The memory of the cold cement stairwells of Jester still haunts me when I walk the University of Texas at Austin campus. Of all the good times I recall — sitting on the lawn reading favorite Shakespeare plays aloud in a circle of fellow passionate English geeks, devouring crispy fried rice from my favorite Chinese restaurant on “The Drag,” and late Thursday nights at the Wesley Foundation, eating Sam’s-bought lasagna — the one sad memory that stands alone refuses to make its way out of my imagination. It stands to remind me of how alone, Lonely feels.
That night, sitting on the edge of the steps connecting the 13th and 12th floors of Jester dormitory, I tucked my knees in and cried the boohoo kind of ugly cry you pray no one else can hear. My heart was fearful for the change I was about to embark upon, but the desolation of the walls echoed my cries back to me just loud enough that I could hear myself. I could hear me saying to me, “This is enough. Pick yourself up and walk all the way down these stairs, and stop being so scared. Someone will be there at the end of all of this.”
Ever since that long walk down, community has reached in and helped me walk with God. In college, the strong student believers at the Wesley Foundation scooped me up and nourished my shattered heart. As I grew, a few dear girlfriends and I rallied around one another for accountability and a search for how to live out following God, holding one another close. And these women I am living with vulnerably now, these are my girls.
We work in different fields and arenas, live in various neighborhoods, lead our kids into a number of schools that span the county, and serve in PTAs and communities that look unalike in ethnicity, shape, size, and age.
Similarity resides in a few places that link our relationships with one another. In our respective families, we seek to lead as wives and mothers by adhering to biblical truth. In our youths, we all married our husbands in our early twenties, and those men are the better for it, as they would promptly and unreservedly acknowledge. Now, we have daughters, nieces, and young women we are discipling. We believe they will be the forward thinkers of the next generation. They will change the direction of the cultural currents that threaten to drown young women in a sea of false definitions of beauty and worth and reputation.
Leslie is the only only-child among us and speaks unapologetically in a beautiful Southern belle voice. Before she speaks honestly about any given topic, she might preface, “But, I don’t care ya’ll….” and then you better listen to the rest of her thought. She speaks with a sense of justice, without a burden of judgement.
Tina is creative writer, a smiling wonder, and speaks with her hands in such a way that she illustrates her mind’s thoughts so that you can’t help but be engaged. In this group, she is the only other mom of all boys, which makes us good company for one another. We ladies would agree that she makes the best mixed drinks this side of the Mason-Dixon line.
Sue is a giver, who readily offers help to those in need and doesn’t hesitate to step in to console those who are hurting. She steps into pain with you and joy the same. You never feel alone with Sue.
Adrianne, who I’ve known for fifteen years, is someone I’m just now really getting to enjoy. She is FUNNY! Her wit and intelligence are magnetic and simultaneously comfortable. In her, I’m seeing how marvelous it is to have a friend who can be honest without being abrasive.
Ashley is dear. She shares her heart for others by cooking savory homemade deliciousness for them, by listening to others as they tell their stories, and by encouraging her friends gently with exquisite handwritten notes that include just the right Bible verse to love you through that day.
Keri is compassionate and intentional. She has a sixth sense and can see when people are hurting, especially when they are trying to hide hurt. Never has she been scared about saying her mind, and her genuineness allows her to lead her family in the way she has always needed to, and I love her for that.
Angela is the friend who has and still is teaching me how to be a friend. Her unguarded, tight hugs make so many feel cherished. And her words — they are thoughtful, well-timed, empathetic. The Lord has placed in her my life too many times to count to speak Holy Spirit encouragement and truth; she helps keep me true to who I am.
Amy is a leader, one who influences those around her to follow God’s call, no matter how crazy it sounds. We say her mind is “sticky” because she remembers everything she reads, which makes her the smartest person in the room, whether you’re choosing wine, discerning symptoms for illnesses, or about to choose a product on Amazon. Walking intimately with her gives me courage to live out this dream of mine.
What a joy it is to have all of these women show up once a month or so to meet and talk about a book, and, really, talk about life. We have agreed that we will be honest with one another in a loving way, which means we have permission to tell each other if there’s a chin hair growing in the wrong place (which means that it’s even growing there at all).
I’m saying today, “Thank You,” to these special few. Thank you for giving me the courage to write here about brokenness and hope. It is my privilege to be loved by such a collection of women.