I’m lucky to be part of a project called Somebody’s Mama. Our mission is to bring awareness to issues affecting women across the globe, to create a community of people who care deeply about finding real solutions, and to turn ideas into action. We live by Margaret Mead’s words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” This week, our Facebook page admin posted this:
If you glanced at it and scanned back down to my words, go back. If you read it, read it again. I CAN’T EMPHASIZE ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS.
The first time I remember having this experience was in elementary school when we started playing competitive sports. Through softball and soccer, I found myself surrounded by girls who loved the same things I loved and who rallied around me win or lose. One of the people I still love most in the world stood in front of me as a sweeper when I was goalie and behind me at third base while I pitched.
Throughout high school and college and into adulthood, I can point to groups of women who carried me through challenging times and brought the party when it was time to celebrate. Some of my best memories as a military spouse are of nights when I shared dinner with other spouses whose husbands were also deployed. The thing about finding and loving a group of friends is that you never know when or how it will happen. Sometimes it’s a result of organizational structure (sports teams, sororities, community or church groups), and sometimes it happens organically over time as a result of just living with each other—getting naked together as Jeanette Leblanc says in the picture above.
I met Stephanie when we were eight years old. Our families were attending the same church, and we spent those formative years scheming about how we could spend the night together every weekend. She was the first person I told when I started my period, and I gave her my training bra when she was too embarrassed to ask her mom to buy her one. We crushed on the same boys and wrote notes about them on church bulletins when we should have been paying attention. We traveled on mission trips and family vacations together, and when I decided to move “home” after my freshman year of college, the only thing that made sense was for us to be college roommates. If there is one person on the planet who could ruin my chances to be president, Stephanie is the one who holds the key to my closet.
In elementary school, I thought Stephanie and I would grow up to be like CC Bloom and Hillary Essex from Beaches. I, of course, was Bette Midler’s loud and obnoxious CC and Stephanie was Barbara Hershey’s demure and kind Hillary. (Thankfully, we did not play out the plot of the movie for so many reasons—primarily because I very much like having Stephanie alive and well.) I had the soundtrack on cassette tape, and even then, I thought of Stephanie every time I belted out Wind Beneath My Wings in my bedroom. While my personality may have been bigger at times, I always appreciated Stephanie’s quiet strength.
I asked her to stand with me at my wedding, and she asked me to officiate hers. When she and her husband struggled to get pregnant for three years, I was astounded at her ability to never lose hope. Watching her become a mother has been an awe-inspiring lesson in never taking life for granted. Stephanie has always been a deep feeler, and I have come to appreciate her sensitivity as a strength, something that pulls me out of my head and grounds me when I’m thinking too much. A few weeks ago, she called me crying because one of her other best friend's sisters found out her cancer is back, and the diagnosis this time is--well, it's not good. As we cried over the phone together, she said, "I just need you to know I love you. And pray. Just pray." That phone call was in large part the impetus for writing these Friendsday pieces in the first place.
Our friendship is one with history, with layers, with ups and downs and twists and turns, a long road for a joyful journey.
I met Jennifer because she’s Stephanie’s older sister. Because she’s a *wee bit* older than us, growing up, I thought she was beautiful and fancy. She threw parties with real food when we were poor college students. She was the first person we went to with good news about a new guy in our lives or for help if we needed a picture-burning party. While she knew how to have a good time, she was also a well of wisdom during that time of life when we needed a mom but didn’t want to talk to our actual moms.
As I transitioned from college kid to real life adult, my relationship with Jennifer evolved. Ten years ago, her daughter, Elizabeth, was a flower girl in my wedding, and now when we visit OK, her house is one of the first places my kids ask to go because she has a swimming pool and “the best snacks like candy and marshmallows.”
On one hand, Jennifer is deeply private, someone who works through things mentally before she talks through them, something I tend to do as well. On the other hand, she is generous with her time and energy and truly invests in the lives of her friends and family. She is the first to open her house for a party, and she has shown up at all the important events in my life—my wedding, my baby showers, and even my husband’s promotion party—because she understands the value of hospitality, gathering, and togetherness.
When I think about my relationship with Jennifer, I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the Romans in chapter 12 verse 15, “When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad.” She’s truly a friend for all seasons. Aside from my mom, she's the one person who nags me the most about publishing a book--with gentle reminders that what I have inside needs to be shared with the world.
I met Erika because her brother was Jennifer’s first husband. After both of them went through divorces, Jennifer and Erika were still friends, two single moms of young daughters. When I think about that time in their lives, I’m in awe of both of them. With life experience and perspective, I’m able to admire Jennifer and Erika for their determination and strength in adversity. They have known difficulties different than mine, but I recognize and covet their ability to come through challenges with grace and an appreciation for the lessons learned.
Despite the distance, Erika and I have an every day kind of friendship. She’s the only person I literally text/talk to/message every single day. I frequently go to the mailbox to find a package from her for no reason—a book she thinks I might like or on one occasion, a knitted Princess Leia doll that brightened a really dismal week I was having. She’s insanely thoughtful in the way she loves her people and understands the details of friendship. I named one of my chickens after her—the only one not named after a famous writer or book character.
Most recently, we have been venturing together into new territory—the world of “human care” (she’s the Facebook admin for Somebody’s Mama I mentioned above). We each have our strengths, and we make a great team. If I am the brain behind Somebody’s Mama, Erika is the heart. I’m a thinker; she’s a doer. I’m a questioner, and she’s an answerer. We are creating a community of people who care deeply about improving the lives of mamas around the world, and Erika is the reason it’s happening. She’s going to hate that I put it that way, but it’s true. I brought the ball, and she’s getting it rolling.
Because I'm an only child, and she doesn't have any sisters, it makes sense that we have adopted each other. If there was a process that existed to make us legally bound as family, we would be the first in line to sign the paperwork.
|Our shadows in Sedona--I had this picture mounted on canvas |
for everyone for Christmas one year.
While my relationships with all three of these women continue to evolve, we formally named ourselves the “Four Sisters” a little over two years ago when we traveled to Sedona, AZ to celebrate Jennifer’s 40th birthday. Since then, we have very purposefully gathered together when I am visiting OK, intentionally celebrating each other—through Christmas present exchanges over brunch, days by the pool with our kids, or dinners out. I could write pages about the lessons I’ve learned from each of them, but the bigger point is this—I NEED these women in my life. These are friendships forged in the fires of life’s greatest messes and on the mountaintops of celebration. I need them in my life because they remind me that I’m not my weaknesses or my failures, and they reflect all the best things I love about myself.
When I was in the middle of writing this piece, I (no joke!) got this text:
While I can’t be there in person, you better bet I’ve got a date via phone with my girls. I’ll bring the virtual mimosas. As we head into this week before Christmas, I am thanking my 8-pounds 6-ounces newborn infant Jesus for these three gifts he’s given me in the form of laughing, feeling, thinking, loving women who choose to dive in, hold on, and love it up with me—so much so that I believe the fabric of my being is woven together with theirs.
Merry Christmas, sisters. I try to tell you as often as I can that I love you, but there is no such thing as too many times. I love you. I love you. I love you.