The year was 1986. Neon leggings, oversized shirts and hair teased out-to-there, pulled into a sideways ponytail. And believe me, when it came to the hair-out-to-there, I was the queen.
Speaking of queen, Madonna’s hit song, “True Blue” played somewhere in the background, followed by Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love.”
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was wide-eyed, a little scared and a whole lot excited as I walked into the ladies dorm lobby at Houston Baptist University. A hunky sophomore named Jim offered to carry my suitcase, and a perky blonde with a sideways ponytail that mirrored mine greeted me. “Hi, I’m Amy! I’m one of the dorm monitors. Let me show you to your room!”
Little did I know that day, that insignificant moment was to mark the beginning of two friendships that would span the decades. Amy and Jim saw me through numerous boyfriend-of-the-month breakups, final exam stresses and sleeping-through-the-alarm-one-too-many-times crises.
Their friendship provided a haven, a safe harbor in the rough seas of the new, scary world of almost-adulthood. They offered a soft place to fall, friendly faces when it felt like the world was against me.
We had fun together. We roamed and prowled and pranked and pigged out late into the night (thus, the numerous alarm fiascos.) I see clearly now what I didn’t see then: God smiled at me the day He put them in my path.
Now, more than a quarter century later, the three of us are still friends. Jim lives with his family in Houston, where he owns a law firm, and Amy and her husband split their time between Texas and New Jersey. But through the wonders of Facebook and iPhones, both friends remain dear to my heart, and both have encouraged me through some of the most difficult days of my life.
The years have brought other friends of Jim and Amy caliber, many of whom live right in this town. Friends who have known me for years, who have watched me grow and stretch and change and become. You know who you are. And during one of the most difficult years of my life, you’ve been there.
You’ve watched me laugh and cry and fall in the mud. You laughed with me—and at times, you’ve laughed at me. But you’ve always helped me to my feet. When Dad died, you brought meals and sent flowers and cards and let me cry on your shoulders, and you didn’t even complain about the mascara stains on your shirts. You brought me chocolate on the “I really need chocolate” kinds of days. You drank coffee with me and didn’t even blink at my messy kitchen.
As all sorts of things in my life have fallen apart, you’ve walked beside me without judgment or pretense. And I have to say, despite what has felt at times like a year from Hades, I’ve discovered something important.
I am blessed.
So, so blessed.
The other day, my phone buzzed with a text. It was Amy. “Come visit me in Stone Harbor. Bring the kids.”
In a little more than a month, I’ll experience a Jersey Shore vacation for the cost of airfare. Sea air. Crashing waves. Lazy days in the sun.
After all these years, my friend is still offering a respite, a safe place to relax and recuperate from life’s harsh realities.
God is so good to me. And I’m glad that often, He shows that goodness by stepping into some human skin, taking on the likeness of so many of you … my true friends.
Yes, I am blessed indeed.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. —Proverbs 17:17