We order the same thing every time: A deep dish stuffed spinach pizza and a beer. Then, for the next couple of hours, we sit together in a little booth at a cozy restaurant in town and get lost in conversation, catching up on each other’s lives. We are four women who made a lasting connection through one hugely important thing: our faith.
We are all active members of PCWS. In the 15-plus years that we’ve known each other we have worshipped together, prayed together, taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School classes together, held church leadership roles together, and cooked for and hosted congregational celebrations together. We have watched our children grow up together. One of these women was the first person outside of my family to hold my first-born. She was also the first one of us to send a child to college, and – as she did so with the expected mix of joy and sadness – we lifted her up with strength and support.
I feel God’s presence every time I am with these women. I truly believe our friendship will last a lifetime, no matter how busy our lives become or how many miles may eventually separate us. Through our belief in the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer, we have formed a strong bond. We have seen each other through the death of a parent, through illness, through parenting challenges, through divorce. We intimately know the personal stories that molded us into the people we are today, and instead of judging our flaws, we embrace them.
We gather for our pizza dinners about once every three months. Sometimes setting the date can take months in advance, due to our busy schedules. But we make the time because we know that it is important. This is connecting. This is fellowship. This is putting God’s word about loving each other, lifting each other up and building community into action outside the walls of the sanctuary. After the hugs and how-are-you’s are exchanged, we dive into the nitty gritty – updates on our children, our jobs, our thoughts about the upcoming activities and changes at church. Flawlessly, the conversation moves from one person to another, in no hurry. And we smile, laugh, console, worry and encourage each other, all through the strong foundation of our faith.
Sometimes I sit back at these gatherings and take it all in, marveling that our friendships have stood the test of time. I remember earlier days being invited to the eldest woman’s home for game nights, and how we got to know each other over laughter-filled matches of Pictionary. I remember scores of emails and face-to-face planning sessions with another friend when we taught Vacation Bible School together. We were an amazing teaching team. As for the third woman, we live quite close to each other. In addition to serving as a Deacon with her, I have had the honor of teaching piano to all of her children, a task that started when her eldest daughter – now in college – was just five years old.
Recently, during a particularly challenging time in my personal life, this third woman handed me a small stone with the word “hope” engraved in it. She explained that the stone was given to her when she experienced a great loss, and she wanted to pass it along to me now as a sense of comfort and a reminder of brighter days ahead. To this very day it sits on the nightstand near my bed. It is, in every sense of the word, a gift from God – just like these friends of mine. Solid, unbreakable and inspirational.