You’ll Always Be My Friend…You Know Too Much

I received a birthday card this year that said, “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears; your actions louder than your words; and your faith stronger than your feelings.”

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In the basement of a sweet little church last week, I stood up in front a group of women and let my dream of saying something intelligent be bigger than my fear of choking on the spot and dying a very public death.

For sure, leading a gym class and gaining perspiration would’ve been easier than leading a Bible class and gaining inspiration.

And as it turns out, when I stood in front of these beautiful women, my faith wasn’t in my own abilities to speak, but rather in their intentions to listen. I had to believe that somewhere in my ramblings, each of them would hear something that spoke directly to her own heart. Something gloriously small and explicit. Something, I hope, that made them glad they were sitting down with enough time to enjoy the new thought.

The title of my classes, “On the Care and Feeding of Your BFF”, was chosen by a group of girlfriends months ago, as they were lounging pool-side. I actually asked them to vote on what I should talk about in Canada.

I’m cool like that. (I’m also sadly unfocussed like that.)

But, as every writer knows, all bets are off when you sit down at the keyboard.

Martha and Mary of Bethany kept butting into my notes and no matter how hard I explained to them that they had lost the vote, they would not get out of my face.

So I let them take the floor, and Class 1 was born.

They showed me how to behave like a “best friend forever”. And how not to. And what happens when you let Christ take over your heart. And what happens when you don’t. They both looked me in the eyes and reminded me that the Good Samaritan hadn’t seen his choices coming, but when he saw a wounded man, he didn’t see danger or calculate a backstory or contemplate excuses.

He just reached into his bag and pulled out a massive can of instant and lavish compassion.

“Let’s do this,” I hear him think.

End of story. But also the beginning of ours.

The ladies in Ontario played along with me as we explored the many languages of love that feed and nurture those deliberately connected relationships.

We had soul-warming soups for lunch, and faith-building, hand-holding conversational comfort food; the kind made of good old fashioned face time, bubbling along with laughter, our individual flavors melding together.

Later, we went deep into the pits with Jeremiah and up to the mountain top with Elijah.

Caring for your friendships needn’t stop when one stumbles into a pit.

For the girlfriend who suddenly doesn’t know what to say or do, this class held tools for building ladders out of pits and ways to hold on to each other when life gets real.

It does get real, doesn’t it?

How wonderful to know someone has your back.

Amazing things happen when women gather together.

Their love for each other is so tangible.

I am thankful for the prayers and encouragement, the mentoring and editing that countless women supported me with as I walked this road to Canada.

It’s changed me in ways I haven’t yet put words to.

And I know that, one BFF at a time, we are going to make it through this crazy life of ours, holding hands, pressing onward, and yes – very likely – giggling a lot of the time.

Canadian Capers

You. Guys.

I just had the best adventure!

I spent a week in gorgeous Ontario, Canada.

I wandered through autumn-colored forests of pine and aspen and ash and maple, dripping ferns and lush moss. It’s beautiful countryside.

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Every road leads to water, over water, or around water.

Look at a map of Canada. It’s got more lakes than swiss cheese has blow holes.

The locks move boats between lakes and swing bridges make passage for the taller boats.

If you own a “cottage on the lake”, you’ve arrived.

Lake Muskoka

Lake Muskoka

If you own a house on a tiny island, you’ve arrived, won the lottery, and get to drive a boat to work.

If a Californian gets in a boat, there is no way he will end up at work.

They’ve never had a drought and you can’t find a cactus for beans.

Which is why my luggage was over the weight limit.

I had to rearrange my suitcase in the airport and carry on the five pounds of tortillas.

The beans stayed wrapped up in my boots.

Priorities, ya’all.

I did find avocados there for $1.99 Canadian.

They came from Mexico.

But all of the grocery store packaging is in English and French. Not Spanish.

This is a classy step up in my opinion, but does not compensate for their drought of Mexican food.

In the airport, I traded some ‘Merican money for Canadian cash.

If your money is called “loonies” and “toonies” (a thing which even putting the Queen Mum’s face on it can’t redeem) then your freeway speeds make up for it.

Here’s photographic proof that your car can hit 120 km/h….which is basically crawling down the highway at 60.

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But it looks great on the speedometer.

People were delighted to tell me snow stories.

It’s like they don’t want me to come back.

“There was the year the snow reached to the middle of this telephone pole. That was the year they closed the highways. It’s not really a problem unless the snow is blowing. When it’s windy, you can’t see two feet in front of you. You drive super slow in case someone is stopped in the street in front of you. You don’t dare stop because the guy behind you can’t see, either. And also, you can’t stop anyway…we end up in the ditches a bit.”

Uh huh.

I visited at the exact perfect time of year, which travelers should always strive to do.

And while I could drone on and on about my adventures, I won’t (you’re welcome) because the main event – the flocking of females, the gathering of gregarious girlfriends, the bevy of Bible lovers – was the most beautiful thing I saw in Canada.

Freshly squeezed Canadian

Freshly squeezed Canadian

We’ll go there next.

Bend In The Road

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” wrote the poet, Robert Frost.

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I recently accepted an invitation to speak at a women’s retreat in Ontario.

Yep, Canada.

It’s slated for the end of September when, I am informed, “there’s an eighty percent chance of beautiful fall colors and a zero percent chance of snow on the ground”.

Which is, as you know, terribly attractive to weather wimps such as myself.

As close as I can figure it, the ladies there were reading my blog this spring, and in a fit of desperation born of an eternal winter, decided I was just the one to join them over a hot cuppa and lead a few discussions on life in the trenches.

Well.

When paths diverge, what’s a girl to do?

This particular path smells briskly of moose and pine and possibilities.

It’s delicious.

Although I have not yet met these lovely ladies, if they’ve had a child explode a loaded diaper in their lap or a meal explode in their microwave, we already share the kinship and camaraderie of Girlfriends.

I could lead an entire class on the pros and cons of using a single closet to hold nothing but canned goods (labels out!), but that’s not why I’m going.

I’m going because I know that Life in the Trenches can get seriously messy.

And awkward. And stupid. Sometimes things happen that we definitely didn’t sign up for.

We all have days when we feel lost, overwhelmed, underpaid, and darn it, our feet hurt. We want to sit down and have someone rub them.

We’d like to just sit down, please.

We see two roads diverging in a yellow wood and can’t for the life of us figure out which one we are supposed to take because we still have the grocery shopping, soccer practice, bills to pay, and the dog to worm, and already we’re suspicious that the yellow wood may be yellow for a reason.

Especially if snow and kids are involved.

With multiple paths wandering around shadowy corners to destinations unknown, we face decisions all day about which way to turn next.

Moving always onward, our choices are making all the difference.

And if today is the current sum total of every choice we ever made, then might it be possible to choose our next bend in the road with slightly more intention?

The path that seems rockier but holds a little more brightness? The path that heads uphill, but gives a little more grace? The path that scares me but feels more compassionate? The healing path that feels like laughter could be possible, even through tears?

When I tell this story of Canada, with a sigh, ages and ages hence, I will say that I chose the road that felt most like God calling me.

And also, I will say with a smile, my paths were full to overflowing with Girlfriends!

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost, 1916