We met a little over ten years ago, at the Baptism of a mutual friend’s daughter. Our journey as friends began before that, though.
You see, we both attended the same university for a year – she and her husband both graduated after my freshman year. She and I were even in the same program, but not until near the end of my freshman year, when I changed majors.
We didn’t meet then.
A few years later, her husband and my soon-to-be-husband were both at the Seminary at the same time, but not the same classes. Karl (my hubby) was studying historical theology for his Master of Arts, and her husband was in his last year of classes, after his vicarage, for his Master of Divinity.
We didn’t meet then, either.
Fast forward another few years, when my husband and I were living in Michigan with our first child, and Heidi and her husband were living in Ohio with their first two children. We met in-between outside of Detroit, Michigan. It went something like this.
We stood around, chatting a little with the people we knew, and smiling at the kids playing outside. We each noticed the three of ours playing with the older brother of the newly Baptized one.
“How old are yours?” I asked timidly. I was pretty shy still back then, and it was a good deal of effort on my part making myself speak. (Actually, because I can’t remember the conversation verbatim, it may very well have been Karl who initiated it; he’s always been a lot more outgoing than I am!)
“Oh, M is 4, and J is 2,” she answered. “Yours?”
“Our M is 1 and a half.”
“Cool!” She had a great, welcoming smile. “My name’s Heidi, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Sarah.”
We talked about how we knew the family, and were surprised at what a small world it is. We chatted through the afternoon, and as it was time to go, I felt that if I didn’t speak up, I might be missing a huge opportunity for friendship. I’d never had such a strong urge to ask someone if we could keep in touch. All other friendships had grown slowly and naturally, over time.
My heart was thumping with the anxiety of asking to trade information. I’m always nervous that I perceive a different connection than someone else does, and this was before the days of looking someone up on Facebook after the fact (it probably existed, but I wasn’t on it yet).
“Hey, Heidi. Um, do you wanna trade email or something?” I probably went on to explain that I normally don’t just ask people I just met to keep in touch, but there seemed to be a good friendship potential or some such thing…
“Yeah! I was thinking of asking the same thing! Our kids play so well, and it’s been fun talking to you!”
So, Heidi doesn’t actually speak with so many exclamation points, but the joy this encounter brings up makes me a little over-exuberant in my writing. 😉
You get the gist, though. About a month later, we stopped (invited!) for lunch at their house on our way to visit my parents. For the next several years, we got together at least every other month. When my husband got a job as a college professor in Alabama, it was terribly difficult to say good-bye.
We’ve had some great visits in the years since. Blueberry picking and canning jam in Alabama. Christmas Parades and New Years’ Eve festivities in Ohio. Texts and letters and packages and calls…we keep in touch, but always feel like another part of us lives in another place. We dream of a day when we live near enough for a day-trip to visit, though it may very well not be until the Old Earth has passed away, and the New Heaven and New Earth are where we will sing praises to the Lord Jesus who has brought us together and sustained our friendship.
After my family moved to Alabama, and we were emailing, calling, and texting more, both Heidi and I started to think about writing. She had already been writing Bible studies for the Youth group at her church, and I had been toying with a Cinderella-like story (that grew into the Regency Silhouettes series).
Fast forward all these years, and her family is in Nebraska and mine is in Texas…and we still are supporting one another’s writing. (Check out her amazing, faith-filled blog here at I Love My Shepherd!) I’ll shoot her a text, freaking out about how inadequate I feel for the task of what I want to communicate in my Work in Progress. She’ll call to ask about ideas for promoting her latest Bible Study Devotional. We had our first collaborative project this past Advent, with a devotional photo challenge. She offers suggestions and insight for my fiction, and I offer editing and formatting help with her studies. It’s amazing how God has been working in and through us to support each one another.
Heidi prays for me every time she sits down to write. I pray for her every day when the alarm on my phone goes off at the time she usually starts writing. And let me say, this last novel I’ve been working on has felt different from the other two. There has been a greater sense of focus with this novel that I’m working on now, and I’ve (with a few exceptions) felt more confident in my writing throughout the process.