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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Love and Friendship

There are no words for the fantastic weekend I had in Chicago. I stayed with a best friend from University days, a friend with whom we have shared joy and sorrow along life's road. We laughed, we shared, we took a long walk around a beautiful lake near their house, taking in the fresh air and the autumn color. We ate good food at a restaurant that didn't allow guns while being waited upon by one of her beautiful daughters. I went to her church and watched her play the keyboard. It's a friendship that has endured and we laugh about living together in California in our old age.
I connected with old family friends, people who were important to me because they were such close friends of my parents. I had a longing to connect with these relationships who knew me when I was little...people with whom I have a treasured past. Folks who have helped shaped and formed me into the person I am today. One woman was the Maid of Honor at my parent's wedding. She was also my speech professor in college and I owe her a debt of gratitude for the preacher I am today. Another couple are the ones my parents bought their first house from in CA. How we laughed together when our families got together. The joy of these relationships that date well over 50 years is profound and moving.
I had coffee with a woman I first met in Stockholm and spent an hour with my roommate from seminary. I had not seen Wendy in years so it was fun to have a brief albeit meaningful catch up. I shared an afternoon with a couple whose kids were in my first youth group when I was an intern. I talked them into shepherding a group of students on a mission trip one summer and we put the final nail in our friendship forever box on that crazy and memorable trip. I spent some heartfelt time with a friend I worked with when I was an intern who also lost her parents just 11 months apart, a year after I had lost mine. We shared the joy of memories and the sorrow of loss. And as has become a bit of a tradition when possible, I ate Lou Malnati's pizza at the home of our former neighbors in Northbrook. We loved living next door to this sweet family and the memories of those years are rich with joy.
But clearly, the centerpiece of the weekend were the two weddings I was privileged to attend. The first was of a woman I had worked with when I was chaplain at NPU. We spent every Monday morning carefully debriefing our weekends, laughing our heads off, commiserating over students, and just generally having a fantastic time in the office together. She had waited a long time to find the man of her dreams and I do believe that she has done so now in Alex. Their wedding was in a Greek Orthodox church and it was fascinating and beautiful. Elizabeth was so happy! It was such a joy to see her radiate. Other former colleagues attended the wedding so it gave us a chance to have a much appreciated catch up with one another.
Wedding #2 was of a man who was a student when I first met him. He was a freshman in my first year of being chaplain and we hit it off right away. He was a key student leader for me in campus ministry, so much so that when he graduated I hired him to assist me in campus ministry. I left for Sweden and he stayed on at NPU for 10 more years! Through the years we've had an abiding connection even though we don't communicate often. Paul is a man of few words. But when he met Rhianna he shared some things with me that made me think that this really was the one for him. Paul had flown out to CA for my mom's funeral, and that was such a meaningful gesture that I always felt that if he got married, I wanted to figure out a way to be there. I was not disappointed to have made the effort. To see him so happy and content, to meet Rhianna and just know in the depths of my heart that they are a great match has been a great blessing for me. Their wedding was held in a unique restaurant downtown that actually has an area fashioned to look like a church. The reception was great fun as my table included the other "boys" (and their wives) from Paul's college posse with whom I have also stayed quite close. It is a deep and satisfying blessing for me that these students of old remain interested in keeping in touch with their now very old chaplain. We have shared much joy and sorrow together and I feel so proud when I see them all happily married, with a pile of children around them, engaged in responsible, successful careers, 3 of them in ministry, all of them church leaders. It really is a gift of inexpressible joy. Icing on the cake was seeing Paul's parents who have been a source of encouragement and leadership for me and Doug. They are among the most remarkable folks in the world and it was great to share this special time with them as well.
The days in the desert have been good too. I met up with a couple who have recently moved here who we first met in Europe. He was the pastor of the International church in Zurich and we've shared many a good moment together. Their stuff hadn't arrived so we enjoyed a glass of wine and some snacks using a coffee pot box for our table. They showed me around their cool place and we look forward to hanging with them in the palatial tv room of their club when we return.  Hanging with my cousins, eating good food, taking care of house business, doing a little shopping caused the time to fly by. Now it's time to fly back across the pond where I am ready to rejoin Doug and Dog.
There are so many ways my life is a blessing but for sure, these deep and abiding friendships provide the sustenance of life and I'm deeply grateful for the abiding heartfelt connection I feel with these loved ones even when the years and geography have separated us. Thank you God for the love you have shown me through these dear folks.