Gratitude for Friendships Near and Far

I love having friends but making them is a whole other ball game.

With all the moves I’ve had in my life, one would think it gets easier making new friends, but it doesn’t. It’s hard…every single time. Even so, making friends is worth the effort and I’ve learned to cherish the incredible friendships I have, both near and far. As I reflect on the friends I’ve made over the years, I can see God’s handprints all over the moments shared and memories made. I bet you can too!

When I worked overseas, I lived in places where making friends was inescapable—the communities and the way of life demanded friendship and connection. There was a high value placed on knowing and engaging with your neighbors as one big family. Even the names I was given in the local language were familial: sister, auntie, and daughter. As a young mother, a wife, teacher and nurse, I was able to relate to other women in the communities where I lived and develop neighborly friendships as well as deep, forever friendships that remain to this day. Though I no longer live in those places, I can look back and see how significant those relationships were in helping me grow as a Christ-follower. To this day, I can hear phrases, see smiles, and feel the hand holds of friends who walked with me through the highs and lows of life, through the mundane and glorious moments. And though I may never see many of those friends on this earth again, I am filled with gratitude. It’s almost as if I can feel my heart skipping forward, to meet them again one day. It’s a longing, a joy and grief intermingled.

Can you relate?

When I moved back to America six years ago, I thought I would never be able to find the kind of relationships I had experienced overseas. But God surprised me! The Lord grafted new, unexpected people into my life who helped break down my walls. I began to feel known and seen, just like before. I reconnected with old friends too and suddenly I had a community again. Of course, it wasn’t about replacing what was lost, but rather gaining a new circle of people in a new season of life. Some of those relationships helped me get through my grief in leaving Asia, some helped me discover new passions and opportunities that I never would have considered, and some friendships helped me get back to me…Monica—not the overseas worker Monica, not the nurse Monica, or instructor Monica, or busy, busy, busy Monica. Just me. And in my new community, God used friendship to bring me closer to the One who knows me better than anyone else, my Savior.

Can you relate?

And then we moved. Just a few months ago, we moved to a new town, in a state I’ve never lived in before, where I literally knew one person. It’s been hard. I live a little further out of town and am still trying to get the lay of the land. I’m also in that weird season of life where I have older kids, I’m working, and not always available to “hang out.”  Play dates are a thing of the past, finding a church is a pain, and putting myself “out there” makes me want to curl up in a ball. But, wait…remember I said I knew ONE person in this new town where I live? Well, lo and behold, several years ago Emily and I worked for the same organization, in Asia, at the same time—though in different provinces. Fun fact: we are both contributors to Velvet Ashes! Can I just say how blessed I am to have Emily right now? It’s so fun having a friend who “gets it,” who knows the challenges of transition, leaving, starting over, and all the stuff in between. God knows who we need.

Looking back now, from this vantage point, I feel an overwhelming sense of pure gratitude for the friendships God has given me near and far, even on my lonely days. I can’t imagine my life without my friends, even those who were for a season. We all know that some friends flit in and out of our life briefly, for a reason, leaving us stronger, more capable than before. There are the ones who have faded into memory, but at one time brought great joy. And then there are the mainstays—the ones who have always been there—who are a phone call away, who will come over at a moment’s notice, who basically know us by heart. They know the yuck, muck, and brokenness of a life on the move. Finally, there are the ones who have a piece of our heart forever. They are down the road, they are across the ocean, across borders, or waiting for us in Heaven.

It’s worth it…isn’t it? Though transitions are hard and the grief that accompanies an overseas life can seem unbearable at times, there is always the joy of friendship. Near or far, we carry the heartprints of friendship with us. May you be blessed today as you reflect on the friendships God has provided for you!

Share how the Lord has provided friendships for you at different seasons in your life? How do you approach making friends in the midst of coming and going?

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