Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Still Waiting in Wonder

When I was a little girl, I heard an old adage that said, “When we pray, God doesn’t just say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Sometimes, He says, ‘wait.’”

For a long time, I thought “wait” meant waiting for a week, maybe a month.

I remember “wait” took on special meaning when our 45 year old pastor was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. We prayed and waited. We hoped “wait” meant he would be miraculously healed within the six months of life the doctors predicted.

Pastor endured a total of twelve months before he died on September 10, 2001. A mere day before tragedy struck the United States in the form of the 9/11 terror attacks.

That event redefined “wait” for me. And it drove home the point that sometimes God says “no.”

In the past, when I prayed, I laid my requests before God hoping for “yes,” and knowing “no” was a possibility. I took “wait” out of the equation.

After I graduated from college, I went through a very bleak time. After all, I had just left the comfort of some of the world’s most amazing women.

For four years, I’d lived shoulder to shoulder with wonderful women who’d become more than my friends. They’d grown into my family.

My roommates were more than people I shared a room with – they made me laugh, cried with me, and put up heroically with my sarcastic personality.

Without my friends, I felt like a tiny life raft separated from the Carnival cruise ship where I’d previously been docked.

Back home, I watched as the church I loved, the church I considered a second home, was slowly torn apart after the death of our beloved, spiritually-balanced pastor.

As my church friends seemed to evaporate, and my college friends moved on with their lives, I found myself completely isolated. After four years spent in warm friendship and happy acceptance, I was left out in the cold.

And I prayed.

I prayed fervently that God would please, please, please (I always use three “pleases” when I really want something from the Lord) grant me friends again.

And I prayed again. And again. And again.

I felt so absolutely, utterly alone. Even when we visited a church where we were sure God wanted us to be, I felt like a thorn among roses.

I desperately missed my friends. People who knew me, loved me, understood my twisted sense of humor, my secret fear of being left out, my anger that sprung at rejection, and loved, loved, loved me anyway.

Somehow, it didn’t occur to me that perhaps it would take time. That this request might actually force me to consider “wait.”

I continued to pray. And thanked God for my mom and my family who kept me afloat during those depressed years.

It started slowly. An acquaintance from my old church, someone I barely knew, heard that I liked to go to movies.

“Call me next time. I love movies!”

Hesitantly, I called her the next time I saw a movie preview.

Angie and I have been movie buddies for over five years now. We’ve spent countless hours in our cars - long after the movies are over - talking about our spiritual life, our husbands, our families, and our trials.

Without Angie’s stalwart spiritual support, and God’s unending grace, I would have left Brett in December of 2006. Looking back, it is crystal clear God brought Angie into my life to prevent personal tragedy and give me yet another chance to return to Him.

Slowly, sometimes painfully slowly, I’ve watched as God has answered my prayer for friends. The “wait” continues to be filled as God blesses again and again.

This is a lot of preface (you mean you’re just getting started?!) to say what I really wanted to say.

Which is…

The last couple of weeks sucked. (I apologize, but they did.)

I was overworked, stressed out, tired, and exhausted. With Brett still out of work, huge events looming at work, migraines, and no time to do anything – I felt completely swamped and overwhelmed.

And do you know what happened?

My friend Carleen just showed up one crazy day at work to deliver lunch to me. “I just thought you might need it today,” she said. She handed me a take-out salad, a HUGE diet soda, and left…knowing I didn’t have time to talk.

My friend Heidi called and arranged a quick date to pick out beads for an upcoming girl’s night. “I just wanted to help you pick out the basics so you don’t have to spend a fortune. You can use as much of my stuff as you want.”

My friend Cheryl stopped by my desk with a Reese’s McFlurry from McDonald’s. “It’s hot outside. I know how you hate the heat. I thought this might cool you down.”

My friend Alice commiserated with me on work issues. She offered her virtual shoulder for me to lean on and managed to make me laugh when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry.

My friend Angie called and reminded me that a “husband out of work” becomes “your personal errand boy.” And teased that now “he’ll have more energy to make that baby.”

And, recently, when I ran out crying in the middle of a church service, three women followed me into the bathroom, offering comfort, kind prayer, and tissues with lotion.

I could go on. And that sentence amazes me.

When I think of all the people who called, commented, and encouraged me after Brett lost his job…or the many women who came forward during my rough time in December of 2006 to say I wasn’t alone…I stand in wonder.

It’s obvious God did say “wait” to my prayers all those years ago. And this week, He made it clearly evident He’s still delivering on that prayer. He’s been saying, “yes, yes, yes” this whole time.

And I am befuddled with gratefulness.

Grateful for God’s grace. So grateful for the new friends He has provided and the old friendships He has sustained.

So, I raise my Diet Coke and toast –

To friends by birth
To friends by choice
To friends short and friends tall
If it wasn’t for God’s grace,
I’d have no friends at all!

(Because, seriously, you guys know I’m a handful!)


Anonymous said...

I love you Ann-Marie. And I mean that in the true sense of love...not like I love frivolous things = )
Thanks for posting.

Alice said...

I have gone through various friendless seasons myself. It makes me all the more thankful when I do have friends surrounding me, and I don't take them for granted.

I'm very glad we met and became friends so rather randomly!

Ann-Marie said...

Tob – you and I share the unlikeliest of friendships, and frankly I’m just glad we're the same species. I can’t imagine my life without your influence and support. I (heart) you, too. Way more than movies and chocolate (my favorite frivolous things).

Alice – Amen to the yeah!

candice said...

I love you too Ann-Marie! Your my bestest Cousin and Brielle's Not-Aunt! We are praying for ya both Mayb we can hang out at your house and I can bring some frozen pizza over! Let me know!! Brielle will entertain you!

a joyful nusiance said...

I consider you a very good new friend. :)

Heidi said...

I am looking forward to that girl's night out too. Though the guy of the house does not know that I am hosting it. ha.

Jennittia said...

Oh, what a beautiful, inspiring post!! Even though I am so many miles away, you are still such a good friend!!