My Small Gang.

gangThere are some things in life I would be willing to do without if I had to.

Bottled water.
Mechanical pencils.
My garbage disposal.
High heels.
The dishwasher.
Dryer sheets.

However, there are things I refuse to imagine my life without.

Air conditioning.
A washer and dryer.
Shampoo and conditioner.
My family.
Clean sheets.
And my girlfriends.   (and coffee.)

I have always felt so blessed to have wonderful friends.  I have only a couple of times felt real betrayal, and though it did cut me like a knife straight to my soul, I was able even in grief to look around and see that mostly, I have only been loved.  The friends God chose for me have brought me through the cold winter winds and dry arid summers of womanhood from kindergarten until this very second.

And I hope they are at my side until Heaven.

Nothing is more daunting than motherhood.  That’s not to say that a career isn’t daunting, and certainly doesn’t wipe the magnitude of marriage off the list of “Hard Things I Sign Up To Do In Life.”  But I cannot wrap my head around one thing scarier or more persistently demanding than raising a human being.  The thing is, the more I parent, even though there are parts that are scary– (“No, those little red things aren’t Skittles… they are Sudafed tablets,” and, “You actually cannot fly off the roof of the house like Superman because Superman is on television and has cords strapped to him and you don’t…”) the next parts are way scarier than the ones before.  That toddler becomes a school aged child and you hear about a shooting that cost multiple children their lives and you want to run to school and check them out just so you can touch him.  That child becomes a preteen that gets to use a cell phone and you have to teach her that just because a “girl” named Jessica “likes” her picture, that doesn’t mean “Jessica” isn’t really “Ricky” in Omaha with prison tattoos and a criminal record longer than my most recent Walmart receipt.

The. World. Of. Parenting. Is. So. Non. Stop.

I don’t know how I’d make without my girlfriends.

I’m not just talking about my mom friends.  I am talking about all of the women who walk life alongside me, now and all those years ago.  The ones whose love for me has carved a river through my heart that won’t be covered up by the miles between us, nor the years that pass us by.  I’m talking about the ones who see where you are and jump into the ditch with you.  Some of them will lie there by you a while.  Some of them make you look for shapes in the clouds while you’re on your back.  Some are there to cry hard with you.  And others only jumped in to hoist you onto their backs and bring you out.

I’m thankful for the ones who have parented longer than me and help me navigate through the landmines of hormones and sleep patterns.  I am thankful for the ones who don’t have kids at all and remind me to go out every once in a while and lighten up and take my yoga pants off now and then.  I’m thankful for the ones who drop it all when I yell for help.   I am thankful for the ones who pray on their faces for me when I ask them to.  I’m thankful for the one who texts me kissy faces and snapshots from her office at work, the one who sends me pictures of her puppy to which I respond with pictures of my son peeing off the porch, and the ones who send me memes with no explanation needed.
I’m thankful for all the friends I have, too many to name.

I’m thankful for the friends who make me who I am.

I’m talking about my sister and my cousin and my mom and my aunt.  They show no mercy and take no prisoners.  Ours is an ongoing conversation day after day about everything from recipes to what just happened to us at the grocery store.  And when one of us isn’t ok, we’re on a plane or at a pawn shop to get a weapon and make it right.  (Not really.  But kind of.)

I’m talking about the friend who cleaned my toilets, fed my kid, cooked my lunch, and gave me a pedicure while I was in the darkest days of depression I’ve ever known.  I couldn’t put my feet on the floor and was clinging to antidepressants as my lifeline.  She saw me.  She saved me.

And then, there’s another friend who got in my face when I was 100 pounds overweight and told me to lose the weight or I’d never have that baby I so desperately wanted.  She chose her words with grace and spoke with a trembling voice.  But she was right.  And she kick-started a life change in me that I needed, body and soul.

I have to recognize the “snobby Northerner” who became the closest confidant of this Southern girl and is gladly the hider of my skeletons.  She has literally cleaned up my puke, wiped my nose that was snotty from bawling, taken my children when I was at a breaking point and exhausted, and covered our work parking lot in diapers and chalk sprayed messages the day I found out I was pregnant with my son.  I had a major illness and she brought a branch from a tree in my yard to hang on my windowless room’s wall.

Where would I be without my high school best friend, whom I still carry in my heart after all these 21 years?  When life has thrown me heaviness, I have reveled in happy memories of her falling off my bed to reach a bag of potato chips.  Or the time we convinced my mom she had encephalitis.  And when we explained very adult things we didn’t really understand to our younger, more curious friend on the side of the road in my car.

How would I have made it without the friend who betrayed my confidence when I told her I was head over heels in love with my husband (who wasn’t even yet my boyfriend) and I begged her not to tell a soul?  She, of course, told her husband, who told MY  husband, and our romance began the next day.  She knew better than I did and refused to keep my secret a secret.  She stood at my side on our wedding day and I stood by hers when we said goodbye to her son as a brain tumor took his young life before our eyes.  She was there when my husband proposed to me, and I was there when her marriage fell apart and then God rebuilt it stronger than it ever was before.

 I don’t know what I would do without the two ladies who have cut my hair all this time.  Time in their chairs have made me a better parent, a better wife, a better friend.  They ask me questions that cut me to the bone and leave me scratching my head (no pun intended) in thought. After I leave both of them, I feel like I’ve been with Jesus.  Or a therapist.  Or Jesus as a therapist.

And then, there’s the friend who sees that colic may make you lose you mind and she chooses to stay one night a week at your house with your newborn who will not sleep for MONTHS and she still gets up and goes to work in the morning every single time.   Oh, and she’s also the only one willing to babysit said baby because he’s just that awful of a newborn.  The end.

Who knew that I would date a guy 23 years ago who would remain a very dear lifelong friend, but whose wife would become one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me?  Who knew God’s version of full circle would be so creative and so profoundly precious?  Who knew He had her in mind for my heart when I was so young thought the world revolved around me?

I’m thankful for the women who saw me panting for air last week and came over to clean my house when all my Plan B’s didn’t work.  They know the code to my door and what my underwear looks like. I’m thankful for the friend who is crazy busy being a doctor but wanted to bless my family with take out and had it delivered to my door.  I’m thankful for the two single moms who stepped in and managed my house for me while I was on bedrest for seven weeks with my Spicy.  I’m also thankful for the dear friend who stepped in to nanny my kids years ago when my sister and I had a million babies all at once and there weren’t enough grandparents to go around in the work week.  When we moved, I left a part of my heart behind with her.

And how in the world would I make it without neighbor friends and their drive-bys and drop-offs?  From the night we moved into our last Florida house and a Yankee candle appeared on my front porch until the last drop off of a Publix sub when I had a sick baby and couldn’t leave the house, how did I make it without my neighbor across the lake who became one of my dearest friends?  How would I survive parenting without grabbing a heating pad from one friend close by and essential oils from another? What would I do without drop offs of bags of coffee and Pumpkin Spice syrup and the leap in my heart when the mailbox emoji pops up on my phone, telling me the treat fairy friend has hit my mailbox?

There’s life in your yoga pants, ladies.  But there’s also life out THERE when we’re willing to take the risk and leave the house and jump into a new circle of women.  Whether you admit it or not, you need them.  You need them for coffee runs and the “Does this rash look normal” texts, and for a safe place to puke your emotions up and for comic relief.  This mothering gig is HARD. You weren’t meant to walk through this life without sisters beside you.

You need them. 

I know, I know.  Women can be catty.  Mean.  Cruel.  Two-faced.  Snarky.  Rude.  Judgmental.
And when you’ve been hurt, it seems to be safer to swear off of friendships, period.  #beenthere.

But really, that’s like saying, “I’m never going to read a book again because that page gave me a paper cut.”

There’s so much story left you’ll never experience if you don’t turn the page.

When I was a kid, I once rode the swings at the fair.  It was a horrifying experience.  I felt like I was falling the whole time, couldn’t stop swaying from side to side mid-air, and I was sure that the tiny metal rod that laid horizontally across my lap was all that was saving me from falling onto the Tilt-A-Whirl line.  I left that ride with shaky legs and 100% sure that I would never sit my tail on a swing chair ever again.  Decades later, I couldn’t resist the temptation of cooling off in the salty summer air and rode them with my daughter.  We laughed and screamed.  And as my swing moved to the outside of hers and I felt the highs and lows of going round and round, I remembered the childhood fears I once felt.  Only this time, I saw that I wasn’t really as high up as I remembered and I trusted the chains that held me.

So, you got hurt back there.  You’re wiser.  Stronger.  More capable and whole.  A little more weathered around the edges and a little more discerning through and through.  That’s good.  All that stuff makes for deeper friendships this time around.

Get back on the swing and enjoy the ride.

I’ve heard over and over how it takes a village to raise a child.
But I have to say that me and my girls?  We’re really a small gang.

I wouldn’t miss one single page of my story as long as it’s with them

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