Our beloved friends hopped into their car and headed back home to Mississippi. A four-day visit didn’t feel sufficient. The time we have together is never long enough. A limitless number of words pass between us. After days of non-stop talking, we could get on the phone and chat for another hour. I realize I’m the main one that can’t be quiet. I always have another thought that must come into the conversation. Once, I was so focused on recounting an exciting adventure that we drove miles past our exit on the interstate. They weren’t upset; they know me.
Jerry and Barbara traveled nine hours to visit us in Columbia—just to be together. There was no pressure to “entertain” them. My only hostess requirements: coffee, cream and enough food so we don’t starve.
After their departure, I’m pondering the significance of our relationship. To call Barbara and Jerry friends fails to paint an accurate picture. They’re parents, teachers, pastors and kinfolk. We settled in with each other a long time ago and are forever connected.
As we sat on the porch late one night, tears rolled down my cheeks. I recounted all the ways they’d enriched my life.
I was drawn to a group of Jesus people on a Gulf Coast beach in 1971. A group of “unique” looking young people sang, “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord”. The voices were beautiful and I felt at peace. God captivated me through their messages and songs. I gave my heart to Jesus and my life changed forever. The leader of that youth group was Jerry.
I joined their band of believers for meetings and worship. Some of the young folks organized a traveling singing group and I was invited to join. We drove a hippie van to various churches, a coffee house and even a conference or two; happy to share the good news with whomever was interested.
I don’t want to brag, but somewhere in the universe are probably a few vinyl albums lying around that feature the Living Water Singers.
When I met Jerry, he was 25 and I was 17. He married beautiful Barbara from Ohio in 1972. I really wanted a close relationship with them from the start—I needed them in my life.
Faithful in Good and Bad Times
Barbara and Jerry were with me through the good times and the bad. They celebrated my first wedding, and comforted me when that marriage ended. They cared for my two children, supported me as I sought answers for my “special child”, prayed with me, fed me and believed God with me.
Jerry was the person who contacted me about a potential blind date with a guy named “Tom”. About six months later Tom and I were married.
On our wedding day, Barbara drove me to the church, as my huge gown nearly obscured our view. I was nervous and needed reassurance. Divorce haunted me; I never wanted to go through that agony again. She said, “I think you’d make a big mistake if you walked away.” I knew she was right and was glad for the encouragement. As a bridesmaid she led the way down the aisle with my other girls. The rest is history.
Tom and I have been married almost 35 years, and the influence the Beavers have had on both of us is inexplicable. These sort of friendships flavor each little corner of your being and it’s hard to know what part is “them” and what part is me. We thank God for the wisdom we’ve received from these friends which has helped us navigate through challenges during our marriage.
Fifty years had passed since Jerry and I met, as the four of us sat on our little screened-in porch and recounted how blessed we are. All credit goes to God for His guidance in my life; and credit also goes to loved ones who stick with you and change you just by being themselves.
Hospitality = Love
Because of the way Barbara and Jerry welcomed me as a young person and supported me through difficulties, I acquired a deep desire to love people through hospitality. I wrote about the effect of their hospitality in another post: http://tranquiliving.com/how-an-open-door-of-hospitality-changed-my-life/
May their life-giving influence continue. May my life affect another person’s life and may that person’s life continue to impact others.
The older I get It dawns on me how immensely vital these relationships are. What God has worked in me through precious friends is miraculous.
To have lifelong friends, you have to begin them early in life. You make many investments in that friendship along the way. Finally, you end up with something priceless that has altered your life in a very good way.
Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. C. S. Lewis