I hit the send button, shouting my words over to Kelly’s phone as I stood holding the new book. I was more than a little giddy at the thought of studying the story of Gideon with my friend in the coming weeks.
Kelly’s reply came swiftly, “That’s great! Glenda and Kailey said they’ll be joining us!”
As I read her words, my heart dropped a little. I suddenly felt nervous.
The kind of nervous where you calculate ages and seasons of life and wonder if this group of women will be a likely fit.
Kelly, our hostess, had the heart of a servant that equally matched her love for Jesus. Single, yet a second mother to many of our high school youth girls, she continuously opened her home and poured out her heart to those in her path. Kailey, our newlywed, had a remarkably seasoned faith for someone so young and the most positive outlook on life of anyone I’d ever met. I was the task-oriented, career-driven mom of four, trying to balance my job, my husband’s business, child rearing, and several areas of ministry.
And then there was Glenda.
Glenda, a well-loved pastor’s wife in our own congregation, was a mother to us all. She was the chief encourager who would ever-so-gently ask, “So how’s that working out for you?” when she chided us about an area she knew very well needed extra prayer or more consideration. Her tone was never void of love toward any one of us.
Honestly? I can’t say why I questioned our gatherings, but I did. I questioned whether or not I could share my story among them. I asked myself if my faith would stand up to theirs.
Trying hard to dismiss the apprehension, I couldn’t shake that pang of nervousness standing outside Kelly’s door before our first meeting. Yet, as I took hold of the knob and entered quietly through the living room, there sat three women, eagerly beaming up at me.
What I felt moments earlier was forgotten.
All of us friends individually, yet never together like this. Never to sip tea and bare souls, laugh and cry as one. What began as a simple get-together in a friend’s home turned into this place of sacred ground.
God gifted this, you see? These hours in the week where the strongest bonds of friendship could be sown between the most unlikely of women.
We called our time together Mustard Seed, because this is where we prayed for mountains to move. For doctoral school acceptance letters and the directions of our jobs, for leadership in the church and how to help our youth. This is where we prayed for cancer to be removed and for healing to be restored.
We bonded and we learned to love big.
But, as seasons ebb and flow, our lives began to travel in different directions. Kailey would move to Baltimore so her husband could acquire his PhD. Kelly would dedicate more time and effort into the youth program. I would make good on a calling to leave the professional workforce and take my place at home with my family.
And Glenda . . .
Glenda would hear the word “metastasized” from her doctor, along with several other complications.
But our friendship didn’t end. And neither would our prayers.
We prayed Kelly through leading teens to Christ and for me to transition out of my career. We prayed Glenda through brain surgery and rounds of chemo and radiation. And we prayed Kailey through her first pregnancy, one that held so much uncertainty as the doctors confirmed her baby boy had a case of cystic hygroma. The odds were stacked against him.
Yet, as time passed and seasons shifted once again, we were able to rejoice with Kailey. Gideon, her precious baby boy with the swath of extra skin behind the neck, came into this world with a reminder that he had beaten the odds. God heard our prayers and we got to see a miracle before our eyes.
However, not long after such grateful news, our sweet friend, Glenda, took her last breath. While there is joy in knowing she no longer suffers, the hole she leaves behind is deep.
It’s been only weeks now. And while this group of three remembers her through our grief, we look to the relationships that remain – those whose lives she’s touched. We share stories and aspire to be “just like Glenda” in the way she lived her life with open arms and ears to hear the hearts of so many.
As I stop and reflect on how this friendship began, over Scripture’s story of Gideon, I remember the man recruited by God to do the seemingly impossible. Just like Gideon’s unlikely circumstances, so our friendship got its legs in the same way.
Women, from different walks of life spread over several generations, coming together to beat what odds we might stack against ourselves before even giving friendship a chance.
Gideon became a mighty warrior. We women became mighty fierce friends.