Because of them I am not the same. And I am thankful!

On my last night in Indiana, my sweet Michelle looked at me with a serious expression and said, "I have one more question, and I need to ask it before you leave."
"Of course! What do you want to know?"
Before she asked her question, she spent several minutes verbally walking through our history together.
How we met.
Our first real conversation.
The first time we met for discipleship.
The highs and lows we experienced personally and in relationships.
Her dating relationship with Daniel.
The engagement.
The wedding.
Married life.
Five years of memories.
While she spoke, she described her perspective on my investment and influence in her life and had me securely captured in her web of memories. I relived each one in my mind's eye, smiling and praising God for taking what was once a mentor relationship and turning it into - a friendship.
I was completely startled when she stopped abruptly and asked, "I know what you have done for me these past five years. But I need to know, what have I done for you?"
I sat across from her, speechless.
I was so engrossed in the details of her thoughts that I could not come up with one of my own.
But I knew one thing, thoughts or no thoughts. I love her. And I needed to tell her why.

I used to think it strange when older women were close friends with younger women. I wondered what they could possibly have in common. What they would talk about. What they had to offer each other. And then, when I was about thirty, the Lord pulled back the curtain and showed me how precious such a relationship can be through the example of my grandmother and her dear friend, Lois.

I had heard about Lois for years. My grandmother clearly adored her. They talked, they shopped, they ate out, they traveled together, and they confided in each other. Their husbands connected too. The four of them were friends. True friends. Godly "iron sharpens iron" friends. And in my ignorance, I assumed they were the same age. Until I met Lois in person and learned she was about twenty years younger than my grandmother! How could this be? I remember sitting in my grandmother's living room observing them, individually, and together. There was familiarity, ease, trust, and sincere affection between them. And for the first time, I saw it. Though my grandmother had two decades of days on her side, it was not a one-sided relationship. It was clear that Lois poured as much into my beloved grandmother as she received from her.

It was on that day, over fifteen years ago in a little room in Pennsylvania, that I purposed in my heart to enlarge my heart to learn to know, appreciate, and love older women. I had peers all around me and had been working with teens for a decade, but I began to crave older women who would pour their wisdom and experience into me. And, once I opened my eyes to see them, they were everywhere! Not mentors necessarily, but a coffee date here, a conversation there, and a three-year Bible study that continues to bless me to do this day all served to increase my understanding of the beauty of multi-generational friendships. I wanted everything they were willing to share and soaked all of it up like a dry sponge in a rainstorm. And then, before I had time to blink, I was the older woman! Forty years old. Married twenty years. Mother of six. And the Lord decided it was time for me to start ringing out my over-soaked sponge. All of those years, all of those women, all of their wisdom ... it needed to be shared with more than me.

Enter Michelle. And Janice. And Danielle. And Linsey. Mandy, Jaclyn, Kelsey, Elisabeth, Angela, Karen, Tiffany, Lindsay, Lauren, and the handful of other young women who joined us for shorter seasons throughout the years.

I was wrong all those years ago when I thought that friendships only worked if both parties were in the same season of life and had much in common. The truth is, the best thing about multi-generational friendships IS the differences! And as believers, we are all called to live out the one anothers of Scripture. Child, teen, adult, senior ... each of us has something to offer the other. And the best thing we can offer - is ourselves.

"My girls" (they graciously permit me to use this phrase ♥) allow me to watch them mature and grow in their walk with the Lord. They confess sin. Share deep and painful struggles. Speak truth. Encourage me with their energy and enthusiasm. Challenge me. Correct and rebuke me. And best of all, they invite me to join in their greatest joys and their deepest sorrows. Not because they have to, but because they want to.

I didn't know how to articulate the deep affection I have for my girls when Michelle asked me her question, but I do now. Though it may look different based on our seasons of life and experience, they live out the one anothers of Scripture as faithfully, as enthusiastically, and as willingly as any of my peers, if not more. They lift me up when I am low, pray for me when I am weak, rejoice with me when I rejoice, and love and accept me, just as I am. And I will never cease to praise God for the precious and beautiful gift of these women. For since I met them, my life has never been the same.

Love one another – John 13:34Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12
Build up one another – Romans 14:19Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Be of the same mind toward one another – Romans 12:16
Give preference to one another – Romans 12:10
Serve one another – Galatians 5:13
Receive one another – Romans 15:7
Be devoted to one another – Romans 12:10
Rejoice or weep with one another – Romans 12:15
Care for one another – 1 Corinthians 12:25
Comfort one another – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
Encourage one another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11Hebrews 3:13
Be compassionate with one another – 1 Peter 3:8
Pray for one another – James 5:16
Confess your faults to one another – James 5:16
Accept one another – Romans 14:1; 15:7
Be truthful with one another – Colossians 3:9

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