Late this afternoon, a friend of mine randomly called me and asked if we wanted to come over for an impromptu swim and BBQ dinner. I was kind of caught off guard and I won’t lie, the very first thought through my mind was “Ugh…do I have the energy to get all our stuff packed up and the kids into the van and head out of the house?” But that lasted all of three seconds and then sheer excitement kicked in and I replied with an exuberant “YES! We will come! And I’ll bring corn!”
We made our way there, splashed around in the pool, ate some delicious barbecued burgers and then enjoyed a nice family hangout in the playroom, while all SIX of our children played together (our kids are all the same age: girls are the oldest and going into senior kindergarten, middle boys are starting school in a few weeks and both our baby boys were born in the same year, just months apart!)
We truly had an amazing night with our friends and I left with my heart feeling so full. Our girls made friendship necklaces and bracelets and my daughter was in tears on the way home, crying “Mom! My necklace doesn’t have enough friendship on it!” True story. It not only fills my heart to make new adult friends, but even more so, to watch my children establish these beautiful friendships, early on in their lives, that I pray will last for years and years to come.
You see, our story is a little different than most. While I had the opportunity to grow up in the exact same home, community, church, etc., until I moved out for college, as a married couple and now family, we have not had that same experience. In 10 years of marriage, we have moved seven times into four brand new communities. For any of you statisticians out there, that’s a lot of moving. A lot of adjusting to a new place. A lot of making new friends and setting down new roots.
When I was younger, growing up in Ottawa, part of that same community, same church, same group of friends, etc., I often dreamt of a life like I’ve had the last 10 years. One where you could just pick up and start again. Where you could be free to grow and change and come into your own as a person, without people’s expectations being placed on you. And that’s exactly why I moved across the country at 17 years old…to go to school, to start afresh and to rediscover myself.
Now though, 15 years later, a husband and three kids in tow, I find myself longing for that sense of deep familiarity. I dream of the day where my family and best friends all live within a 15 minute drive (not a 12 hour drive or even a plane ride away). We don’t have the luxury of having family just around the corner or our best friends from high school in the town next door, where our kids will grow up together and become besties too.
As we’ve moved into all these new communities, we’ve had to start from scratch. Most of the times, we’ve known nobody. We’ve only had each other. And so we’ve had to put ourselves out there, time and time again, in order to establish new friendships. Most people at our age aren’t really “starting over” when it comes to friends. They are continuing to cultivate the ones they’ve long established. I realize we are somewhat unique to this lifestyle (and by no means am I complaining, at all, just simply sharing what it’s like). I love our lives. I love what we do. I love the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met. The good times and the hard times…they’ve shaped us into who we are as individuals, as a couple and as a family.
You don’t really “need” another friend, another family in your life. Another set of birthday parties to attend or more people to invite to yours. But I need that. My kids need that. We need you.
But with saying that, I’m also saying that it’s likely that I need you more than you need me in your life. I need your friendship because you are likely one of the few friends I have in my physical, everyday, going-to-the-splash-pad, helping-out-when-a-kid-is-in-the-hospital, life. I can’t call my mom and she will be right over when one of my kids cuts his finger open and needs stitches immediately. I don’t have many people I can rely on to babysit in a pinch or even whip over to pick up my kids from school because I’m running late from a meeting. That just isn’t my life. And I’m ok with that. I’ve learned how to adapt to that lifestyle.
But I need you more than you need me because you likely have your family and your close group of friends all around you. You don’t really “need” another friend, another family in your life. Another set of birthday parties to attend or more people to invite to yours. But I need that. My kids need that. We need you. I would love to be able to fill our parties with all of our family, but we simply can’t. So we rely on you…our friends…to become our “family” and celebrate life’s greatest moments together!
Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of friends. I love my friends, I cherish and value my friendships so much that I think about my friends constantly (more than any of them will ever know). I wish I had all the money in the world sometimes so I could send them all lavish gifts every time I thought about them, or better yet, fly to surprise them!
But in the here and now, I need my friends. I need a family. I need a village to be established around us, where our lives become intertwined and our kids grow up together. Where my kids respect my friends as significant mentors and influencers in their lives because of time we’ve all spent together.
Tonight, I go to bed with a grateful heart, knowing that when my friend called today, she was truly an answer to my prayer of “Lord, strengthen some of these friendships where they start to become like family.” Doesn’t matter if the house is clean, doesn’t matter if we eat yesterday’s leftovers and really doesn’t matter if you’ve had time to wash your hair. All that matters is that we live and breath and fellowship together. That we “do life” together. Life is better when lived together, as a community, as friends, as family. As Ecclesiates 4:9-10 puts it, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
What about you? Do you have friends in your life that are new to town? That don’t have any family around? Have you “adopted” a family of friends into your own family? I encourage you to seek out people in your community: either neighbors or new comers to church, and get to know them. Invite them over for last minute dinners, include them in your family celebrations and begin to walk life with them. They most likely need it more than you do, but I guarantee that you are blessed in return for loving on that family!
Love & Blessings,