now and then

Me and my friend Laura have been friends for half our life.
But have probably known each other for all of it.
Our grandfathers were friends. And we were born less than two weeks apart and they would brag and show each other pictures of little us.
We probably both had our diapers changed in the same church nursery because we both grew up, were baptized in and married in the same one.
And Laura and her family always seemed to be there.
And we would go every Sunday we were in town.
But we often weren’t.
Sometimes we would be off sailing in the gulf or spending the weekend in our condo on the lake. (Yes, obviously I had it rough).
And she was always smiling. And helping and being genuinely friendly.
I always liked it there. And her smile. But was often looking for someone a little more interesting to talk to or sit next to (read cute boy).

And we went to high school together. She had braces and a perm and was in the band. And I was in all the smart classes and spent all my money on stupid clothes to try and be cool and was still often looking past her for someone more interesting to talk to or sit next to (again read cute boy).
And then junior year, she ended up sitting next to me in one of those smart classes. She still wore braces. I had stopped worrying so much about what lunch table to sit at or the brand of my jeans and finally really noticed her sweet smile.
And we moved our tables together almost every day and laughed a lot.
A lot.
As in I think for the first time, my friend Laura was getting into trouble in class.
We probably would have gotten in more trouble. But it was Laura and all the teachers loved her. Grown ups just couldn’t help it.
But giggling in class led to frozen yogurt (which thankfully is making a come back), toilet papering that very teacher’s house, study sessions, Grease marathons, eating at Swensons (we might have had a sweet tooth), lots of chips and quac, road trips, and of course driving around and talking about boys.
My parents liked it when I hung out with Laura. Mainly because I don’t think they worried about me doing anything stupid while I was with her. She had integrity like that.
I’m sure her parents worried when she was out with me. But they let her go anyways.
And I’m glad because some of that good rubbed off.

She went to A&M, I went to Tech.
But we stayed friends. When I was in town there were wine coolers, beaches, tattoos (mine, not hers of course), more road trips, more ice cream, camping, more chips and dips, and still lots of giggling and boy talk.
I cut cake at her wedding and she lit a candle in mine. We had our own babies not very far apart and stayed friends. But not the kind that talk every day or even every month. Not even the kind that always remember birthdays. Because we are the kind that don’t have to. We can slip easily into conversations whether it has been a few minutes or a few years. And there is still lots of giggling.

I joined an organization my freshman year of college that asked us to list a few people who had played a large role in my faith.
I picked her.
She never preached to me or asked me if I did a daily quiet time or anything like that. But she had more of a role than she ever realized.
Laura was known for being happy and smiling and encouraging.
Like all the time.
And you would think that this might get annoying. Hanging out with someone who was always happy and chipper.
But it was nice and refreshing. Because she meant it.
And of course after all that time, I had seen her cry and complain and have bad days. There were bad test grades and break ups and spoiled plans.
But she still exuded warm sunshine even when a smile wasn’t spread across her face.
Because maybe she wasn’t just happy all the time. She had joy.
And she wasn’t even a little bit shy about letting people know where it came from.
Every night. No matter how many of us were packed in her tiny bedroom, she would get out her prayer journal and write. Sometimes she would pray outloud at dinner.
And she talked about Jesus and God like they were around. Like they were part of her life rather than something she just did on Sundays.
And I had believed long before. And I prayed. And I tried to read and do all those good things they taught me at church. I think I was even standing by her that time at church camp when I wondered down the altar.
But Laura knew God. Like a friend. And I wanted that. I needed that.
And I wanted some of her joy.

And her joy has been tested.
I remember her calling me sophomore year of college and through tears telling me that her father had brain cancer. And I clearly remember exactly where I stood in my apartment when we talked about percentages and the months they had given her dad to live. And I promised to pray for her, like she had done for me so many times.
And Laura wasn’t all smiles through that season, but she never not for a second, lost that joy.
And less than a year later her dad was told he was cancer free. That he beat the statistics. And that the months he had been told he had turned into over a dozen years. And he gave away all three of his daughters to be married and has held four sweet grandchildren in his arms. But these last few years haven’t been so good. He has been slipping further and further away. Now a hospital bed sits in the middle of their living room. And hospice comes every day. And she is so thankful for those stolen years. But that they pray for heaven. And I could hear the ache in her heart when she told me that I couldn’t even tell her Happy Birthday just a few weeks ago. And her sweet five year old little girl interrupted us to tell me that her granddaddy was sick. I tried to tell her about how I remembered when he wasn’t supposed to be around to even meet her, much less see her start kindergarten. And my heart moved into my throat and I couldn’t even finish my sentence.
And still. Me and my friend, laughed and giggled and ate ice cream and talked about boys and babies and God.
And that is joy that I still want.

Once before going off to college, my friend Laura wrote me a sweet sappy letter about how glad she was to be my friend. Because that is the kind of girl she is. And somewhere in the letter she actually thanked me for helping make her cool.
Which made me laugh a lot. And I told her afterwards that I hated to break it to her, but that we were never all that cool.

So maybe I didn’t make her cool.
But I assure you, she made me better.

(and please forgive the photos. The now picture was taken by a couple of crazy 5 year olds and we had just spent the day in the pool. The then photo, I'm embarrassed to admit is a picture of a picture because I am a moron and still don't know how to work the scanner!)


brickmomma said...

This gave me goosebumps. I remember sitting on my couch, working on a Disciple Bible study with Laura. We held hands and prayed and prayed and prayed. It was one of the times I have felt absolute closest to God.

I am so glad you wrote this. And happy you guys are still friends. Those girls are a blessing!

samskat said...

What a sweet post. I am in tears, b/c of my dear friends who have just always been there. I will pray for her family.

Katie Delp said...

love it. i'm so thankful to know both of you. i still remember laura telling me i just had to meet her friend michelle when i got to tech :) she is a wonderful, wonderful gal!