Today my childhood best friend turns fifty-seven. Why is that significant? Well for all of us every new day is a gift, but for Marie, it is a miracle. Forty years ago, this fall, the doctors diagnosed Marie with Lupus and gave her five years to live. They told her she would never be able to have children. God’s ways are not man’s ways, and I am so grateful. I am working on writing our story. This is the first installment.
Like water to my soul; that is how I would describe my friendship with Marie. This story is not just about giggly girls, although that could describe us at times. This story is about friendship, faith and a common bond that unites our hearts. It is about a journey of a lifetime with my BFF and the lessons we have learned along the way. It is about strength and tenacity, about sorrow and joy, about pain and healing; it is about showing up for each other when life is pretty and when it is pretty ugly. This is a story of how two little girls became friends, grew up together, faced adolescence, death and disease, marriage, military, ministry, children and even grandchildren together. Most importantly, it is about how our good God has been present every step of the way, being that friend that sticks closer than a brother.
The world may have a different view of what faith, courage, and tenacity look like, but when I think of those words, one person comes to mind, Marie Edna Beydler Williams. As four-year-olds, we were carefree, somewhat shy and rather ornery, innocent of all of the challenges that would be tossed in our path, potentially derailing our friendship. If we would have known then what we know now, we would have asked to be excused from the party.
I was an extremely shy little girl. So shy that when a grown up would speak to me, I would actually feel sick to my stomach and was often rendered speechless. Even now, I can get tongue tied and sweaty thinking of speaking to someone with whom I am unfamiliar.
One Sunday morning, when I was about six years old, I had a feeling of confidence. My mom had made a new lavender dress for me and fashioned a headband to match. I felt pretty. I was so excited to see my new friend at church. We had met when we were only four years old at a work event for our parents. Her dad and my mom both worked at the phone company. My new friend had just started attending our church and would be going to our Christian school soon.
As my new friend approached me, I saw a funny look on her face, maybe even one of incredulity. She just looked at me and said, “You know you don’t need that hair band.” I don’t know why she said that or remember what my initial reaction was, other than being a little hurt, but I do remember that this moment was seared in my memory as the beginning of our life-long friendship. As I read this to her, she started laughing. Remembering that encounter, she recalled my hair being so pretty and had no understanding of why I needed a headband! For fifty years, I thought she didn’t like my hair! James one tells us that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Really, he is telling us to not be so sensitive and to slow down, get the facts before we get our knickers in a knot. Most importantly He is telling us to not be easily offended.
In hindsight, I think Marie’s brutal honesty marked the beginning of our friendship. Proverbs tells us that faithful are the wounds of a friend. And boy, have we been faithful! Over the years we have hurt one another’s feelings, sometimes been harsh, and have given new meaning to the idea of a friend’s wounds. However, as our friendship has grown, so has our ability to sense each other’s needs and respond with words or actions to encourage, challenge, and even rebuke. As snarky YOUTHs, our goal was not always to build one another up. As we have matured, so have our hearts and minds. We believe that God has given us a special discernment where our friendship is concerned.
Now, even though we may talk like we are solving the worlds problems, our conversations almost always come back around to where our hearts are, what we are learning through life and through scripture, and how we can encourage each other. We, sometimes, have to remind each other of Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” While in our conversations, we do not tear each other down, but we can really let it rip about other people who may have a splinter in their own eye. We have to remind each other to let go of past and present hurts or injustices and focus our hearts on our Creator as His creation and part of His first fruit, speaking the truth in love.
Each year brings new challenges. In the past 12 months, Marie has endured cancer, open heart surgery, potential kidney (the transplanted one) rejection, medication debacles, and copious amounts of God’s grace.
Psalm seventy-one speaks her testimony well… yet I will praise you.
14 As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.
22 I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion.