Tag Archives: friends

Standing on a Road I Didn’t Plan.

I can look at my life right now and quite confidently say had you asked me 5 or 10 years ago what my life would be like on February 8th 2013 I wouldn’t have described anything like the reality. I used to be a real dreamer before life got its teeth in. I would probably have told you that I saw myself married with a baby, probably a boy called Martin, and quite possibly still on maternity leave from a full time job that had provided handsomely for us to save  little nest egg toward the overall cost of raising Martin and any siblings who may come along. I would have probably told you I couldn’t see myself living anywhere that wasn’t a quiet village within the catchment area of a good Christian school.

Life has an uncanny ability to take your dreams and plans and twist them or tear them up and destroy them. Sometimes along the way it has felt like even the dreaming was foolish and I was deluding myself. There have been times when I thought I would end up on my own for the rest of my life, although I didn’t ever believe that was God’s plan. Many times I got impatient and prayed angry, impatient prayers demanding to know why I was stuck in a rut. I remember one particular evening where it really felt like God was holding out on me.

My previous church had traveled from York to the Lake District for the first of two away weekends, the B-on-Fire Weekend (the second was at a similar time the following year). We all arrived across Friday evening, having dinner when we arrived and sorting out who was in which dorm. We enjoyed a time of fellowship that evening and it was great to be together as a church family. We shared time on the Saturday too and some of us went out and walked up some of the big hills and mountains. I went up one of the big hills, Cat Bells, with my sister and two best friends (who I really miss right now). We had a great sense of achievement and another member of our church group took a photo of us at the top. After the exertions of the day and all the time spent together I decided to find a quiet place and have a few minutes to myself. I remember I sat in a stairwell and thought back over the day and reflected on what I was going home to the following day. Home was okay but it felt lonely at times and the monotony of stacking shelves five days a week had worn me down. I wanted a better job, a partner who would love me and a hope at least of having a family. I sat on the stairs telling God that if I was going back to life exactly as I had left it I would rather not go back, but that wasn’t an option. When JLW found me I must have been there 15-30 minutes and I had tears running down my face. She tried to get me to talk but I was so upset I couldn’t at first. It took at least 5 more minutes and LCT joining us before I managed to sob out that I didn’t want to go back to my life the way it was. They prayed and LCT said that all the pieces would fall into place.

The following year when we were there again I had changed my job and moved to lodge with IndysGrandma but I still slipped quietly to that stairwell again because my job wasn’t secure, lodging didn’t feel like a home and I was still single. I went and prayed and cried all on my own that time because JLW and LCT had some fairly big issues of their own that, unbeknownst to me, were kicking off while I was in the stairwell. The pieces weren’t in place for me or for my friends right then.

Over the years I’ve watched my friends as the pieces have fallen into place for them but not for me. I have tried so hard not to covet their partners, children or lives as I see them. I’m sure that JLW’s life isn’t always as great as it seems to be and that everyone has their struggles at times. I just look at where my life has gone in the 5 and a half years since the tears in the stairwell that first year and see a mess. I’d love to be married right now to an amazing man and be expecting my second child, a sibling for my 2 year old, in about 5 weeks.

I’m unemployed, not working even part-time and that makes me very frustrated and often quite down. Life at home has been difficult because both of my parents have been out of work for health reasons so we’ve had financial struggles. Church can be difficult, walking into what feels at times to be a very middle class environment where I don’t always feel at home.

There is however one gem, one shining light even when I’m down and church feels like walking into a room full of strangers; my fiance. We’re often at church together and sometimes having him there makes the difference between whether I stay or walk straight out. He makes me laugh at the most ridiculous things even when I’m down and his arms are there if it’s really bad.

In eight weeks I will marry my own amazing man. We can look forward together to spending some time building our relationship stronger because although after 2 years it seems quite strong we recognise we still have some building to do together. In about a year we’ll start to think about adding a little one or two, although we’re not planning on calling a son Martin. We’re starting to make my dream a reality. Still there’s a piece missing, I’m still trying to find the right path to the right door that leads to the job God has in his plan for me. I try to believe it’s there somewhere and it will happen one day when I’m not expecting it, but for now it’s hard sometimes to keep the faith and knock at the doors.

Where will I be in 5 years? I don’t know. I think I’ll be happily married, hopefully with at least one child. I hope I’ll have a job, even just a part-time one. I might be playing with my creative skills and selling things I knit or decorating cakes or something. I might even find someone who’ll pay me for my writing. Only God knows and He isn’t sharing that information with me. I’ll try to live each day as it comes and not worry about tomorrow.

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It’s just I’m not sure I fit in here. There’s no one I can really talk to.

Take a deep breath. Try not to over think things. Remember why you’re here.

New situations, rooms full of new people, places I haven’t been to and sometimes places that I have can almost literally petrify me. If you have met me and I have started a conversation rather than waiting to ‘speak when spoken to’ you can probably count yourself among the honoured few. If I have divulged a secret or shown you a glimpse of who I really am you can count yourself honoured indeed.

I wear masks, not actual physical ones usually, the figurative type we can all put on. Sometimes they get me through the door into the new situation, the room of new people or the place I have never been. If there is a chance I will observe and adapt. I do have a generic ‘go to’ if there is no opportunity to adapt.

I remember walking into my current church for the first time four years ago. I had been at my previous church for eleven years and that church had become like family. Changing churches was a big deal, at that point it was like a child leaving home. We, Brother, Sister and I were leaving our safe, cosy church where everyone knew everyone (I left small out of the description) to walk into this new, unknown church. We knew it was a much bigger and, boy did we hope, younger church. We were changing churches partly to find other Christians our age. The first service I went to was a family service and as we approached the building I reminded myself of the three things at the top of this post. I think it was remembering why I was there that got me through the doors. Once through the doors things were okay, there was no fuss or anything. In fact for most of the service no one spoke to me, which was a good thing. I liked that no one pounced on the new people and I could just enjoy church without having to speak to anyone new. After a few weeks of only speaking to my sister’s friend and her parents who would kindly give us lifts for the evening service however I was starting to miss the people I could talk to and wonder if I was in the right place.

Brother had quickly found out about a congregation that met in a bar on Wednesday evenings called Conversations. I thought I would try it and see if it might have what I was looking for. I guess I needed it to be somewhere I didn’t feel invisible or anonymous but I could still keep the mask on. That is what it was. I went and was welcomed by someone who genuinely wanted to know who I was and found out more that evening than people in the central church congregations had all month. There was still a background to fade into, but as I watched I hoped I had found a place to fit in, to make friends, maybe even to belong.

It took a while to settle in to Conversations and I was mostly happy to just sit back and observe as I tried to work out who might be a friend and perhaps ultimately a confidante among this new group of people. It was still difficult for me because although I was in a place where the congregation was small enough that everyone noticed me there were only one or two people who made an effort to find out about me. I guess it got to the point where I was there and felt like part of the furniture but at times felt as though this still wasn’t quite where I belonged and couldn’t really say that I had real friends there, probably more acquaintances. There were some people I met occasionally away from the meetings on a Wednesday and we had a prayer group but I still never really found a person to really confide in.

When I met Fiancé at New Wine he was another new person. I was unsure at first whether we would even talk never mind making friends or anything more. I guess that being with people I had known for a while at the pub in Lincoln gave me a little bit of confidence although I don’t remember saying very much to him then except to ask what he did for a job. After New Wine he started to come to Conversations and I started to notice things about him that made me interested. I started to make sure I sat at the same table a him and I listened whenever he spoke. I guess I fell for him by degrees, a little more each week until around Christmas time, 4 months after we first met, when I realised that despite some family things that were going on I couldn’t keep him out of my mind. I prayed one night that if he was the one God intended me to have a relationship with that he would ask me out, the next day I received a text asking me to go to dinner.

Fiancé and I have been together for a year and eight months now. We’ve been through some tough times and some happy times together already. I think we’re a good couple and fit well together. We spend our time together and share our lives with each other. In April Fiancé will become Husband. He is one of my best friends and my confidante. I know that I can talk to him and usually he’ll listen.

Sometimes though I miss my friends from my previous church still. I might want to talk to someone about Fiancé or our relationship, to ask for advice from someone older and wiser or just to have a girly chat about the things that don’t interest Fiancé. Conversations doesn’t meet any more and the people I met there are becoming little more than facebook friends. I wish that there were someone that is a regular part of my life now that I could talk to but most of the ‘friends’ I have right now who I see every week do not fit the bill. I sometimes long to sit down with friends who have moved away or that are too busy leading their own active lives to see me every week and pour out how life sometimes makes me feel. Maybe my prayer life isn’t what it could be, but even then there are some things you want a discussion or real conversation about and it doesn’t always seem like that is possible with God. There are times when I still feel alone in a room full of people.

 

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A photograph can take you back in time to faces and embraces that you thought you’d left behind.

When I saw the quote that is the title of this post I knew that I had a post to write to go with it, and I could find a photograph. JLW, AMW, Sister and me are all on the photo, with AmericanGirl, YoungMum, Wibby and LCT. I remember the weekend it was taken. It was over 4 and a half years ago, the weekend I had quit my job stacking shelves at one of the big 4 supermarkets in the UK and was at the start of what turned out to be a tumultuous time in my life. Wibby and LCT were both about to embark on new chapters of their lives, starting at university and our youth group would break apart four months later. It was a month before JK became a bigger part of my life. AmericanGirl was someone JLW had met and was only really part of our group for that weekend with her brother and their parents.

The weekend was fun. We met together on the Friday evening and had some worship time with another youth group from a church a friend of ours had contacts with. It was good to spend the time with another youth group and we were sad to see them leave at the end of the evening

JLW was staying at her parents’ house and all the girls slept over there while the boys went back to AMW’s house just down the road and stayed there. The following morning the girls had breakfast and went for a walk. After the walk we all got together for lunch that JLW’s sister helped to prepare. AFter lunch we had a talk on ‘Creation and Evolution’ that was given from a scientific viewoint so although it did not argue completely for one thing or the other it focussed in on ‘intelligent design’ and how someone had to have designed so much of the universe. We played some games out in the long lawned garden after the talk.

Mid-afternoon we all went to AMW’s house and we had another worship session, this time with CellMum and CellDad, who had stepped down from leading the youth cell about 3 months before. It was always good to get together with them and we always had fun with them. We had dinner together there and slowly but surely people started going home.

That weekend was amazing and I have been on other amazing weekends since but the friends I shared that weekend with were different to all the others and although looking through the photos on LCT’s facebook I can see the friends who have drifted away because life and work and studies have called them in different directions I know I will always treasure them and the memories we made in our time as ‘True Vine’. I often think of those friends and we are in touch through social networking sites, although one or two went last time I sorted my facebook friend list. I know that some are still studying, some are married or have been, two have babies and one is about to become a father. I wish them well in their futures and although some will be left behind I am sure some will be part of my future as well as my past.

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You’ve Got a Friend in Me

On my 30th birthday my best friend (JLW) rang me. It was not a call to wish me a happy birthday, in the busyness of the run up to Christmas with her one-year-old my birthday had slipped her mind. The fact my birthday had slipped her mind was not important. When she apologised for forgetting I knew she genuinely meant it. That’s part of our friendship, being ready to apologise and forgive.

Something JLW said to me during that call stuck. She told me I was her most ‘God-like’ friend, loyal, trustworthy, unchanging in my friendship and ready to forgive. I was pleased to know that is how she sees me, even though it made me wonder about other friendships. Friendships missed, lost and gone but not forgotten.

I was already 21 when I met JLW and had not had a ‘real’ friend my own age for about ten years, since leaving primary school. There was AMW (not related to JLW) who I had known for about twelve years and counted as a friend for six, but she could not be the ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ kind of friend I needed. She is loving and so much fun as a friend, but she has Down Syndrome.

I went through the ‘Steps to Freedom in Christ’ with CellMum and GlassPainter  and at the end of that they, with God’s guidance, identified my need for a real ‘caring, sharing’ friend. They prayed for that friend for me and I went away not expecting much to come of it. God showed me he really is able to do more than we ask or imagine.

It was less than a month after the prayer was prayed. I had been out with GlassPainter walking a gorgeous dog called Milly for friends of hers. We had talked about things and she had mentioned the friend she felt sure God would bring me. On the walk I had dismissed the whole idea that God would bring me this friend, never saying so to GlassPainter. It was just a normal Sunday I had sat with 1of4 on my lap for most of the church service until she went out to creche. I had noticed a new couple at church with their grown up daughter but not been overly interested. At the end of the service though watching my sister talk to this new young woman I saw that she was friendly and that my sister was getting on quite well with her. I went over and my sister introduced me. The new young woman was JLW (or JLL as she was then). We started to make friends at church and then CellMum asked JLW to join our youth cell. I found out that the dog, Milly, was JLW’s family pet. From the seed that was planted when CellMum and GlassPainter prayed a friendship began to grow. It took a long time for me to start to open up with JLW and she was patient with me. It took time but we started to open up to each other and to become real friends.

My friendship with JLW brought other blessings. Somehow when she stepped through the door into friendship with me she had opened a door that had been shut tight for over eleven years, a door that went deeper than any of the superficial ‘friendships’ I had tried to form. She found a way into my heart that no one had found for a long time, and left it open. In time LCT and LAD followed her through and while they never went quite as far as JLW did and have stepped back slightly over time I still count them my friends. There is one who followed every step of the path JLW opened and that is JK (and yes, the first initials stand for the same name). For (need to check in my journal and amend) years both Js have been the best friends I could ever have wished for.

JLW taught me so much about friendship, much of it by accident through the twists and turns her path has taken. I have learnt what it means to be there (and really be there) for a friend who is hurting, I have learnt what it feels like to know that friend is there for you when you hurt. I have learnt the give and take nature of relationship and have learnt what happens when friends hurt each other. I have learnt what it means to forgive and be forgiven.

One thing JLW has taught me well is that friends can still be friends despite a distance of over 130 miles between us. I was scared that because I had let myself love JLW that when she moved away I would lose her. My first best friend, Bryony, had been lost that way and I had lost others that I had loved. When JLW moved from York to the Borders to live near her God-given man (who I will call MountainMan) I thought that would be it. She would spend time with MountainMan and his friends and she would forget me.It has been 4 years now and MountainMan changed her last intial 3 years and two weeks ago. Their daughter is 16 months old and beautiful. Twelve days ago I sat in JLW’s sister’s living room with JLW, her sister and my brother watching JLW’s daughter play. JLW and I are still friends, it’s easy to pick up again and be the way we always were. She is going to be 2nd bridesmaid at my upcoming wedding with her daughter as flower girl.

I’m now able to build friendships with people that are about loyalty and being there no matter what, that are about investing time and energy to make it work. Thanks to God and JLW I know now that my friends can be my greatest allies and best blessings. I understand that God uses people to bless us and to help us on our way along life’s rollercoaster roads. I’m glad and so thankful that he does.

Without God bringing JLW into my life I would be such a different person now. Because that door was unlocked and left open JLW and JK are and always will be an important part of my life, I have been able to build a friendship that blossomed into romance and a promise of forever with my fiance and I can appreciate when people say that some friends are just for a season. I am so thankful that God blessed me with such great mentors in CellMum and GlassPainter.

I know that ‘Friends are friends forever if the the Lord’s the lord of them.’ I trust it and believe it because of the friends I have now. The friends I lost along the way, the ones I missed because my blinkers were on may have just been lessons I had to learn, but something tells me that it was all in God’s plan. One friend I thought I had lost forever, the last friend I had ten years before JLW, is back in touch with me. Hopefully OldestFriend can be at my wedding too, but if not that’s okay because at least I know some things we may think are lost are only misplaced and can be found again.

My friends have helped to fix the broken me a bit, and while I still have a way to go I know that they will be there every step of the way. If you are one of those friends I want to say thank you and to let you know you will always have a friend in me 🙂

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