The funny thing is most don't know the moment they found themselves, became their true selves, until it is already accomplished. Like how Mr. Darcy says, "I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun." And usually by their 30s, a person is able to look back on what made them who they are - the places, the events, the people.
Of course, parents have a huge impact on who we become because they are our starting point, and where you start can have a huge impact on where you end up.
I, personally, had a great childhood - simple, fun, loving, safe, "normal" time growing up. I had good friends, a good hometown, a good school, and good opportunities.
But when I went off to college, I realized that being in the same place with the same people for 18 years had done me a disservice in making friends. I didn't know how to create a friendship out of thin air. I met people, and we had fun. And a few people I would say became my friends, but I soon found out how lonely adulthood can be - especially for a single Christian girl from a small town. I didn't want a typical "finding yourself" journey that is so often pictured of college students in movies. It probably wasn't because I was so holy; I was probably more scared.
I moved out on my own for a year, moved back in with my parents for a while, commuted for a while... and in the fall of 2003, I found myself living in the girls' staff house for a campus ministry. When I met the young lady who would become the best friend I had ever had, she was serving as the worship leader of the same campus ministry. And we instantly connected. It was truly like when little girls become best friends on the playground in first grade - except we were 20 and 21-years-old.
Her name was Jessica, and the first thing I noticed about her was how much scripture she knew, and how much of it was in her everyday language. I had never read the book of Hosea when we met, and after she described the story line and the parallels in it of Christ and sinners (myself included)... I had to read it right away! I was blown away by God's love for broken people, like me, and all of that came from a conversation about "Moulon Rouge", the film! It seemed Jessica had a Biblical word of encouragement, warning, comfort, and peace for any and every situation... but it wasn't annoying or "goody-goody".
That , plus the fact that she loved music, ketchup on macaroni and cheese (and green beans too), was a great listener (I always have a lot to say), but also had such interesting input, was a lot of fun, and was so generous with her time... why wouldn't I want to be friends with this person?!
And even better, she thought I was someone she wanted to be friends with too!
We became inseparable! We learned so much from each other! It seemed like we became friends very late in life and were making up for lost time! I had never heard of foreign missions the way she spoke about it. She knew all of this music that I had never heard of in church or on the radio, AND she could play guitar. She was artistic. She could get ANYONE to open up and tell her their life-story in a 5-minute conversation. She could also small talk on any topic. She was sensitive and a pushover, but she was brave and adventurous.
I found myself asking "What would Jessica do?" when I met a new person. Since strangers scare me to death, and I have always dreaded going somewhere that I would have to meet new people, watching and listening to Jessica ask intentional questions to truly get to know people helped me be more brave in these situations.
She spent most of her time at my house, and I went home with her to visit her family a lot. She spent some holidays with my family, and my mom started buying her a Christmas gift each year. In fact, if I went to a family get-together without her, people would ask me where she was and why she hadn't come with me! It was like my family had adopted another daughter, even though she had a wonderful family already of her own!
She taught me how to be more kind. I taught her how to do her hair and makeup. She showed me how to be a hostess, opening my home and feeling comfortable about it to anyone, even people I didn't know very well. I taught her how to be more assertive.
She tried teaching me how to play guitar. I tried teaching her math.
We helped each other through hard times - losing grandparents, friends, and decisions of what to do with our careers/lives. I remember sitting outside of the education building on NSU's campus with her while she cried when she found out that her grandma had passed away. I remember her being at my house to congratulate me when I had been hired on the spot at my first interview for a teaching job.
She was my roommate for 5 years after college. We had jam sessions (I played the djembe she bought me), slumber parties with other single gals from church, breakfast-for-dinners for international students, surprise birthday parties, movie nights (even one on our roof and another on our lawn), cook outs, camp outs in our front yard. We did dishes in our front yard once on a pretty day. We were one of the few houses that had electricity during a bad ice storm, and we had a blast playing hostesses to all the friends that camped in our living room. Lots of deep talks. Major fights over boys. More laughter than could be measured.
And I am convinced that I am a better wife today to my husband because I first lived with my best friend. A wise woman once told us that living with a girl was much more difficult than living with a man. We didn't believe her at the time, but now we know this is true. Men compartmentalize everything and are able to easily separate one incident from another... not girls. We remember everything, and feel so much about it all, and it is all connected! Ya know, the whole "boys are waffles, and girls are spaghetti" thing. When spaghetti has a fight with other spaghetti... it can be pretty bad. Not that spaghetti fighting with a waffle is a breeze, but you get what I'm trying to say... maybe? I learned how much my laziness, tone, and blunt words can hurt someone. I saw what my flaws could do to another person on a daily basis. And many of those lessons of having to ask for or give forgiveness from back then have helped me in my marriage.
And speaking of marriage - my best friend and I fell in love with best friends. Our husbands went to high school together, and grew up spiritually in the same church with the same mentor. When we were falling in love with these 2 guys, we were each other's confidante and adviser. In fact, we have joked many times that we very much have lived the story of Lizzy and Jane in Pride and Prejudice. And very much like Darcy with Elizabeth and Bingley with Jane, our friendship has changed a lot since we are now best friends with our husbands first. Our friendship isn't less deep or less meaningful, just more background in the landscape of our lives. There was a time when I didn't know if anyone, that wasn't my parent, could love me as much or know me as well as Jessica does, but Kyle does so much so that it quite amazes me. And I know that Jessica and her husband, Mike, are just as close.
And then we both had a daughter. My Emersyn came first, and it was so fun to see Mike and Jessica play with her. Then came Jessica's sweet Evelyn. We have taught our kids to call the other couple "Aunt" and "Uncle". In fact, now that we are both mothers, our husbands - Uncle Mike and Uncle Kyle - go out for guys' night to see movies we'd prefer not to see or help each other with house projects... or help each other move.
Which is what caused me to get out of bed at 11:30 at night to type this blog post about my dear friend, Jessica... she is moving. For 11 years, she and I have lived in the same town, attended the same ministry/church, and enjoyed the same circle of friends. We were even neighbors when we were both newlyweds. And for a few months while I have been staying at home with my kids, I have been babysitting her daughter 3 days a week.
But no more.
The Lord has been so good to make us both wives of ministers now, and we very much love our husbands, the church, and being in ministry... but it is the same sweet sorrow I feel now that I felt when she moved out of my house 5 years ago so that Kyle could move in on the day of our wedding. It is so strange to be so happy for what God is doing in someone's life, which also impacts your own, but to also grieve the end of an era. A time that was full of so many wonderful memories that it seems heartbreaking to move on.
We weren't born sisters, but we are sisters now. We are very different, but we have made each other better. And it is overwhelming to think of how blessed we have both been our whole lives. We were both raised by loving families. We have been forgiven and adopted by the Creator of the universe into His kingdom - this family of believers. We are both married to such valiant husbands who love us immensely. Why was God so gracious to also have given us such a close friendship to lean on during these pivotal years of "20-hood" to help us find out who we are?!
I know I didn't deserve any of your friendship, dear Jessica. Thank you for 11 years of friendship that saw me through some of the most important moments of my life, thus far. Thank you for letting me borrow your clothes, your car (and forgiving me when I dented it), for giving me presents (even though I wrapped half of them), for believing in me, for letting me sing as loud as I want in the car, for telling me about the 10/40 Window, for listening to me talk about Kyle non-stop during the "falling in love" stage, for all the times you wrote scripture down and left it for me to find during hard times, for all my birthday parties, for being my bridesmaid, for letting me be your bridesmaid, for forgiving me when I was cruel, for making me pass out bottles of bubbles to strangers in the park, for introducing me to music that opened my mind to accepting music that wasn't mainstream and eventually led me to hate overproduced music, for never judging me, for always being here for me, and for just being you.
May the Lord bless you and your family in this new town, new house, new ministry... and new phase in life. I promise to fight off all jealousy when I see you post pictures of all your new friends that you will make, and I promise to come visit and not just keep in touch via the web. I promise to think of you and smile, to pray for you when I think of you, and to think of you as often as my scatter-brained-mommy-thoughts are able.
Lots of love,