The one that began with a baby and a puppy

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Finn 15It all started with a puppy and a baby in a driveway.

As they crawled towards each other, we knew we were getting good neighbors.  We didn’t know we were getting So. Much. More.

That baby and puppy are now four years old.  And soon, the boy who is no longer a baby will pack up his mom and his dad and his sister and move away.  I’ve known this day was coming for awhile now, from the moment they sat us down and said “So, we got this email – and we’re just exploring – but this is possible.”  And there’s no doubt that they are heading to greatness – to a place that is filled with family and opportunities and God whispering to take brave steps.  And in that, there are many reasons for happy squeals.

But also, they’re leaving (insert whine).  And while friends moving away isn’t new – I guess you could say it’s one of the costs of living in Southern California – there is something very new about their move.  Because there was something very new about their friendship and the way we got to do life together.   So I’m getting a whole new set of questions directed towards me … “How are you doing with this?” … “Will you be okay?” …  at first I was put off by the attention, wanting to say I’m not so pathetic that my life won’t go on without them.

I wanted to say it’s no big deal.

ButI knew that would be a lie.  And it got me wondering –  I don’t know why we’re all afraid to say that the people in our lives are a big deal.  And really, how sad would it be if friends moving away was met with a “meh” and a shrug.  But somehow, I felt the need to down-play my response.  To down-play the impact their move will have on my life in some desperate attempt to prove independence or something equally stupid.  And yes, I do have other friends, but I don’t have another Nick, Karen, Finnden and Ellis – and having them for the last four years is such a big, beautiful deal.

Because every now and then we get friends that make our story better – like meeting characters in a book that you didn’t realize were even missing until you meet them and sit back and say “ah yes, this is a better story now”.  They are the characters that make you laugh so hard that no sound is coming out.  The ones that help you heal.  That grab a flashlight and hold it out in the dark and scary places God calls you into.  The ones that make you jump into a pool with all your clothes on.  That will down a cheeseburger and donuts with you at midnight.  The ones that play a major role in the scenes choked by laughter and the ones drowning in tears.

Finn 5The days that started with a puppy and a baby in a driveway became nights of laughter around a dinner table.  Talks that started with the traditional “what do you do?” evolved into “who are you as your truest self?”  Through walks and talks and game nights and movie nights and play dates and work days and heart-times and hard-times those questions found answers.  Through diapers and long work shifts and hard losses and great wins we grew and changed.  Through celebrating together.  Through mourning together.  Through sharing words, and the moments that there are no words for.  Through watching and waiting.  Together.

And somewhere, in between the simple days and the deep places, friends became these friends.  And my story was bettered because their baby met my puppy in the driveway.

I recently read this question:  “How expensive is it to be rich in friends?”  Answer:  So expensive.  Especially when you say “goodbye” or “see ya later” or “send me pictures of your new home!  and your new friends!  except the skinny pretty ones, don’t send me their pictures”.  So expensive – if you’re willing.  And we should always, always be willing.

It’s tempting – in this season of change – to decide that this is the Last Great Goodbye that I’m willing to make.  But I know that’s not me.  We decided long ago that the currency we’d most prefer to be rich in is friends, and we are indeed wealthy, so with that comes costs.  So I’m choosing to feel it all, and to be willing to feel it again.  I’m choosing to feel the deep sense of gratitude to the Great Storyteller who knew I needed a Nick, a Karen, a Finnden and an Ellis.  I’m choosing to answer questions about how I’m doing with their move by celebrating that people matter – that friends are a big deal.  I’m choosing to let myself cry even as I write this, because tears are the bodies’ way of saying that something matters.  I’m choosing to cherish each memory of Finn and Ellis growing teeth and personalities and knowing that even if I don’t make it into their long-term memory, I got to give them a special place in mine.  I’m choosing to rejoice with friends that are following God’s voice and will again be surrounded by seasons (I’ve heard there are 4) and grandparents.  I’m praying for the new friends that will fill their living room and their hearts – yes, even the skinny pretty friends.

And I’m choosing to be ready.  Ready to share life across the country instead of across the room.  Ready for surprises that show up in a driveway.  Ready to be messy and generous and needy and real.  Ready to live life that is both expensive and rich.  Ready to say that we should all be so lucky to live life so wholly together that a friend moving away is Such. A. Big. Deal.

Finn 1

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Words of Wisdom from Andy

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Like a million other Office-fans, I tuned out somewhere in the middle.  But before the end, there was something that beckoned me back, and I cuddled up to watch The Office Finale.  It’s funny how characters on a show can be a part of your life – not that Jim and Pam and I were ever buddies, but watching them in the finale reminded me of the days I watched them fall in love.  And who I watched those early seasons with.  Such fun memories.

And then Andy – my third-least favorite character, to be honest (Kelly & Ryan leading the pack) – throws this at my soul: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

How true these words ring in my heart.

There are all different kinds of good old days, and I’m convinced that life holds several sets of them.

There are the days that you don’t know are good until they are in fact old – until life has given you a new perspective and you see those old days as better than they felt at the time.  Then there are the classic good old days.  The days you know are good when you’re in them.  When you look around at smiling faces, when you feel safe and whole and take deep breaths of sunshine.  When friendships are vibrant and secure and you laugh at tomorrow because the idea of tomorrow bringing change seems ridiculously odd.

But then tomorrow comes.  And it brings change.  And you find yourself looking backwards.  And wondering when you left the good old days behind.

I’ve already been lucky enough to experience several sets of good old days … the good old days of five girls crammed into a tiny apartment and living off laughter … the good old days when Jason was an RD and we didn’t pay rent or utilities or know that married couples could fight about such silly things … the good old days when we hiked backpacks onto our shoulders and cast cares to the wayside, hopping trains and planes and rikshaws … the good old days when we breathed deep of community and found the beauty of roots.  So many good old days.

Good old days are ahead, but good old days are behind, too.

It’s the days in between those good old days that can get to me sometimes.  And I’m in those days right now.  The days where things are shifting, where there is both loss and gain.  The days of change.  These are hard days for me.

I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

But there’s not.  Maybe that’s part of the magic of the good old days.  There’s no way to know when they will end.  They could be as endless as an Indian Summer or as fleeting as a dandelion’s puff.

If you’re in a set of good old days right now – be it an office where you sell paper, a Church you call Home (and mean it), a sweet friendship where you can be messy, or a time of simplicity – breathe deep.  Say thanks.  And call them the good old days.  Now.  Before you leave them.  String up lights and celebrate those people and places you’ll always be glad were a part of your days.

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The kind that are hard to find

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There are lots of friends in this life.  But some are terribly hard to find.  They are the ones you don’t even realize you’ve found until they are a natural part of your life.  The ones who invite themselves to your house mid-flu-season with a yummy soup and cheerful flowers.  The ones who make everything they touch beautiful.  The ones who wear heart-shaped glasses that make you roll your eyes in love, because it reminds you that they live life with their heart exposed.  The kind that walk through the deep, dark ugly days – yours and their own, and while they may flinch, they don’t run.  The kind who make you laugh but aren’t afraid when you cry.

I am so lucky to have many friends like this.  They are my lovelies.  Some are near, and too many are too far away.

One such lovely is about to board a plane to her new home tomorrow.  We’re excited for her new chapter of life – and the many visits we’ll have to make to Hawaii for visits (I know, I know, we are selfless when it comes to visiting friends).  But also,  “see-ya-later” is not the same as “see-ya-tomorrow”, and it makes you look at the chapter-past, to celebrate the life that has been shared, and take a few deep sighs for what will change as life is now shared long-distance.  What did people do before text messaging, face time and frequent flyer miles?  I mean, seriously.

So today, take a minute.  Look around you and take stock of those friends that are hard to find.  The lovelies in your world.  If they are long-distance already, send them a message or a smile or maybe even an old-fashioned postcard with blue ink and everything.  If they are right next door, run over for a just-because-hug.

And celebrate.  Celebrate that God made this whack-a-doo life to be shared.

 

Dannah

 

 

 

 

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