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Courtney Stanford is a passionate follower of Jesus and the writer of her blog, Let Every Heart.  She is the wife of a worship pastor and the mommy of three little men. Courtney is an elementary school teacher on hiatus, while she is currently a stay-at-home Mommy and the keeper of a joyful (yet slightly noisy) home that she lovingly refers to as her "frat house."  Whether she is leading a Bible study for women, teaching her adult Sunday School class, or writing for her blog, Courtney is an enthusiastic encourager of Christ followers, especially women and children. You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!  
 

The Friendship That Goes On

Courtney Stanford
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Courtney Stanford is a passionate follower of Jesus and the writer of her blog, Let Every Heart.  She is the wife of a worship pastor and the mommy of three little men. Courtney is an elementary school teacher on hiatus, while she is currently a stay-at-home Mommy and the keeper of a joyful (yet slightly noisy) home that she lovingly refers to as her "frat house."  Whether she is leading a Bible study for women, teaching her adult Sunday School class, or writing for her blog, Courtney is an enthusiastic encourager of Christ followers, especially women and children. You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!  
 
#Christian women #friendship #life

Sometimes the roller coaster makes it real…and it has been REAL.  When someone is a consistent, dependable, loyal part of your life for approximately 17 years, authenticity is basically the only option.  

You love each other through the awkward years.  We’re talking some major doses of awkward, friends.  For example, you find yourself at a youth rally where the boy crushing on her has decided you’re the next best option.  He has written a poem for her.  No worries.  He can change all of the parts with her name to your name…and he’ll gladly tell you which parts those are as he recites the poem to you in the parking lot of her church.  Why?  Why does the eighth grade have to be a thing?  Could we not skip that year?  Nope.  It happened…and we survived.  Awkward with a capital A, I tell you.

Then, you don’t make the dance team and you convince her that you will both be cheerleaders instead!  Enter the super awkward picture you have taken together at cheerleading camp.  That was…special, to say the very least.  She could really rock the curled-under bangs.  You rocked the white eye liner.  There are no explanations for these decisions.  Fifteen-year-olds live and learn…through many fashion flops. 

There were back surgeries, first boyfriends, family illnesses, and boys at church camp with hair as bright as the sun.  We cannot explain this either, but that one proved to be the keeper of the high school relationships.  He stayed…thankfully for them, the hair color did not.  There were sleepovers and prank phone calls because she could really pull off that kind of craziness while you could only make desperate attempts to muffle your hysterical laughter in a living room pillow.  For real.  She once pretended to be a telephone evangelist and convinced her own grandma to sing, “Victory in Jesus,” along with her.  She pulled this off with a fake southern accent and great enthusiasm, I might add.  {You both may have to own up to that one on Judgement Day.}  Wow.  There were Destiny’s Child concerts and home-made Christmas specials starring the two of you…saved on VHS.  Forever.  One of us belted, “Oh Holy Night,” while the other one zoomed in on the friend’s tonsils.  Thank you for that, dear pal.  The other did a rather jazzy dance number to a song from the Point of Grace Christmas CD.  Praise the Lord that Youtube didn’t exist.  We would have been all over that.  We’re gluttons for punishment.  Thank you, Jesus for sparing us from the Internet. There was that time you both shaved your legs with the garden hose and dull razors on the back porch.  You shopped together and she kept it real by reminding you that you had the fashion sense of a grandmother.  You learned to ask yourself if your friend would disapprove before ever adding a new item to your closet.  Fashion crisis remedied.  You missed the cheerleading bus together because you spent too much time in Subway and she pulled a U-turn right there in the middle of the small-town roadway.  After following the bus to the game, your coach separated the two of you for the night…and you decided that the punishment might have been worth the adventure.  She may not remember all of those shenanigans but by golly, she remembers your white eye liner!  Never gonna live that down.  The fights were ugly, because you could both throw around some zingers, reserved for each other.  A photographer once took a candid shot of the cheerleaders on the sidelines of a basketball game and later, you both laughed when you noticed he had captured your mid-argument, silent treatment scowls and cold shoulders with his fancy camera.  The good times were good…and the funny times were epic!  She wore a bonnet in the musical, made faces, and rolled her eyes behind you while you sang, “The Trolley Song,” in your best Judy Garland voice.  She got married two weeks after high school and you sobbed through the entire wedding…because alas, sleepovers were over forever.  A few condescending folks said they were too young, but you knew better.  This was rare but it was the real deal.  More than a decade later, they are one of the happiest and strongest couples you’ve ever known.

Adulthood hit hard with nursing school, education classes, the ending of long-term relationships that shouldn’t have been so long, and learning to be grown-up.  You often invited yourself over to have dinner with your friend and her husband and raved over her adult-life!  You were so proud of her meals of manwhich and of the apartment with the animal print living room decor.   In the early years of college, you worked a part-time job side by side at a local preschool which provided time to catch up each afternoon in the midst of the crazy-busy season that accompanied this new “grown-up” stage of life.  

When the funeral came, you cried when you walked into the room to see your very expectant friend sitting on a stool beside her daddy with Kleenex in her hand.  The following day, you sat beside your parents trembling in a pink sweater, praying that God would sing for you when that moment came.  You stood in the back of the room, looked away from her shaking shoulders, and prayed, “God, help me,” just before you opened your mouth.  The sound was there but only by the grace of God and maybe a little determination for your friend.  This memory never leaves you and you always switch the radio station on that song.  Real life comes with the real sting of excruciating pain.

Joy always comes in the morning.  Her first joy was born in the middle of the night or perhaps it was early in the morning.  You stayed in the hospital room as long as your eyes would stay open and her husband laughed about your chipper answer on the other end of the line when the middle-of-the-night phone call came to say that their girl had arrived. The next phase of life was full of life lessons in car-seat safety and feeding schedules. The first baby learned to shop in her stroller and you were sad to leave her to go away to the University.

Soon, there were phone calls about the boy at college and the engagement.  Their second baby was born and you heard the news of his birth via a voicemail while you made a bank run for your part-time employer who insisted that “foo-foo” was a life skill.  (Whatevs.) Time and distance aside, your friend remained a real presence in the most meaningful life events.

You had promised yourself that you wouldn’t cry at your own wedding, but she sobs at weddings and there she stood in her fuscia bridesmaid’s dress, wiping a steam of tears as you walked down the aisle.  You were done for.  Even the sight of this in the video still cues your waterworks each year!  She showered you prior to the birth of all three babies and helped to care for and transport the older ones when your heart had a postpartum set-back.  Twice.  She was always there.  The arguments were only amplified through the differing views of adulthood.  You once climbed in her car, while you both applied make-up on a Sunday morning in the church parking lot, and said, “Look, if we were married, we’d need a counselor but since you are just my friend and not my husband…can we just get over this already?!”  And so it was.  Forgiveness commenced and you’ve learned to hold your thumbs to refrain from texting in the midst of hurt feelings.  Angry texts have done enough damage…and you continue this process of living and learning.  The roller coaster continues and the friendship goes on.

She stands with you in your kitchen when you listen to the heartbreaking message that you didn’t get the new job.  This call follows the most devastating day in your professional career.  In her nursing scrubs, she puts her hands on her head, breathes in, and then says, “Okay…let’s think.  We’re going to figure this out,” she pauses and smiles, “Weeelllll, you HAVE always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom….maybe God is saying this is the time.”  And so it was.  Friendship is like that, always scooping you up after the fast plunge of the hurt.  The roller coaster never stops in spite of the falls or the dips.  It just goes on.

Once at a retreat, they suggested that everyone turn to their neighbor to say, “I love you,” and you promptly turned to her to say, “I do, but I can’t say that to you….” Because sometimes the roller coaster of life has been so real and so full of stuff that you can’t even begin to unpack it on a whim.  This friendship has so many layers of authentic life…so you keep your heart a tiny bit harder with this most loyal friendship than you ever will with any other new friend.  As loving as you both are with all of the others…you just can’t.

The day you leave for your first international mission trip, she comes through the line of prayer warriors, all commissioning your God-sized adventure.  You hold it together until she reaches you and bursts into a sobbing, “I never thought you would be brave!  I’m so proud of you.”  You cry on her shoulder because perhaps you both kind of think that it is slightly unlikely that you’ll ever survive the next eight days.  Your track record for bravery is pretty much non-existent at this point.  You foolishly hug it out like this HAS GOT TO BE the end.  You question your decision-making skills as you continue the shoulder-sobbing and you definitely exchange the “I love yous,” because that’s the kind of thing you say to your friends…just in case.  Clearly, you return home safe and sound but not without having to message her once from another country to request that she checks on your husband and children.  She does.  Friendship just does.  It goes on, highs and lows, unexpected curves, and dark tunnels…friendship does

On a Wednesday night, she finds you at church.  The look in her eyes and tone in her voice suggests that she is either about to tell you that you’re dying (she would literally probably know before you, anyway) or maybe this is another suprise birthday party???  No, no…your birthday isn’t in April.  Something is up…in a big way.  She pulls you into the church’s youth room and you watch the clock saying, “You know I have a book study waiting on me, right?”

  “Just hold on.  You won’t want to miss this,” she insists.  

The video rolls.  Her techy husband makes videos at times, all highly amusing.  You’ve seen a couple dozen through the years.  You wait for the April Fool’s Day joke but the video takes a serious turn.  You sit with your friend while they announce the impending arrival of a third joy, this one much younger than the two that have grown up so quickly.  Where does the time go, anyway?

In the coming days, you find yourself exceptionally excited for Joy #3.  You’re absolutely on cloud nine.  You can’t quite pinpoint the real reason for this level of giddiness.  Perhaps it is because you have already welcomed your third and final joy.  Perhaps it is because you won’t be leaving for the University this time.  Perhaps it is because you can finally be the one to pass on the baby clothes and that would certainly relieve some mommy friend guilt, since you are forever indebted to her in the baby layette department.  Her last child basically clothed all three of your own, more or less, with his hand-me-downs.  Perhaps it is because you don’t get out enough anymore…and frankly, a little excitement goes a long way!  Maybe it isn’t any of that at all.  

This morning, you start your day and eventually stumble upon a video by Melanie Shankle on her lovely website, The Big Mama Blog, that speaks of true sisterhood and the irreplaceable bond of a Christian woman in your life throughout numerous decades and seasons.  The reality speaks loudly to your heart. You’ve figured it out!   You are happy for her because THIS is one of YOUR people.  She doesn’t watch Grey’s Anatomy.  (You know this because your short-term memory is sketchy, so you’ve forgotten and asked her if she watches like… twice a year.  At least you remember today.  There’s that.) Thus, she will never comprehend this analogy, but she is the Christina to your Meredith.  She is your person.  Perhaps the trenches of the roller coaster have made the peaks of life that much sweeter.

No matter where the roller coaster leads, no matter the bumps (and there will be all kinds of bumps: baby bumps, text messaging troubles, and real-life nonsense) even then–she will be there.  The roller coaster has already proven itself to stand in spite of all sorts of crazy weather.  Some friendships are resilient…boldly-strong.  You can count on this one.  Time has proven this.  Just buckle up.  You’d be wise to hang on tightly to this one.

A friend loves at all times.       Proverbs 17:17

From my heart to yours,                      ~Courtney

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