I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let's face it, friends make life a lot more fun.
~ Charles R. Swindoll

I was thinking this morning about my friends and found this quote. It is so true. I am continually overwhelmed with thankfulness for all of the wonderful friends God has given me.

I am such a relational person. Other than God, there is nothing more important to me than my relationships with others; having friends and BEING a friend. I spent the majority of my life in close community with people who had known me since I was a kid. I didn't think I could ever duplicate those lifelong relationships. I had low expectations of what my "new" friendships would be. But I was just so thankful for John and our marriage. With or without an abundance of friends, I knew I was so very blessed. John alone is such a gift in my life. He is my very best friend and the best friend I have ever had.

I didn't know many people in Murfreesboro when I moved here to begin my life with John, but he seemed to know almost everyone. In the early days of our relationship, I was constantly being introduced to new people and trying to keep everyone straight. At times, this resulted in my feeling just a little bit like the "outsider." Nobody ever made me feel like an outsider. Everyone I met could not have been warmer or friendlier. I just wondered if I would ever be able to put together and remember all of the names and faces. Murfreesboro is big, but it has such a small community feel. I couldn't believe how many people had been here all their lives.

Every time we ran into someone John knew, I would ask him to refresh my memory of how he knew them, who was connected to whom and how. I would ask, "Now, have I met them already? I can't remember, but I recognize the face," (or "the name sounds familiar"). I was always trying to keep people straight. I had met more people (in a short space of time) than ever before in my life. But I wondered if I would ever really get to know these people and think of them as my friends, rather than just John's friends.

I've been living in Murfreesboro and attending World Outreach now for over five years. I loved WOC right away. There was something special about Allen's preaching and although I did not know him personally, I felt a strong spiritual connection with him right off the bat. I believed in my heart that he was genuine. But I had been freshly disappointed by people in positions of spiritual leadership and I knew better than to make it about Allen or put my faith or confidence in a man. So it was refreshing when he would emphasize in sermons why we should never do do that with him or why we should not make it about our individual church. I needed to hear that after a lifetime of being in a church that did make those mistakes. He also put himself on the same level with the people in the congregation. I was impressed with his humility. But I remember occasionally thinking to myself, "Is this guy for real or is he just a great public speaker?"

In the last five years, my life has blossomed like a flower. I have more dear friends than I ever dreamed of having. John's friends have not only come to be my friends, we have made many new friends as a couple. I like to tease him about the fact that he had been in the same church for years and had never gotten to know many people there or even his pastor. It was the only setting in which he didn't seem to know everyone. I was the newcomer, but because it was so important to me to get plugged in and establish friendships with others, specifically in my new church home, I was suddenly introducing John to people who only knew me. : ) That was pretty funny and I have to admit that I enjoyed it immensely. Still do.

Friday night we had a bunch of friends over. I think there were 17 of us counting John and myself. This was a night I have been intending to host for months. It started out as "guitar night" with some of the guys at church who share John's love of guitars. You know how you say, "Man, we should have you over for Mexican food and a jam!" and then you never quite get around to doing it? Well, I dangled the carrot and then never followed through for the longest time. Finally, in December, I emailed everyone I knew wanted to come and suggested we set a date in January. And Friday night we had a Mexican feast and the best session of jamming and singing in the bonus room. It was a blast.

I have thought about these dear friends of mine all weekend; those who were here Friday night and lots of others who weren't. (I can only fit so many people in the kitchen and bonus room at one time. LOL.) I am just so overwhelmed with thankfulness for my friends! And I'm thankful that as I have gotten to know my pastor as a friend, I have found him to be every bit as genuine as he first seemed to me from the pulpit.

I told John last night at dinner that I no longer feel like I have transplanted myself into his world. Murfreesboro is my physical home. World Outreach is my spiritual home. And I have been blessed with some of the dearest friends in the whole world. I hope they know they mean the world to me. But I never want to assume they do. I want to convey to them at every opportunity just how precious they are to me and how much they add to my life.

Thank you, God, for blessing me with such beautiful friends! Not only did you give me a wonderful husband, but you gave him to me in a package I could truly treasure!

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by all the friends (and family) I wouldn't have ever had the opportunity to know and love had I not had the privilege to meet and marry my John. God is so good. And I am SO thankful!


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