The Dream-Maker’s Daughters – Women stepping out in mid-life

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“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.” – (The Great) Erma Bombeck

By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to do a lot of things. But while she was waiting until she had time to do them, she did other things. She became a woman who did lots of important life work:

She became a mother and raised children.

She fell in love and got married.

She wrote a lot of poetry read a lot of books.

She even wrote a few.

She held several full-time jobs at one time or another.

She served in church.

Pretty standard fare.

Then, one by one, many of the manifestations of importance in her life grew up and moved on, fell away, or got too messy to maintain.

As things left, she sought new things to do. But she couldn’t remember what her inner little girl had dreamt of doing in the first place, when she finally had the time to consider it.

The messed up part of her says “Bah! All of it was frivolous and time-wasting. Better you don’t remember those dreams. And especially don’t ACT on the ones you do remember. Time is precious, don’t waste it.”

But her truest identity as Daughter of the King won’t be shushed for exactly that reason….time is precious.

Now, in midlife, she is finding that she has been considering God from a place of paralysis….so afraid to do the wrong thing, she does nothing at all.

“What if I fail?” She asks. “I’m too old to start over.”

Take action, God says. I will bless it if it’s the right thing, and if you are wavering and need to be corrected, I will restore gently. Either you win or you learn, but operate from a place of Love and move. Step out.

Time is only finite, but here’s the thing….it bends to the Creator.

In the tenderest places in her soul – the ones where the King keeps as storehouse for that crazy Grace of His – He keeps reminding her of the truth.

That she is kin to The Dream-Maker Himself, and is more than free to ask Him for new dreams. He delights in His children!

That she is still on a mission, with the benefit of experience to move forward expecting great things.

That this season is a time for exploring and listening, not being plagued with identity crisis. Satan is the author of confusion and the enemy of clarity.

That she is not ‘past her prime’ and done with her purpose until she stops asking “What’s next, Papa?” He placed the dreams in her heart for a purpose in every life stage.

That even though the world has gone mad, God keeps her full of Grace on every occasion. He does not finance her life in a deficit.

That it’s not too late. It’s never too late!

Do the things, Daughter! Do them with joy.

I have come that you have life to the FULL.

Once upon a time there was a woman approaching 50 years of age, and God gave her a little extra time to figure out who she really is.

In this new season, she is grateful for that.

 

Time is finite. Lord Jesus, help me to make my portion count. Let me use up everything you give me, every bit of talent.

AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

Rising to Vulnerability

RiseBy: Jana Greene

Rising.

When I was a young mother and my children very small, I carried them on my right hip.  This went on long after they were able to walk by themselves, and so often that now  – all  these many years later – that hip has a tendency to jut out a bit when I am standing still. The youngest child in particular, I carried for a long time.

“Hold me up?” she would say in a tiny rasp, her small arms stretched upward.  In times of particular urgency, she would stand tiptoe for extra height and open and close her tiny hands rapidly, like the motions to the nursery rhyme about all the little stars, twinkling.  Of course I would pick her up…what else is a mother to do?  Her gesture acknowledged that she was small…that she wanted a better view of her world.

Fast forward a dozen years or so.  This little girl is in her teens, nearly grown –and trying to figure out who she is meant to be. And I, as her mother, am on a similar journey to find purpose, I suppose you could say.  Of particular fascination on this leg of the trip is the fairly recent tendency I’ve developed to be more open during worship at church.  Demonstrative, actually.  With the lights dimmed during service, praise music hammering with invitation to God to be present with us, in us…first come the tears. And then the hands.

I did not grow up a “hands-raiser”, or a “tongue-talker”.  I was raised swaddled in a quilt of various Bible-belt denominations, Baptist and Methodist chief amongst.  Shouting was for cheering at football games, “amen” was for saying grace at dinner, and hand-raising for students who had a question for the school teacher.  To shout in church was to call yourself out as a “Penty-costal”, to clap out of time was to call attention to yourself, and calling attention to yourself made you that thing which to was to be avoided in order to self-preserve: vulnerability.

But now, not caring who was witness to my worship, I wonder why? Why when falling to my emotional knees, did I try to stifle raising my arms?  Why did I question my own motives for worshiping in such a manner?

Choking with tears, I remembered my baby daughter’s pleas with outstretched arms. And the urgency, in times she felt the most overwhelmed. Or restless. Or too weary to walk. Was she raising her hands up to me in order to receive? Surely, yes.  But also because I was so much taller than she, my vantage point offering an entirely different view. The action of lifting her tiny arms to me made her vulnerable.

The first time I raised my hands to God, I was vulnerable, too. But there is wild, unexpected abandon in vulnerability.

“Pick me up so I can see, Daddy!” is what my spirit says, in the most raw and relinquishing of times – when I feel smallest with no need to self-preserve.  “Carry me”.  Certainly, a request made to receive his lifting-out, but also in the purest form of worship….the kind in which my spirit calls the shots, and my body must obey.

And He always, always picks me up.

What else is a Father to do?

Mother’s Day/Father’s Day – when feelings won’t be held at bay

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My daughter Jana,

I’ve been watching you , keeping up with your feelings. I know you imagine I watch  you from my throne in Heaven, so far way. But in reality, I’m as close as you as your own heart, the one that’s been broken; the one that has been skipping beats lately. I am as close as the breath you have a hard time catching when you try to cry quietly. I am right there with you.

You’ve been a bit down lately, really kind of “attitude-y Judy” if you will, and I know it’s because of Father’s Day. Well, really, your blues  started to settle in around Mother’s Day, just  last month. You have been out of whack ever since.

You are estranged from the mother that you dearly love, because you heart has decided that healthy boundaries must be in place, but your brain has decided those boundaries were not  being respected.  At your heart-brain summit – trying to figure out what to do –  there was only chaos. I feel like maybe it’s time to let it go.

Father’s day is an even more loaded occasion. Aside from celebrating it for Your Beloved husband, you have no dog in this fight. The man who was most like father  to you (besides Me, of course) was your grandfather, Papa. How much he loved you, and you loved him! It is a beautiful thing so witness so much devotion this side of the Kingdom. Does my own heart good to see.

But when, my daughter, are you going to let go of the others who “fathered” you? The one whose DNA I chose to combine with your mother’s to weave you into being, and knit you in her womb? I am sorry he did not stick around. Is wasn’t about you, you know. Ahhh, perhaps that is the biggest problem – his indifference made it about you.

And others in the “father” position, like the others who volunteered to step into that role. You simply have to understand that it is a tragic thing that he took advantage of his position and that you were hurt. Oh, my child, you were only very small.

In love, I want to suggest to you – instead of focusing on the loss and estrangement, the hurt and the trauma of your earlier life …you could try to consider things from another side? I will not force you to let it go, child. I am quite a gentleman, in that I insist you must make the choice. But when you do, I am here to help you move on.

You, my daughter, are a survivor! Strong in heart and in mind. And what you’ve lost in this life, you can see I have given back to you ten-fold, if  you stop only looking back. Your cup is overflowing with blessings … Look around you, my child! Look forward.

All  the issues with parents (who are, after all, just human beings like you) cannot dilute the love you receive in your life every single day. Let go of the relationships that make you feel lost, orphaned, alone…and look around at this life I’ve given you!

What you lack in relationship with your parents, I have given you 1,000 times more, through circles of friends whom you love – and love you – like family. People I have purposely brought into your life (again, not by orchestrating from a different galaxy, but from within and with-out and all around you) cradle you in more care than you ever imagined you would experience in this life.

When have you gone through a time of sorrow or joy that you were not surrounded with friends that rush toward you, to climb in the trenches and sit with you in your sorrow, or rejoice with great exuberance when celebration was in order?

In your husband alone, I’ve given you a best friend and confidant, a lover, a helper; and a wonderful father for your children, as well. In all the world, I chose him for you, so that you would never feel lost, orphaned, alone again.

My daughter, if you would just realize this … maybe you would be lifted up. Maybe you could be a bit of a “gratitudey– Judy” – ya think? (I knew you’d get a kick out of that one!)

Let things go that do not matter, look around you and realize what you really do have.

And if you do… if you really see it, your epiphany might help me to have the best Father’s Day ever.
I love you.

Abba

 

Valor, quietly: What “Father-ness” really looks like

“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”

– John Mayer, “Daughters”

I used to be a big fan of greeting cards – Instagram-esque images on the front, the oh-so-eloquent sappiness that makes up the text inside. But these days, I’m finding that Hallmark doesn’t always capture the essence of occasions. Here in my sepia years (not near ‘golden’, mind you) mass-generated greetings don’t cut it.

Looking for a Father’s Day card to recognize my husband, I hovered over a card on the rack that pictured the quintessential daddy-daughter image: A black-and-white picture of dancing feet – a little girl’s bare feet perched upon her father’s leather Oxfords. I love that image.

Isn’t that what father-ness looks like?

What does it look like, as a reel – instead of a snapshot? It is a no guts, no glory endeavor. Father-ness also looks like a million other little acts of devotion.

It looks like canceling long-awaited plans to attend a chorus concert/band performance/theatrical production that a child forgot to mention until the day of.

It looks like children whom he has advised can “tell him anything” will, in fact, tell him anything.

It looks like forgoing something he wants – or even needs – so that the girls can have what they want and need.

It looks like giving 100% in the little things, like positive reinforcement for clean dishes and put-away laundry.

It looks like giving 100% with little or no notice for big things – like weddings. Moves. Driver’s licenses.

It looks like unselfishness.

It looks like knowing a child’s favorite birthday cake flavor, and going to all the grocery stores in town until you find it.

It looks like making taking the time to hear their points-of-view of his kids  (even when they make no sense, even when they are “wrong”.)

It looks like insisting that they treat their mother/step-mother with respect, even in the sassiest teen years (such a mouthy time!)

It looks like openly loving God, while respecting the truth that each daughter is on her own the journey to discover that God is real.

It looks like praying on behalf of each one of them, every day.

It looks like midnight runs to the skating rink, and dropping four other loud, yapping, excitable teens off at their own houses, so their parents don’t have to make a midnight run. Sometimes, it looks like four or five loud, yapping, excitable teens having a sleepover at his house.

It means rolling with the punches, constantly – without harboring resentment, or bestowing guilt on the children.

It looks like valor, quietly.

It looks like giving away his life’s treasure to her new husband on her wedding day, and making that day as memorable as possible for her.

It looks like buying class rings that he knows will be worn once, and then sit in a drawer. And it means never mention a word of the expense again.

It looks like treading the fine line to deal with a daughter’s choice to date the over-cologned, greasy haired, lip ring-wearing, juvenile delinquent, junior Bad Ass (completely unworthy of her,) without being overbearing (thus increasing the boy’s appeal ten-fold.)

It looks like buying feminine hygiene products when necessary – without embarrassment. Without missing a beat.

It looks like stick-to-it-ness when going through the drudgery of parenting, honestly – the day-in, day-out homework inquiries.

It looks like having stunt-man like ability to roll off the drama.

It looks like learning – and accepting – that all three daughters respond differently to different situations, that “one size” rules, privileges, and relating does not fit “all.”

It looks like honoring our daughters, even when their behavior is not honor-worthy.

It looks like standing in a darkened window with a notepad in-hand to write down the license plate number of a boy who has picked up a daughter for a date. (Date my daughter? Be ready to be properly vetted. ) Note to daughters: Yes, he did this – and with enough forethought to make sure the dining room lights were off before you left. Better visibility.

It looks like shuttling kids to doctor appointments, play practices, sleep-overs, and SAT tests. And back again.

It looks like listening to Christina Aguilera, when he’s in a Robert Cray kind of mood.

It looks like being the practical parent; not always getting to be the fun parent. It looks like school supplies instead of frivolities, in leaner times.

It looks like treating your wife exactly the way you want your daughters to be treated by their husbands.

My Beloved’s flesh-and-blood daughter was born with the privilege of calling him “Dad.” He has raised her most of her life. She is a married now, still Daddy’s Girl at 22 years old.

“Most people experience just having a mom raise you – or even both parents if you’re lucky – but I always just had my dad,” she recently told me. “He is the one person who told me what he thought and then let me make my own decisions without judgment…always dropping everything to help me, and giving me the biggest hugs, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. He has given me a life to be proud of, always giving me the best advice and showing me how to better my future. “

For my own two daughters, My Beloved came on the scene when they were 10 and 13; the first and only man I dated as a single mom that my daughters immediately gave the stamp of approval (I only dated a couple, I swear!)

“Mom didn’t really have any boyfriends before my step-father, but she did go on dates occasionally,” my youngest, now 18,  says. “Being the grumpy child that I was, I did not like any of them, but something about him was different. He didn’t just care about mom; he cared about my sister and I – and he went out of his way to show it. A few weeks into his relationship with my mother, he surprised me with a necklace of my favorite animal – a penguin. It had a gold chain and crystal eyes, and came in a penguin-shaped case. It wasn’t my birthday or anything … he just wanted to show me that he cared. I hoped that he would be my stepfather, and I am so grateful that it happened!”

My eldest, also now 22,  came to appreciate that he put in the time with parental grunt work: “A lot of things stick out to me when I think about my step-father,” she says. “He took time to come to all my school events and basically ‘owned’ us all from the get-go. One of my favorite memories is recent – just last month – when he came and sat with you during my tonsillectomy even though he didn’t have to….even though I was pretty out-of-it, and wouldn’t have known if he had skipped it. Waking up and seeing that he was there, that meant a lot to me. That’s just who he is. He is really that person.”

What does Father-ness look like, really look like?
So much better than a Hallmark card; so much deeper than Instagram-esque imagry and sappy sentiment. Off the rack; a reel of a million little acts of devotion. And some really big ones.

It looks like love.

Footnote from My Beloved’s daughter, Lynzee, who is leaving to be with her husband stationed in Japan in just a few days:

“Dad…
I’m not a very adventurous person. But you always told me, ‘You’re never going to see what the world has to offer you unless you put yourself out there and try new things.’
So now that I’m an ‘old married lady’; I have a chance to go to Japan for three years. Even though I haven’t left yet, I already miss you.
Thank you for working so hard. You’re always my secure place to call home. You are an awesome dad, and I love you.”

 

Destination Baker Street

Keys in Wilmington, NC
Keys in Wilmington, NC

One single car ride.

I don’t even remember where we were are going, my mother and I … just she and I alone in the car. I must have been ten years old, right on the cusp of Mommy Worship and Mommy Disdain. My young mother still in her late twenties – a beautiful, volatile, ball of energy and light. I catch a glimpse of her sideways as we rolled down the road. She smiles, turning the radio up.

Baker Street, her favorite song. We hand-crank the windows down – Gerry Rafferty’s tinny vocals blasting us like the wind. She sings:

Winding your way down on Baker Street

Light in your head and dead on your feet

Well, another crazy day

You’ll drink the night away And forget about everything.

Filaments of her blonde hair whip about her face, and I feel a pain for loving her so much. She looks like an angel with a Dorothy Hamill  haircut. I take a big breath to sing along with her, but  the air is full from the smoke of burning leaves from someone’s yard, and I cough. We laugh.

You used to think that it was so easy

You used to say that it was so easy

But you’re trying, you’re trying now.

She reaches over to the passenger seat and takes my hand, smiling. She is proud that I know the words to the chorus. I remember when I was very little and she would tell me it was me and her against the world. The world was antagonist; we were invincible. My hand didn’t swim in hers like back then, it fit perfectly.

Another year and then you’d be happy

Just one more year and then you’d be happy

But you’re crying, you’re crying now.

We did very bad air-saxaphone routines with our voices, just for the sake of being silly. All of the elements for a perfect mother-daughter moment, all serendipitous-like. She lets go of my hand to light a cigarette in the interlude.

Way down the street there’s a light in his place

He opens the door, he’s got that look on his face

And he asks you where you’ve been

You tell him who you’ve seen

And you talk about anything.

We sing at the top of our lungs, her words sometimes coming out in smoke as she exhales.

He’s got this dream about buying some land

He’s gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands

And then he’ll settle down In some quiet little town

And forget about everything.

At stop lights, people stare at us. We sing louder! We are beautiful, volatile balls of energy and light. Of course all the other drivers wish that they were as cool as we are, singing Baker Street. Mom flicks her cigarette butt out the window absently.

But you know he’ll always keep moving

You know he’s never gonna stop moving ‘

Cause he’s rolling, he’s the rolling stone

A single car ride, burned into the filament of my spirit. I don’t even know where we were going, and it doesn’t matter. I feel the same pain from loving her so much, when I remember it. What I wouldn’t do do have the three or four minutes on a Fall afternoon in Houston, my hand in my mother’s – fitting just right. Before another crazy day.

To talk about anything.

To forget about everything.

Before the world was antagonist.

And when you wake up, it’s a new morning The sun is shining, it’s a new morning And you’re going, you’re going home.

Breast Practices – supporting nursing mothers

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Fresco of Maria Lactans (literal translation: Mary as a nursing mother) at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Agliate, Italy.
As you can see, Mary is breastfeeding Jesus without so much as a blankie covering her shoulder.
Also, I can find no evidence that Mary – in either a fresco representation, nor the concordance of my Bible – fed him in a bathroom.

By: Jana Greene

A young mother on an afternoon shopping trip at the mall juggles her fussy, hungry four-month old son. She needs to feed him, so she:

a) Sits on a bench in front of Victoria’s Secret store, and digs through the diaper bag for a bottle of formula. Her son quiets instantly as she feeds him. Shoppers smile as they pass by, because everybody loves a baby –  particularly a quiet one. Everyone loves to see a mommy caring for her child.

b) Sits on a bench in the mall – this time in the Food Court –  and digs through a diaper bag for a receiving blanket. She drapes it over her shoulder and  lifts her blouse underneath discreetly, and with a swift motion of the other arm, cradles her four-month-old son to her breast. Her son quiets instantly as she feeds him. Many shoppers either avert their eyes or make snarky comments amongst themselves as they pass by (some make them intentionally  loud enough for the young mother to hear) – Because everyone loves a baby, but apparently not everyone loves to see a mommy caring for her child.

Which of the mother’s feeding choices do you find most offensive?

As it so happens, a mother shopping at an actual Victoria’s Secret store in Austin, Texas was asked not to nurse her infant in the store at all. Not even in a dressing room. It was suggested by employee that – are you sure you’re ready to finish reading this? – she nurse him in “the alley.”

Ahhhh. You can spend hundreds of dollars on bras in an effort to lift and separate,  push ’em up and hold ’em down – so long as you don’t use them in a practical manner. It would seem that the Land of Silk and Money is NOT the Land of Milk and Honey.

Shouldn’t we find  floor-to-ceiling-sized posters of nearly-naked super models (whose boobs are so exposed that only her areolas are covered by strategically-placed feathers) a bit more offensive than a breastfeeding mother? Breasts are made for feeding babies. If that makes you uncomfortable, take it up with God – it was His big idea. He designed them perfectly for it, long before plastic bottles and rubber nipples. Society has managed – as is so often the case – to make something pure and natural into something perverse.

(By the way, my  least-favorite reaction to a breastfeeding mother is: “Well, SEX is natural, too – but I don’t want to see anyone else doing it.” In what alternate universe is nursing a baby “like having sex?” Answer: In no universe. What a wildly inappropriate comparison!)

When my daughters were babies – and even into toddler-hood – I nursed discreetly  in malls, and concerts; in the park, and on “Its a Small World” at Disneyworld. I was living life and raising kids. We were on the go, and many times I thanked God for the convenience and economy of lactation – not to mention the bonding between mother and child in ensures. Who has time for fooling with bottles?

Once, when my firstborn was about six months old, I was feeding her at a museum, on a bench in a quiet, darkened hallway. I had a light blanket loosely over my shoulder,  fully covering my breast (and my baby’s head, face, and shoulders.) Only her tiny legs and feet were exposed, kicking happily. A couple walked by.

“She should nurse that baby in the bathroom,” said the woman.

Here is what I wanted to say: “Do you enjoy eating your lunch in the bathroom? Most of us don’t. I’m pretty sure my daughter doesn’t either!”

But I’m a wimp, so instead, my face burned a little. Her statement did what she had  intended – embarrassed me. But only momentarily; I knew that I was doing what was best for my child.

Can a nursing mother be 100% discreet all of the time? Sometimes babies pull away for a moment to hiccup. Sometimes the chug too fast and choke a bit, in which case they suddenly sit up.  And yes, you regularly have to switch sides, folks (that old “supply and demand thing.) If you see a mother and baby in a “nip slip” and for that instant your delicate sensibilities are offended, look away.  If you “don’t need to see it,” don’t stare.

Now – If it doesn’t bother you to see it, give the mother a little smile.  She is doing what is (sadly) considered a brave thing these days…a much, much braver thing to do than what is socially acceptable (Victoria Secret model displaying her perfect breasts in billboard-sized glory.)

The nursing mother is just feeding her baby as humankind has been nourished since the dawn of time. Somehow our more primitive ancestors “got” what we have  lost.

Breastfeeding is what boobs are for.

Friendship – Sisters by Design

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C. S. Lewis

By: Jana Greene

This letter is a gift to someone who is a gift to my life.  I asked her permission to publish it, to which she responded:

“You have full permission to publish it if you want—I hope it inspires others to have real friendships like ours!”

Amen, Sister-Girlfriend. The world would be a much better place.

My sweet Melissa,

Do you remember the first Christmas that we became friends? Our daughters – now freshmen in college – were fourth-graders who had just declared themselves Best Friends Forever. I was a struggling, single mom, just having divorced my children’s father after fourteen years of marriage. My little girl was having a terrible time.  I got her a good therapist, and tried to calm her fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded.

What she really needed was a very good friend. Your daughter was that very good friend to her.

It was a horrible, awful  time in my life. I was working four jobs to feed my girls after being a stay-at-home mom all of their lives. They became latch-key kids. I became a hot mess from the guilt.

When we first met, I was holding on to my four-year-old sobriety by a single thread, it seemed, and living on high anxiety. You invited me over anyway when the girls were having a play-date, serving coffee (and, I’m certain)  sweets.  You asked questions that nobody else had bothered to ask, and didn’t judge me when I answered honestly.

Sometimes when you stop trying so hard, God makes mystical things happen. Like our friendship.

At the time, you were wary of organized religion, and I was wary of everything. But in your guest bathroom, you had a display of decorative crosses. Every time I went to the loo at your house, I thanked God for you and your kindness. I prayed that you would trust Him again, even as I struggled to trust Him myself. Yes, on the loo!  I can tell you that now, all these years later.

That Christmas, I sat with all of our girls while you went on a date with your hubby. Before you departed for the evening, you gave me a pretty little wrapped gift box, and instructed me to open it when you left.  I did, and it was a lovely new wallet.

When you came back home, I thanked you, and you said that I should make sure to look inside of it. Folded in the zipped compartment was a hundred-dollar bill.

“Get your girls a little something for Christmas,” you said, like it was not a big deal.

It was SUCH a big deal, Melissa, to fill the girls’ stockings that year. Such a big deal.

Little did I know that praying for you on the loo would be the least of what we would come to discuss as our friendship deepened!  No subject was off-limits, no pretending to be who we were not. No pretense, all acceptance – what a wonderful foundation for a friendship.

I have to tell you, my friend, throughout the storms, you were my safe place. And always – even if there were tears –  laughter was ultimately the order of the day.

We are pretty cool that way.

Over the years, we have really been through it together, have we not?  With six daughters between us, holy cow – have we ever!

Teenagers and all the stupid stuff they do. Teenagers and all the awesome stuff they do.

Through a divorce and a new marriage (both mine) you were such a support. Through your steady marriage, you taught me so much.

When our husbands drive us bonkers, we have a kvetch session, and are a-okay again.

When our kids drive us bonkers, well … together, we find the strength to soldier on.

We’ve done the Mom Circuit, and weathered the “Mom, leave me alone!” syndrome.

Between us, we’ve done new careers, and unemployment.

We’ve drowned our sorrows in Queso dip at every Mexican food restaurant in town. (Cheese plays a major role in our relationship, as well it should!)

We’ve had pajama parties, and felt the betrayal of gravity (especially me….you look MAHVELOUS!) and – as we schlepped into our forties – the reward of chasing dreams and catching them, on occasion. (Or should I say, we sashay gracefully into our forties – and beyond.)

We’ve struggled with the discovery of what is out of our control (everything, essentially) and celebrated what we which we can control (keeping the faith.)

We’ve threatened to write a book togetherwhich, incidentally is still TOTALLY happening!

Most meaningfully, when my own family members high-tailed it out of my life, you ran towards me.

You and I …. we’ve  had spiritual crisises and awakenings, stumblings and triumphs. And shared with honesty every experience.

We discovered together that we are NOT orphans after all, but beloved daughters of the Most High King….princesses, really!

And that makes us sisters. Family.

Even our husbands became MFFs (Man Friends Forever…please don’t tell them I said that,) and our daughters as close as any siblings.

Family, like I said.

Your love, prayers and steadfastness have helped keep me sober. Honestly, I doubt I would have maintained it without your support.

That love….those prayers and acceptance – they have kept me from running away from home on numerous occasions (“This parenting teens thing? I QUIT!”)

In the midst of building this friendship, you had a revolution in your spirit.  When God lit a fire under you, he used spiritual kerosene!

Girl, you were on FIRE, and you are still on fire!  It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever been witness to.

A spark from the heart of Jesus himself caught the hem of your garment, and you just had to serve Him. You served Him by helping other women, like you helped me. By genuinely loving them – fiercely. From it came additions to the sisterhood – the WAYwards – and lots of tears and laughter.

And laughter came in handy during the difficult times.

Several years ago, when I got sick, I stayed sick for nearly three years. It was another awful, dark time in my life.  Chronically fatigued. Endlessly in pain. And with no answers in sight, living on high anxiety once again.

For three solid years, I fought numbness, pain, fatigue….every single day, and bitched about it plenty. My complaining and frustration had to have tested your dedication! But you listened every time, and never gave up.

You prayed for my health fervently. Sometimes, when I was in the middle of exhaustion and complaint, you would just extend your right hand toward me and pray so hard that we would both cry – even when I was right in the middle of a bitching session!

It’s hard to be hopeless when someone is that dedicated to asking God to help you.

But sometimes – when you stop trying so hard – God makes mystical things happen.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I remember telling you. And I meant it. “I can’t!”

“God can,” you said, with no judgement. More listening, more praying, more encouraging. You listened. Like a true friend, you loved fiercely, calming my fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded. “Father,” you prayed. “Please heal my friend. But even if she doesn’t get better, we praise you. We LOVE you!”

Because you see, what I really needed was a very good friend. You were – and are – that very good friend to me.

All these many years later, how many cycles have we gone through !– Distrusting organized religion, and calling on God. Trusting God, and being there for each other.

I’m so grateful for you.

Thank you for being so steady a prayer-warrior. Thank you for never, ever saying, “This friendship thing? I QUIT!”

Thank you for all the times you still give me encouragement (and chocolate) and for being my “nothing is off limits” sister.

When I think about who you are and who you’ve become, and all God has in store for you, it brings me to my knees.

When I pray for you, I ask God to take that beautiful, bright, effervescent and glorious spirit of yours and just unleash it on the world in a way that brings him glory. I pray that the same joy your spirit brings me gets unfurled on the world, and comes back on you like a tidal wave.

I never forgot the Christmas that you folded a Benjamin in the gift of a new wallet  … so that I could give my daughters a Christmas. But more importantly, I never forgot that you reached out to this hot mess girl, that you went out of your way to be kind.

I never forgot that you treated my frightened, maddeningly insecure and hurting fourth-grade daughter like your own. Now a confident – gregarious, even!- young woman, she never forgot your love, either.

I love that you never stopped praying for my healing. I love your heart, that it breaks for hurting people.

I love that the most important prayer I ever learned to pray, I learned from you – “I trust you, God. I may not understand a single thing you are doing, but I trust you.”

It was a  beautiful thing to do for an old friend, to teach me that prayer.

I love you with all my heart. Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for being family.

And Merry Christmas, BFF.