My husband swept the side patio as I hung four little lanterns on the cinderblock wall. I positioned four chairs in an evenly spaced square, marking the distance with my feet. Yes, that should be just fine. As the sun began to set, I plugged in a string of Edison bulb lights. The instant glow was like a warm welcome.
I could hardly contain my excitement.
I went inside and tucked my three boys in bed. “Can’t we stay up?” they begged. “We miss our friends too.”
“I know you do,” I said. “But this is just for the ladies.”
I grabbed a La Croix from the fridge and headed back outside. It was just cool enough to not be stifling and if a breeze picked up I might’ve even needed a sweater. I propped open the side gate, sat down, and sighed with joyful anticipation.
One by one, I heard the crunch of gravel and three beautiful friends emerged from the darkness. We air hugged, which was so weird. But we were happy to embrace the weirdness in exchange for stealing a little time together. It had been weeks since we had seen or had a face-to-face conversation (not through a screen) with someone outside our immediate families. Of course, we loved our husbands and children – but there’s a kind of soul nourishment that comes from being seen and understood by a friend.
Earlier in the day I texted my neighbor to give them a heads up about my planned (socially distanced) outdoor gathering. When the four of us girls get together, let’s just say the volume level is hard to contain. Our delight over sharing ridiculous stories always leads to the best kind of make-your-sides-ache hilarity.
I needed that kind of laughter tonight.
Yet this time was different. We were elated to see one another, but our conversation was more somber. Would one friend’s husband’s new job still start as scheduled? Would our friend with the high-risk pregnancy respond to her recent treatment? Would another friend mothering three littles and battling the terror of a stubborn three-year-old with epic-level sleep regression ever sleep again?
We took turns sharing all that had transpired in our individual bubbles over the last many isolated weeks. We were all strained in different ways as mothers and wives and working women, trying to provide for the physical, emotional, and educational needs of our families.
While the hard of what we were all going through seemed to outweigh the good, the good of being together was not lost on me.
You see, these are the friends I longed for, prayed for. Years earlier I cried out to God, begging Him for just one real friend. One friend who I could share the ins and outs of motherhood with. One friend who I could be honest with about how hard marriage can be. One friend whom I didn’t have to clean up my house for or slap a blurry filter on my life and pretend that all my imperfections weren’t really there.
God answered that desperate prayer. He answered it abundantly.
The glowing lights cast happy shadows on the ground. Crickets chirped. I inhaled the sweetness of the newly blossoming star jasmine. And I remembered the sweetness of how God had brought each one of these remarkable women into my life, how He slowly, beautifully knit our hearts and lives together.
It was through these women that God also answered my fervent plea for other families to do life with. As introverts, my husband and I like being home. We like being together. I know this is a gift. But for the first decade of our marriage I also craved the kind of friends who could be our friends together. We were likable enough, but finding another couple who clicked with both of us proved difficult. It seemed like an impossible dream.
Yet God heard the longing in my heart and again He answered lavishly.
For years now we’ve gathered for monthly couples’ dinners, family camping trips, and video game nights with too much pizza and soul-medicine laughter. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from my friends about intentional parenting, navigating conflict, and college-day pranks. But even more their friendship has taught me about the faithfulness of God.
Friendship these days sure looks different than it used to. Here in California, we’re still practicing safer-at-home, and I don’t know when that’s going to change. I can’t wait till I can hug my friends (probably till the point it feels awkward), hold hands in prayer, and share a meal around a big table.
But in the meantime, here’s what I do know: Our hearts were made to do life together. We were made to be known, seen, and cared for by other believers. If you have that kind of friend in your life, thank God for them today! Then find a creative way to keep building that friendship. If you long for a new or deeper friendship, keeping praying for that one friend. God is listening.
Becky shares more about how she went from floundering along to thriving in community in her book No Better Mom for the Job. Grab a copy today and discover practical strategies for cultivating meaningful, life-together friendships.
Find creative ways to keep building your friendships, even in the midst of a pandemic. #community -@beckykeife: Click To Tweet