"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow."
A couple months ago my friend Bridget had this idea for a weekend getaway. The weekend was originally intended to include my sister Ruth, who is soon-to-be-married this summer. Then we decided – why not include as many of our friends as possible? As we discussed ideas for the weekend, we concluded that so many of our friends have a lot of good things going on in their lives and so many of us are moving on to big futures this year. It only made sense to touch base now and seize this opportunity. So we did. My friend Bridget is truly the mastermind when it comes to organizing a weekend excursion! I think it is fair to say the weekend was everything we anticipated it to be - and more.
Friday evening began with dinner at her favorite Mediterranean restaurant and the night was concluded with ice cream after a viewing of Beauty and the Beast. Saturday was occupied with a lot of food, exploring local used books stores, antique malls, coffee shops, and even taking a hike in a Nature Preservation. The day was concluded with drinks at a beautiful speak-easy bar and dinner out on the town! And of course we all dressed up in our finery.
Sunday morning we went to worship together and then went our separate ways after lunch. It was the perfect close to a perfect weekend.
A few years ago when I moved out of my parents’ house for the first time, I was scared. I was scared that I was making the wrong decision. I was scared that I had just run my life into a virtual dead-end. And I was scared that I would lose my friends in the meantime. Not all friends are forever. Some come as blessings for a season. And others continue to come back in spite of the turning seasons. While seasons of loneliness and isolation can be hard, I learned a lot in the years that followed my move.
I learned that loneliness is not necessarily a symptom of being alone. Grief and depression are experiences so unique to each individual and they can be painfully isolating because it seems no one can really understand how we feel. I have always struggled to share my emotions with my friends and family, especially when I am in the grip of depression, because it takes me a while to understand my own feelings. I had to remind myself that it was unreasonable for me to expect my close friends and family to fully understand the way that I felt when I did not completely understand it myself.
I learned that spending time with friends, even if it’s as simple as going out for coffee or eating lunch together, is therapeutic, especially when you’re depressed. There were few times I felt like being with friends when I was in the grip of grief and depression and there was more than one occasion when I backed out of a social engagement altogether. I was blessed with friends who persisted even though I was a pretty bad friend. It was hard sometimes to be around close friends and family, but they persisted nonetheless and I am so thankful they did. Because even though my heart was not always in it, even though I was weary from grief, even though it was hard to be around happy people – every moment spent with friends and family, every weekend road trip, every night out to the movies, every dinner, sent a subtle message to me.
“I still want you as a friend.”
“You still have something to offer.”
“Your story is not over.”
Bathroom selfies after watching "Beauty and the Beast" • drinks before dinner Saturday night • my beaut of a sister • we've all got so many amazing things going on in our lives right now and it was uplifting to be reminded of that by one another, to hear testimonies & life stories, to share adventures, laughter, prayer, & worship together. It doesn't get much better than this. In the words of Jessica Day 🎶"this is the year of u-u-u-u-uus."🎶
Grief can be emotionally and spiritually debilitating. It makes you feel empty, weighed down, and overwhelmed. Grief can inspire guilt and feelings of worthlessness. I often felt I had nothing to give or contribute in my relationships except sadness and pain. And I felt like no one could possibly understand. Admittedly, I was not the best friend all of the time, but I am so thankful for the friends who stayed with me nonetheless, who confided in me, who visited me, who dragged me out of the house on a weekend, who called me and propelled me to get back on my feet.
This is the meaning of a true friend – not someone who understands you completely or even agrees with you all the time, but someone who loves you and is there for you even when they know they don’t fully understand you – someone who has seen you at your worst and loves you in spite of the ways you have failed – someone who does not see your differences as barriers, but celebrates your differences and appreciates the perspective, wisdom, and insight you have to offer because of your differences – finally, someone who recognizes you as the new creation in Christ that you are and continually reminds you of the truth through their words and actions toward you.
My sister Ruth and I agreed that as tired as we were at the end of the day, the weekend spent together was pretty perfect and we hope this is not the last weekend like this. Whether it’s just us or all of our friends together, we conceded that we should and would always make a priority to come together like this, to have some kind of retreat together. Friendships between women are so emotionally and spiritually therapeutic and vital in so many ways. Here is to these strong women! I am so blessed to know them and call them friends – I look forward to getting to know each and every one of them more over the years.