Unexpected Valleys of Friendship
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
A few weeks ago, I was brought back to this beloved Psalm. I sat with my 5 year old talking about what it means not to want—hoping it would curb a few of the “Can we go to Target?” requests I’d been getting lately. We took some time to journal about the passage. My little guy drew pictures of fields, rivers and a table with a big meal on it.
My mind was quite literal at the moment, too, envisioning the weekend to come when I would join 4 beautiful women I’m blessed to call friends at the beach. Bring on the still waters.
When the weekend arrived, I left way to early for the airport eager to get a start on a weekend about replenishment and reconnection. Fully stocked with Swedish Fish, magazines, books, headphones and a solo seat, I was quickly transported to the long awaited green pastures.
So many emotions came with this weekend. I’d been living overseas in London for two years until recently. A lot of life had happened and international long-distance friendships are pretty hard to maintain daily. It didn’t matter that I knew deep down these women love me. I still carried with me insecurity, a worry that being with me in person would somehow expose the real me…the gig would be up and these fabulous women would finally realize I was a hot mess who talked to much, knew too little, and wasn’t worth the trouble.
This was my Valley spoken of in the Psalm. Dramatic? Maybe. Perhaps that turn of phrase should be reserved for actual moments of death and loss, but perhaps not. On this weekend, my dark valley was an insecurity sitting deep in my heart threatening to rob me of the joy and freedom of these God-given friendships.
It was a place where I doubted myself, doubted my friends, doubted connection.
I think God is really interested in this place. It is a valley he resides in. He’s with me, walking right along side my silly juvenile brain telling it to hush and notice the love…look at the pastures, the water, and lean heavily onto him…his rod and staff are firm. The Message version says, “Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.” And so I lean all of my weighty, silly, unsure self onto Him. What does that look like? For me, it looks like saying to myself, “He loves me. It’s okay. Nothing I am or think is a surprise to Him and he is quite fond of it all.” It looks like deep breaths and a few awkward moments while I work it all out in my head. And sometimes, it looks like a stern reminder that I should put no one in the place of God…He is who I am aiming to please with my life…not people…not even these people who I love so much.
I didn’t sit in the valley very long on this particular weekend. The feast was particularly long and gloriously consuming…a time where God lavishly blessed and reminded me of His love and provision. My goodness. I’m going to gush a little here because I know you love people like this and would do the same.
These ladies are awesome. They think and laugh and create and cry and work and love hard! To be on the receiving end of their friendship is one of the greatest blessings. We are commonly rooted in our beliefs, but we are all quite different. We have our own passions, gifts, interests, backgrounds and opinions, to be sure. But put it all together and you have a tribe of imperfect women who just really enjoy each other. My cup runneth over.
(Alcohol was not abused in the making of these pirate photos.)
What started as this mom’s attempt at a bible lesson in resting in God’s provision (and not asking for a new Ninjago Lego daily) turned out to be the perfect words to have hovering over a weekend with anticipated peace, unexpected valleys, and a much-appreciated feast.
I’ll end with this quote from Ann Lammott’s books, Help, Thanks, Wow where she reflects on the miraculous mystery of true friendship…
“They say—or maybe I said—that a good marriage is one in which each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal and this is true also of our bosom friendships, You could almost flush with appreciation. What a great scam, to have gotten people of such extreme quality and loyalty to think you are stuck with them. Oh my God. Thank you.”
Amber is a longtime friend of Courtney. Terrific wife, mom of two precious boys and new Texan! She just returned from one amazing adventure in London for two years and we were so glad to all be reunited. It goes to show you that five friends from four states can make it work.
I absolutely love your disclaimer on your pirate photos! I’ve struggled for years in finding friends like this, and because of this have found myself in those valleys, but those few gems are worth the journey there!
This is a very timely post. Amber, thanks so much for this. I’m glad it was an incredible time with incredible folks!!