I was recently asked in one of my devotionals, to write a list of the people in my life who are my closest friends. Outside of my family, I was encouraged to acknowledge the people in my life, with whom I can count on. I was then encouraged to reflect on their characters. It didn’t take long to realize that the most influential people in my life have one thing in common: God.
In my younger years, I had friends that I enjoyed from Youth Group. I had one in particular named Martha, who I went to camp with each summer. We would run through the corn fields behind her home, crawling on hands and knees, following paths and eating raw cow corn until we were sick. I remember one Sunday when we tried to share a camp song in front of the congregation. We were so nervous that we couldn’t stop laughing. I loved spending time with my free-spirited, life-loving, friend who enjoyed the outdoors and God as much as I. To this day, we keep watch over each other via social media.
In High School, my best friend was a rebel named Laura. I loved her and she loved me. We were complete and total opposites but we complemented each other perfectly. Until my JR year in High School, I didn’t really have a best friend. I had a lot of friends that I enjoyed- some more than others, but Laura and I were inseparable. I was her yin to her yang and vise versa. She was brilliant, catching on to new concepts with such great speed, that I was in awe. She was a talented artist, who captured life in a way that I never thought about. A free spirit, natural athlete, and hilariously funny, she complimented my weaknesses. She was a believer. As a child, she attended the Catholic church. I loved how she would quiz me about my faith. It made me a stronger believer because I needed to search the Word in order to answer her challenging questions. The only real difference between us, was that she was an extreme extrovert and LOVED any opportunity to gather. I did not. Sometimes her extroverted self would get into trouble, so I took to inviting her to my house on nights that I knew there was a party. She would almost always choose an overnight, in order to milk cows and feed the animals with me. She loved it. Her parents were goat farmers and she thoroughly enjoyed farm work. Sadly, a few years ago, Laura was killed in a car accident on Route 1, and in a blink, she was gone. I pray that she is in heaven enjoying the greatest party ever, drawing, playing soccer, and making everyone laugh.
My parents have always said, “find a friend who is like you or who you most want to be like”. They also reminded me often that just a handful of genuine friends were much better that a whole bunch of acquaintances. So that’s what I looked for as I entered college.
In August of 1984, I walked tentatively into the Lord Hall parking lot with my flute under my armpit, for marching band sign-ups. My mother was with me. Little did I know that the first person that I met would be my future roommate, not for freshman year, but my sophomore year. She said, “It says here that you play the trombone.” I responded with, “Not very well.” Long story short, Mom drove an hour south to fetch my trombone.
I loved college. It was stressful and challenging. Education is not easy for me. I have always had to work really hard to get good grades. However, I have a really strong work ethic, that carried me through. Growing up on a dairy farm trained me well for the rigor of academia.
My social circle in college became the “bandies” who watched over one another like siblings. They were silly and sincere, making me feel talented, even if I wasn’t. I played the trombone (with lots of help) in the marching band during the Fall semester, and then played the flute during the Spring, until my schedule wouldn’t allow it. I joined the Honorary Band Sorority (TBS) in 1985 and our pledge leader was the same young lady who convinced my mother to go home for the trombone in the Fall. Carol didn’t know it then, but I was watching her. “You need to find a friend who is like you or who you would like to be like,” rolled around in my brain. At the end of my freshman year of college, I asked Carol if she wanted to be roomates for the following year, and she agreed.
In the fall of 1985, Carol and I moved into Ballentine Hall, an all girls dorm, across from Jenny and Cyndy. When an opportunity arose early on, to get a local apartment together, we snatched it. So off we went to 13 Fellows Place, located within walking distance of the University. While at Ballentine, we were also introduced to a bright eyed spunky gal from the county named Lynn. I remember saying, “if an opportunity arises and we can take on another roommate, we should ask Lynn”. So when Cyndy moved out the following year, Lynn took her place.
When summer arrived, Joann came to us, needing a place to stay for a summer course. We had gone home for the summer break, so we sublet our apartment to her. The problem was that we absolutely loved her, and encouraged her to stay on for the school year. Our two-bedroom apartment was very full… of love, excitement, talent, encouragement, and genuine kindness. All 5 of of these women were and still are people that I admire. What do they have in common? Faith. I have praying friends who pray for me, encourage me, and help me to be the best version of myself. To this day, I could call any of the 5 of them and they would move heaven and earth to help in any way they could. I have no doubt about that.
As an adult, my friendship group (outside of my family) continues to be fairly small. I have lots of friends at church, at school, and within the community, but I’m talking about raw intimate friendships where you can empty your pockets, put it all on the table, and feel safe & comforted. You can cry, yell, not be judged, and receive good Godly advice.
One, is a teaching partner of 13 years. To this day, I can’t really talk about how much she is missed. We complemented each other, and I enjoyed every precious minute of working with her. Teaming with Nancy continues to be the highlight of my teaching career.
God brought Jodi and I together about 22 years ago. Although I cannot dance, my daughters can, and their teacher and I became very close as a result of hours and hours, which led to years and years of time together at the studio and competition trips. I’m so glad that the dance connection, created a lifelong friendship. She allows me to reach out to her during desperate hours of confusion, frustration, and fear. She’s often what I need, even when I don’t have a clue what to ask for.
I also have a long-time friend who checks on my family and I nearly every day. Alton lives in Tennessee, but he used to work as a custodian at our school about 20 years ago. He moved to a warmer area, but continues to make our family a priority. When he comes to Maine to see family, he brings cleaning supplies, clothes from southern thrift stores for the kiddos, and a hot cup of coffee for all of us. I’m not sure who looks forward to his visits more: Rusty or I.
I thank God for my many friendships, most especially those that make me a better me. Some friends drift in and out for a season. Others remain. Today I thank God for those that I can call out to in a moments notice, and I know they will move heaven and earth to support me in my time of need. Thank you Gail, for your quiet devotion to uplifting me when I am drooping. We walk a similar path, and your passion to encourage me while remaining faithful to God is paramount to my survival.
To the others that lift me up in so many ways, I have say thank you. I just want you to know that no matter where you are in my circle, I am so grateful for your contribution. You are most definitely part of the ties that bind and you do not go unnoticed. You make me a better human, and for that, I am so thankful.
So today, on what seems like the 976th day of quarantine, wherever you are in my circle, I want you to know that you are loved and appreciated more than you will ever know. Thank you for being a friend.