God blesses us with friends and family.

Sometimes it’s hard to be with family with all the drama and headaches that come along with a group of people that you are stuck with for life. However, they share your history and all the joy and sorrows that come and go throughout the timeline of our life. You don’t have to worry that they’ll drift away because we are held together with an invisible thread because of our past and our love for one another.

If we are honest, sometimes, we’d like to be anywhere else except at a family event and it feels more like a job than a joyous social occasion. Then take in to account that when you marry, you get another group of people that have their own set of quirks. Not only do you get their parents, but brothers and sisters, and their extended family too.

Today, I spent the early afternoon at my brother and sister-in-laws house. Paul and Melissa are generous to host most of our family events since they have a large living area and porch to scatter about. Plus most of the kids belong to them in the form of son, daughters, grand-kids, nieces and nephews. I always smile when I pull into their driveway because automobiles fill their yard. I’m usually the last to arrive. (Shocking, I know)! You’ll hear the kids’laughter coming from the backyard or from the swings on the side when the grand-kids are around and it’s outside weather. They have been blessed with mostly girl grand-kids and they know how to squeal. I love to hear, “Beck’s here,” from my brother, Paul, or “Aunt Becky!” from the nieces and nephews, when I come in the door. Mel calmly manages the chaos that sometimes comes with so many people in the house. The bar is laid out like a buffet and drinks are on another. It’s easy to fill a plate, sit down, and begin visiting.

I do love the banter that goes on between Paul and my nieces, Devi and Becky, my namesake. It’s like watching half comedy show and half reality TV. On arriving, Devi always gives me a tight, warm hug and a smile and Becky (my niece), hugs and giggles loudly. They are both fun to be around and I’m sure Paul knows how blessed he is to have them. Mel has been both friend and mom to them since they were young teenagers and there is definitely a strong bond between them.

Of all my brothers, Paul and I have always been on the same wave length and have the most in common. He is the one I can always rely on to be there when I need him. On the morning that John was put on a ventilator, he was at the hospital to check on us, and stayed with me. I’m sure that God sent him to hold me at that most difficult of time. Paul has a heart of gold and will put other’s needs before his own self. I love you brother.

Friends, we choose to be with, not because of a thread that binds, but because our hearts bind together. There are different shades of friendship. Think of a white to black color scale and all the different shades of gray in between. My closest friendships would be bright white and the occasional friend would be the darkest. I know many people and at different times in my life their color scale changes. God blesses us that way. Friends are gifts to be cherished in our life. Some you need more at different seasons of your life and they fill their purpose with you and move on to be different colors to others.

Then there are the friends who once become the bright white shade never change colors. We’re blessed to have those too.

I have married friends who remind me of the gift of partners, companions, and lovers. They are Godly people who share their time and of themselves. I have a special few that I can pop in at their house day or night without notice and they will welcome me into their daily routine to eat, watch tv, or simply talk. Brent & Darlene, and Katie & Rick (my bright whites).

I hope my ‘bright whites’ know how much I appreciate their love in my life. Katie and Rick are there to step in when I need to fill my time or have a job that needs help doing. Katie loves my Zoey almost as much as I do and doesn’t mind stopping by to play with her while I’m out of town. She makes time for friends no matter what is going on in her life. She can always make us laugh with one of her zany stories that only can happen to her. Rick has that wonderful sense of humor and wisdom that draws people to him. If you need anything, Rick will be there to supply it. He is a wonderful Godly man of service.

It’s Darlene I go to when I need someone to sit beside and vent about life or loved ones. She doesn’t judge, but gives me acceptance and usually some good Godly advice. I know with her that I can emotionally throw up and she’ll still love me. I love how when I’m having a rough emotional time Darlene will say, “Brent, give her a hug.” and he’ll wrap me in a big bear hug. I love that she knows me that well.

There’s reassurance, strength and comfort in a man’s arms when he holds you. Manly hugs were one of the things I missed so much after John died. My body craved the solid comfort that said, ‘You are protected and I love you.’ It’s different than getting hugs from women. Those are great too, but they say ‘love’ more than ‘I can hold the world at bay and keep you safe.’ I don’t go into many men’s arms except from the side. I’ll wait for the ‘manly’ hugs from the one who’ll love me and keep me safe and until then I’ll hold on to God hugs.

I have sister friends, who’ll be honest with me about different situations. I rely on their grace when I am going off course and they gently remind me of what type of woman I should be. Thank you Sally. I love their wisdom of being single and helping to navigate the waters. Thank you Laura. Friends who lift me up in prayers on the phone and in text. Thank you Renee. Friends who I easily slip in and out of conversations with as if months haven’t passed. Thank you Carol and Julie. Friends who have walked with me through the darkest of days and the tears of John’s passing. Thank you Barbara, Mari, Katie, Karen, and Darlene. Friends whose shared my youth, marriage, childbirth, tears, laughter, and turning fifty. Thank you Arlene. Friends at work who lift me up and add so much to my life with smiles, laughter and ‘man’ advice. You know who you are my 4th grade buddies!

I have been granted the gift of friends and family.  I hope I return the gifts in kind and with interest.  You all make my life so much fuller.  I love you all ‘bushels and heaps, barrels and pecks!’