Perspective & Grace…Friendship

Reflections from The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Do you have a friend that no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them, you just pick up where you left off and it’s like time hasn’t even passed? Well, that is the case with my friend, Sandy, whom I’ve known for 43 years (I can’t believe I’m that old!) I usually get to see her at least once a year when she comes to Milwaukee to visit family. She’s now a “southern girl” as she has lived in Dallas for 20 plus years. We talk on the phone occasionally but not as much as we’d like to–it just seems that our busy lives get in the way.

My first memory of Sandy was when I was 14 years old, hanging out in our backyards, sun tanning our bikini clad bodies. We would always slather ourselves with baby oil, spray Sun-In on our hair, and bake ourselves till we were golden brown. (Sounds like a recipe, doesn’t it!)

We have a lot of history between us: we met our husbands in high school, both got married at age 19 and stood up in each other’s weddings. After marriage, our lives took a different turn. Sandy moved away to Chicago where her husband, Mark, was climbing the corporate ladder in an international company where his uncle was the CEO.  My husband, Bruce, was at the time working in a factory. From a socioeconomic point of view, we were living in two different worlds. When we did get together, our husbands didn’t have much in common other than sharing a beer together.

From Chicago, Sandy and Mark moved to Atlanta and then Memphis. While in Memphis, I noticed some changes in Sandy as we talked on the phone—she kept talking about Jesus which made me somewhat uncomfortable. When they came to Milwaukee to visit Mark’s family, they were continuing to talk about Jesus as they told their children bible stories before bedtime as Bruce and I sat on the couch and listened. We were starting to notice something was different about them.

In the mid 1980’s they moved to Dallas to be closer to Sandy’s parents. About that time, by God’s grace, Bruce and I came to know the Lord as our personal Savior. I remember talking to Sandy on the phone and rejoicing with her about my newfound faith in Christ. As Christians and sisters in Christ, our friendship took on a whole new meaning. Now we were praying for one another and talking about our bible studies and churches as Christ became central in our friendship. What was even more exciting was to see our husbands sharing that same common bond. Remember that socioeconomic division I talked about earlier, well that was slowly dissipating.

Shortly thereafter, we took a family vacation together to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It was there that Mark encouraged Bruce to go to bible school as he could see Bruce had a gift for teaching the Word. Years later when Bruce was ordained as a minister, Mark and Sandy flew to Milwaukee for the occasion. What a work of grace the Lord did in our friendship!

Since those days, we’ve shared many of life’s joys and sorrows: we’ve seen our children grow up and get married, we’ve become grandmothers, we’ve seen our husbands go through job losses and ministry/church heartaches, we’ve watched our parents get old and die, and we’ve suffered health issues and many surgeries between us. But through it all we’ve been able to be an encouragement to one another as the Lord has been our strength and the glue that binds our friendship together.

We’ve seen our friendship change and mature these past 43 years. We’re no longer those 14 year old girls who were so focused on “looking good”.  We’re comfortable with who we are as women and how we look. We can laugh with each other as we talk about getting rid of those extra pounds we’ve put on in menopause or how we just spent the last hour talking about our aches and pains. The Lord has given us a contentment with our lives and our friendship. That reminds me, I need to give her a call!

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