It was going to be a whirlwind weekend of visiting 3 places in just a little over 3 days and I wasn't sure how any of it would go. I was hoping for the best but anticipating the worst. God simply shattered my expectations.
Part 1: Finally face to face
I arrived at Courtney's early evening. It was supposed to be earlier but I got a little lost in the middle of a pitch black nowhere about 20 miles away. But I finally made it and ironically I wasn't nervous at all. I was warmly welcomed into "This is my family. We're like Italian, but not." The first thing I thought about Courtney was how beautiful she was in person and how she doubts it. (I am fully aware of the irony) That first night we all hung around in the living room, talking and laughing. Her nephew calling me Miss Tia and talking my ear off. Of course Stacey was there for me to get to know a little too, which was great. I was a little tired, but comfortable.
I do not generally handle changes in plans well. It tends to stress me out. Initially, I had planned to only spend one night there, but God had other plans. I didn't even blink an eyelash to having to stay another night. God knew before we did that more time was needed. That something truly special, even if it was a little hard at times, was going to happen. He knew he had designed this friendship to be something unique from the beginning. There was no where else I wanted to be that night.
The following day we talked. I played with the kids. I fell in love with the kids (but if you know me at all that isn't anything new). Cute. Sassy and quick witted. Dylan comes in from playing outside and says, "Tia, we know you like to run. Would you like to run around with us?" I ask, "Where are we running to?" "Around the house." So I got a little bit of a workout that way. Later the kids helped me do situps while one hung from my neck in front and the other pushed me up with their legs. It was quite fun and allowed Courtney a nap since she got up early for me.
Dylan and Ali
(i don't have the one of me and the kiddos yet to post)
We met up with Erin for dinner that night and I finally got to meet her too. She was chic and spunky and even though my time with her was short, it was nice to spend time with her. Back at Courtney's, I watched Toy Story 3 with the kids (the first half at least). After the kids went to sleep and Stacey had gone home for the night, Courtney and I stay up talking. It was honest and raw, funny and embarrassing at times. I felt God's presence with us, gently asking us to be brave and open. Little sleep was gotten that night, but something far more worthwhile happened. By the time I needed to leave that afternoon, it was the hardest thing to do. The kids kept asking if I was coming back later. I stalled as much as I could, because I knew when I pulled away I was leaving a piece of my heart there and I would need to find a way back as soon as possible. Just as I was about to get in the car, Ali came running out of the house and threw her little arms around me and squeezed a little more love in.
My life has been so altered by something as simple as an online book club. Some of these women are now my closest, most trusted friends. No one has pretended to be anything she isn't. These ladies have listened, loved, encouraged and shared their own stories. It has been so amazing to see the ways God knit relationships together through that medium. Thank you God for these women in my life, for the friendships I've always longed for. Help me be a good friend to them as well.
Part 2: A family reunion
For many years I was close with a family here in Michigan. Julie was my best friend and the kids Aaron and Abi felt like my own.
Abi and Aaron when I first loved them
When they moved away it was one of the saddest days of my life. I visited them in North Carolina 4 years ago for Thanksgiving and due to certain circumstances the relationship ended shortly after that. I was crushed and felt I had lost everything that meant something to me. I had no way to express to the kids that I wasn't abandoning them. It had been 4 long years.
God is a God of reconcilation and he used an 11 year old girl I love to get me to lay down the shield. I had been emailing with Abi and she wished she could see me. She remembered so many of the memories we made like dressing alike and watching sunsets together. And so 4 years later I reentered their lives. I wasn't sure at all if things would fall back into place or be silent and akward the whole time, but I trusted God was working.
The first night we seemed to be getting our bearing and reacclimating to that flow we used to have. Julie talked to me like there had been little break and I soaked it up. Before bed we had a little impromtu worship session with Aaron and I playing guitar.
After church on Sunday things settled. Abi and I went thru photos with all our memories in it. She showed me all the things I gave her she still had. She even sang me her newest song which was really good. Then I told Abi I was going to go spend some time with Aaron whether he wanted to or not. She said, "You are still his big sister."
We ended up watching some western that we couldn't quite grasp what was going on since we missed the beginning. On commercials I started to talk to him some more. Eventually he laid down on the floor with me and I started to run my hand through his hair like I used to. Told him he used to let me do it for hours. He said he still would. Eventually, he just turned the movie off and we talked. It was a hard conversation, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I got to look into that boys eyes and let him know that I loved him and that he isn't alone. Even at 17, I got to hug him tight. It was getting late and I needed to go to bed. There was a look in his eyes and I asked him what he was thinking. He simply said, "How much I've missed this." I don't know if it's possible for a heart to swell and break at the same time, but right then mine might have.