Friday, June 22, 2012

Quarter of a Century

She’s prayed with and for me. She’s cried with and for me. She’s dreamed with and for me. She’s laughed with and at me. She’s openly shared with me and attentively listened to me. She’s stood by and behind me. She’s had my back and she’s helped guard my heart. She’s exhorted, encouraged, challenged and reprimanded me.

For twenty-five years Terri has been my kindred spirit, my best friend and my spiritual mentor. For a quarter of a century we have been woven into the tapestry of the other. Each of us a distinct weft of color that wends over and under the warp God strung for both of us.

She has spoken into my life more than anyone else in my history.

I met her fresh out of college and newly married. Our paths intersected at a Christian bookstore; I believe one of the sole reasons I worked there is because God ordained the crossing of our paths.

During our friendship we have never lived in the same city or town. There was a ten year stretch we didn’t see each other at all. We became adept in the art of letter writing. Our letters would arrive in our mail boxes—recognized immediately because of our distinct scripts. On our retreat she brought a box of my letters; she had saved them (just as I have) over the past twenty-five years. The stack was tall, yellowed and frayed. . Occasionally we talked on the phone, a rare event. Then the dawn of the internet and email began. I was slower than her, but finally I entered that world and we talked almost daily. Since we have started to text and that has opened a another realm of connection.

When I met her at the bookstore—I was a believer in Jesus. I had just graduated from a Christian college with a Bible degree and was married to a minister, but I was in an embryonic stage of my faith. I loved Jesus and wanted to serve him, but I was young and idealistic. My faith was heart only, passion and zeal, my mind hadn’t engaged yet. I didn’t understand what Jesus meant when he said love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.*  My faith, over the next few years, was to be tried, tested and proven. And Terri would be present and available through it all.

God used this friend to help my fetal faith to grow and mature.

She does not have a college degree, yet because of her vast depth and breadth of reading, her articulateness in argumentation, her reasoning skills, her intellectual insight and her sensitivity to the Spirit she is one of the most brilliant and most intelligent and most godly people I have ever known.

She introduced me to writers like C.S. Lewis, John Stott, John Piper and Eugene Peterson.

I was opposed to Paul and his writings for years, but she challenged me to study him, to look closely at his letters, to meet the man. She didn’t push; she didn’t attempt to sway me. She simply asked me to study Paul with her for one year. I did and my response and reactions to Paul were transformed.

She’s given me too many gifts over the years to count (one of her love languages). Her gifts are revelations of who she is and who you are. They reveal how much she loves you and they highlight how she listens and interprets what you have shared with her.

I am not sure I could pick my absolute favorite gifts, but four stand high above the rest.

Many years ago I took my daughters and we spent the weekend at her home. We actually went shopping together. I was fawning over a black leather backpack purse that was on sale. I couldn’t justify purchasing this for myself so I left it behind. Sometimes you just have to make hard decisions. When it was time for me to go home I gathered all our suitcases and bags and put them by the front door. Right before I left I discovered a gift bag had been placed there. I opened it; yes, my backpack purse was buried in the tissue paper. That purse is now worn out—the leather tinged green in the worn places—I carried it for years.

On my fortieth birthday she gave me a black leather-bound copy of the Valley of Vision. This compilation of prayers has become an integral part of my spiritual terrain. When I am in a dark, dry place I return to this book. When I feel like I am languishing in the cistern of my faith often this little volume will remind and return me to the truths of Scripture. She knew the beautiful depth of the thought and language would minister to me.

During our recent retreat we exchanged gifts, and I wondered if Terri was secretly Mary Poppins when I wasn’t around. The bag was packed with things she had accumulated for me over the last couple of years. Every gift had a story and a purpose, but my favorite was a prayer pendant—an intricately designed, black and silver Celtic piece. My breath caught. I have a deep fondness for prayer beads, for rosaries and their purpose. Several years ago I started making my own prayer chains, and she bought the pendant thinking I would find a special purpose for it. When I got home I attached her pendant to my own prayer chain. This pendant is now my amen piece.
We both love the ocean. Often Terri vacations at the ocean. One particular year she wanted to find something special for me. She rose very early one morning and prayed for me. She asked the Lord, in his generosity, to please send a treasure on the beach to give to her dear friend. Me. Partway through her walk she discovered one of my greatest treasures. In the sand, deposited by the evening tide, was a large, whole conch; its ivory surface only slightly marred from its journey from the sea to her hands. An answered prayer. The story and the shell are symbolic reminders of God’s faithfulness to her, to me—to us.

These are special and remarkable gifts, and James tells us that every good and perfect gift is from above. * *

But when I count my one thousand gifts***—this friend is one of my greatest treasures.

Thank you, Terri,
for a quarter of a century.
Is it selfish to ask for a half century?

 * Matthew 22:37a.

**  James 1:17a

*** One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp


TARSmith said...

I hope asking for 25 more years isn't selfish, because I'm asking for the same. You have honored me so much by what you have written. I wish I could articulate as well what you have given to and been to me. I love you.

Mac Goddard said...

Wow! Beautiful beyond words! The treasure of true friendship. I love you both very much, and I very thankful for the relationship the two of you share. Jesus is very, very proud to have to two of you latched on to His strong arms!