Last week we ended up getting to see Tammy and Nathaniel and Jenny and Rich and Mel and Jason and Nancy and Mark. Now, Nancy and Mark are like our family down the street. We adore them and we live close to them, which is a huge blessing to us. The rest of the gang were all here from out of town. We all go way back. When Jeff and I first got plugged into a church here (we're talking like seven or eight years ago, maybe more) we joined a small group that was just starting up. Mel and Jason started it and there were five couples, then just a little later, we got lucky and Jenny and Rich joined us too. So there were six couples, only two kids among us at that time.
All these years later, we're going on 18 kids. Crazy, I know. It seems like we're doing our best to repopulate the earth. Ha! :) It's been a long time since that group first started. We don't see each other as often, several couples have moved away. I was making coffee Sunday, and thinking back to all those times we had coffee during small group, over at Mel's or Jenny's or Nancy's or my house. In some ways, it feels like a really long time ago. But really, it wasn't so long ago, it's just that life is busy and full and so much happens. And here we are, still drinking coffee around my kitchen island. Still the same--different but the same. We're parents, we're older--we're still friends. We're still connecting and listening and caring. I'm so comfortable with these people. We have history. And we still care enough to find time to be together, years later.
It's okay that life changes and takes us in different directions. It's okay that we don't see each other as often. What's awesome is that the time we spent in each other's lives meant so much to us that we're going to go on caring about each other. If one of us is struggling, we're going to care about that. We're going to pray for each other. We weren't just there to meet up every other week--we were building friendships. I think we've all been there before--where we're investing in people but in the end, we go our separate ways and people lose touch. Maybe you didn't have as much in common. Maybe the relationships didn't really click. Maybe after reaching out and inviting people over several times, but never having it reciprocated, you decide to move on. Maybe different interests or parenting styles cause you to end up looking for friends a little more similar to you. Or maybe busy work schedules and time constraints just don't leave you with enough time.
God brings people into our lives for different reasons and for different seasons of our lives. That's not to say that sometimes feelings don't get hurt or people don't see eye to eye. People are different so there will always be things we don't all agree on. But in the end, some friendships continue on and some don't make it. For the ones that make it through, it almost always seems that the relationship is good about going both ways. You can always tell when it comes to lopsided friendships--you know, where one person texts or checks in or invites someone over, but it's always one person reaching out or hosting, not the other person. That doesn't always work. We've all experienced this. There's that question in your mind, If I didn't reach out to them, would I ever hear from them again? If the answer is 'probably not,' it's not a very good sign, and you probably have mixed feelings about the relationship.
And then there are other relationships, some span years and years and even miles and miles. Yet they last. The love between you is real and strong and there's so much history that you know you'll always care about those friends. I've got girls like that back in Texas and Virginia. No matter how much time passes, I know I'll love them and they'll love me.
The truth is that friendships don't get less complicated as you get older. It can be even harder to make friends. And we can still get our feelings hurt, even as we're older. We're people. These things happen. No matter what, friendships take work. I was thinking about that last Sunday night, after we'd seen old friends. It takes planning and effort--I'm thinking of Jenny and all those texts, trying to get us together. Of Mark and Nancy, bringing delicious food for all of us. Mel and Jason, driving the farthest (and my family showing up late when we live one minute from the park. Good grief).
It takes someone reaching out. You guys know I've talked about my BFF Michelle before. We basically claimed each other when we were 12 and have never let go. I remember when our friendship started. Shell invited me over to spend the night. We played Mario Bros. 3 in her room for hours. She made us pizzas with tortillas and pepperonis and cheese (I was super impressed).
It works the same way--sort of. :) You invite someone over. You make them
A really great book says that to have friends, you must show yourself to be friendly (aka the Bible). I think this is so true. Friendship, when done well, is a huge blessing. That's not to discount friendships that might not last forever. I had a close friend for several years when we first moved to Colorado--we did everything together. She was my best source of support and encouragement. Then things unraveled. But honestly, I'm super thankful for the years we were in each other's lives. Because those years counted.
Friendship takes grace and forgiveness and love and effort--on both sides. Take away even one of those things, and it simply won't last.
You don't have to be best friends with everybody. There are couple friends, or just Mom friends. There are acquaintance friends and friends you cry with. There are people you like to hang out with every now and then, then there are the friends who are your emergency contacts! Even so--to have friends, you must show yourself friendly. You know what that looks like. Value people over things. Sacrifice time when they need you. Share what you have--conversation over plates of spaghetti.
Or just coffee. Which got me started on this whole thing.