For years we gathered each year for a girl’s beach trip. We came here to dream, to play, to soak in the sun and beauty, to listen to the waves crash on the shore, to laugh, and sometimes to cry. In our hours on the balcony overlooking the ocean we have brainstormed cook books, “savoring life” books, redecorated homes in our minds, celebrated all our summer birthdays, planned future retirement communities, discussed the moral state of our country, future dream vacations abroad, watched sunrises and sunsets, prayed, and feasted, and feasted some more. The four of us are all very different, yet we love many of the same things. We are kindred spirits, these long time friends of mine; artists, writers, musicians, lovers of life and beauty.
It seems we came more frequently when our children were younger. I'm not really sure why. Maybe we were more desperate then to just pull away for some peace, quiet and rest.
As we've aged, our lives have changed as we've gone through the peaks of life’s joys and valleys of disappointment or broken dreams.
The circumstances of our lives have kept us from making the trips to the beach as often. Our trips look a little different now. Some years they’re not quite as light and carefree as they once were, but there are still many moments of laughter, often at ourselves!
Perhaps, it's just the season that we’re in...the season of caregiving and trying to finish well. Loving adult children and embracing the joys of being grandparents and dealing with the physical and sometimes emotional strain that comes as our bodies age. Yet, the legacy of friendship calls us.
This recent beach weekend was a generous gift to us!
Packing light is not something we do well:)
Our first day at the beach was stormy and wonderful. It kept us in close together in the lovely condo on the bay that we had been given to enjoy for a few days. The storms outside gave us time to reflect on our lives, often stormy themselves in the trials we all face. So I asked these precious, godly women to share some of the faith lessons they’ve learned in the journey over the years, especially over these last years since we gathered at the beach.
We talked about many things. We spoke of what we have come to value in our homes. Our love for the Lord, music and beauty is what drew us together from the beginning. I asked them for some thoughts about their philosophy on beauty in the home and making it a place where people want to linger and rest from the busyness and struggles that life often brings. We all have very lovely, artistic homes, but it was evident as we talked that what is most important to us all is the soul of our homes. The memories, the treasured pieces of our ancestry that stir memories of family and friends. We spoke of our desire to make our homes an oasis of peace and learning to see them with fresh eyes; not focusing on what we don’t have or what needs to be done, but appreciating the beauty and blessing of what we have. We talked about getting back to a simpler way of doing things; a cup of tea with a friend, the treasure of tables filled with people we love.
We had deep, hard conversations about some of the struggles and loss over recent years. I asked these life long friends of mine to share some wisdom on friendship. Here is a summary of some of their thoughts:
“Enjoying each others successes and creative endeavors have inspired us to pursue our own creative pursuits. In the friendship we challenge one another to press on.
Most of our creative pursuits and careers were only dreams in the early days of our friendship that began in church choir. Since that time, along with being working moms and wives, we have become designers, writers, potters, painters and gardeners, often filling our few spare hours with learning something new. This Scripture came to mind:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
We spoke of the importance of treasuring friends that you knew were going to endure for a lifetime; friends with a strong heart and faith connection. There’s a value you make in that deep connection, knowing that they will persevere with you through the years. You will have different types of friends, but only a few friends with whom you should bare your soul. They are willing speak the truth in love.“
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Our friendship has become a much richer treasure as we have walked together through the pain and struggle of life. Those friendships become a part of the fabric of who you are. That type of friendship is a treasure worth seeking
It takes time to be deeply connected with a soul friend. Many young people today are so wrapped up in their careers, their children and surviving the pace of life that they don’t make it a priority. It is a deep need that many may not be aware of. In the tremendous trials of my life in recent years, I don’t know how I would have made it without these deep friendships.”
The four of us have always been dreamers. Perhaps that is part of what has kept us together, the pursuing of dreams, the process of letting our creative minds and imaginations play with big ideas and wonder. In our dreams, we see ourselves connected in the future, being there for each other. All the while knowing that God is in control and many of our dreams might not come true, but the process has knit our hearts together.
From our condo on the bay, in the distance, we could see a tower that was calling to us. Each day of our trip we talked about how we should go down to the tower and climb to the top to watch the sunset. Finally, on our final night, after we came in from the beach, we decided to make our way there, but there was a wall that we could not cross. It was a private tower. Not to be deterred from our adventure, we searched another way to watch the sunset. We walked out on the long pier through the yachts and boats docked there until we reached the end.
There, just in time for the sunset, waiting for us was a wooden bench, empty. It was quiet. It seemed as if the sun was setting just for us, this gift from God. We watched the colors change to reflect purples and pinks on the water. The setting was glorious! The Father was painting His beautiful designs across the sky. As the sun set, we sat in the stillness of the evening. The many words we had shared over the weekend fell silent now as we just soaked in God's beauty and then He sent us another gift
Suddenly, my friend squealed and we looked and there was a dolphin playing right there at the edge of the pier. I tried to capture a picture of him, but he was too quick as we searched for him to surface again in the water.
As I reflect on it now, I think we might have missed that gift God had for us if we had reached the tower that we thought we were destined for that evening. Isn't that often the way the Lord works with our plans and dreams? We search and seek to reach them, but often, some of the greatest blessings come along the way, in the detours.
So it is with my dear friends, we know we may never reach some of the dreams we have talked about through the years, but there have been so many blessings in the journey. So many gifts with which God has graced our lives. So many treasures to hold in our hearts and in our hands.
They are a reflection of our years together. Perhaps it's really about opening our hearts and hands to what the Father has for us each moment and trusting that it will always be the best. I’m so grateful that so many years ago, the Lord chose to weave hearts and hands of these three friends of mine together and for the deep love we have for one another.
The next morning, before we left, we gathered hands and prayed. We prayed over the struggles shared over the weekend, over our future, and thanked God for the blessing and joy of friendships that have endured for over thirty years. When we finished praying, one friend asked us to take a moment and look at our hands. These are hands that have worked hard, labored in the workforce and in the home for our families. They are not as beautiful as they once were in our younger years. They bear the wrinkles and scars of time, love and hard work, but they are beautiful in my eyes and I believe in the eyes of Christ.
I asked if we could take a picture of our hands before we left. I wanted a record of that precious memory. These hands have left the imprint of God's touch on my life. These hands have held me in times of crisis and held each other together in prayer. These hands have been lifted up in praise to the Father. These hands have crafted and created beauty in our homes and have graced the homes of others. These hands have cooked meals to sustain our families and to help care for those who could not care for themselves.
These hands have helped to carry each other in times of great celebration and in times of great stress.
These hands were created by the hands of God.
Here at the beach and throughout the year we make our offerings of love to one another; words of wisdom, words of hope, sharing dreams and the longings of our hearts, the joys of our children, the concerns of the depths of our souls, and prayers for each other. We bring our hearts into the conversations on these beach trips. It is a legacy of a friendship that runs deep. Friendship that is tied together in the end by the ever weaving threads of the work of Christ in our lives.
My prayer is that you too may know the beauty of deep friendship in your life. If you have that gift, treasure it.
If not, ask the Lord to show you several friends with whom He would have you invest your life.
Take a moment now and look at your hands and ask a Father to show you how to use them in the gift of friendship.
Grateful for the hearts and hands of friendship in my life,
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