I can’t remember ever being away from the tinies for a whole day, but I drove to Idelette‘s house, with local peaches riding shotgun in their cardboard basket; the tomatoes, raspberry ice cream, baguette, and honey in my backseat, between the door and my laptop, a few papers and books stuffed in for good measure. It was a day for friendship, a day I had set aside for writing, for dreaming, for scheming with my heart-friends, on each other’s behalf. Kelley flew in from Burundi via Arizona, just for us, just for this, Tina was there, too.
In true introvert fashion, I was already regretting it. What if it’s awful? I’d rather stay home. Oh, man, they’re going to discover I’m just me, always just plain old weird me. Plus it’s hard to give up a day of your weekend for non-family people, let be real here. But Brian was supportive, shooed me out the door, the tinies gleeful at the prospect of a day with their dad all to themselves.
My friends opened the door, bleary-eyed from the late night of talking previous, and the first thing they did was open a bottle of sparkling apple juice, pour them into fancy champagne glasses and toast my good book fortune, they cheered me on, and we all cried a bit, I think.
(It’s nice to be with people that celebrate with you.)
Idelette’s house is just the right kind of chaos and homecoming, the kid-stuff scattered amongst the stunning artwork, just a glorious mish-mash of everything that makes her so true, it’s the house of passionate creativity and real-life family. There were pictures of women, every tribe, every tongue, on every wall, and so it felt like everyone here in the world was there with us, somehow, and a gigantic canvas on the stairs said: There is no such thing as small change, and the famous red couch at Idelette’s was worn out and comfortable, especially with Kelley sprawled on it, twisting her hair unconcernedly when she really got talking about the theology of adoption and Lord, yes, that woman can preach and teach in a living room beside a piano better than some preachers I’ve seen in thousand-dollar suits on a television show. Tina snapped a few pictures, and let me tell you, she’s probably the most beautiful person I’ve ever met in real life, ever, and we jumped from weddings to babies to travelling to inappropriate theology to publishing to prayer, and back again.
(It’s nice to be with people that are all over the same map with you.)
So we made coffee, and we talked about book writing, about stories that yearn to be told. We spoke a lot of truth to each other: here is what I see in you, I think this is the story underneath the story you’re talking about, have you ever considered doing it differently? And we cried a bit, we marvelled at the wisdom, we laughed and laughed and laughed, and it was revealed at long-last that I have a potty-mouth.
(It’s nice to be with people that don’t make you censor yourself.)
We ate leftovers for lunch, leftovers from Tina’s mother’s immigrant kitchen, and I may have groaned out loud, it was so good. We ate the raspberry ice cream in cunning blue bowls, and we talked about SheLoves Magazine, about community development and the big, audacious dreams. We laughed at our own ridiculousness, but it couldn’t be denied, we all want to love the world. I heard more of their intersecting stories, and when Idelette was done talking about her book, about her passions, I wanted to see her on every stage of every slick Christian conference, to bring some mama-truth, to preach the Gospel of Being With Each Other, but then I kind of had to shrug because part of Idelette’s power is that she’s outside of that system, outside of that church-marketing world, too busy living the truth of it to package it. We sat in that living room for nearly 7 hours straight, and it passed as quickly as an hour at a playground for a five year old.
(It’s nice to be with schemers and dreamers outside the fence lines. It’s nice to be with people of freedom and truth and love.)
I drove home, and I nursed the baby, kissed the tinies, put on my blue dress and my high heels. I waited on a bench outside of a bookstore, and I remembered being so lonely for friends, I couldn’t see straight. I remembered the seasons of my life when I felt completely crazy, like no one was caring about the things that moved me, like no one was questioning what I was questioning, like no one wanted a friendship that went deeper than “Oh, my God! Your hair is so cute! Let’s talk about potty training techniques!” So I was distrustful of women, suspect of motives, an island of hurt feelings and isolation. I kind of grinned at the sneaky goodness of God, the kind that tiptoes up behind you, because without a lot of fanfare, because in a rather haphazard and organic way, I have found my tribe. I’ve found my people without the striving and organizing, without the Official Sanctioned Church Programs, nope, we just all came into each other’s lives, right at the time when we were meant to be there, we stayed open to finding each other, a part of me was always watching for the hints of my people, and so when I found them, I recognised them, I did. It still happens, kindred spirits aren’t as rare as I used to think.
(It’s nice to be with people that feel like old friends from the very start.)
We went to a little bistro next to the river, sat outside drinking girly bevvies, and talked quiet about all of the other stuff, the stuff of sitting under the stars and secrets. I could listen to Kelley, and Idelette, and Tina talk all day. They have fascinating stories, the stories that leave me breathless with awe at my God, awe at the goodness of life in The Way, I needed to catch my breath a time or two, it was real. Pinch, pinch, pinch, Kelley, don’t mind me, I just want to make sure you’re real, maybe I can be more like you.
(It’s nice to be with people that challenge you, people that call out to a deeper and truer life in you, in complete humility and wisdom.)
And then there was that moment that rose up, I call them my Invitation Moments, the moments when you can sense an invitation from each other to go just a bit deeper, a bit more real, a bit more honest, and you can decide to stay where you are (and that’s fine) or you can take the risk of secrets-in-the-open, the risk of mask-removal. And, we all took it, one after another, mask after nice Christian lady mask, and I told my secrets, too.
Then there was that Between Moment. You know, that moment, a sacred moment in friendship, the pause between. It’s the time between the heart-cracking-open, the time between the secret-now-told, and the reaction. It’s the time when what you said is sitting out there, above all of you, floating there, and you wait for someone to say something, what are we all going to do with this truth? you wonder.
Sometimes that time is terrifying, other times it’s reassuring, it is always sacred.
(It’s nice to be with people that sit in that space with you.)
And here is the moment when friendship is sealed: they reach out for those words, those secrets, and treat it with such tender care, with such beauty and welcome and kindness, that you exhale a breath you’ve held for decades, and think, yeah, yeah, I did it, and you feel knit together, woven and spun. It’s in that moment that you move from friends to sister-friends.
(It’s nice to be with people that weep with you, rejoice with you, and show up in the big holy ways for the Between Moments.)
I drove home on the backroads, savouring it all. It’s not too often that this introvert comes home from full day of talking, scheming, laughter, and friendship feeling energized. (I’ll be honest, I usually go into a mild coma, and self-medicate with comfort reading or Pinterest, after even just an afternoon of this kind of thing.) But instead I felt heart-full, energized.
Alone in my minivan, out in the darkness, driving along the river, but it didn’t bother me.
I had left goodness behind me, but there was goodness ahead, you can navigate the darkness for a while if you know there’s a home, waiting, at the end of the road.
Instagram photo of Kelley and Tina on the couch was by Idelette
Photo of Kelley & Idelette from earlier this year in Burundi together was taken by Tina Francis.