In November, my friend Julie had a heart attack.
Julie is 37.
The day it happened, Asia texted me at work to tell me she was in the hospital... text by text (as he was receiving them from her husband) he would tell me what was happening... "Julie is on her way to the hospital in an ambulance... heart palpitations", "In the ER... looks like it's for sure cardiac", "Massive heart attack - in surgery now..." It was a series of information so upsetting, each one more unbelievable than the next.
On my way home from work, still unsure of her status, I sobbed out prayers for Julie. For her family. For the doctors.
Julie is my friend.
We went into help mode immediately - figuring out what we could do for them... and ended up keeping their two boys at the house for a couple of days... and then the next week preparing and sharing Thanksgiving dinner with them and their extended family... 19 people in all.
I realized through that time - that I cherish Julie - and friends like her - more than I thought.
Sad that it took a potential death for me to recognize the importance of my friends...
That event is what really stirred up the inspiration for this series of posts.
Because while I do not consider myself a traditional friend - and I struggle with friendship with other women - I realized the value of being, and having friends.
When Corey's father had a heart attack several years ago, my initial reaction was to jump into action... to do whatever it took to be there for Corey. I was prepared to move to Canada for a couple of weeks and run her bed and breakfast so she could take care of her parents. I would do anything for her.
When Julie was recovering, I was prepared to do whatever it took for her to feel that her family was cared for in her absence.
When Tejan was here, I had friends who would call just to see if I wanted a Starbucks while I was sitting for hours on end at the hospital. Friends who would come sit with T. so I could run home and take a shower... friends that cried with me when he left and who would put their arms around me as the tears flowed freely...
I do have friends.
They just look different than what I sometimes think they ought to.
I have this vision of friendship that includes lots of time together... where you can work together in another woman's kitchen and instinctively know where things go and what to do next and where the conversation flows freely from time spent together. Where shared experiences lead into comfortable conversations and a desire for more shared experiences...
I don't exactly have that... although I do know where Julie's silverware is... and our families have spent lots of time together over the past year... and it becomes more and more comfortable for me...
So while our friendship (and many of my friendships) doesn't exactly look like my vision, it's getting closer. I'm a slow learner... and I'm not exactly good at the female friend thing... I'm a little awkward... and I've been told I'm 'hard to read'... but I really do value friendship.
I value being a friend. Being there for someone in their moment of need is such a huge privilege... and I cherish the opportunity to do that for someone.
I value having friends... having someone who hears my heart and who notices things about me and encourages me... and who can be there for me when I desperately need help.
So I guess it all means that I'm really good at the the big friendship skills... the 'oh my gosh she needs me' response is deeply ingrained in me. It's the little things I still need to work on... the 'I'm going to take a walk and it would be nicer to take it with a friend than go alone' stuff... the 'let's go shopping together' and 'we should bake cookies together' stuff that just just doesn't come very naturally to me. I'm not even sure if I value those little things... but I do acknowledge that without the little things, it's tough to become trustworthy enough to be allowed the privilege of the big things.
Shortly after Julie and her family moved to town, Corey was here visiting. One evening as we were taking a walk together I told her "I think God put Julie in my life for a reason. I think He wants me to be and have a friend... to stretch me back into that somehow..." There was a pretty remarkable set of circumstances that brought Julie and her family into our lives... and I had a sense that it was going to be more than just a casual thing. Somehow I knew I wasn't going to be able to avoid a friendship. (Because truthfully, I think for years I had been avoiding friendships with women...)
And gently, probably without even knowing it, Julie has been teaching me how to be, and have, a friend.
A friend that I want to do things with.
A friend that I can text when I'm excited about something. A recent example? "I just ran a 5K in 34:54!"
A friend that I spend an hour with each week, praying for our kids.
A friend that bought me a gorgeous paper flower stem for my birthday after I mentioned how much I liked hers one day at her house.
It's not just about Julie, though. It's also about learning from Asia how to care for others - and reaching out to younger women who (remarkably) look up to me as an older, wiser women.
It's about making an effort to maintain friendships from my past and continue to be a friend to those amazing women God has blessed me with over the years.
It's about letting go of past hurts and trusting the good in friendship.
It's about getting outside of myself - and my comfort zone - in the interest of being able to be there for someone else.
So it's a huge learning process.
And it's good.
If I have failed to be your friend over the years, forgive me. I think I've spent quite a bit of time choosing to be a bit of a hermit. Choosing to protect myself. Choosing to be selfish with my time because awkward isn't my favorite feeling.
I'm happy to say that God is faithful to bring out the best in us... even when it's a little uncomfortable... and when it doesn't come naturally. Somehow, He continues His patient, gentle molding of our selves into better pictures of His heart.
My name is Cathy. And I want to be your friend.