The Network

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Verizon boasts to have one of the largest 3G cell phone networks available.  The cellular provider claims that no matter where you go in the United States, you will have coverage and, therefore, be able to both receive and make phone calls from your cellular device.  It’s a pretty grand offering.  Since my primary place of residence is somewhere between John’s barnyard and Mary’s farmhouse, I play “chase the signal” a few times a day as I move skittish throughout my house shouting, “Can you hear me?  Hello?  You there?  Can you hear now?  Hello?  Hello?  Wait, I can hear you!  Wait, don’t hang up!  Helloooooo!!”  :0/  Yea.  Oh what fun.  Clearly I don’t have the Verizon network.  But, it got me thinking about another network.

This weekend Huni had the great fortune of visiting his alma mater, North Carolina State University, to participate in a leadership panel.  On a whim and at the very last minute he convinced the girls and me to join him.  Whilst there, I had the great, good fortune of talking to and spending some time with family and friends.  During one conversation, I had a friend describe the latest happenings in her marvelous life (she wouldn’t describe it that way, but hey, that’s what friends are for!).   She told me that she and her roommates, three single ladies, are doing a study on purity together.  The other night one of the roommates led the time and it was phenomenal.  She told me about how she prays with a different friend in the mornings either before or after going to the gym.  The day that we were chatting she was tired after having a sleepover with a friend/colleague in support of two women who are currently raising financial support and preparing to go into full time ministry.  And there it was that she and I were talking, laughing, crying and reflecting together.  She does have a marvelous life, right!?!?

Since I live quite a distance away from all of my Frans, I was feeling quite sad after our conversation. I was like, man, how lucky you are to have all of these great connections and great women in your life.  And most of them are at your fingertips!  Comparison and self-pity are two venomous arrows in satan’s quiver.  He aims them right into your eyes, blinding you from the glory that surrounds you and somehow simultaneously highlighting someone else’s.

Sunday we went to our church.  I missed my favorite part of the service, praise and worship, I was tired from a restless night of tossing and turning and although I was happy to be there, I just wasn’t feeling it.  Honestly, I just wanted to go home and crawl into bed.  After service was over, I talked to a Fran from undergrad.  She’s so fabulous and always greets me with such a warm reception.  This time we were able to talk a little while longer than usual and she was just as sweet, gracious, funny and cool as ever.  As I finished my conversation with her, I looked up and saw a dear sister who I’ve intimately studied the word with over the past few years.  I was only able to give her a quick squeeze before a big sister in the faith came and squeezed the tears out of me.  Literally.  Just the sight of her brought a flood of tears.  Her prophetic wisdom knew that my tears were more than just the sight of her, so immediately she inquired for the real story, wiped away my tears and prayed for me.  Once we were done, I looked to the row directly below and there was yet another sister in the faith, looking at me compassionately, embracing me with her eyes, saying more than words could say as she offered me her home as a homebase for me and my girls whenever we came to town and wanted a change of scenery.  Later that night I hopped on OoVoo with Huni and we goofed, teased and chatted with some couples, the wives of which are more of my sisters  in the faith.  Together we shared some of the latest news in our lives and talked intently about how we saw the Lord calling us and directing our lives.  And this doesn’t include all of my Frans.  Only a handful.  Only a handful.

These women keep me grounded.  They know my heart, they know my hurts, they get my humor.  They love me, they enjoy me and they want me . . . just as I am yet they actively participate in my growth; they pour into me and root for me.  Even when I cannot wrap my arms around them, lay my eyes on them, or hear their sweet voices, I know that they are for me, thinking of me, praying for me.  I too have a marvelous life.  Not because of the things I have but, in part, because of my network.   All of these women are a way that God shows His love, concern and compassion for me.  They remind me that He sees me and He knows me.  No matter how lonely I feel, the truth is I have a network.  And it is sweet-potato-pie-with-whipped-cream-on-top-amazing.

What about you?  Who’s in your network?  How about showing them some love this week either via text, phone call, lunch date, good ole snail mail, or something free and simple like a stroll through your local Target?  The moment you start reaching out to each of them, you’ll receive an instant reminder of just how big and bountiful is your life.  And you’ll smile.  And your heart will feel all warm and fuzzy.  And it’ll be better than a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day.

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Deep Breaths

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Note:  I know that not all of my readers are moms, but I need to take this mom moment anyway.

Today was a day, okay?!?!  Busy, like most days, but as I was texting with one of my sister-Frans earlier tonight, I described myself as an introvert living in an extroverted situation, daily.

I am a stay at home mom.

I prayed for this.  Which in itself is an irony because I was the girl who never wanted children.  I mean, never.  I thought that this would cause problems in my marriage because Huni wanted children the minute we said “I do” but I said, “Boy, NO!”  So he waited, patiently, as God worked on my heart and then gave it desires for beautiful babies.  Then God filled those desires twice over.  And when we discovered that we were preggers with the first, then got her in our arms, I knew immediately that I wanted to be like the Levite woman and hide her away (Exodus 1:2).  So, I prayed that the Lord would bless us financially so that I could stay home and care for my new baby girl.  I worked part time and kept praying.  Months passed and my belly became swollen once more with yet another sweet surprise and my prayers became more urgent and intense as I felt that my best was compromised because I gave a percentage of it away everyday when I went off to educate other people’s children.  And He did it.  He gave Huni a job through which He chooses to bless us with income that allows me to spend my days with my baby girls.

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Each week, I face hard days.  But each day, I enjoy sweet moments.  Every few hours, I have to repent.  But every second, if I pause to receive it, grace abounds.  I see myself and the lack of patience, gentleness and understanding with which I parent.  I mourn over not being able to get it right.   I crave alone time and give way to self entitlement so that at the end of the day when the girls are sleeping, I can selfishly say, this is finally MY time, please just let me have MY time (but sometimes I don’t say it that nicely).  Instead of reflecting on the joy and love I felt as the Levite woman, I become the garden woman, tempted by the crafty serpent to slap God’s hand away by looking to what I cannot have, ungrateful for all that presently I have (Genesis 3).  And so, combined with legitimate fatigue of the mind and body, my emotions weigh and sway to the ebb and flow of condemnation, to gratefulness, to discouragement about the outcome of today, to hope for a better outcome tomorrow.  But, God’s grace abounds.

Tonight I had a good talk with another of my sweeeeet sister-Frans.  We laughed.  I felt a little lighter after a hectic day and found, through my twitter feed, this little video here:  A New Perspective For Moms from Elevation Church on Vimeo.  It felt like God’s gracious reminder to me that satan loves to use our weaknesses to distract us and cause us to take our eyes off of the One who can make us strong.  Oh, that I would train myself to fix my eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

To all moms (and all of you who hope to be moms, or know a mom, or have ever had a mom . . .):  Everyday is Mother’s Day.  Happy Mother’s Day to you.  My goal is to see myself more through God’s eyes, not my expectations and failings.  Will you join me?  As a wife, mom, daughter, granddaughter, sister, Fran, cousin . . . I won’t get it right every time.  But there is grace and God is good.  And in His grace and goodness, He will deal with me, and perfect me, and cover me so that He can receive the glory from every part of me.  Love you ladies!!  Through Christ, WE GOT THIS!!!  (Philippians 4:13)

Support Staff

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It was a beautiful, bright, winter Saturday.  The kind where the air is crisp and wet, thick with the anticipation of some wintry mix threatening to keep everyone inside, fireside bound for the whole of the day.  Except the bright boldness of the sun dared anyone to mention inclement weather, as she spread all her rays out over the earth like a mama’s proud arms, welcoming her babies in to the warmth, love and comfort that only a mama can assure.  Yes, the sun was working her magic and wooing all of the women as they excitedly dressed and prepared to go and wish well another Darling, preparing herself to take on a new last name and a basket full of responsibilities to go along with it.  They were all so excited that though aware of the blue temperatures outside, they were motivated to be with her, share with her, celebrate her and tell her exactly how to be the best wife possible to this lucky man.  So excited they were, in fact, and having done this several times before for a friend, a niece, sister, cousin, that they got caught up in the excitement and familiarity of it all and forgot to consult with their their editor and manager about what they should say.  Surely He cares that much about us, to inform us on how to inform others about how to do His will?!?!  Yet they sauntered out there, laughing, playing happy games, conversing amongst themselves, sipping the sweet, inviting nectar of joy and eating the tenderly baked, enticing confections of comfort and started talking out of turn.  Their guards were down–which can be one of the worse times to speak aloud at all, especially in a group setting and especially when you haven’t spoken with your manager.

No, they weren’t rude or harsh, but they spoke more from their own heartaches and past mistakes rather than from truth.  And Darling, so eager to please and be the wife she felt her lover deserved, took it all in without a sieve.  She swallowed it all whole thinking that it’d be better to receive it all now, soak up the moment and try it out later to see for herself if these platters of advice from the kind, well-meaning women in her community, would lay softly on the palate of her intended.

Seeing that she was a hungry girl, and wanting her to do well in this call, they talked more and more and became braver in their offerings, leaving no room in the house untouched.  From the Kitchen to the laundry room to the bedroom, Darling was told exactly what her man would like and wouldn’t like, and how she should conduct herself if she wanted to stay married. Shucks, it got so good in there that even the younger, unmarried school girls started placing their offerings before her, as if they knew anything about this scared calling for themselves except for what they had been warned against or had seen played out in some version the Housewives franchise.  They meant well. . .

No one seemed to notice that Darling’s once bright, anxious, joyful eyes had now dropped to a half moon, wandering, listless stare.  And those that did notice figured that she was probably just getting tired and wanted to open gifts.

Not all of the talk was unproductive and unedited but one of the comments that I think dimmed her light a bit came from the back of the room, an auntie, older, respected, and thought to be wiser than most of them said,

 “Don’t tell your business.  If anything happens in your marriage, keep that between you and your husband.  Don’t tell people what’s going in your relationship because you’ll choose to forgive him and they won’t.”

If I were a betting woman, I would bet you that all across the world, there is some version of this same bit of advice being told to women all over the world.  But is it biblical?

It just doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me.

Darling finds herself in the position of being recognized as that “good thing” that the gentleman has been searching for.  She is so excited about being with this man and so she sets out to plan her wedding, for some, the day of her dreams.  As she plans, she chooses the women who will stand closest to her on that day.  They smile, cry, tilt heads to the side, clutch hearts and prepare for months of sentimentality and love, anxious for the big day.  Then, after the day has come, they have all celebrated, eaten cake and burned it off with the Cupid Shuffle and the Electric Slide, the couple drives off into the sunset to live happily ever after . . . and the supporting cast members are supposed to just walk away and stay out of their business?

No.  I think we’ve got this all wrong.

I don’t believe that you should share your business with just anybody just as much as I believe that you shouldn’t have just anybody in your wedding.  Marriage is sacred and we should treat it as such from the moment we start dating.

The bible speaks often about community and how we are to conduct ourselves as we live in community with each other.  One example is in Galatians 6:2 encouraging us to: Carry each others burdens…”

I should be able to talk to a select few women in my life, or perhaps one woman, who is close to me, loves me, sincerely cares about me and my marriage when I am happy and when I am struggling to be the wife who respects her husband as I am called to do in Ephesians.  I should be able to go to her and trust that she will keep my confidence and lead me to the throne to receive help and healing for my heart, mind and marriage.

Now, to be clear, I do believe that our first move should always be toward the Lord, in prayer.  We shouldn’t ever get into the habit of running to friends and family for help when our God has already set Himself up as everything that we need.  But the place where most people get mixed up is in forgetting that God places people in our lives who we are to grow with.  He will often use people to show us His love for us, to show us His hand of provision, and even His hand of correction can come down through the people in our lives.  Don’t shut people out because you have been told to cover your relationship like a newborn child in the middle of a war zone.  Be wise about the people you have in your life, and trust God to use them to lead you into His call for you, which is holiness.

I have some of the most amazing women in my life.   Truly.  They love me.  They like me.  They applaud me but they also challenge me.  They know who I am and they know that I aspire to be pleasing to God, so they never let me compromise that. I am free to pitch a 60 second fit but they are are there, one (and sometimes two) at a time, to gently get my head back in the game and get back on point.  They are consistent as I parent, in my friendships, my work, relationships, goals, and yes, my marriage.

I think that we should talk more about this and unravel it a bit more.  We’ve got to debunk this myth and see what the Lord has to say about it.  While it has some value for keeping the sanctity of your marriage, I believe that it has taken a turn and put more of us in bondage than anything else.  I believe that there is a reader who needs to be free and know that she just may have someone in her life that she can be completely transparent with about her marriage, to the glory of God and the edification of her and her husband.  I also believe that for some of us, it runs a little deeper and we need to clean house and get some new Frans ’cause the ones we have on staff have taken an extended, paid vacation.

Assured

Today I went to visit an old Fran from college.  Kim Morrisette is not just any old Fran.  She’s the woman that God used to water and point toward the Son, the seeds that my mama had sewn into me, raising me in Christ Jesus, knowing Him as my Lord and savior.  I was so broken, so sad and yet I was searching for something big and deep and real and although I was confused about many things, I knew that what I needed and wanted was only going to be satisfied by God.  So Kim led me and a group of girls in our dorm, Greene Hall, through bible study.  Our friendship deepened and she went on to disciple me and train me to do the same thing for other women on campus.  She poured into me and facilitated further training with my roomie and me as we helped to lead a new, small campus ministry.

I didn’t get to spend a very long time with her– I teased her about living out in John’s barnyard (she lives quite a distance from me in a beautiful farmhouse “out in the sticks”) and that took a bit of our time away because good ole me left a little later than I intended and then I made it all the way to her street and got lost–but the time I was able to just be around her and meet her children and see her face and see what her life is like now, was so good.  I missed Kim and I am so glad that during this season of my life, the Lord is making a way for us to connect again.

Within the past week I’ve been in close connection with people who have lost loved ones.  Some have been traumatic and the other quiet but all have been hard and sad.  I almost feel like times are very uncertain right now; you can’t know if the last time you see someone will be the last time. . . how much will change with people between now and the next time you see them, if you are so fortunate to see them again?  So much fear and uncertainty.  And although it’s reasonable for me to feel and think this way, it’s not the way of truth.  It’s not Philippians 4:8-9 and it won’t draw me closer to my savior, it’ll just keep me questioning Him, and doubting Him.  

I enjoyed spending time with Kim so much today because it was a reminder for me that there have been other times when I thought that God had left me, forgotten about me, wasn’t working on my behalf, didn’t have a plan for my life except to repeat what had been done in my family generations past or just plain old didn’t care.  But Kim came to me at the most crucial time in my undergraduate career.  I was on the brink of utter hopelessness and I needed to know that all that mama taught me about God was real and that there was more.  As I look back to then and see what my life is now, in those times when I felt so shaky and uncovered, God, in fact, did have a plan and He was working it out for my good, even when I didn’t always sense it.  Seeing Kim was such a sweet reminder of His grace.  God is so good.  In times of tragedy, pain, sorrow, loss and confusion it’s good to have a blessed assurance– that firm, sure, sweet reminder that He is in control, He knows what He’s doing, His word is still true, He is trustworthy, He’s got me and my whole world in the palm of His hands.  I am safe there.

I’m sure that there is someone out there reading this who just needs a reminder that He is good and that He is a loving Father.  Please, be of good service to yourself and think about your life–what it was, what it is, and what it could be.  He’s there.  And He’s been there the whole time.  If your waters are smooth right now or if they are rough, this is a good time to know the God you serve and His characteristics.  Do yourself a favor.  Remind yourself of all that He’s done.  And rest.  Assured.

Marriage Letters: On Friendship

E 2 tha T,

That’s what your friends call you, right?  Or something related. . . ET, E, Easy . . .

I wanna be your friend.  Your best, good friend.  yeah.  Like Forrest and Bubba.

When we first met, friendship was a requirement for me.  I needed to know that you’d stick around and try to get to know me and find value in friendship with me before I let you pursue me for love.  That was my deal with basically every guy I dated but you were the one who actually took me seriously and dug through my rough places to find the diamonds that I worked so hard to hide while I protected myself from everything and everyone.  Even you.  You stuck it out with me.  You decided that if it took befriending me to get the chance to love me, then you’d be Stevie and I’d be Dionne and we’d make them think we wrote the song! Hey!  And you. were. my. friend.  For reals.  Before and during our dating relationship, we had such a sweet, deep friendship.  But . . . (yeah, there’s a “but”) . . .it’s different now.

I hear you on the phone with your friends, and I hear how hard you laugh and how much you share and I gotta admit, I get a little jealous.   I don’t feel included anymore.  I don’t feel as close to you as I know we could be and as I close to you as I want to be.  And I hear you say that I shouldn’t expect for our friendship to look like my friendships with the women in my life.  (How many times have you said, I am not Chasity!!!) And I get that.  I do.  And it’s not that I want our friendship to look like any other friendship I have but there are aspects of those relationships that I expect to see in our friendship because, I feel, our connection should be greater and deeper than any other connection I have with anyone else on earth.  And when our relationship doesn’t look like our friendship is strong, it’s discouraging because it’s a reminder of how things are different from what they used to be and that we aren’t as close as I want us to be . . .as I feel we should be.  What are we gonna do?

I don’t want to replace your other friends.  You need them, just like I need my friends.  And you know how much all of my friends mean to me.  What it is that I want, is my buddy back.  We have allowed some very good, good things to come in and squish all of the room for friendship, out.  When was the last time we played Phase 10?  Marcus still has our tennis game . . .we could play that!  I know that I can lean on you and talk to you about anything and I know that we can have a really, really fun time together, laughing until crying and talking late into the night, but it’s not our way anymore.  We happen upon these moments, or they hunt us down through circumstances but we don’t run after opportunities to find joy in each other.  Marriage is a gift for so many reasons and it’s a serious matter but I think that one of the reasons we have each other is to make life a little bit sweeter.  Friendship does that for me.  And I want us to be friends.  Best, good friends.  Like Forrest and Bubba,  David and Jonathan, Rose, Blanche, Sophia and Dorothy.

But really.  What are we gonna do?  I can’t blame you, I’ve played a big part in this too.  It was impressed upon me a few months ago that I need to be more vulnerable with you and trust you more.  uggggggggghhhhhhhh.  Two very difficult things for me to do, but I think they’re so difficult because I keep looking at you and your limitations and not the spirit of God who resides inside of you and empowers you, eliminating your limitations.  Even though you can make me madder than a wet hornet, you can bring me joy like no other.  And I just want to enjoy you more.  I don’t want our marriage to slip into the mundane and then glide into this survival, day to day mode where we just take care of each other and our children, but we don’t fully enjoy our lives together.  It seems like a sure indication that a marriage is headed down that road is when the friendship starts to wan.  I know that we are friends.  There’s not doubt about that.  And I know that we have a good time together, but I want it to be better, richer, funner!  ;0) So, here.  Let’s have a do-over-midway-start-over.  E 2 tha T, will you be my best good friend?  Check yes or no.

I love you!!

pamela t.

Hi Frans!!

It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you, without a  . . .  :0)(couldn’t figure out something cool to finish off Eric B. and Rakim’s masterpiece to make it my own . . .)

Last week I did not post a word.  AlL. WeEk. LoNg.  I was running around like a sugared up child preparing to host a bridal shower for a dear friend of mine.  Her wedding is July 8, just a couple of weeks away and I’m pretty excited about going to Charleston, SC to celebrate with her (and the fact that Huni and I will be parlaying that wedding weekend into an anniversary excursion adds a splash of giddiness to the pie!!)

Everything at the shower was great but ole Pammie-Pam is still in class, taking life lessons on time management sooooo . . . the fact that I did not post a word last week, should tell you how I scored on that last test.  :0/

BUT!  I love to write and I love the practice that I get here and I love that I have a few faithful readers who actually enjoy reading my musings and ponderings.  I pray that the Lord is being glorified with every word.

So.  Tomorrow is Wednesday and we’ll be in the word with Beth (Beth Moore, that is.  I just like her so much that I feel like we’re on a first name basis :0)) but I wanted to end this post with a piece of a scripture she’s teaching on:

12 Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
13 He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them. (Psalm 25:12-14, NIV)

May this particular word be life for someone, right now.

Wednesdays with Beth: The Law of Kindness pt 2

Chuckled to myself about those “fights” I have with people in my mind.  I prepare or replay the whole conversation and all the things I’d say to get somebody right,  “Aunt Esther style” . . . giving little thought to how, most often, I’m so wrong. . .

Check it out:  http://lifetoday.org/video/the-law-of-kindness-part-2

Photo taken from google,  jameslogancourier.org

Happily Humble

I am Thanksgiving Day full of joy from this weekend!  Friday was my birthday so my parents (in-law) came up to spend the weekend taking care of the girls so that I could rest and my huni took the day off to hang out with me. (sweeeet, right?)  We saw a movie, did some light shopping, ate frozen yogurt and topped off the night having dinner with friends.

Then for Saturday he had secretly spoken to my family and friends and arranged a surprise party in my honor!!  It was wonderful!!  We ate some yummy food, danced, danced, danced, laughed, laughed and laughed some more and just had an all around good time.  One of my sisters came in from out of town, my aunts and cousins pulled together and made the food, decorated my home and really set the atmosphere for a book lover’s themed party.  And then, some of them pitched in and bought me a Nook!!!  (cheering, smiling, crying, fist pumping, so excited!!)  I am so grateful for my family and friends.  This weekend was wonderful.


I know that there are great things happening in other people’s lives.  At the same time there are people with great, basic needs and a Nook may seem such a trivial thing to cheer about.  This was not necessarily a milestone birthday . . .yet . . .I am so happy and so grateful because some people I care about took a bit of their time and resources to show how much they care about me.  I needed that.

I often get so caught up in trying to deny my need for people and my longing for connection.  It’s a rallying theme with many familiar mantras:  “Be strong!,” “Be independent!,” “Go for yours!”, do whatever you can to uphold the front that you are sufficient in and of yourself.  Deny vulnerability because vulnerability is a sure sign of weakness, and weakness is not favorable.  Yowza!!!  And it is this very attitude that has made me feign strength and nurture pridefulness.  I feel so much better when I offer help than I do when I receive it.  The issue is that this has little to do with my tender, giving heart but more to do with the rancid stench of pride compromising anything good that I attempt to do.  And what I’ve noticed is that I can be this way with God.  (ouch)  I remember one time talking to Emmanuel (my husband) telling him that I didn’t want to have to run to God for every little thing; I wanted to be able to show Him that I could handle some things on my own.  (covering my face with my hands)  Missing the big problem in my statement?  God never intended for me to live independent from Him.  He wants me to depend on Him for every little thing.  And most times He’ll use people to help me and give me what I want and need.  If I isolate myself and set myself up as this super-Pam who needs no one and can handle everything, I dismiss God, I dismiss His people and I dismiss myself because I am not giving myself a chance to receive from God.

This birthday weekend, my need wasn’t gifts, neither food nor shelter.  My needs were rest, peace, joy, and love.  And the Lord saw fit to use my family and friends to fill me to the measure.  And I reveled in it.  And I am full.  Thanksgiving Day full.  For reals.


Love Letter to the Women Who Mean So Much to Me

I think that the term best friend has lost some of its flavor.  Back in the day-day, best friends were as distinguishable as the smell of curry in the hallway of a diverse apartment building in D.C.  If a girl said that someone was her best friend, you could best believe that the two of them would be melded together like the sweet, sticky syrup to the dough on a cherry pastry.  And consistently so–no matter what!  They’d take on each other’s personalities, look out for each other, and fight (of course), but they would essentially create a world made just for the two of them, through which they would freely and creatively express themselves and in which they would endeavor to live for the rest of their lives.

But now it seems like a BFF has been reduced to a fad, the latest trend.  And as her ability to accessorize with your life changes, so do the ideals of friendship.  For some people, that term-BFF needs to be amended to BFFN–Best Friend For Now!  And I am so sad to report that there are even some of us who can’t say that we have very many friends at all–much less a best friend.  I hear so many women proudly say, “I don’t do women.  I prefer to deal with men, ’cause women are just too much.”  And I think that’s just a shame.  I really believe that we are a reflection of each other and if we refuse to unite then what side of ourselves are we giving each other to reflect upon?  And why are we okay with that?

Well, I have come as the BF Fairy to restore your faith in friendship!  (get excited) One fateful day (some years ago today, in fact), the giver of all good and perfect gifts opened up the windows of heaven and poured me out a blessing , and even now, this woman is my ride or die, tried and true homie. I am so grateful that I get to call my mom one of my dearest, bestest, good friends.  I’ve shared my whole, whole, life with her.  She’s seen me inside and out, ugly and beautiful and yet she still loves me.  And she still chooses me, day after day.  She calls me, just to talk, just to know what’s going on with me and to share what’s going on in her life, with me.  She trusts me.  She was careful not to befriend me too soon.  She did me the honor of making sure that I had her love as my mommy before she ever thought of me as a friend.  And it’s because of her that I can dream impossible dreams and pray with faith that the Lord will sift through them and give me what He deems best for me.  She is one of  the most sweet-hearted women I’ll ever know.  I’ve never seen strength and vulnerability contained so beautifully in a person as with my mom.  She’s my shoulder to cry on, laughing buddy, prayer partner, my biggest fan.  And I would not be who I am today if it were not for her.  There is no tribute effective enough to do her justice.  You’d have to meet her to know that these few words were a meager attempt and only hint at the wonder of God’s goodness that she personifies.  She’s inspiration and aspiration to all things higher and greater.  My mommy.

I have a friend who, over the years, has transcended as more than my friend–she is my sister.  I can try to minimize our relationship to words just so that I can tell you exactly how and why it’s been as sweet as it is and still the best that I can say is that in her heart, there I sit–along with her mother, her family, the greatest loves of her life and her darling baby girls.  Her actions toward me have been the spokesperson for these sentiments.  She’s always wanted me to be a part of her life and she has done her share of the work to make it happen.  She tells me all the time that she is going to be the Gayle to my Oprah and this is not because she is settling for being a Gayle until she finds her inner Oprah but because she believes in me wholeheartedly and she gives me the strength, courage and wisdom to pitch my tent among the stars while I rest and dream on a cloud.  I can see the beauty of who I am, and who I aspire to be, naturally reflected in the light of her essence.  She’s been like a mother’s love–comforting, correcting, and sacrificing so that I can be, me.  Of course we’ve had our fights and our friendship has suffered some turmoil.  I’ve wanted to slam and suplex her but I honestly cannot imagine my life without her.  She’s my BFF.

But here’s the real doozy:  I have so many wonderfully incredible women in my life who, through the years and even right now, have deeply effected who I am.  In some cases they have been better to me than I to them.  There is so much grace in that.  I am a big ole mess and if anyone were to decide to give up on me, I couldn’t hold an argument worthy of making them change their mind.  But I’ve got some sit-ins-at-the-lunch-counter-during-the-civil-rights-movement kind of women in my life!  They shall not be moved!!  Each woman who I have the privilege of calling mine in any capacity is a representation of the truth I seek as I grow and develop as a woman of integrity, a woman of grace, a woman of standard, a woman of God.  They not only are friends, they are goals, for if I can but strive to attain the beauty of self and character that these women possess I just may become the first real-life superwoman.  Yes, I love my best friend and her light shines brightly in my life but the evolution of my refinement is continued in the summer, spring, winter and fall that are all of my friends and some of the women in my family and church as well.

Through my life I celebrate you all–a beautyFULL, spring bouquet in the center of an elegant table setting.  You allow me to adorn myself in the petals of your love and grace and in so doing you have given me the confidence to sashay about with confidence in this harsh, judgemental, mean world.  As my stilettos leave holes in the ground, I continue your legacy, inviting those who come behind me to plant a seed in fertile soil–the results of which will be deep, strong roots and the rich, succulent fruit of God’s productivity yielded through me from you.

And all of this– not simply because of me but because God loved me so much that he specifically and thoughtfully placed all of you in my life.