Tonight I had the privilege of hanging out with one of my groups in my circle of friends. I like to think of these circles as much like the way water breaks into ripples when you throw pebbles in. The circles just expand outward. Most of my circles are like that...they tend to expand and contract over time...and occasionally, that effect of circles within circles actually happens because we have more than one group in common.
When I was younger, I thought that friendships were meant to be more boxed in. That allegiances were almost cut and dried. That you had to choose between friends. And I suppose to some extent in those early years that was true. I don't know where those "rules" got in my head. But I apparently came "preloaded" with some software that was heavily bent on rules. First children often are.
Not that I was a big fan of rules. But I did have a pretty healthy respect for them.
Anyway, tonight we met for dinner. For this particular group...it has been a difficult year. Health issues...divorce...sandwich generation situations...job problems...and other various stress-inducing drama. But we laughed. We talked. We shared, prayed, and caught up. It was a three hour dinner that was spent reconnecting, releasing, and rehashing what we've been going through these past few months.
But there are bright spots among our little group as well. There is healing. Budding romance. Maturing children. And, of course, the knowledge that we earnestly and deeply like each other. There's a lot to be said for that.
In this life, there are so many things that pull on us day to day. Worries about how we will live, who we will encounter, and what we can tolerate make it extremely difficult sometimes to just spend a few hours solving the world's problems.
Tonight we talked about a job ending...but also talked about the possibilities that this will afford her to follow her dreams. She has the desire to serve God through her artistic gifts...but knows that she has bills to pay. Another one was suggesting possibilities that were far beyond anything she'd contemplated...but made perfect sense in many ways. Another was tightly scheduled and she felt pulled by wanting to join us but also needing to be going where she had already committed. One couldn't be with us because she had a sick husband at home, and another one was nursing an ailing father. A couple of us were in holding patterns in our lives...with nothing especially out of the ordinary going on...but we were quite grateful just to be a part of the conversation.
I don't know what my life would look like without my circles of friends. Without women that I've known for years...and others that I've only recently just begun to know. I believe that we are all put on this earth for a purpose, and we often find that purpose through the encouragement and support of our friends. Our families love us regardless...but our friends really have the choice to be with us...or not.
We talked about beach trips, and weddings, and our plans for the future. We made dates to exercise together, and tried to share our impressions from the holidays. Thankfully, they were overwhelmingly positive. We are bound by a common faith...and we have no qualms whatsoever being honest about our walk...what is truly on our minds and hearts...and what we hope the future will bring.
I felt personally blessed because Jill was there with us. She loves my friends...and they love her. During those years when the girls can be tough and their mothers even tougher...Jill found refuge with my friends who thought that she was the most wonderful girl in the world. They still do. And for that I am immensely grateful. She has been blessed by hearing the collective wisdom of women of faith who encourage her by being inclusive and by giving her good counsel. Sometimes it is exactly what I would say...but she hears it with a more open mind than she would if it were delivered by me as her mother. And likewise...they can tell me when I am being wise...when I am being too protective...or just "too much" and I respect the fact that they know us well enough to render a judgment. Some people like to tell me how to raise my children from a worldview that is dramatically different from mine. While I am open to hearing other opinions...I find that I tend to discount those opinions in favor of my own. This circle of friends affords me the opportunity to fully appreciate someone else's view...which is invaluable.
Today I spoke to another friend about taking a trip with my circle of friends that enjoys scrapbooking together. We've been doing this for years...and I really love what we refer to as our "therapy" sessions. I have received so much support and learned so much from these ladies that I can't even begin to elaborate.
Later this week, I will have lunch with another circle of friends who have been gathering for the past two years. Our children graduated together...but we weren't ready to let each other go just yet. I love hearing about the ongoing story of their lives...how they are faring...and basking in that feeling that I am not alone at this point in time. They are right in the boat with me.
Much like the ripples of a pebble in a pond...our circles expand and contract. They overlap. They take their time melding into one another until it just becomes a continuous circle of change. But even in the midst of that change...we are all grounded...connected...together.
I love my time with my circles of friends. I'm blessed that I have people who care enough to call and check on me if it has been too long, text or e-mail me with whatever is going on in their lives, or pick up a phone to ask when we can get together for lunch. I love knowing that I am not alone in this journey of life...that I have people to share my joy with...and my pain. They crack me up, they make me think, and they pray for me.
And for that...I am very, very grateful.