My best friend and her daughter came to visit us this weekend. Yes, I am thirty, and yes I still call her my best friend. We don't wear the necklaces, but if asked to I would rock one on her behalf. In my book, the title of Best Friend is one that is earned through moments of faithfulness, selflessness, and honesty that all stack up on top of each other to make something so sustainable. Something that takes on a form of it's own and gains momentum as the years pass. Like a giant snowball of awesomeness. Enter my snowball. Nicole Renee (Martell) Centanni the first.
When Nicole moved away seven years ago we cried so hard that our husbands had to literally peel us apart. That was a dark day for me. I knew that I could search the ends of the earth for someone like her and come up empty. Nicole, my best friend of a thousand lifetimes, one that knew me so deeply and honestly, and she was leaving. Stupid Minnesota. I will punch you.
I felt robbed because Nicole and I couldn't do daily life together anymore. We had walked through such significant moments together: college, ministry, young love, and our first years of marriage. She was my go to. Our friendship had only known side by side living. We didn't know how that could translate with her moving three hundred miles away. I was nervous that the depth that we had so carefully built, moment by moment would fade into the oblivion of Christmas cards and class reunions.
However, Nicole and I resolved to keep a great thing going. We committed to visiting one another as often as possible. We sat down with our calendars and our Hot Tamales and marked out our best friend weekends with permanent red ink. Friends and family would comment on how much effort I put into seeing Nicole. It didn't feel like effort. It felt like a necessity. I needed her. It actually took more restraint on my behalf to not visit more often.
A beautiful thing started taking shape during those visits. When Nicole visited me, I paused life for a weekend. I was able to take a deep breath, a time out, a respite from daily living. I was able to step back and survey my life, with a companion that knew me so deeply and helped me see it more clearly. Nicole would encourage me, help me see beauty where I saw ashes, promise where I saw disparity. She would remind me of the things that I value. She would "sing my heart's song back to me when I forgot the words" like that cheesy Hallmark saying. Our hubbies would always tease us about our weekends together, bracing themselves for the "revelations" we would come home with.
Fast forward a few years, a few pounds, and a few kids later. Our weekends together still feel as necessary, if not more, as they had at the beginning. Nicole and I may be more interrupted than before, and may have stockpiled the Disney DVD collection for our girls so we can actually get some talk time in, but it is so freaking worth it. It is worth the crazy drive and the choppy nap schedules and the pounds and pounds of goldfish consumed by our children. I still walk away from our weekends together with a fresh lease on life and the God that gave it to me.
There is so much value in doing daily life together with others. God calls us to. However, there is much to be said about taking a time out with someone you love and allowing one another the space to think aloud, to breathe, to mourn and to heal. It's like free therapy with the additional bonus of junk food and sleepovers. A respite from daily living is necessary in order to do daily life well. Although I would jump through fiery hoops at the chance to be Nicole's next door neighbor, I have learned to appreciate such a time as this.
So, my dearest Nicole. If I could have seen seven years ago what I now see, I probably would not have slashed the tires to your moving truck. What God has developed in between our hearts, our families, and our lives is so much more beautiful than this little brain could have imagined. Cheers to respite. Cheers to my best friend.
Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.