The Value of A True Friend

Last weekend, I celebrated my 26th birthday. I also celebrated my 10 year “friendiversary” with my closest girl friend, Hannah. 10 years ago this weekend, it was our first day of summer camp and my 16th birthday. We were staying in opposite ends of a cabin with a shared bathroom in the middle.

As we stood at the sinks, we bonded over the younger girls who were getting all dolled up – fixing their hair and applying makeup – to play Red Light, Green Light. That’s  hilarious to me, because, especially in high school, I wasn’t a cool, laid back jeans and T-shirt kinda girl like Hannah. But, even I knew I shouldn’t put more makeup on to run around in July heat. So, we had a good laugh and a friendship was formed. (And I made a mental note that I shouldn’t get all dolled up later in the week: “Unlike at my preppy prep school, that’s not cool here.”)

That week at camp was the first week I really began to understand what it meant to follow Jesus. I’d been going to church for a year, but I’d say that week was really the turning point in my heart and my life.

I don’t remember hanging out with Hannah a lot at camp, although we did somehow get this awesome picture. Is there a better example of teenage awkwardness than this photo?

We – and most of the camp – exchanged addresses and phone numbers, and somehow, she and I stayed in touch. We talked on the phone a few times – she in North Carolina and me in Virginia – and I loved how funny she was and how real she was. She joked that one day, I’d go to her college of choice so we could be roommates.

I’d never really had a girl friend who was a Christian before and I appreciated that her life wasn’t all sunshine and roses, but she managed to turn to Jesus anyway. I had very little idea of what it looked like, practically speaking, to turn to Jesus, and I was glad to see an example in her life.

One night, about 6 months after camp, I had a terrible night. I won’t go into details here, but I had to do one of the most awful and difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my life and then sat in my room, crying. My phone rang, I saw it was her on the caller ID, and I answered. I’m not sure exactly why I answered. I normally wouldn’t have, but that night, I did. And I told Hannah what had happened. She encouraged me, prayed with me, shared her own life with me, and didn’t run away from the messiness in mine.

That night, I let myself be loved – something that I’d struggled to do very often since my parent’s divorce 2 years before.

Hannah continued to call and to answer my own calls, which was surprising to me after she saw such messiness in my life. And, when we talked, she continued to encourage me to follow Jesus.

Hannah convinced me to apply to the same college she applied to and we both got in! I decided to go and we knew we wanted to be roommates.

As we filled out our roommate questionnaire (where you can request a roommate, but also have to answer questions about your interests, habits, and what not, so they make sure you’re compatible), we decided we really, desperately, without a doubt needed to be roommates. So, we requested each other and then filled out our forms so the Roommate Assigning Committee had no choice but to put the two of us weirdos together.  I wrote things like “I want a roommate who will hold my feet while I stand on my head,” while she wrote “I want a roommate who likes to stand on her head while I hold her feet.” We really cracked ourselves up, picturing someone reading through the forms, and were ecstatic when we (inevitably) were assigned to room together.

The fun didn’t stop there.  As roommates, we had a blast.

Perhaps our most hilarious moment as college roommates stemmed from a prank we continually pulled on each other.  We had a picture of a guy with funny hair that we would often hide in each other’s things for the other to find.  One day, when Hannah was at class, I somehow shimmied up our 15 foot wall to hang the photo on the ceiling directly above her bed.  As she laid down to go to sleep that night, she looked up, and saw him on the ceiling, looking down at her.  We about peed our pants.  And, we couldn’t figure out how to get it down for weeks, so anytime friends came into our room, they asked, “Why is he on your ceiling?” We simply replied, “Oh, Hannah likes to have him be the last thing she sees before she goes to sleep and the first thing she sees when she wakes up.”

In spite of all our good times that year, as roommates, we also had our share of troubles. We fought like sisters do sometimes, even while we also cared for each other through struggles with relationships, sicknesses, and finals. She made eggs, which totally grossed me out. I would hardly go down the hall without makeup on, which I’m sure really annoyed her – especially since we initially bonded over lack of makeup.

I transferred schools after that year, but we still talked often.  I was honored to have her by my side as I got married and a couple years later, anticipated wedding bells for her long before she did. She off-handedly (and she would have me emphasize jokingly) told me a guy she knew was moving into her building “so we can fall in love and get married”. Since Hannah does not say things like that, I knew he must be something special. Almost 2 years later, my prediction started to come true — they started officially dating while she was visiting me and talking to him on the phone in my basement. A few months after that, I was standing in that same basement when I got a phonecall that Hannah was hanging out with her fiancé!

Through high school, college, marriages, and children, Hannah has been my buddy. She’s made me laugh and listened to me cry. She’s shared her life with me, prayed for me, and encouraged me to be a better daughter, wife, mom, and follower of Jesus. Along the way, I’ve learned an awful lot about the value of a true friend – the good, the bad, and the ugly  beautiful.

The Good 

  • Laughter.  We have so, so many other inside jokes that are a lot funnier to us than to anyone else. Even our husbands don’t think our stories are nearly as funny as we do. So, I’ll spare you.
  • Help. Hannah has given me a lot of practical help over the years. She registered me for my college classes when I couldn’t access a computer and she advised Beach Dad and me in how to create a budget when we first got married. She helped me surprise Beach Dad by painting our bedroom when he was out of town.  Most recently, she and her husband drove 3 hours each way to unload our moving truck, entertain our children, unpack our boxes, and assemble our furniture with us when we moved to Charleston.

  • Effort. Hannah has done a great job keeping in touch with me, even when I’ve gone through periods of being lame at keeping in touch. She has consistently sent me sweet notes (like a sign that said “We are going to be ROOMMATES!!!!”) and thoughtful gifts for my birthdays and giving-birth-days. Some seasons of life, we’ve talked on the phone for hours; others we’ve just occasionally texted, but I’m grateful for her effort to consistently stay in touch.

The Bad

  • Distance – For all but one year of our friendship, Hannah and I have lived at least 8 hours away from each other. As of 3 months ago, we now live in the same state. Woohoo!
  • Difficulties – Throughout our 10 years of friendship, we’ve each had our difficulties. Like anyone, we’ve had interpersonal troubles with others and we’ve both had some struggles with our health off and on.
  • Living together – In spite of all the fun we had when we were roommates, we also had rough spots. One particularly stressful week as roommates, she may have screamed at me: “You have made my last week hell!” (and it may have been completely true).

The Beautiful

  • Forgiveness – As roommates, we had many, many chances to offer each other forgiveness (see above!). In my friendship with Hannah, I have learned a lot about true repentance and true forgiveness. We’ve both completely forgiven each other now and can laugh about it all.  We feel like our friendship is stronger because we have struggled through – and come out of – hard spots together.
  • Authenticity – As terrible as my night was when Hannah called 6 months after camp, I’m grateful for its difficulties – and many others – for how they forced me to be vulnerable and encouraged our friendship to be a real and safe one. There’s not much of anything Hannah and I can’t talk about. And, since Hannah is well familiar with my heart and with my token sins, she is excellent at speaking truth and grace to me, even in difficult situations. 
  • Differences – For all our similarities, Hannah and I are pretty different. We have unique families, histories, and interests. And, for the last 6 years, we have been in different life stages. So often, even within the church, women can tend to delineate between married/unmarried and those with/without children. I’m so grateful that, by God’s grace, the many differences between Hannah and I have not stood in the way of our friendship. Hannah’s different perspective is incredibly helpful to me and, in both my marriage and my parenting, Hannah has consistently been an excellent source of wisdom and encouragement.

  • Prayer – I couldn’t possibly count the number of times Hannah and I have asked prayer of each other, even just by a quick text: “Please pray for me. More later.” It’s a wonderful blessing to have a friend who I can exchange prayer requests with and celebrate with over answered prayers.

I’m so grateful for the wonderful friend and sister in Christ that God has given me in Hannah. Throughout long distances and assorted difficulties this past decade, He has used Hannah (and hopefully me too!) to bring us each closer to God. I can confidently say that I am a better wife, mom, and friend, thanks to her prayers, encouragement, and friendship.

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