Something Sublime for February ~ Friendship

IMG_4237I’ve been thinking a lot about the beauty of friendship. Our friends exist on a continuum from the most casual to the most intimate, but they all make life more worth the journey. Literature holds so many profound quotes about friendship, but I’m partial to this one from Winnie-the-Pooh, “A friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the best things you can be.”

A few days ago I hosted a few gal-pals to celebrate our dear friend’s 85th birthday and Galentine’s Day. The group of ladies that filled my living room ranged in age from 30 to 89. Most I’ve known my whole life but others I’ve met more recently, reminding us that a circle of friends can always get bigger. The cold and blustery day made being together feel that much warmer, and the memories will remain as sparkling as the punch, as sweet as the cake and as happy as the bouquet of flowers decorating the table.

Another day this week my husband and I attended a funeral visitation. Hundreds of people had come to say goodbye to their friend and offer condolences to her family. I was struck, though not surprised, how the line overflowed from the sanctuary and wound through the church. What a friend she must have been to her family, classmates, neighbors, co-workers, students, church, close friends and casual acquaintances. Several times I fought back tears at the example and victory of a life so well lived.

That same evening, we sat around a kitchen table playing dominoes with my lifelong friends and their dad. (I was in our friends’ wedding 37 years ago!) Our parents were all close friends for as long as we can remember, but there is only one left to play dominoes with us. I was so distracted by the bittersweet memories, I forgot most of the rules of Mexican Train and lost every single game, but it was an evening filled with the delight of friendship.

Now and then, the storm clouds of life make us especially grateful for those few special people who are there for us come rain or come shine. Just a couple of days ago, I needed to reach out to my closest crew for their support and guidance, and I only hope I can return the favor. Good old Pooh Bear said it best, “Anyone can show up when you’re happy. But the ones who stay by your side when your heart falls apart, they are your true friends.”

As good and true as friends can be, there is someone else we can always count on. As the hymn goes, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” I’m honored to count God among my dearest friends. I know he was there at our party, at the funeral, around the kitchen table and in that moment when everything seemed to be falling apart. “Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.” §

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.
“Even longer,” Pooh answered.
~ A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The Elegance of a Prayer Garden

I walked to the prayer garden near my house this morning, recalling the day I discovered it about a year ago when everything in my predictable little life suddenly turned upside down. The details don’t matter. It was just life. Life, with a big Covid cherry on top. 

One blustery afternoon, when I was in the thick of it, I took a walk to clear my head. I left the concrete sidewalk along the busy road and headed a different direction across the frosty ground along the train tracks. As my feet kicked through thick crisp leaves, I heard myself let out a long breath I’d been holding for weeks. I closed my eyes briefly and opened them to find myself wandering into a small, elegant prayer garden.

The garden is situated on the edge of the grounds of a large church that wasn’t there when I was growing up. It’s a small area that’s simply, but well-designed. I sat on the cold stone bench, knowing what I needed to do.


There was so much to pray about, but my thoughts blew and swirled around like the dry brown leaves trapped against the garden wall. I settled myself for some serious invocation, but instead focused on inconsequential details in front of me – moss growing on the large center boulder, the patterned brick below my feet, the low curved wall.

Okay, pray.

In the silence, my attention turned to the sound of the wind shaking copper leaves still clinging to their branches, the distant squawk of geese dotting the gray skies, the rhythmic scratching of a squirrel in a nearby tree.

C’mon, just pray.

I shook my head only to notice the abundance of acorns, hickory nuts, and broken shells scattered at my feet. I scoffed at my spiritual ineptitude as my eyes filled with hot tears that stung in the cold air. A train rumbled down the tracks, just feet away. The clattering of iron on iron came closer and closer, roaring louder and louder in my crowded mind.

Suddenly, I remembered the title of a book by Anne Lamott called Help. Thanks. Wow. In it, the author advocates three simple prayers – one of supplication, one of gratitude, and one of sheer awe.

I walked in a slow circle around the center of the garden, picking up acorns and placing them on stones to help me visualize each individual prayer. Instead of a train wreck of messy thoughts, my prayers were laid out in a neat, comprehensible pattern along the garden wall.

Help. Thanks. Wow. Help. Thanks. Wow. Help. Thanks. Wow.

The title of Lamott’s book reminded me to keep my prayers in specific, grateful, and humble balance. For every prayer asking for help, there’s another for thanks, and yet another for joyful praise of things like serendipitously stumbling upon a private and holy sanctuary just when it’s needed most. 

I walk to the prayer garden nearly every day now. It’s one of my favorite places in the town I call home again. This morning I realized every one of my prayers from last year has been answered.


Wow. §

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses.”
~ 1913 Hymn, In the Garden