I just spent an amazing weekend in Chicago. What made it amazing was the way in which I was able to re-connect with friends from across a variety of phases in my life. The reason for going to Chicago in the first place was to officiate at the wedding of one of my closest friends. Stacy and I met as freshmen in college. We were having a water fight in the dorm, as freshmen girls do, and in a moment of fierce competition, Stacy grabbed my shirt and literally tore it off my back! 35 years later and we're still pretty much best friends! One of her four daughters stayed with us in Stockholm when she was on a study abroad program a few years ago. Stacy came over to Europe during that time and we met up in Rome and subsequently traveled to Sorrento together for a great long weekend. We've weathered many life events with one another, survived living in distant places throughout the years, and forged a bond that is safe, secure and a true source of strength and compassion for one another. I am very happy for her that she has found this gift of love in Michael and wish them much happiness through the years ahead.
In addition to this college friendship, I re-connected with newer friendships that had been forged in Sweden. One of my tennis buddies moved to Chicago in August and lives one mile from my friend Stacy, yes, the one from the above paragraph! What are the odds of that?! So, I was able to sneak in a morning coffee with her at her new home, chat with her and her husband about their new life in the US and enjoy her two little boys. It was a surreal moment, connecting on the other side of the pond. I miss her and her fierce play on the court!
I stayed with our former neighbors in our old neighborhood in Northbrook, a few blocks from the church where Doug was associate pastor. The house that Doug and I lived in before we moved to Sweden is now torn down so that's a little sad but being back on our street in our old neighborhood was such a delight. The kids of the family I stayed with were little when we lived next door and we have great memories of playing baseball in the yard and other assorted fun things with them. The kids are now both out of college. Neil and Lori, my wonderful hosts, are such a joy to be with. They create a warm, relaxing atmosphere, show genuine care and concern for our lives and are dear friends even after our being gone almost 15 years. It does not seem like that long ago that we shared space together on Greenview Lane. The years truly do fly by.
I enjoyed a wonderful cup of coffee and beautiful conversation with another woman from Northbrook who Lori and I are both close to. Again, it's amazing to think that their kids are grown up, one getting married next summer. In fact, he too stayed with us in Stockholm while on a study abroad program in Europe! This too is an abiding friendship that weathers the years well. It never seems like time passes with these women.
I met up for an American style breakfast with Jan, a friend who I worked with while doing my internship while in seminary. This was more than 20 years ago! This is a friendship that went through a rough patch but a trip that Jan took to Sweden helped us repair and reconnect. There is no shortage of conversation when we are together and I am always delighted when we can find a slice of time to get caught up.
After the wedding, I ventured downtown to connect with close friends who also used to live in Stockholm. Rich and Mary Beth lived in Stockholm for 10 years which is a long time for "temporary" folks! We enjoyed many dinners, game nights, boat rides, and other joyous occasions with them. We've shared deeply from the joy and tragedy of life and I am so happy that I was able to spend one beautiful night with them in their gorgeous downtown apartment. Again, it felt like we were sitting in their Stockholm apartment, gabbing away as we always did! But a glance out the window at the Chicago skyline reminded us that we no longer live in the same city.
Crazy as it seems, just one block from where Rich and Mary Beth live in Chicago reside Vince and Sally, wonderful friends who I met while doing my internship during seminary. Their children, then in junior high and high school, were part of my youth group and I developed a warm friendship with Vince and Sally. I then convinced them to join me as adult sponsors of a youth mission trip to Appalachia where the bond of our friendship was forged in steel! They too have been over to Sweden a couple of times. We traveled to the homestead of Vince's relatives and Sally was present for my 50th birthday bash. Their kids are married with children now and we were able to have breakfast with Claire, their daughter, and her 2 year old, Rory and newborn Molly. What a delight to share in these moments with these dear friends.
Finally, I had lunch with Paul, a young man who I met when he was a freshman in college when I was chaplain at North Park University. Paul was one of the students that I was closest to during my tenure and I ended up hiring him when he graduated as an assistant in campus ministry. After one year I left to move to Sweden and he stayed on for 10 more years, continuing the legacy of ministry that we had worked hard at creating while I was there. We used to eat lunch at Lou Malnati's pizza place, banging out the vision and details for Campus Ministry at North Park so it was appropriate that we ate there once again on my final day in Chicago. Paul too has visited us in Sweden. He is a skilled ministry professional, working on technical aspects of producing a worship service with loads of media and creativity at Willow Creek. We'd love to work with him again one day and have hopes that some how, some way that could happen.
So there ya go...friendships for a lifetime indeed. Meeting new people is special and keeps life interesting and exciting. But there is something about friendships that share your long past that touch the soul and keep you rooted. The above mentioned folks share a special place in my heart because of who they were at a certain time in my life. The fact that we've been able to keep up through moves, distances, and years is a real tribute to the unique and wonderful place we hold in one another's lives. These folks know me well and they love me well and their support and care for me is unbridled, as is mine for them. I can call upon them at any time, from any place and they will answer. They makes adjustments to my schedule when I am in town for short periods so that we can add a few more shared hours to our life story. These are friendships forged through the good and the bad, the joy and the sorrow, the laughter and the tears and I am eternally grateful for the place in my life story each of the above represent. And the reality is that I did not connect with so many others who have meant so much to me through the years. There is just not enough time to embrace the whole field of folks who have left an impression on our lives from that season of life.
I don't know if we will ever live in Chicago again, but my heart will always have a little spot that is stamped with Chicago. I am so thankful that our life takes us back to Chicago on a fairly regular basis so that we can keep up with these friendships that represent so many beautiful moments in our life there.