A High School Friend

I had a very best friend in high school named Sue.  We actually became fast friends in 8th grade, after she came over to ask me about a book I was reading – Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.  From that interaction forward, our friendship grew and we became virtually inseparable for several years.

My family had moved to the area at the start of 8th grade, and up until Sue, I didn’t have any close friends.  My home was a little bit chaotic – a big rambling house with my folks and my sister, our two dogs, lots of boxes in the basement, and eventually my 87 year old grandfather.  He’d been a bachelor for many years, and it was quite an adjustment for all of us as he moved into a family with busy teenagers. My dad went back to college and became a business student, my mom worked part time, and our social activity and closest friends were from church, none of whom were my age.  Looking back, I see that I was a typical teenager, wanting to escape my house, and Sue’s home became the respite. She lived in a wealthier part of town, and her home seemed calm and put together, where mine felt discombobulated somehow, as our family was in transition for several of those years living in Michigan.

Sue had lots of friends, was very popular, an athlete and accomplished musician. I was shocked and delighted that she wanted to be friends with me, a gawky geeky girl.

We’d get home from school and check in with our moms, and then call each other to arrange getting together. We’d leave our houses at the same time, and meet half-way between our homes, walking the rest of the way around the neighborhood and end up at her house.  She’d often play the piano and I would sing along – she helped me to learn to read music, which aided my efforts at piano lessons. Or she’d play her dulcimer or banjo. She was very musical, and we had lots of fun, singing at the top of our lungs and entertaining her mom with our latest renditions.

There were times when Sue came to my house. My folks would often drive us to the mall to walk around. Of course, my folks walked around, too. I remember Sue commenting how cool it was that my folks still held hands, a fact I took for granted. She came with me to some church activities and retreats, and we had many spiritual discussions.

We wrote letters to each other almost every week. Just silly things, like which boy we thought was cute or all about that English assignment, or the latest gossip on one of our teachers. She always signed her notes with smiley eyes and hair.

(I came across those letters a few months ago, as I was cleaning out to get ready to move to Colorado. I didn’t remember that I had kept them, and I read several of them before deciding it was time to part with them. Maybe that’s why she’s on my mind – I’ve been subconsciously thinking of her since I disposed of the letters.)

She taught me to make chocolate chip cookies – we did that a lot. Her dad would come in after work, a very tall distinguished looking man – and he’d give her a huge hug, all the while dipping four fingers into the cookie dough behind her back and coming away with a handful to eat. Her mom, of much smaller stature – would just laugh and remind him what was cooking for dinner. Her mom had a wonderful laugh – kind of like a tinkling bell.  They both welcomed me into their home every time I came over. Her brothers were typical brothers – one a couple of years older, the other younger.  I remember one time when Sue and I were watching a scary movie by ourselves in the family room, with all the lights off and we were huddled under a blanket, and the older brother snuck into the room and jumped out at just the right moment to scare us like crazy!

Sue taught me the joy of lying under the Christmas tree. We’d turn out all the lights in the room except the tree, and we’d lie under the branches and look up. The soft glow of the lights reflecting off the ornaments was so peaceful. We’d recline there and listen to Christmas music and talk about our holiday break and family traditions.

At some point, in our Junior year I think, we became less exclusive, and our friendship circle expanded to include two other close girlfriends.  I found another friend to hang out with sometimes, and Sue’s and my friendship shifted. We were still close, but had lots of room for others.

My folks moved away during my Freshman year in college, so I never had the experience of “going home” to reconnect with old high school friends. My relationships shifted again, and I lost touch with most of the girls and guys we had hung out with.

Sue and I went to different colleges, and I remember visiting during her nursing undergrad program with my boyfriend (now husband) and another close friend. That was one of the last times we saw each other.

We exchanged Christmas cards for a few years, and then we got busy with our families.  I lost track of her as we moved across the country. At one point,  I found one of her daughters on Facebook and asked her to get a message to Sue, but nothing happened for a couple of years, until I found Sue on Facebook and we communicated briefly.

In the past year, I’ve reconnected with another high school friend, Chris, and it’s been so fun to catch up with short phone calls filled with stories of our families, and laughter at reminiscing. It turns out that she is practically neighbors with Sue, and they see each other for social activities together. I’m glad – Sue makes a great friend.

Scary thoughts

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’ve been having flashes of fear. Sudden bursts in my mind of catastrophic situations. It’s been going on for a month now.

Several weeks ago, I was in town with my daughter; we were in her car running errands, and I had a flash of being broadsided by a black truck. The glass was shattered and flying, the car was crumpled and spinning. Like slow motion from a movie scene. I was shocked by how vivid the picture was – like a daytime dream.

And like a dream, I came back to reason and shook my head. I then quoted the above verse to myself.

Today, I needed to run to a doctor’s appointment, and my husband was on the phone, working from home. It flashed across my mind, as I walked into the garage, that I hadn’t kissed him goodbye, and what a shame that would be if I died while I was out. Again, I shook my head and quoted part of that verse: “we have not been given a spirit of fear…”

Those are the two examples that stand out the most starkly in my mind, but I know there have been more, because I’ve quoted this verse to myself nearly a dozen times in the past month.

I’ve had nightmares lately, too. The kind where I wake up in a cold clammy sweat, afraid to get out of bed, in case the monsters are real, and afraid to close my eyes again, lest I fall back into the scary dream. I reach over to be sure my hubby is there, and I try to focus on his breathing, inhale and exhale. I wake enough to realize I’m safe, then pray my way back to sleep.

What is this? Why the sudden fear?

It started in a joyous time – celebrating family and friends at a wedding. Am I dreading the future of what might befall my loved ones?

I’m in the process of moving across the country. Am I fearing the isolation of being alone?

My mom was very sick this Spring. Am I afraid of the past repeating itself?

The last time I had major catastrophic thoughts, I was badly depressed. I’ve determined that I’m not headed there again!

Actually, it probably doesn’t matter what it is. Or even why it is. Because God’s truth is still truth:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I need not fear nor be timid. I have the power of the risen Christ in me (Ephesians 1:19-20), I am surrounded by God’s love (Romans 8:39), and I can be self-disciplined to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), even the scary ones.

Living far away

I live 1,188 miles away from my parents. 1,142 miles from my daughter. 1,576 miles from my son.

I live 6 states away from my lifelong Wisconsin friends and my in-laws, and 5 states away from my sister.

I’m not living in the wilderness by any means, but I’m far from family and friends (not counting those I have here, of course). I live in Virginia – the furthest East and South of anyone in our immediate families.

This is especially difficulty when someone is sick or in need. Like my mom, or one of my lifelong friends. I want to be with them, but there’s no easy way to do so. I have to plan way in advance to be able to afford the plane ticket. And I need to be there for several days – so I’m at my destination longer than it takes me to travel to and from there.

I wish I could just stop by my daughter’s for the weekend. Or plan a 3-day holiday at my son’s. But it’s cost-prohibitive.

Don’t get me wrong. I live in a beautiful part of the country – in the valley of the Shenandoah Mountains, and the views are spectacular. Our town is small, but near a couple of larger cities with college campuses, and 45 minutes from an airport, which connects us to the rest of the country within a day’s travel. We have easy access to concerts and breweries and museums.

I’ve lived further away. When my husband and I were first married, we lived in Utah, far from our families in the Midwest. And more recently, we lived in Florida for a little over a year. But Florida is a vacation destination, so we saw family and some friends while we lived there, with the promise of many others to come visit.

It’s hard to live so far from family and friends. Thank goodness for instant messaging and texting and FaceTime and Facebook. For phone calls and video chats. For vacations and an understanding husband, who tells me, “Go,” when I need it.

Over the course of the years we’ve been married, we’ve talked about living overseas. Now that’s far away! And quite honestly, I think now would be the time, before the kids settle down and have families of their own. I don’t want to be far away when there are grandbabies to hold!

All this means that we probably have another move in us, sometime in the not-too-distant future. And maybe a move after that, to wherever we’d like to retire and live out the rest of our lives. That’s hard to decide, because while we long for the western mountains, we loved the beach. But neither of those are close to family! I guess our biggest deciding factor will be access to a national airport, for easy travel to all the places we’d like to visit!

God’s Peace, and the Power of Prayer

I have so many things I’d like to write about, but I can’t, due to the incredibly personal nature of them. About health. Work. Family. Sickness. Siblings. Parenting.

All the normal things of life.

But I can write about peace, and God’s faithfulness to answer prayer.

With the many difficult things I’ve been going through lately, I can tell I’m being sustained by friends’ prayers for me and my family. Because of these prayers, I don’t have anxiety about the unknown future. I’m not experiencing stress or great sadness. I’m a little fatigued, but I know it could be so much worse.

There are literally friends all around the country praying for my family, for the various things I’m facing. And God hears each prayer. They come before Him as incense, the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8). They are forever before Him as He sits on His throne.

And I am welcomed – no, invited – to come into the throne room with my prayers and petitions. Scripture tells me that I can come boldly before His throne (Hebrews 4:16). In fact, He longs for me to do so. He tells me to bring every concern to Him (1Peter 5:7).

The other night, I awakened around 3am with a rush of anxiety. Yes, it hits occasionally. And my first thought was, “Oh, no! All my prayer warriors are sleeping!” Funny, eh?!

For those of you who are praying, thank you. My family and I are so grateful. Your prayers keep us going, knowing that we are being lifted to the King of kings.

We don’t know what the future holds. None of us do. But, as the song says, we “know who holds the future.” God has everything under control. He’s working all things for our good. He is trustworthy.

I am at peace.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬

National Pet Day

In honor of yesterday as National Pet Day, I wanted to write a post that shared the furry friends who have been part of our life over the years.

We started with a stray cat we found under our car in our first apartment. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures of Jenny before she was reclaimed by the local drug dealer in our complex!

Next came Maggie, who we had before we had children. She was our first baby, and I think she thought she was human. She was with us for 16 years.

Then we had Alex – a kitten who hid in Chris’ underwear drawer, and who was an awesome companion to Maggie.

Next came Allie.

We found Bob when he’d been hit by a car. “Bob bites” might have been our daughter’s first sentence.

Then Arthur. The opposite of Bob. Our son learned to stand by pushing off of Arthur’s belly. He was so tolerant!

Then we got Abbie and Archie, who we had for 15 years.

Next came Ella, a hound dog who stopped listening whenever she caught a great scent.

Finally, we acquired Annabelle and now Henry. They have bonded well, and keep us company all day – and night – long!

We love our fur-babies!