Four and a half years ago, our church hired a new youth pastor to come up from Los Angeles. Greg and his wife, Claudia, had two little boys, and another baby on the way. Littlest was a newborn, and somehow I knew that we were going to be fast friends even before we met.
We spent three years working together in the church nursery, sharing our thoughts and feelings about mothering and homemaking, church, education and God. We had playdates and parties. I encouraged her to homeschool, and supported her when she decided to stop. I brought soup and sat with her when her fourth baby had nursing issues, and we had coffee dates when life got too complicated for playdates.
Last week I spent a few days scrap-booking photos for Claudia and Greg and their kiddos. They're moving back to the L.A. area in two weeks to be closer to their families.
Some brilliant person at church decided we should send them off with an album of memories. I offered to do the Sunday School pages, plus a few of my own. I wanted to do something to show how much they've meant to us, and that our friendship won't end just because they move.
I also thought it might be therapeutic. And I was right.
We've had to say goodbye to quite a few close friends in the last three years, and this time I wasn't handling it so well. Maybe it was knowing that they're not the only family we'll be saying goodbye to this year. Other very dear friends are expecting to move even further, and the anticipation makes it all the more difficult. Too many goodbyes, in too short a time.
The album gave me something to do with all that grief.
It felt good to look through old photos, and remember the fun we've had together. It felt good to lay out those memories on a page, to frame and savor each one. It felt good to make something beautiful out of something painful.
I believe in making an effort to keep in touch, and I'm not afraid to pile the kids in the car and drive a ways to see friends. But I also know how hard it can be, as kids get older, life gets more committed and complicated, and people make new lives in their new cities. Visits will happen, but they will probably be less frequent than we'd like.
Sometimes it's hard to let go of my own ideas of what the future should hold, even though I know that God is trustworthy and has a plan for each of us.
I'm grateful for the chance to treasure my friendships by savoring the memories we have created thus far, no matter what the future brings.
And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.