A journal entry can easily sprawl across four pages of my journal when there is a lot of emotion put into it. The journal pages I've filled over losing a friendship with my friend Shelby have been many. Some words have been blurred as the tears melt the ink on the page and I've found myself silently whispering over and over, "God will You bring restoration? Restore this broken friendship."
I typically write in cursive, and while it isn’t fancy, it is usually legible with lots of big loops where I can have big loops. I always admired people who wrote in cursive and after I got over trying to have cutesy handwriting like the rest of my high school girl friends, I decided to fully embrace the cursive, for better or worse. Because my words are so bubbly and loopy, I usually take up a lot of page space, especially if I’m emotional, passionate, or crying while I write. The more emotion I’m feeling, the bigger the words. That’s just the way it goes.
So a journal entry can easily sprawl across four pages of my journal when there is a lot of emotion put into it. The journal pages I've filled over losing a friendship with my friend Shelby have been many. Some words have been blurred as the tears melt the ink on the page and I've found myself silently whispering over and over, "God will You bring restoration? Restore this broken friendship."
Shelby and I were so close (now, Shelby is a pseudonym so don’t go looking up some random Shelby to see if she’s the friend I’m talking about - she won't be). We became friends before I was married and after she already was and our friendship quickly blossomed. We held the same values, the same beliefs, the same sense of humor, and the same passions. She has incredible style, and I can decorate a room to fit anyone’s taste. We frequented thrift stores together, we nursed babies alongside one another, we did life together. She drove many hours to hold my babies in the NICU after they were born, and I spent the night in the hospital with her after her second was born. We were inseparable. People knew me because they knew Shelby and people knew Shelby because they knew me.
And then my life fell apart. And so did that friendship.
I began praying for community shortly after I became a single mama. A few months later, I was sitting in Merry’s house every week with several other mamas, sharing snacks with our kids, pouring fourth and fifth cups of coffee, and praying over each other as the time and squeals allowed. I also joined a new community group at my church with a mixture of married, single, and dating people in our twenties. I was the only single mama, but I wasn’t alone.
The Lord heard my desperate prayers for friendship and for community and He answered them in so many ways.
From that community group, another little group of friends formed.
It all began when Cassidy saw me at church, sat next to me and said, “Hey, are you ok? Are you safe?” She worked at our church and had heard just enough that, instead of asking around, she decided to go straight to the source and find out if everything was alright.
I had been guarded with who I shared information with. “Some people want information so they can be the first to know and be in the know. Some want it to feed their own gossip monster inside of them. Very few want it because they genuinely care. Pray for discernment about who gets to know what,” Marla had wisely counseled me early on in my separation.
I felt safe sharing with Cassidy everything. So one Sunday morning, before the 11 o’clock service, I just spilled my guts out to her. Honestly, I didn’t even know her that well. Her little brother was friends with my sister, we’d played on a worship set together, she led worship at church sometimes, and she was on staff at our church. That was the extent of it. But that day, she heard it all.
Then she asked to babysit my girls some time, and I took her up on that. Shortly after, I asked if she wanted to go garage saling, and she complimented my driving (she has since revoked that compliment. I must’ve been trying to impress her). Then we grabbed coffee, and we sat next to each other at the Twenty-Something group at church. She took me out to get my nails done for my birthday and she joined our community group right after the newest staff member at our church, Nick, did as well. Before I knew it, Nick, Cassidy, our community group leader, Caleb (who is also employed at our church), and I were hanging out pretty regularly, usually with my girls in tow. We’d snag donuts on a Saturday morning and go out for an adventure, or they’d come to mine or Nick’s places after Twenty-Somethings on a Thursday night while my girls spent the night at my parents’ house. Shortly after that, Adam started hanging out with our group. Caleb, Adam, and I had all grown up in this church together. Adam was a student pastor at another church, but was recently divorced and needed a new community as well.
Through a long series of events that I’m not going to share right now, but it involves a corn pit, my mom, and group messaging, we dubbed our little group, “The Squad”. We’ve also added Caleb’s girlfriend, Carlie, to the group, since that seemed like the polite thing to do, and since she’s Cassidy’s roommate, and since we all absolutely love her - especially Caleb.
This group of friends… they’re incredible. They’re wonderful. They are my community. I wrote a little blurb about them on Instagram after we attended an out-of-town wedding together (this was right before Caleb and Carlie started dating! We saw the sparks flying, though! And I had to add a little bit about Carlie at the end).
“The Squad. Formerly known as the Corn Squad. Called the Corn Cob Squad by my mom. We’ve all been called to full-time ministry of some kind. We all laugh a little too loudly at our own jokes and roll our eyes at each other’s jokes. We tease, we banter, we deep-belly-laugh, and we’re blunt and honest. We get real. We check in with each other. We challenge one another. We talk theology, we talk current events, we talk beliefs on certain issues and we don’t always see eye-to-eye, but we have great respect for one another. We value each other and know that we each have something to offer the world, the Church, and our friend group. And these guys? They’ve stood by my side as I single parent my girls. They’ve shown my girls patience, grace, and gentleness (and they’ve shown me patience, grace, and gentleness, too). They’ve stood in my corner, supported me, cheered me on, and helped me. They’ve prayed for me, they’ve prayed with me, they’ve listened as I’ve cried raw and sad prayers. Then they celebrated with me when the prayers were answered time and time again. The deep appreciation I have for this group, the thankfulness I have for God bringing us together, and the peace I feel when I am with them is unexplainable in words. But the Lord knew. He knew that we needed each other. He knew that more Kingdom work could be accomplished with us rooting for one another. One of my favorite mornings is when Cassidy, and I are on the worship team together, I get to watch Nick and Caleb serving/working in their own areas, and I know Adam is at his church serving/working, too. [Carlie also leads worship and is on staff at our church!] I get so much joy knowing we’re all serving the Church together! I’m thankful, so thankful, for the Squad. The Squad I never knew I really, really needed.
Caleb and his dad jokes and love for Church history.
Nick and his hilarious commentaries to our stories and deep, moving prayers.
Adam and his one-liners and profound wisdom in all areas.
Cassidy and her eye rolls and passion for checking in with our hearts.
Carlie with her unsuspecting humor and gentle strength.
Man, these guys are amazing.”
Shortly after this wedding, we started sharing Sunday lunches together and asking more friends to join. Adam also connected me with another single mom, Amanda, who attends the church he pastors, and I began inviting her to join us for lunches on Sundays. We now also have the “Group”. Such a clever little title. We hang out often, break bread together, worship together, and visit each other’s churches. We love Amanda's little guy and they love my girls.
This. This is what I was praying for.
The Lord takes away sometimes, and when He does it is so, so hard. It has left me feeling broken. The memories of friends-gone-by are forever tinged with deep sorrow that things will never be the same again. And while I’m still praying for restoration with Shelby, I’m also so thankful that God doesn’t just take away…
But He gives, too.
He gives in the midst of grief and the midst of sorrow. He gave me a group of friends who don’t get everything I’ve walked through, but they mourn with me, they cry with me, they pound the floor that the Almighty’s throne sits on and beg Him for mercy and miracles. They walk through grief with me and they aren’t scared by my mess. They aren’t scared by my chewed up and slobbery gum ball. I am so thankful for that.