"I want you to know that no matter where life takes you, through the ups and downs, I'll always be rooting for you."
I pressed my finger across "send" on my phone and watched the message-bubble rise. No take-backs. No canceling. No circling back. The text was signed. Sealed. Delivered. Read.
Our relationship has gone this way for the last year or so. Unanswered texts. Letters. A particularly awkward in-person meet-and-grit.
In the interest of fairness, it's not completely unadulterated. It was around this time last year that I caused her pain. Or maybe disappointment.
Throughout the many years of our friendship, the latter-half of our relationship has been sticky, for several reasons. Mainly that it began to bow and bevel under the weight of our changing circumstances and life stages. These swirling circumstances led me to believe that our relationship worked because I did. To seek her approval. To not ruffle her feathers.
After all, we're treated the way that we allow people to, aren't we?
In my recovery as a chronic perpetual people-pleaser (alliteration! humor! deflect!) I had to come to an important: would I let this individual continue to have power over me? Would I continue to allow her thoughts and attitudes reign?
The answer, for the first time in more than a decade was no.
It wasn't a big deal, at least in my mind. We no longer lived in the same city. Maybe sent each other a few messages here and there. Made halfway, half-hearted plans to connect when we weren't working. When our laundry was done. When there was nothing good to binge-watch. When our significant others weren't available.
I realized that the element that made our friendship work over the years was not my Christ-like love for her. I was on a mission of self-fulfillment. And it worked. My way of buying into her friendship was padding her approval, her loyalty, playing her side. Even when I disagreed. Even when it left me frustrated. And when that was eliminated, our friendship uncoiled.
For months my stomach knit an anxiety scarf -- a far less fashionable version of the infinity scarf -- were these snubbed olive branches my fault? Should I make harder amends? Attempt to reconcile, despite the advice of those around me? Despite her unwillingness to even be in the same room as me? Fall into the same submission born out of the hope to be well-liked and popular over a representative of Christ and His love for me?
Or should I check out?
Dust off my hands.
Buckle down in my boundaries.
Be content with my inability to retrieve her.
Be at peace with the release.
Chock it all up to female drama. And consider myself blessed from jumping off her wagon.
Because, who needs the drama?
"Female friendship is hard."
Somewhere along the beaten, growing up path, I remember hearing females lament this. To other females.
I don't want the drama.
I get along better with guys.
Girls are such back-stabbers.
It's just easier to be alone.
The truth is, it is easier to be alone. It is easier to save the drama for the dramatic. Friendship sometimes means potential rejection. Being ignored through your best efforts. Being unforgiven in a year-long spat. It means vulnerability. It means a willingness to get hurt.
But, heavens, when it's done right, it's such a blessing.
When it's based off mutual respect, compassion, a genuine effort to look out for everyone's best interest, it's too deep to ignore. It's too important to write-off simply because we're women. Because we "get along better with guys."
There's a group of girls that meet at my house on Sunday evenings. Every inch of their personalities and faces are equally lovely. We share our struggles. We take each other to deep, dark places. We hold each other up. We pray for each other and we talk about the ways the world is spinning, and how we feel we all sometimes turn on an opposite axis.
Lately, I've been struck by an acute feeling, like when your body smacks into cold pool-water.
What if we hadn't worked for this? What if we had rejected the notion of coming together. Because we're women? Because we have a flair for the dramatics?
What would my life be like without their forgiveness? Without their conversations that spring me into a more buoyant week? Would I feel like my world outside of my nine-to-five was as rich? Without the patience they have for me while I struggle to get words out. Or while my house isn't clean.
The answer is no.
I was lost in thoughts of how much would I have missed if I had closed myself off from being a friend. From being available. From not even trying.
Which brings me back to my sweet friend, whom I seek forgiveness. With whom I seek a fresh start. A place for us both to let go of our hurt, anger and grudges and come to a place of reconciliation. A reconciliation born, not from a place of panic or a need for me to erase a name from a list of people who dislike me, but from a place of grace.
From a place where Christ swoops in and loves us. When all of us from any sex are difficult. Because He, for whatever reason, deems us worth it.
Because when female friendship is hard, it's worth it.
Today is June 4th. We're in a season for flip-flops and sundresses. Virginia is all lush, crayola greens. And white wine. And fireworks reflecting off the harbor at night.
I've told myself ever since G asked a question, the big question, on a bended knee in my family's home on back in November that the moment I slipped on flip-flops, it would be go-time.
For months I bundled in my puffy coat. Shoved ice and snow from the tires of my car. G and I missed a trip to sunny California because of a winter storm. I worked from home. Outside was all whites, grays and the wind swarmed around my apartment building.
I thought this time of year would never get here. So we all trudged along. We watched a lot of Neflix. Somewhere in there I ran a half-marathon and consumed a lot of pizza and merlot, just to remind myself that I was alive. That the cold air was to be enjoyed and savored. Not rushed through.
But now our sparkling red invitations are floating out somewhere in the mail-o-sphere. G is moving his items into our new home this week. I'm in the midst of purging my bedroom of the non-vitals, the items I can be without up until the last few days before the wedding.
Cluttered. Disorganized. Bills frayed out like a round of Go Fish. My mind is in that deck, somewhere. I'll find it in a game of 52-card pickup later. And my toenails are a bright red. For flip-flop season. Go-time, indeed.
But it's also been a sweet season with my girlfriends. Old and new. These women in my small group, the girls I run with, the girls I went to college with, my family, my in-laws-to-be, they've all rallied. And that may be my favorite part of this whole season. Seeing from the outside in how much love and support G and I have from the start of this adventure.
(Is it wrong to gush about my female friends so close to my wedding day? After all, God, my closest friends and family and the United States government will soon know that I love G dearly. And that these last 30 days we spend evenings apart might be one of the agonizing and exciting 30 days of our relationship.)
These women in my life give without expecting anything in return.
They're eight months pregnant, they're military spouses, they're authors, advanced degree-seekers, youth group leaders, engineers. They're all the carbon-copy of busy. Sometimes too busy.
And yet, here they are. Giving without expectation.
When I was single, in that bit of my life where I was in scads of weddings with satin dresses and had boyfriends who were fun for a while. But neither gave me much wear. The sweat-stained dresses or the guys, for that matter
I served. I plotted. I crafted (and if you know me, you know what a sacrifice doing anything with paint or glue is). All in the name of knowing that one day the same would be done for me. I gave with expectation of getting. It was the only way I could break through the grief (yes, grief) of not having a wedding of my own to prepare for.
But I've realized that this whole time, my motives were
wrong, wrong, wrong. Dead wrong.
Where's the love in giving because you want something back? Where's the love in giving because you want to show everyone how "okay" you are? Where's the love in giving because you want to be the bigger person?
Because these women in my life? They've given beyond the point of stretching. Beyond the point of their energy, or their time with their own spouses or significant others. They've taken pause. They're at the ready to help with programs. Or flowers. Or just listening to me when someone says something hurtful and I need to cry about it on a Saturday morning.
Here's what I'm learning a month out from my marriage: this may be what it's all about. This may be what being a military spouse is all about. Along with all the other bits we know - compromise, God at the center, fidelity - but also the selfless kind of giving. The kind of giving my girlfriends are showing me.
About a year ago, I wrote on a date in my calendar. In pen. Blue ink.
On Memorial Day 2015, my husband and I celebrated our two-year dating anniversary. I remember so vividly that day. Our walk on the beach. Our dinner at a seafood joint aptly named C.P. Shuckers on the boardwalk. The way he shared his bacon-wrapped scallops with me. The way the citrus wine gathered in little drops on the side of my glass.
The way my heart beat in my chest as he reached across the table for my hand and told me -- in no uncertain terms -- that he wanted me to be his girlfriend. The way he kissed me that night in his driveway.
And the way I kept asking: are you sure?
A few years ago, the anniversary wasn't such a given. I looked at the date months beforehand in my calendar. I wrote it in my calendar. Put a little pink highlighter heart on it. Scratched it out. Wrote it again. Then colored back over it in black Sharpie.
I didn't doubt that we'd still be together. Necessarily. I just didn't want to look foolish if we weren't. So instead of hoping for the future, I crossed it out.
An anniversary with this man would either be a dream come true or a total nightmare. Depending on whether or not we actually got there.
But we're nearly two years into this now. A lot of trust has grown between us. He asked me to marry him. He's looking for places for us to live while I'm at the office. He's taking part in making a large decision for the both of us. And what's more, I want him to.
There's something very liberating about being able to write in ink on the calendar for this man. Being able to be sure in his character, his consistency.
There are dates in my calendar written in ink. There are dates that are filled with hope for a future. Without the impending fear that something bad will happen. That something will go wrong. That he'll stop loving me. That we'll find a fight that makes it impossible for us to move forward.
After all, that seems to be the attitude most people hold about most everything these days. The law of cynicism tells us that if something can go wrong, it will.
And it makes it impossible for us to ever write in ink.
This isn't to say that life doesn't disappoint. That we don't live in a world of flaws and backwards values. This week is no exception.
I'm saying that living under the incessant impulse to check our backs, to watch what we say, to expect the worst is exhausting.
It's like living with twenty extra pounds on our backs and thighs. You don't realize how heavy it is until you lose it all and you hold it in your hands. And you can't believe how you ever managed to hold on that long.
I've been living my faith-life in the same way.
Unwilling to write in ink. Unwilling to be sure in Christ and his goodness. I think that must be why scripture tells us to have childlike faiths. Their unburdened. Unwarranted. They write in bright crayola crayons and they scratch on (and off) the page. They don't expect doomsday. They don't know anything about the sky falling.
They simply draw it on the page in an irreversible way. They trust. They hope.
They write in ink. They teach us to do the same.