topics:
Friendship
Mainz conversation

“Touch is love made manifest, a way to connect not only human to human and skin to skin, but also with…that eternal, all-encompassing energy that unites us, that infuses us with life, that reminds us that we are indeed all one and that the world is a hospitable place to be… Touching one another is what we humans do. Touch is what we need from one another and touch is what we have to give. It’s what keeps us hopeful and what keeps us going, what keeps our hearts opening and softening and trusting.”  — Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey

I knew I’d regret it the moment it happened. Or, to be more precise, the moment it didn’t happen.

Last year, during Lent, I sat on a pew near the back of the sanctuary in a church in town. The back doors were open and the sun cast long shadows along the floor. A soft breeze danced just inside the doorway and I remembered that these weekly Lenten services had begun in the colder, darker days of winter. Michelle had welcomed me and we’d been riding together each week to sing the songs, eat the bread, drink the wine, pray the prayers, and listen to the messages in the days of preparation leading up to Easter.

On this night, our friend Lyla joined us and I sat in the pew with Michelle on my right and Lyla on my left. Together, the three of us sang the songs, ate the bread, drank the wine, prayed the prayers, and listened to the message about just how much God loves us. I wanted to reach out and grab my friends’ hands, but I didn’t. I had an inner dialogue going on, with one voice arguing that I’d freak them out if I reached out and touched them in the middle of the church service, and another voice telling me I’d regret it if I didn’t. Fear of freaking out my friends won out, and I kept my hands in my lap.

Later, in the parking lot, I told them, “I almost reached out and grabbed your hands, but I didn’t want to freak you out.”

“You should have,” they both told me. “It would have been fine.”

Last month, my husband and I visited Europe. We walked down street after street, in city after city, and saw pairs of women walking arm-in-arm or hand-in-hand everywhere I looked. They walked closely and leaned in toward one another and it was clear their friendships were treasures. I was smitten and I said to my husband, “I’m going to do that when we get home. I’m going to walk arm-in-arm with my girlfriends.”

Friendship is a gift. I have learned that the hard way. Finding someone who will talk you back from the edge, encourage you to follow your dream, stay up talking until 3 AM, eat ice cream with you — straight from the container, hear your darkest confessions without flinching, and keep showing up anyway? A gift. No, a treasure.

If you’ve got one good friend, you’ve got a treasure, that’s for sure. If you’ve got more than one good friend, you have what I’ve heard called an embarrassment of riches. I want my friends to know how much I love them. I want them to know they have saved my sanity on more than one occasion. I want them to know that sometimes my heart overflows with gratitude and love for them. So I’m turning a deaf ear to the voice that tells me I might just freak out my friends if I let them know how much they mean to me. A friend loves at all times. It’s as simple as that.

Who are the friends in your life who mean the world to you? How do you let them know how special they are?

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  • http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com Linda Stoll

    Yes, yes, yes! Grabbing a hand, sending a card, sharing a cup of something hot or a shopping trip or a retreat together. Taking a hike, catching a movie, praying together, getting crazy. Hashing over the books we’ve read, asking the hard questions, sharing a box and a half of tissues, solving everyone’s problems over at Downton Abbey.

    I love my friends!

    {And I wish that you, Deidra, my online friend, lived closer so we could share some of the same!}

  • http://chasingblueskies.net/ Kristen Strong

    Soooo good, Deidra.

    I get teased in my circle of friends for being a snuggler, so you can walk arm in arm with me anytime you want. {grin} Love you friend!

    • Beth Williams

      Kristen,

      I am a snuggler too!m :) Love to cuddle & snuggle with people & really get to know them!

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  • http://outofmyallegedmind.com Nancy Franson

    Wanting to reach out and link arms with you. Right. Now.

    You know how I keep going back to the metaphor of my hike in the Alps last summer? It’s helpful for me to remember that life is sometimes a long, slow, steady climb. I get weary sometimes. It’s such a gift, being able to hike in the company of faithful pilgrims.

    Especially ones who, at any given moment, might just break into disco moves :)

  • http://nasreenfynewever.wordpress.com Nasreen Fynewever

    I get this. You write it well and I trust you live it strong. Thanks for pushing us to seize the moment AND the hands of those we love. I am still learning how to do a two-armed hug rather than the sideways one arm wrap around pat. :-)

  • Amy

    one of the many things I love about Ukraine! Walking arm in arm with my girl friends!

  • http://www.sharono-somethingtothinkabout.com/ Sharon O

    This is so beautiful. Friendships IS a gift to treasure and value and never forget how important it is to us.

  • Beth Williams

    Yes–true real friendships are a gift. Sadly I don’t have a bunch or even a few good “girlfriends”. Most of the women I know are older, have families-kids, & their interests are not the same as mine.

    Love to go shopping, listen to a concert, do a retreat anything with anyone!

    Would love to reach out to you & do something fun with you today!@

  • erica

    Aw this makes me miss my sweet best friend who moved away, I am going to have to send her something to let her know I’m thinking of her & missing her. And this also encourages me to reach out more to friends close by. :)

  • https://www.facebook.com/#!/jackie.hableatkins Jackie

    I pray for just one friendship like this… for a sister in Christ that I’ve never had. Too many times I fear I feel I have a close friendship with someone only to realize they do not feel as close to me as I do to them. And so I retreat… sink back into the shy cocoon I’ve spent 30 years weaving around myself. I ponder grace…

    • Rhonda

      Hi Jackie,
      I just found this site from “The Inspired Room” and was reading all the recent posts. I can totally empathize with you about close friendships. I am a very trusting person and I believe that other people love me as much as I love them. I can’t tell you how many times I have been hurt for trusting other people over the last 38 years. Granted, I don’t think I am the easiest person to be with – I am bipolar and have many quirky issues). But I pray that someday God will send a friend who can love me despite these issues. I too pretty much live an isolated life now. I can’t even make myself go to church these days because I am so afraid of being with other people. I need to turn everything over to God and have faith that he will take care of things for me….

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com Deidra

      Jackie, I have written words so similar to those here in your comment. For so many years I figured I would never experience true friendship and then, when I’d given up every bit of hope, God sent me a true friend. And then another. And another after that. Even after God started sending me friends, I was the one who wasn’t so sure. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and so I’d build up walls — just in case. But these friends were persistent with me, and they kept showing up until my walls came down. God sees you. Know that. And loves you. I am trusting that he hasn’t forgotten you…

  • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com dukeslee

    Deidra, I seriously wish I could stretch my arms down Interstate 29 to find you. I love your heart, for me personally as a friend and a human being. But also for everyone who passes this way today at (in)courage. You’ve given all of us a real gift here — friends and strangers alike.

  • Anonymous

    I have one desperately close friend who I love like no one else…but am also the type of girl that would be quite freaked out by a spontaneous hug or grabbing of my hand. My sweet friend usually asks if it’s okay…and I usually say yes, because I want to learn to appreciate what makes her feel loved. Guess it’s different for each of us. :)

    Regardless, I loved this post. My eyes filled up, my heart filled up and I’m thanking God right now for the embarrassment of riches He has given me.

    • http://life-in-tz.blogspot.com/ Tammy Brouwer

      I used to be that way too, but over the years my girlfriends have hugged me anyway and now I find myself reaching out for a hug first!

  • kg

    I have one desperately close friend who I love like no one else…but am also the type of girl that would be quite freaked out by a spontaneous hug or grabbing of my hand. My sweet friend usually asks if it’s okay…and I usually say yes, because I want to learn to appreciate what makes her feel loved. Guess it’s different for each of us. :)

    Regardless, I loved this post. My eyes filled up, my heart filled up and I’m thanking God right now for the embarrassment of riches He has given me.

    • Al

      To be able to just nuzzle under the arms of a Loved one & share the deepest places of our heart can be the most difficult thing to do. However starting somewhere I guess is better than running away from it all and having regret not sharing at all would be worse.

  • http://michellederusha.com Michelle DeRusha

    Ok, truthfully, I *may* have been just a teeny bit freaked out if you grabbed my hand in church, but just because, you know, I’m a puritanical New Englander at heart – we don’t hold hands in church, you know. BUT, that wouldn’t have meant that I don’t love you with my WHOLE heart. You are the best thing that’s happened to me in Nebraska, Deidra – and one of the greatest gifts of my whole life!

    {and I love this post, by the way- it’s so true!}

  • http://lylawillinghamlindquist.com Lyla Willingham Lindquist

    Well, yeah. Because I’m pretty sure that I would have just jerked my hand away and shouted (ensuring poor Michelle could never show her face there again), “What do you think you’re doing, Deidra Riggs!” :)

    I’ve seen this, the way one culture favors touch over another, the way it is a nearly unconscious way of expressing one’s affection. It’s a beautiful thing. As is your friendship.

  • http://hamershappenings.blogspot.com Lisa

    We all need friends like that….that closeness and unconditional love.

  • http://walkingwellwithgod.blogspot.com Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    I think we could learn a thing or two from other cultures. A friend is someone to be trasured, loved on, showered with kind gestures that say, “I love you!” I am a hugger and a snuggler and I love to walk arm in arm with my mom – one of my very best friends :)
    Blessings,
    Bev

  • http://pollywogcreek.com Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

    First of all, I’m terribly jealous that the three of y’all have the opportunity to be together. I’m soooooooo far away from everyone down here in the south of Florida. That is a gift all its own – to be close. But, I do have many good friends at church who are openly affectionate – hugs, kisses on the cheek, rubs along the back and simply leaning in. I think it’s one of the reasons I love church so much. We come from many different backyards – some of us have had to relax and be open to these displays of affection, and it’s awesome. It’s good for the soul. Delightful post, Deidra. xox

  • http://wearegospelgirls.com Kim

    Deidra, I love this post and this call to cherish our friendships with affectionate actions. I was never a hugger growing up, but I’ve totally turned into a hugger as an adult. Sometimes I worry it does freak people out, but I can’t always help myself. :)

  • http://dianatrautwein.com Diana Trautwein

    Oh, yes – and amen!! I’m getting much more touchy-feely in my old age and I love it. I had one woman come forward for prayer at the end of last week’s service – and because I knew her well enough to know she would not freak out, I brought her into a hug so I could pray right into her ear as I prayed into God’s ear. I imagine some people viewing that might ‘freak out.’ But at this stage of the game, I really don’t care. It was a Spirit-moment thing, as most of those urges to touch are!! Sure, Michelle and Lyla might have jumped a little — but deep down, they would rejoice. You are such a friend, D – such a friend. So happy to know you and look forward to a few hugs next month!

  • http://sandraheskaking.com Sandra Heska King

    Reaching out my hand right now, touching the screen, and itching to hug your neck and hold your hand–soon!

  • http://redemptionsbeauty.com Shelly Miller

    Um, that paragraph about eating ice cream and confessions and loving me anyway, that one made me tear up. I’ve done all those with you except stay up until 3 am which I would happily do in a few weeks. I just walked around my little town with a girlfriend who is visiting from California and I just realized that God orchestrates friendships in a miraculous way I would’ve never imagined. All this time I thought I was missing something, and He’s been sending me people to link arms and hold hands with all along. I just couldn’t see it because I expected it to look different. Thank you for your friendship, I’m better for it.

  • http://www.abidingloveaboundinggrace.blogspot.com ~Karrilee~

    Yes. Yes to all of this! I am a blessed walking Embarrassment of Riches… and for each one – each gift… each treasure – I am so very thankful! The most important task at hand on any given day is to fully invest in something that is Real… that will last… that is eternal. Friendships are just that – a worthy investment of time and love and grace!

  • Anonymous

    I Am Alone

    • http://marilynyocum.com Marilyn

      I want to acknowledge reading your comment, Anonymous. Your voice belongs in this chorus. May one someone come along right where you are and very soon to let you know you are not alone. I just want you to know I heard you.

    • http://www.deidrariggs.com Deidra

      Me too. I want you to know I’ve heard you, and I’m praying along with Marilyn. I’m praying — very soon — that someone will come along and let you know just how much you matter, and that you are not alone.

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  • http://www.hillpen.com Amanda Hill

    Amen!! Without girlfriends I would be lost and adrift, and I’ve begun to say “I love you” more freely with friends than I ever have before. And touching and hugging and crying. I love the “embarrassment of riches” line. So true!!

  • http://canvasandslate.com Brittany

    wow. i really enjoyed reading this post. thank you for reminding me to love without reservation, especially when it comes to friendship.

  • Margaret Polino Nicholas

    Such a great blog today. I saw woman in Europe , Spain, walking and holding hands. I understand how you feel I think?

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  • http://fraukmwest.blogspot.com Kathy

    By telling them how important they are and being there for each other. I do love how Europeans are so carefree and non judgmental.

  • Cathy Chamberlain

    Great post!

  • http://timandmaddybrokopp.blogspot.com Hope

    I am European living in the States. It is true… we do walk arm in arm, hand in hand. I love that about our culture. I have always done it here with some friends. You know who you can do it with and which friend will look funny. I have had some funny looks ;-)

  • http://annkroeker.com Ann Kroeker

    Two or three friends of mine have told me how uncomfortable they are with hugs, and because these are some of my closest friends–friends I see often–out of respect for them I do not fling my arms out and expect or request a hug. But this has also caused me to fall out of the habit of hugging anyone and everyone–and certainly reaching out to grab a hand. It’s a loss, I think.

  • http://life-in-tz.blogspot.com/ Tammy Brouwer

    After many years living on the mission field and often feeling isolated and lonely, God brought a friend into my life. I was blessed to see in her life the fruit of the Spirit in spite of the same obstacles I faced in my life. It was a great challenge to me. I’ve learned so much from her. She is a hugger, and I struggle with it. However, over the years I’ve begun to initiate hugs. The sad thing is that two weeks ago her family moved back to the US. I feel a definite void in my life, but I am so thankful for the friendship we developed over the years, and all the things I learned from her that have made me walk closer to the Lord and live out grace in a greater way. I remember when it was definite that they would leave. We took a walk down to the lake and held onto each other as we cried many tears. I shared with her how much I love her and respect her. I told her what a gift she was to me. As missionaries we say many goodbyes and tend to put a protective shell around our hearts. I’m thankful that the Lord allowed us both to say what was on our hearts. I’m glad I didn’t let that time slip away with the regret of not saying what was on my heart.

  • http://pvedesign.com pve

    I always love the elderly when they take a child by the hand and do not want to let go.
    pve

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  • KalleyC

    So true about friendship. I gave been blessed with my friend since high school and he is a close friend of mine. Recently, i have been blessed with being closer to my sister as well.