Three days before the big move, Tim and I are sitting at our dining room table surrounded by a house that has imploded. Clothes are draped over furniture. Boxes lie around half packed, partially labeled. Food is on the counter. Dishes remain in the sink.
Panicked I turn to my husband, “I wanted to be so much further along than this by now.”
The week had not gone as planned. I came down with a virus that left me feverish and congested for three days. Two nights earlier, I woke up at 2:30am holding my right ear, screaming “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” I could not come up with more words to express the agonizing pain of my eardrum which had just burst. Yes. It is as horrible as it sounds.
The following day was a wash. Pain with every movement. Throbbing if I bent over. Fear of my ear popping. A complete inability to produce anything.
As I sat there surrounded by all that was left undone, tears sprang to my eyes. What if we can’t pack it all? What if I don’t get better before the move? What if we’re not out of here before the new owners move in?
Moreover, we had asked for help from our friends, but had not yet heard if anyone could come. This triggered my greatest fear:
What if no one cares enough about us to help?
Fear of abandonment by friends has been part of my story for over a decade. Connecting with others is a struggle for me, but my heart aches for it every day. Living in Denver became increasingly difficult as year after year friends moved away. First to Texas. Then to Wisconsin. Minnesota. Nebraska. China. Spain. They traveled further and further away from me – and in my mind I was left behind.
Lonely and isolated, two years ago I began to pray for friends. We knew at then that we would be moving back to Minnesota someday and I wondered, is it worth investing in relationships now when I know I will be leaving? When I know it will be one more goodbye?
But I was so lonely, I began to ask God for the right friends to come along. Friends who would understand me. Friends who would last. Friends who would stick with me in the bad and celebrate in the good. Friends who loved me as much as I loved them.
I took the risk and began to seek out the friends. Asked them to coffee. Took impromptu trips to Ikea for free coffee and free childcare (Can I get an hallelujah?). Listened and shared our hopes and fears, highs and lows. Invested in their children, made the effort to be a friend. As time went by I realized how much I cared about these women. Single. Married. Mothers. Child-free. I once again had friends.
Cupping my ear in a hopeless attempt to block out the throbbing pain, the insecure girl in me wondered, did they not love me, too?
Then, a text message: “I’ll be by after 6:00.” Kristi was coming.
You have to understand, Kristi has the organizational skills of a designer at The Container Store. The moment I knew Kristi was coming my heart began to sing. Everything is going to be ok.
Kristi is also one of those who I began to love before I even knew. When Tim and I came down with the stomach flu the exact same night, Kristi took in baby Ben without hesitation. If ever I felt like a failure as a mom, I knew I could count on Kristi to understand and cheer me on. We fed each others’ addiction for Ikea’s as-is section and good coffee – or just some of that free Ikea coffee. Running into her at costco would make my day.
Kristi was coming.
Then, surprise number 2: Amy showed up. “Miss Amy,” as Ben calls her. Ben has announced in public that he doesn’t like people, but he runs to Amy with hugs and kisses without a second thought. Amy has an ear for God’s voice unlike anyone I have met. She reminds me with every conversation that God is alive and moving. Amy loves each person with every piece of her soul. It is not often you find such tenacity of faith and love embodied in a being. Special to my kids, to my husband and me, her presence lifted my spirits further.
Amy was here.
An invalid like me, Amy could not lift much. But with Amy, Kristi, and I moving from room to room, so much got done. A bunch of guys showed up and did the heavy lifting out to the storage units. Within 3 hours, the house was nearly empty.
My heart was full.
My ear was going to explode.
At 9pm I could no longer move. I was unaware of anything except the torment within my ear. “Leah, you have to go to bed,” Amy told me.
I didn’t have a bed. It had been sold that day and our mattress was not set up. I sat and waited for Tim to come in to make it. The children were bouncing off the walls – hours past their bed time. Another hurdle to be climbed.
“Go to bed, Leah.” Amy, through her own pain had made my bed and was getting the kids into their pajamas. I stumbled towards the bedroom, tears in my eyes.
What if I had not opened myself up to them? What if I had not gotten the courage to ask Kristi to coffee or taken the time to get to know Amy? What then?
What if I had stayed to myself, hid in my fears of rejection? What if I had not learned to love a bit more – to receive love in return?
How empty my life would be! Not only would we probably still be stuck in Colorado, but I would have missed out on the friendship of these two amazing women.
I miss them and others like mad.
They were not the only people who helped us that week. Jessi and Stephanie took our kids. Traci, Deva, Fran, and Bethany. Larry and Cheryl. Jesse and Daniel. Alex and Scott and Matt. And other friends of Tim whose names I don’t remember.
Y’all. Thank you.
You taught me to love. You taught me to receive it. Because of you, I’m in Minnesota a better person. A much more whole person.
For the first time in years, I’m not afraid to find new friends. You taught me that others might like me or even love me in return. You taught me that we are all struggling through life, loving God, trying to make the best decisions, needing others to walk with us along the way.
As I look forward to friends old and new here in our old home made new, I will never forget your friendship.
Thanks for being God’s blessing on me, my husband, my kids.
See you soon.
May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.