friends make a real difference

i have been praying for almost two years that God would bring friends into my life here in florida. i knew, when kirk and i made the decision that i would move here when we got married, that i would never find another friend like sara . . . or kate . . . or my life group girls . . . or any of the kindred spirits who have graced my life with their presence throughout my days. i would never find another person quite like any of them again. and yet i began to pray for friends who could inhabit whole new rooms in my heart, who could take up residence in my affection in ways i had not yet discovered because our paths had not yet crossed.

it has been a long and lonely road in this direction.

even though kirk is my best friend and closest ally, i am the kind of girl who has always carried close and intimate friendships with a small handful of girls at a time. it's a blessing i have always been thankful to discover, because i know such kinships are so incredibly rare, and yet God has been consistently faithful to provide these kind of friends in the previous eras of my life. some of them have been in my life for more than ten years.

yet here was a long season in which new friendships in a new hometown would not make their way out of hiding. in nearly two years, i'd discovered only one, yet our different life responsibilities kept us from connecting as frequently as either of us would have liked. still, it was so nice to have made a local friend in lauren, just to know she was there, close by, a caring, fun, and thoughtful friend, even if i didn't see her beautiful face and infectious smile as often as i wanted to.

so still i prayed. and still i found myself waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting. i began to realize just how rich my friendship blessings in previous seasons of life had truly been.

i sustained myself as i waited through regular phone dates with the beautiful lovelies in my life back home, giving thanks regularly for the gift of being deeply known and loved in those places and for the gift of reciprocating that kind of love to them.

and i gave thanks for the lifesaving gift that has been this blog.

you all know what i'm talking about. if you're reading this, chances are you, too, have been awestruck by the amazing community of friends that has grown and deepened through so many connections made and the deep, beautiful souls that care and offer their hearts and the grace of Christ to others with their words, sharing honest pieces of their truth as they continue to learn and live this life. if anyone has ever doubted that real community can develop in blogland, they need look no further than the community of friends that has gathered here and in other close places . . . a community that prays together and walks together through the difficult and the celebratory times that life can bring. they need look no further than the soul friend i've found in my dear kirsten-girl. my need for friendship in the past two years has been fed so frequently in this very space and in the spaces of so many others of you out there. and for that, i thank God . . . and i also thank you.

then, in february, something interesting developed.

i got an e-mail from lauren. although we hadn't been connecting in person very frequently, she'd been keeping up with my blog. she had been one of the original sounding boards for the business idea that propelled me into graduate school last year, the one that spoke to a need among women to find and be found in real community and grace. she had seen that vision slowly transform into a calling to ministry. she also knew how long i had been searching for places to connect at our church, failing for such a long time to find the right landing pad in which to serve and connect.

it turns out she'd been finding others like me. in fact, she was one of them. and then there was kristen, who had recently been burdened with an inexplicable need to pray for the women at our church. and there was maggie, who had been working for the previous year to establish and grow a women's ministry at one of our distributed sites and could share with us wisdom and vision.

lauren wondered, would i like to join them for a time of prayer and sharing and brainstorming at her house that saturday?

would i.

that first meeting back in february led to another meeting the following weekend. we got to know one another, since lauren was the only one who knew all three of us, but none of the rest of us previously knew one another. we shared our hearts and began to cast a vision for what it might look to provide a place of deep connection and authentic conversation among the women at our church. eventually, this led to a dessert gathering with all of our husbands, in which we shared this vision and they listened, asked questions, and offered so much wisdom.

we fasted together. we called each other during the week. we sent e-mails like they were going out of style. we kept meeting, and we kept praying for this fledgling ministry. slowly, a purpose and structure began to emerge.

and then one morning, after one of our late-night marathon meetings, i found myself staring in the mirror as i brushed my teeth with one single thought resounding in my head: friends make a real difference. in the time i've been living in florida, i have loved the home of quiet sanctuary that kirk and i have created together, along with our two kitties. i am still awestruck every day by the tropical beauty that surrounds me here and the charm of the little town in which we live. and yet, here and now, this was the first time florida actually felt like home.

all because of friends. they make all the difference. after two years of praying for God to bring these exact three girls into my life, i know this to be true without a doubt.