Saturday, June 25, 2016

Church Friends. . .

As I prepared for the birth of my first child, far from my parents and barely planted in Texas, I went in search of a church community in which to raise my child. I visited every congregation of my denomination within a reasonable distance and finally settled upon one. The worship was lively and the liturgy familiar. I attended semi-regularly in the beginning, and eventually joined. The day I became a member though came a few months after I was officially added to the rolls. It was the day I made a friend at church. 

In fact, I made two friends at church that day. I found myself sitting next to a couple who were also expecting a child, and from the looks of things, with a due date close to mine. They welcomed me warmly and from that day forward I had someone I recognized when I came to worship. Eventually, I delivered my daughter Emily three weeks early, on Beth's due date, and she delivered Kenny 8 days later. Her son and my daughter were destined to be friends from an early age.

Fast forward about five years and Niel, Beth's husband, and another great guy from our church have started a camping ministry. By this time I'm a single parent with two kids (the second daughter was born on Kenny's second birthday.) Remembering my own joy in camping as a child I decided to sign up for the family campout. And with lots of help from Niel, and other kind church friends, we started camping a couple times a year. Those weekends were some of the best in my life. The kids had freedom and friends and sunshine and nature, and the adults had community in a way rarely seen outside of family circles. Emily and Kenny made their first communion at a campout, covered in mud and surrounded by people who they already gathered around a table with on a regular basis.

Time marches on and eventually Niel was transferred to Minnesota but our families managed to see one another and even vacationed together a couple of times. Sometime after they left, I went to work at that (now much larger) church and tried hard to befriend new people as Niel and Beth had befriended me.

When my job at that church came to an end, I decided to let the Spirit lead me, wherever that might be. And she led me to Minnesota, only 40 minutes from my old friends, who became my first friends again. And when I moved a second time, I was still close, and now living in the same town as Kenny and his wife, 1100 1150 miles north. Thanks be to God for the gift of friendship!

This entry is written in response to a Friday Five prompt. One of the five questions was "Who is your longest term church-related friend?"  I was shocked to realize that we have been friends since 1984, over half of my life. Apologies to all who have heard this story before (or other stories of our friendship and adventures over the years). And thanks to Beth and Niel for being both good friends and good role models, and for continuing to make memories with me!