+[the role of closest friends]+

This past weekend held a tedious, tension filled trial for our family. For 5 months it has been building, snarling its jagged teeth, threatening - and this weekend we had to face it head on. Actually Doug did. The girls and I, as requested by Doug,  were safely tucked away in the home of kind friends.  The act of being tucked away, and of Doug being physically supported has had me thinking.  Its had me thinking once again about community, friendship and what real support looks like.

For so long it has been like this, "radical transitions" and unusual trials ever threatening our family. Its easy to grow weary, even for those merely watching. Ive written on this before.  The friends who just couldnt deal with all our uncertainties fell away, or became outright betrayers (choosing to appease themselves rather than honor the friendship) over the past year or so.  But, as always, it was for our best.  The gems remain. Contrasting those relationships which fell away and the curtain being pulled back illuminating their true lack of love, the fiercely and longtime faithful immediately wrapped themselves even tighter around us, steeping us in the truth of who we can depend on in this struggle filled life season.

And for such a time as this, we have been Provided a seasoned Christ following, not simply believing, mentor couple who live in our neighborhood:  Stan and Penny.  While Doug faced the trail at our home this weekend, Stan was here with him.  Meanwhile the girls and I were tucked away at Pennys house with tea and tenderness, talking through our morning worship service (they go to the same church we do) and how trails have tilled thankfulness.   Doug claims it was Stans very presence that made the marked change in dealing with the foe.  I would go on further to say that where two or more are gathered, there Christ will be also.  Doug and Stan were gathered, a united front, and the Peace of Christ thus was there also.

A few weeks back, and upon receipt of our Easter newsletter, I received a letter from a family member stating that she just didnt have the strength of courage to make the choices I have.  I would argue that it is not strength of courage which is needed; certainly that was not the case in biblical stories like David or Moses or even the disciples.  No, it is not strength of courage which moves me to place one more foot in front of the other, walking out the hard things of this life, it is rather strength of faith.    And admittedly my faith is very, very weak at times.  I struggle with unbelief in almost every area of my life, almost every day!   But when I begin to doubt, forget, lose focus,  forever it is my community, my dearests friends, who remind me who I am in Christ and what I believe.  And they, alongside me, pray for my faith to increase.   Community and friends are SO important!

My dearests help me remember who I am in the face of _________.  They always have.  The do not give me the "7 steps for successful living" or try to satiate me with excuses for my unbelief.  They preach truth to me.  Every time.  They preach with kindness and love because they are not trying to force an agenda, they are seeking my heart.  Huge difference from those who poke, point and accuse.  Or worse excuse, justify or embolden  - only amplifying themselves, not the Lord.

I have many opportunities right now to die to self.   You probably do as well.  At one point or another we will have the option to step out in faith and believe, putting it all on the line, making ourselves vulnerable in a way which does not promote comfort.  Or we can choose self.  Its that simple.  It seems complicated, but its really not.  Will you choose the God of the Bible, believe and pray for strength of faith Keitha, or will you choose self I ask myself regularly?  And what will those closest to you advise you to do, I consistently must ask :  will they tell you to seek the Lord? or just take care of yourself (spa, shopping, fun)? or encourage you to take a pill?  or literally pray alongside you?  or remind you of who you are in Christ and who He has been in your life?  or take you to coffee just to "get away from it all" but never reminding you of anything stronger than caffeine?

As I tell the girls all the time, "we are who our friends are".  I do not say that lightly!  My closest friends are women who are willing to believe in the face of a roaring lion, not cower away in despair or pacify themselves with temporal salve.    They have to be.  When Penny shared with me that Stan had confessed "he was scared (for his own life) to stand with Doug, but he was more scared for Doug to stand alone" I was reminded of why I choose the friends I do and that they do that very thing for me.  I was also reminded why the Lord has sifted others out:  Doug and I can not choose unbelief in any, any area.   And we can not surround our family with those who do!

(Taralyn and I at the MN Arboretum in 2009)

Community is who reminds us when we forget.  Friends hold our arms up when we are exhausted.  These people whom the Lord brings into our lives, who "get" the bigger picture of this life being His drama, His Plan, His Story (His complete Sovereignty) are the ones who encourage us on, help us persevere.  And honestly, right now, we are persevering through much.  But isnt that when Paul encourages us to consider it all joy?  My closest friends are exactly who remind me to do exactly that.