This past summer my husband’s high school friend and his wife came to visit us from Connecticut. The plan was that the guys would golf and the girls were going to spend the morning at Mama’s Happy Artisan Market and have lunch afterwards. (if you live in Minnesota and have not yet been to Mama’s Happy…you really should take a look at their Facebook page and mark your calendars) The couple came to our house just a few hours after that and we ended up hanging out until well after midnight.
Now – here’s what is amazing about that day. The woman (Kim) and I had never met before. Before the day was over I think we had spent over 12 hours together and we talked and laughed as though we had known each other forever. It was effortless.
A few weeks after I met my new friend, I talked to my friend Maggie and we discussed what it is that makes some friendships effortless. I had recently been to Maggie’s surprise 60th birthday with all of her closest friends. Even though I didn’t know many of her friends well, I felt like I could have gone to morning coffee with every single person that I had talked to that evening. It was effortless.
At Maggie’s birthday party we did what you do for most birthday parties and quite a few of the women offered toasts to Maggie. But then Maggie did something that was really quite amazing. After she was toasted she stood up and toasted every single one of her friends who had come to celebrate her birthday. She went around the room and gave words of affirmation to each of us. She shared what she most admired about each person in the room and how they had contributed to her life. I was blown away.
After the party I told Maggie that I was quite intrigued by her group of friends. I asked her what it was about her friends that seemed so genuine and effortless? Maggie told me something like this –
“When we were young our friends were more situational. The people we spent our time with were the other parents on the hockey team…or the dance team…or the choir group. We met fabulous people and lots of people we would not otherwise have known.
The friends we have now are the ones who spanned the life of our kids. They are purely friends by choice. There is no pretense or agenda. We are no longer in situations where we automatically see people through our kids activities. At this stage of the game our friends are the ones we choose…the ones who are tried and true.”
As Maggie toasted each friend at her party I could not help but notice something else they had in common. Many had been through difficult trials and most – maybe all – were believers. These were women who, in their struggles, had leaned on the Lord and landed on their feet. They possessed a quiet gentle strength and their demeanor was warm and friendly. Effortless.
“Trials and tribulations tend to squeeze the artificiality out of us, leaving the essence of who we really are and clarifying what we really yearn for.” – Neal A. Maxwell
During the years when we were raising our kids we had an absolute blast with our “situational” friends. We have fond memories from those days and I miss a lot of the people who we don’t see very much anymore. Now in our later years we have to make more of an effort to be with the people that we care most about. Those who have a way of delighting and refreshing. The kind of friendships where you don’t have to work at it and you can simply be yourself.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
In the recent months/years I have strengthened and rekindled friendships with women who I have known since my younger days. During the child raising years, most of us were busy with work and family activities and we didn’t have as much time to nurture our friendships. But now that we have a little more time we have come back to our friendships. We are kind of like old shoes…a little worn, familiar, and very comfortable. Effortless.
“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
― A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
These are the kinds of friends who have been there from the beginning and will be there to the very end. Just this week I was with my longest time friend of 50 years…50 years. With effortless friendships, whether we see each other little or often, it feels like we just saw each other yesterday. Nothing ever changes between us. No matter how much time passes, we know each other’s heart and soul so it doesn’t seem to matter.
These are the friends who have been with me through thick and thin. We know each other’s stories and we have shared parts of our journeys. We have been through it all and no matter what comes along we always have each other’s back. Effortless.
“My two best girlfriends are from secondary school. I don’t have to explain anything to them. I don’t have to apologize for anything. They know.” – Emma Watson
And, of course, we have our girls groups; book club, birthday club, game nights, or bible study. With the right combination of women – groups can be really fun. The more easy going the girls – the more fun to be had. When the girls click like pieces in a puzzle it makes everything more lively and interesting. Dinners, walks, movies, shopping, talking and just hanging out can turn into adventures.
Groups that are really, really, effortless might find the adventure taking them on road trips to cabins, visiting homes farther away, sight seeing, or simply letting the car take you where it will. An exceptionally effortless group will enjoy vacationing together and long distance travel.
“It takes a good deal of give and take and a go-with-the-flow attitude in every member, in order for a group to function effortlessly.”
One of my favorite things about this time of my life is having the ability to be more spontaneous. Spontaneous friends = effortless friends. Nothing makes me happier than when my spontaneous friend texts me saying…”I need a dose of you.” It always seems to be at just the moment that I needed a dose of her too. And whenever we need a dose of each other we just pick up and go. Effortless.
Newer friends who are effortless have been unexpected blessings. Besides the friend I met last summer, the Lord blessed me with two other new friendships with women from my past. I have known both for many years but we never had the chance to really connect.
One of the girls grew up in Minnesota and now lives in California and we have developed a long distance friendship. We have enjoyed lots of email conversations and we share much in common regarding faith, family, and even politics…yet we have never sat together for coffee. (We have plans to do that very soon.) Effortless.
My other new/old friend and I first got together for breakfast at one of our favorite cafes and we had such a wonderful time it has now become a regular routine for us. Each time we meet we first greet each other with a hug and then we scooch into our booth planning to settle in for awhile. And once we are scooched – she immediately grabs my hands across the table and says quietly, “Let’s pray”.
“There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.” – Jim Henson
When any one of my friends names are penciled in my calendar I look forward to the day. My friends and I have been known to hang out for five hours of gabbing and we have only just scratched the surface. Guys would never understand that.
I have had my share of situational friends and they are good. But there is nothing like a friend with whom you can be completely transparent. With effortless friends you can laugh until you snort and you can cry without embarrassment. You can wear a sweatshirt and you can wear no makeup at all.
Effortless friends are thinking about you even when you aren’t together. They really care when are feeling down or if you have a concern in your life. They are the friends who have a way of sending you an email, text, or an inspirational quote that was exactly what you needed at that very moment. They have that uncanny knack of touching base when you were just beginning to miss them. And they are the kind of friends who when you ask them to pray – they actually do.
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.”
I have always admired those fortunate women who have sisters who are also their close and trusted friends. They share the same history and will be a part of whatever their future holds. Effortless.
But even if we don’t have a close sister relationship, the Lord provides friends for every situation and season of our lives. Whether our closest friends are sisters, cousins, or sister-in-laws…old friends, or new friends, long distance or close by…the Lord brings along just the right friends at the right time who fill our soul, who bring us joy, and make us better.