We met each other on a giant veranda at school aged 12 and this is where our friendship began. We did the teenage years together. I remember sleepovers, dancing on the beach in our nightgowns in the light of the moon, giggling, lots of giggling, cooking choc-chip cookies and her Mum made the best brownies. So many memories.
The veranda was where this friendship blossomed. We had a similar group of friends and we spent many hours sitting on the veranda chatting, sharing notes, sunning legs and then of course we agonised over writing essays, studying for exams, clothes, boys, and the other sort of stuff that teenage girls angst over – of which I have no memory.
During this time, we asked the big questions of life and searched for answers. We went on a Crusader camp and felt challenged. She started reading the bible while I did confirmation classes – hoping that I would find answers. I remember making a decision that I wanted to live life my own way, not God’s while my friend made a different choice.
And then…my friend’s family moved back to the United States. We knew this would happen one day, but when it did, my heart broke and I remember shedding tears often. In those days, there was no FaceBook, no mobile phone, texting, FaceTime or Skype just snail mail and the endless waiting for a letter to arrive.
Perhaps it was the emptiness left behind that made me turn to my local church, but I joined a youth group and met Christians who seemed to have a hope that I lacked and a joy that seemed unfathomable. The stories I had heard in Sunday school about Jesus took on a new meaning and I was strongly drawn to this man and a longing to follow Him.
Alone one night, I read the first chapter of John:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5
A few verses later, John writes:
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
It was as simple as believing – and I believed. So our Christian fellowship began by letter, and we wrote long letters regularly. We have been there for significant moments in each other’s lives – we started the decade of the 80’s with a 3 mile fun run – in California, it started at midnight. I had never run that far before. We spent six weeks together “in between” courses – we had both spent a year at a uni, hated it, and had each re-enrolled into a new course at a new uni. Our courtships with our husbands to be and our weddings; on the day my father died over 30 years ago, I received a letter from my friend that she had written two weeks earlier – it was just what I needed to hear – what a God moment; the death of her mother about 11 years ago; the arrival of each of our children, and before long, we had clocked up forty years of friendship and fellowship.
This makes me feel old, but part of me still feels like that girl who danced in her nightgown on the beach.
We have just spent a week together in Chiang Mai, which is where my friend lives with her family. We slipped away together to a resort called “The Veranda” which seemed fitting as this was where it had begun all those years ago. When I think of a veranda, I think of a place of shelter – a place that you can look out, see the view, but it provides protection from the elements. They are good places to sit. We spent our time reminiscing, laughing, crying and praying together for our children, our husbands our our lives.
I read this quote recently about friendship:
“A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” – George Eliot
I am blessed with many dear friends who have done life with me but this is my oldest friend and I give thanks to God for her and those precious memories that we share. Thank you Melinda.