Where I Learned How to do Friendship

I haven’t always been good at friendships.  I decided early on books were easier to get along with.

And if you don’t live with grace for yourself, it is impossible to offer it to someone else.

And she is still the one who is teaching me how.


She was the friend my mom and I knelt down on the pink pile carpet for.  Fifteen years old and I believed I was some sort of reincarnation of Anne of Green Gables.  She had golden curls and lived in a storybook brick farmhouse with birds carved into the upper hall cupboards.  But her greatest gift to me?  Seering honesty.


And so began years full of picnics and high teas, daring each other to splash into fountains, dresses pulled high. We discovered secret streams, watching the crawdads scramble, meandered through antique shops in search of tea cups and scheduled sleepovers where we pulled back our bandaids to show our wounds.


Through college, our friendship provided the laboratory where we struggled both together and against each other to become persons.


When we were 16, we reverently folded open the 1992 Teen Missions poster, smoothed out the wrinkles and poured over exotic adventures: an orphanage in Nepal, a riverboat trip through the canals of England, building schools in the desert of Egypt.


We dared each other to run hard after God.


That summer, after raising our funds, she went to Romania to build churches and I went to Albania to mortar a brick wall around an orphanage.  The God-following adventure never ended and I became an Anglican pastor and she has for the last 15 years served youth on air-force bases in Italy, spreading picnics for hundreds and daring them to lift their faces up to the Holy.


But she has been the one to garden this friendship, tending it with postcards and crossing long distances to hear my ordinary stories, weeding through my years of neglect.

And this has been the quiet lesson: in a facebook world full of virtual friends, the bloom of real friendship requires intentional faithfulness.


Keep showing up to us, she has taught me, even when the connection wears thin.


Tonight I miss her.  She pulled up to the little yellow cottage last week Wednesday and I opened wide the door of my life to give her a taste of the glory that is a Michigan lake-town in early summer.


I slowly unwrapped my treasures:


A long walk beside the Lake, the sun reflecting in a long ribbon across the water,


sesame seed crusted French toast battered with rich custard,


Saugatuck’s charm-packed downtown and taste-testing a white peach balsamic vinegar that coats the mouth in sweetness,


Italian picnic of baguette and pesto and salami on the sailboat slow at 2 knots,


and a dance party with the children to “Save the Last Dance for Me” as we motored past the lighthouse, crowds waiting for the last glimpse of the melting sun.


Joy, honesty, and more joy spilled easily from a friendship where both are becoming Velveteen Rabbit real.


And the gift of showing up for the last twenty years surprised us with the depth of a complicated aged wine, a wine we never would have sipped without the slow work of  faithfulness.


by Summer Gross

Today I’m sharing with Laura and and L.L. Barkat and Ann:
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    1. What I love about Jess is that her honesty is that it is toward herself as well. Her vulnerability creates a safe place for others.

  1. So beautifully written and so wonderful to picture your time together. I was also recently blessed with a visit with Jessica in Dubai! She travels the world for her friends! 🙂

    1. She does indeed. And what a trip you guys had…way cool. So glad to find your site, too. Can’t wait to follow you and your family’s adventures. I’ll never forget your senior art show and those huge gorgeous watercolor bouquets!

  2. Thanks, Summer! What a tribute to loyalty and friendship. That is the recipe for many a marriage today as well. Thanks for posting. =)

    1. Anne, that’s so true. Keep showing up with kindness IS such a necessary ingredient for marriage! Thanks for reading!

  3. Wow, Summer, you are a beautiful writer!! Not so surprising, though, from a girl who was always such a flowery speaker and loved to find “the romantic” in everything! I have known Jessica most of my life but was not really close with her as as we got older mostly due to going to different schools, not living close, etc. Our mothers danced together for the Lord quite a bit when we were younger, and we danced together as young girls several times as well. The glory of the Lord shone through her when she danced for Him and continues to shine through her smile! She is such a sweet girl, and it has been neat to follow her through her Italian adventures on facebook. You have lived some wonderful “kindred spirit” moments with her, and it was fun reading about them. Thanks for sharing! So glad to see you are doing well. You and Andy have some beautiful children! Love you, Girl! May God continue to richly bless you and yours!! 🙂

    1. Thanks Julie! I follow you and your brood through the wonderful world of facebook. You are amazing! I saw Jessica and her mom dance a number of times and will never forget the group of girls, young and old dancing to “something wonderful, something good” at her mom’s wedding. I still tear up thinking about it. I pray God’s blessing lathered all over you, Mark and your beautiful kids, Julie!

  4. Wonderful little mental escape as I read your post! I think I’ll check out other parts of your blog as well. Thank you!

  5. I say you ARE good at friendships. I say you’ve learned the gentle art of being there, of caring, treasuring life, love, people, beauty. I say you know how to stir up those rich gifts within yourself to write so powerfully. Lines that jumped out and demanded to be pondered:
    We dared each other to run hard after God.
    Joy, honesty, and more joy spilled easily from a friendship where both are becoming Velveteen Rabbit real.
    Becoming Velveteen Rabbit real means knowing how deeply you are loved.

  6. What a beautiful way to honor your friend, and what a gift to have such a friendship! We were near neighbors on Jen’s linky list, I think, and I’m glad I spent time with you here, peeking into your lovely life. Grace to you in the Lord Jesus.

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