. I was so pleased. She showered me with her love.

Yep, she is a true friend. She knew me then and she knows me now and she still wants to be by my side. Oh, I could definitely slide a photo of me and her in that frame I bought months back.

But you know, I have others, too. Perhaps not one I’d cast in the role of “Best Friend” like I did when I was younger but my life has changed. Busyness and responsibility does not allow me to spend countless hours on the phone as I once did. There just isn’t time.

Nevertheless, I still have friends. There’s women in my life. Ones I knew then and ones I met later on. And I feel grateful for every single one of them.

Which brings me back to that frame. Perhaps it’s not meant to be filled. Perhaps that blank spot serves to remind me of not just one special friend, but all the women I know. That at any given moment, I could place several faces in there alongside mine.

Yes, perhaps I’m not meant to have only one or two “Best Friends” like when I was young. Instead, maybe I’m supposed to love every woman who crosses my path with fervency. And unconditionally. Like I love myself.

And like He loves me…

A friend loves at all times… Proverbs 17:17

In closing, I just have to say Jesus is my Best Friend. Yes, He is the truest of all. Because He laid down His life for me. And greater love have no man, or woman, than that.

And really, He’s the only One who knows me completely. Inside and out. Better than I even know myself. He knew me then, before I first drew breath, and He knows me now, warts and all. Moreover, He knows who I’ll one day be. And yet, He still wants to be by my side. Always.

And with a Friend like that, loneliness is nothing more than a mere memory. It no longer exists. And so, that theme song from “Alice” I used to sing to Shan? Well, it becomes my own anthem. I lift my voice and sing to Him…

“I used to be sad. (da-da). I used to be shy. (da-da). Funniest thing, the saddest part is I never knew why…”

You are not alone!

When I was nineteen, we were three. There was Shannon and Gracie and me, and we were always together. I loved them fully, and when they were with me… I was never lonely. Because I had my best friends. And I can’t remember if it was when I still lived at home, or when I joined the Air Force that we gave each other pet names. Shannon was pretty much the leader and was christened “Wise One.” Gracie, who was petite and quiet natured, became “Little One.” And me? For reasons I can’t recall, I was “Lonely One.” I had forgotten that till just this morning. Loneliness… it touched me then and it’s touched me now. And so I see, this must be a recurring pattern in my life.

I am convinced that there are no accidents or coincidences. I fully believe that we find ourselves in circumstances over and over again… until we get it. And so, rather than sweep this unwelcome feeling under the rug by filling my life with as much activity and business as I can possibly manage, I want to understand this feeling. Why should I be lonely? As I contemplate the last two blogs, it’s apparent that I am. I am once more that vulnerable young girl of nineteen… once more, I am “Lonely One.” God has brought me to a place where I am surrounded by silence. In more ways than one. I work from home, and rarely get out amongst people. And as time passes, the once frequent voices of old friends have almost completely hushed and stilled altogether. And then there’s God. I haven’t been hearing from Him lately. And so, loneliness has nestled down into my heart once more… I am utterly, “Lonely One.”

You know, I don’t think we’re made to be alone. God Himself is three in One. He is Father, and Son and Holy Spirit. He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” And after man was created, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is like him.” After Eve made an appearance, man said, “This one, at last, is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, for she was taken from man.” It’s Genesis 2:24 that says “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” And so, there was Adam and Eve… and God Himself chose to fellowship with them. He walked with them in the cool of the garden.. they were three.

I believe it was after I met my husband when I began to refer to myself as, “Lonely One No More.” See, we became one flesh, and for quite some time I was filled. But, as time wore on, I had bouts of loneliness. First, we moved away from family and it was just us. We did make friends at first, but when one moved turned into another, and then another… well, new friendships waned. My husband worked long hours and was away most evenings and weekends. My karaoke machine became my best friend, as I had a party for one just about every Friday night. My telephone was my other best friend because I made frequent calls to those I loved and missed. We were three, my Karaoke machine, my phone, and me.

Loneliness began to fill my soul as the years marched on. And so, today I’m surprised that I find myself here. Because I am in my homeland… surrounded by family members. I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful child. I have been blessed. And yet, “Lonely One” is etched on my heart. And this time, I want to know why.

Here is truth. In all the years that I spent away from family and loved ones, I was never, ever alone. Because what Jesus told His followers holds true today… “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17. I have the Spirit with me and in me today, just as I did all those years ago. And all those years did not have to be forlorn. They could have been magical! There could have been so many special moments for just God and me. I could have shared hours of intimate fellowship… with God. But I chose not to. And I think that’s why I find myself here today. Thus the silence. I believe God wants me to know… I do not need to be lonely. He wants me to take the truth out of my head and let it seep deep into those lonely black holes of my heart. And it’s not just me that needs to know this. For we are not alone. That means you are not alone!

I have a choice… I know when the dark times are coming. I can feel them hovering on the outer edges of my contentment. And I can do one of two things. I can invite loneliness to my pity party for one (and whether I acknowledge it or not – both God and my husband are in attendance anyway). Or, I can cancel the party. I can ignore what God is telling me, or, I can let the truth of what He says settle into my heart. See, my husband and I are one flesh. And I have the Spirit of the living God residing in me. And so, I am not alone. God, my husband, and me… we’re three. I can be “Lonely One No More” if I want to be. And you? Only you can answer that. But if you have God the Father through Jesus the Son, then the Spirit of the living God is in you, too. That makes you two, and two are better than one.

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Golden

I used to have a good friend named Carmen, and I loved her so. When I was in the Air Force, we spent nearly every day together for the span of a year and a half (or more). But the time came for her to move on, and we decided to keep in touch via journals. We bought identical books, and were to fill them and mail them to each other monthly. And we did well for quite some time. But eventually, as time and space grew too deep and wide, the journals stopped. Our paths moved in different directions not to intersect again, and today, I don’t know where she is. It was while I was stationed in Korea that I received her journal, and inside the cover she had written:

Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.

I was delighted, and shared the poem with my new friend, Cheyenne. She laughed because I wasn’t familiar with the lines, as she knew them well. I believe she said she sang the tune in girl scouts. As with Carmen, Cheyenne and I became tight. I loved her, too. She was my roommate in Korea, and we shared everything. And when the time came to move on, as with Carmen, we stayed in touch for a while. She even made it to my wedding, and I visited her once down south. But alas, the ever widening time and space eventually divided us, and today, I don’t know where she is.

Early in marriage, I made two more friendships that were dear to me. One, my sister-in-law. We had so much in common and connected almost at first. I’m sure you know what I mean… when you meet someone and know immediately that you’re going to be the best of friends. It was my first weekend with her that we had to share a bed, but we stayed up till the early hours sharing story after story. That was seventeen years ago. The other friendship was with my cousin. Although we grew up playing together, it was after the Air Force that we became like sisters. She was another that I shared everything with, staying up till the wee hours of the morning swapping story after story. She was another that I immediately connected with. And those connections were priceless to me… even golden.

And so today, I find myself sorrowful. Because time and space is ever widening. Phone calls that used to occur multiple times a week have dwindled to once or twice a month, if that. And I feel like a piece of me is gone. Because they’re gone. See, I love these women, and yet for some reason, I am separated from them. There’s silence. And it’s no one’s fault… there are schedules, and events, and sicknesses, and before you know it, distance has inserted a wedge into something that was priceless and golden… something you thought you’d never lose. But I feel as if I’ve lost my priceless friends. And I miss them. I feel alone.

In the Bible, we read of a friendship. It was one of those golden relationships that neither time nor space could sever. And it was King David who had a such a golden friend… his name was Jonathan. The only problem was that Jonathan happened to be King Saul’s son. And enmity had grown between Saul and David, because David was to be the next king. Saul lost God’s favor, but David gained it. Because of that, Saul grew to resent David… so bitter was Saul that he even tried to kill David. But that was not so with his son, Jonathan. Quite the opposite took place. The King James version states it like this:

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 1 Samuel 18:1

Another version of the Bible says that Jonathan committed himself to David. And that’s just what a good friendship is… it’s a commitment. A good friend will fiercely protect you and stand up for you when someone says the wrong thing. She will even place her life in danger for your sake. A good friend is your shelter and hiding place – she’s who you can turn to when you’re feeling blue. She’s the one whose doorstep is most welcoming, whose couch is most comforting, and whose hug is most warming. Her cup of refreshment never empties. And it’s that type of friendship that David and Jonathan shared. Oh, how David grieved for him when he died:

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother. You were such a friend to me. Your love for me was more wonderful than the love of a woman (for me). 2 Samuel 1:27

Today, I feel sad. Because it’s here in the sounds of silence that I miss those who were so dear to me. It’s here alone that I wish I had my dear friends close. And so it’s here that I lamented to God, and told Him how I felt. I told Him that I’m lonely and that I need a friend. Because those golden treasures are hard to come by today. See, when you move back home as an older woman, the patterns of life have already been set. And they were set without you in them. Peoples’ lives are already in order, and thus, it’s hard to insert oneself into a life that already has a steady flow… And it’s so hard to meet another. Because, although new friends are good… it’s the old ones who are golden.

God has an answer for this. See, when it comes to old friends, He is my oldest. He is the most faithful and the most loyal. Because He knew me before time began. He is the One who knit my soul within the womb of my mother, and so He knows me best. And it’s to His doorstep I can run when I’m feeling blue. Because He will always be available… He is the One who will never leave me nor forsake me. And His cup of refreshment will never run dry. He tells me so through His word:

Your faithful love reaches to heaven, Your faithfulness to the skies! LORD, You preserve me and it’s Your faithful love that is so valuable. It’s in the shadow of Your wings that I can take my refuge. I can be filled from the abundance of Your house and drink from Your refreshing stream… You are the One who leaves the light on for me. (Taken from Psalm 36)

It’s true, I may be lonely today. And it’s true I may be separated from old friends by space and time and schedules. And if I want to be honest, I may even be wallowing in the sounds of silence. But the truth is, I have the best of friends. His name is God, and He is my Maker. And as far as relationships go, why, this one is golden.