Rebeka

Rebeka and I met in the 5th grade, after my best friend at the time said she was cool and should hang out with us. I was always leery about newcomers, but my friend’s assessment was spot on: Rebeka and I hit it off instantly. She was a complete geek, wicked smart, too cool to let anything get under her skin, and had a crazy sense of fashion. In a word, she was awesome.

We both had terrible hair through middle school and in high school, we came into more of our own. Our friendship bond grew the most in high school – we did practically everything together. Rebeka hosted parties that still live on in infamy in her parents’ basement. They included great music, snack food, games of pool, a plethora of inside jokes, and an entire room painted for blacklight use. I should also mention we were straight edge: these parties were filled with Mountain Dew. Alcohol wasn’t on our radar.

Our lives would diverge on different paths, yet we stayed friends. When I became a Christian junior year, Rebeka stood as a hardline agnostic. “If that’s what you feel you need to do, then you gotta do it,” she said after I told her of my conversion. She never put limits on people or gave me grief over Christ. Rebeka cared deeply for her friends (even though she acted all cool like she didn’t) and always let people be who they really were around her. I think that’s why she’s always had people gravitate towards her: Rebeka was a safe harbor.

College is when things got interesting. She visited me at my college dorm (our colleges were a state apart) and ended up dating my boyfriend’s roommate. I’ll never forget the time I was walking to my dorm bathroom and she came strolling out. “What are you doing here?” “I’m here with M. Sorry, I forgot to tell you I was coming.” Classic Rebeka. I did manage to get her to my favorite coffee shop on campus to catch up on life.

The bottom dropped out when they broke up and it was messy. M took it extremely hard. About a month later, Rebeka called me on the phone. “Um, we have to talk about somethings,” she said slowly. “There’s kinda a big reason I left M.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I, uh, kinda started dating my roommate. I’m gay.”

My eyebrows jumped off my forehand. Gay? Rebeka? She’s always dated guys and there was no indication of anything other than straight.

“Are we still friends?” I could hear the fear in her voice. “I’ve already told everyone else. I told you last because, well, you’re a Christian, and I thought you’d stop speaking to me.”

“Oh wow, Rebeka, no, we’re still friends and I will never stop speaking to you. This changes nothing between us.”

And so, our friendship continued on.

I gushed to her after I met my husband – she later told me she knew he was the one from my phone call. Rebeka brought her underage and possibly schizophrenic girlfriend to my wedding – her safe harbor ways often brought in the crazy ones too. Rebeka eventually settled down with a nice girl and the last time they visited me in North Carolina, I sensed their relationship was in its death keel. I was right.

And then there was Chris. “She’s really cool, you gotta keep this one,” I said to Rebeka discretely after I met her for the first time. Rebeka eventually married Chris after years of dating and I claim Chris as my sister-in-law. Rebeka often talked about moving down to my neck of the woods – she fell in love with the area like I did. After years of her saying “maybe someday,” her and Chris finally made the move a few years ago.

So, I live 1,000 miles away from home, but my best friend since 5th grade lives on the other side of town. How about that!

We always get together for Christmas morning, campfires, game nights, and true to form, she still hosts parties that live in infamy with better food (we’re talking gourmet) and we graduated from Mountain Dew to alcohol.

I haven’t heard from her in a few months. We run in different circles, yet I always try to keep up with her. Chris suffers from extreme social anxiety, so I think a lot of interaction is limited, which I totally understand.

Right now, I’m waiting to hear back from her. I’ve invited them down for some wine and cheese via voicemail. I hope she’s able to make it. Despite all the changes we’ve weathered, it’s nice to connect with someone who has known you since the beginning. We differ on many aspects of life, but the last time we hung out, we chatted for almost 3 hours straight.

Rebeka and I will be friends to the very end. No matter what.

Ruth

I met Ruth when I accidentally showed up at the wrong college ministry freshman year (I ended up staying). We looked alike, too, which sometimes caused people to mistake us for sisters. We always found this hilarious.

In college we hung out a bit – the occasional coffee or swimming at the indoor pool in the university recreation center. We’d tread water in the deep end and chat.

Ruth was my polar opposite back then: in my days of too many boys and too much alcohol, she was on the straight and narrow. She would have been aghast that I would ever entertain the thought of getting drunk or was not a virgin – so I just left out those parts of my life.

Nonetheless, we found common ground, and the many memories of this college Bible group have Ruth in them and we stayed close. One night, she was discussing how after graduation she was going to live with her brother for several months who was living in Europe. I was jealous of her upcoming adventure, not to mention I had a slight crush on her gorgeous older brother. And that’s when she said it:

“You should come for a visit!” Oh my goodness, that was too good to pass up!

The three of us spent a week traveling around England with no particular plan, just wherever the trains happened to take us that morning. I loved it!

This trip cemented our status as lifelong friends, in what was supposed to be a friendship that faded away with college life. Ruth became one of my closest confidants in my adult life. The days of editing my life for her ears had long since passed. She knew everything. In time we had grown up: I cleaned up my act and Ruth realized the world was not as black and white as she thought it to be.

We kept each other in the loop about our various romantic escapades, struggles, and joys – as singles and as wives. We also shared the hardship of infertility. Our stories were night and day different, but both of our homes remained silent without children.

A few years ago, we decided to restart our adventures by meeting halfway between our homes, as we live quite a distance apart. Our adventures have spanned a near-death experience in West Virginian mountains and backpacking cities. We try to meet up at least once a year and do something fun: it’s usually outdoors, involves a glass of wine, a tourist stop, and deep conversations.

A friend like Ruth is one of those rare gems – I think of her more as a sister. Her intelligence, character, and love of God have not only inspired me but buoyed me through some really hard times, as well as contributed to the good times. I know I can call her at any time to tell her anything, and she will always be gentle and listen. She doesn’t judge, yet she’ll call a spade a spade when it needs to be said. I am so grateful for her honesty and her 24 karat persona.

I’m excited to see where the Lord is going to lead Ruth. She made the decision to leave her abusive marriage after many failed attempts to fix it. Now that she is free from that burden, I know she will blossom, like the tree by the water in Jeremiah 17:7-8.

….and I can’t wait for our next adventure!

 

Chantel

I still vividly remember the first time I saw her.

It was 2 weeks before my wedding. I was moonlighting on third shift, helping to cover a coworker out on FMLA. I got off shift that morning and hopped into the car with my fiance: we were driving to Virginia to meet his sister, her husband, and my oldest soon-to-be nephew and 2 nieces.

I tried to sleep in the car, but it was a fitful, unrested sleep. I was an overtired, grumpy, frazzled, dehydrated, stressed out bride who was about to meet extended family for the first time. And I was a hot mess.

I managed to pull myself together by the time we arrived in their driveway, and that’s when I saw her from the passenger side of the car: a cute little 9 year old with light brown hair and big expressive brown eyes was playing in the yard. This had to be Chantel. We locked eyes. I had never been an aunt before. We started quizzicaly at each other, unsure of what all this meant. I remember she gave me a big hug, as we got out of the car, and were ushered into the house, welcomed with open arms.

Through the years, I’d watch her blossom into a teenager. What began as her watching me put on make up in the morning morphed into me asking her for make up advice. Her make up game was on fleek, as the kids say nowadays.

The teenage years became fraught with angst and rebellion, accentuated with drugs and sex, probably steaming from the abuse she had suffered and never treated. I’d call her out and try my best to show her I would always be there and love her despite her many lapses in judgment. Her parents kicked her out of the house several times for having drugs and basically threw up their arms with frustration in terms of helping her professionally and emotionally. She’s currently living with a friend’s family at age 19, in between jobs again.

She needs someone to show her the love of the Father. And so I remain, checking on her through text messages and sending birthday gifts.

I was in town, visiting her family without my husband, a few weeks ago. While she was invited over for dinner, her lack of communication skills kept her from stopping by. It was no matter: I had already arranged a lunch date with her before I arrived.

* * * * *

Almost to the day, 10 years after we met in a driveway, I picked Chantel up in a stranger’s driveway. She was at another friend’s house, in the middle of absolute nowhere. She looked like she had dropped some excess weight, as her belly ring was clearly on display, and wore the light aroma of of marijuana as she slid into the passenger seat. Both of us were nursing a hangover: I sipped too much wine the night before and had a splitting headache. She had done shots (“Only like 6 or 7” – I kindly informed her 4 was binge drinking – she had no clue) and spent part of the night throwing up. She had been arrested again last month, this time for petit larceny, after failing to say no to a friend’s suggestion of putting unpaid merchandise in her purse. She was on probation, of course.

I swear, her communication skills and insecurity will be the end of her.

This was demonstrated again in her failing to pick a spot for lunch. “I don’t know, what do you want?” I pushed her to make a decision and she finally chose Red Robin, a fine choice, even though my Lenten fast meant I wouldn’t get my favorite bottomless root beer float.

Our conversation was surface level, but by the time food arrived we were in a deep talk about her insecurities, her inability to express her desires, and how that was making her life very difficult. She knew that stealing was wrong, but she lacked the fortitude to say no, blaming it on being tired after a long day, wanting to go home, and the “Sure, whatever” mindset she has when making decisions that directly affect her.

She acknowledged what I already knew to be true, but she has a streak of lip service behind her. Chantel’s words and actions are light years apart.

After lunch, I drove her back to her current home and I felt that tug from the Holy Spirit to pray with her. I struggle to say Grace before meals in a group setting, but I obliged.

“Can I pray with you?” I asked as she was about to leave the car.
“Sure,” she replied.

I held her hands and spoke His words over her. They flowed out, like a poem. I asked for her protection and that Chantel would know how beautiful, strong, and loved she was. There were tears in her eyes at the end.

Before she left, I told her not to spend dwindling money on weed, as I could smell it on her. I hugged her tight, told her I loved her, and to call me if she needed anything.

And before I knew it, I was flying south on the interstate, heading for home.

I hope Chantel’s future is brighter than her past. But only she can make that happen.