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Oh The Comfort of Friendship: All About Extremes

     “In like a lion.  Out like a lamb!”  Born and raised outside Buffalo, New York, I am all too familiar with this expression. Come March 1st, we knew winter’s wind would either continue whipping furiously across our icy landscape or would settle itself into a comfortable and gentle breeze, encouraging crocuses to bloom. Almost invariably, winter exited March 31st the opposite way it entered….either pouncing in like a roaring lion and retreating like a meek lamb, or strolling in like a grazing lamb, only to leave with a lion’s roar.

     I love that weather pattern. Always did.  In fact, I love anything extreme.

     Yes, I’m all about extremes.  I actually enjoy life’s roller coaster moments.  A more clinical view might label me compulsive.  Okay.  True.  But I prefer to value my personality as filled with extra excitement and extreme possibilities.  And positively, I attribute the lion-share of my life’s exhilaration to my many remarkable friendship adventures!

     It’s such a miracle, this friendship thing.  Never a season in life have I lacked for friendships. Never.  Like a well-watered and fruitful garden, my heavenly Papa has carefully seeded my life’s soil with multifaceted friends.  You probably have such a garden of friends yourself!  You know, those friends who become fellow cliff-jumpers, or weed-whacking jungle pioneers, or kick-up-your-heels fun frolickers.

     I consider my friends an expression of God’s enormous and perfect love.  I need my friends.  I really do.  I’ve heard some say, come midlife, they’ve lost the energy to make new friends. They have plenty enough. For a minute I believed that…but only for a minute.  On the contrary, each new friend invariably becomes an integral part of my life’s unpredictable journey.

     Certainly the Lord intimately knows just who we need each season of our lives. Always at just the ‘right’ time and ‘right’ place a new acquaintance walks into my life.   And I’m sure that’s why I recently met Susie…already an irreplaceable friend.  We briefly met some 12 years ago.  Interestingly, we now have a lot more in common. We have walked similar paths and experienced some of the same stuff, if you will. Again, my Papa’s perfect timing.  An unusual depth of understanding has blossomed between us. Within a short period of time, we began freely giving, what I call gifts of friendship.  In this case, however, I’ve been on the receiving end more than not.  And God knows right now I need that.  A few examples…

  • The gift of listening.  As an empathetic listener, Susie offers a great antidote for my dry bones, affirming my soul and restoring my peace.  When I ask, she offers relevant and tangible advice because she’s ‘been there.’
  • The gift of laughter.  A few laugh lines have been added to my face, even in the midst of some messy days.  Susie reminds me to look for the funny side of everything, even if it’s teensy-weensy. This increases my sense of lightheartedness and inclination to laugh!
  • The gift of a favor.  Instead of merely encouraging me to do something fun for myself, Susie volunteers her time and help.  For example, she came over this past week-end to watch our children while my husband and I had a date night.
  • The gift of freedom.   We’re free to talk about sensitive issues and be understood, not judged.  We’re free to treasure our differences. We’re free from intimidation and control.
  • The gift of proximity.  Girlfriends know they can’t fix every hurt or soothe every pain. But sometimes offering to literally walk alongside speaks volumes. Susie has accompanied me in times my comfort zone was vulnerable.  Walking side by side beefed up my confidence.  
  • The gift of perspective.  She often and quite simply advises, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” or “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”  What noteworthy advice for this “all about extremes” lady!

     And the gifts continue to flow.  Susie and I relish a balanced and God-centered friendship.
I feel blessed beyond measure.

     The author, G.E. Lessing, describes the most complete prayer as “a single grateful thought towards heaven.”  I’m currently writing down my ‘grateful thoughts’ in the form of a list. I’m listing friends.

     Next to each name I jot down memories we’ve made and specific gifts of friendship we’ve exchanged.  This list is quickly becoming an intricately woven tapestry portraying my life. I think putting pen to paper in this way is like placing an Ebenezer, a ‘Stone of Help.’  The Israelites placed stones at sites where the Lord mightily ‘showed up’ on their behalf. The stones were then reminders to ensuing generations of God’s faithfulness  (I Samuel 4:1-10, 6:12).

     My ‘Ebenezer’ friendship list clearly shows God’s miraculous thumbprints all over my life. It motivates me to celebrate life every day, in the moment, even in the worst of times…thanks to, and because of, my God-given friends.

“Before I formed you in your mother’s womb,
I knew
(chose) you. Before you were born
I sanctified
(set apart) you.”
 Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJ)

     Dear sisters, how marvelous to know our Creator has painstakingly and lovingly fashioned us to be girlfriends, reflecting His passion and His character. He has carefully choreographed the friendship ballet, setting us free to dance.

     Oh yes…enjoying my God-fearing friends is radical…liberating me to reach life’s highest heights.

     Remember, I’m all about extremes…  Perhaps like a roaring lamb…

Copyright © 2008-2015 Cynthia Newman

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