I became pregnant with our first child in 1976 while teaching kindergarten. It was my third year of teaching and I was thrilled to be having a child of our own. He was born on June 9th, 1977 and, by the way, he was absolutely perfect (just ask him). Two months later we moved to Kentucky so Phil could attend seminary. I no longer had 23 adoring children telling me how pretty I was, how much they loved me, hanging on my every word as I sang “Mrs. Woody’s Silly Songs” and read “Tiki Tiki Tembo”. Now I was alone with a baby all day and Phil was off having fun studying Greek, New Testament, and Pastoral Counseling. I couldn’t WAIT for him to come home so I could have adult conversation.
Somewhere about this time, probably in his Pastoral Counseling class, Phil learned that males generally use around 16,000 words a day while females use about 35,000. He politely informed me that he used his 16o00 words during classes, so when he came home, he had met his verbal quota. Wait a minute! I had barely shaved the top off my quota by the time Phil came home! Our 6 month-old was not conversing much at this point (although according to him he had already read War and Peace).
We had a problem. I was lonely. I had a loving husband and a precious son, but I felt desperately alone.
Phil was busy in classes, studying, writing papers, and working four part-time jobs so I could stay home with our son. On the one hand, I knew Phil was busy with these responsibilities, I also knew I needed adult conversation and interaction. We talked about it and prayed about it and Phil finally said, “Gayle, you need to make some friends.”
OK – that was easy. It was a logical solution. It was also easier said then done. Phil had instant relationships with fellow seminarians. Many of the wives of the seminary students worked full-time putting their spouses through school. They were gone all day. I started taking our son on walks in the stroller hoping I would walk past other young mothers. I didn’t see anyone. I started planning trips to the laundry mat when I thought other mothers would be there so I could become acquainted with them while our clothes washed and dried. Laundry must have been a common chore for the husbands because the only other people in the laundramat were seminary students studying while their clothes agitated, spun, rinsed, and tumbled dry. I was in despair!
For the first time in my life, I was not surrounded by friends who I could share my life with. Phil was (and still is) my most meaningful relationship. But in my desperation for fellowship I was draining him dry. He could not meet all my needs for relationship as much as he tried. He was not interested in decorating, sewing, or painting. His eyes glazed over as I talked about breastfeeding and how long cloth diapers took to dry on the clothes line. I needed female friendship.
Looking back, I think God allowed me to go through this time to teach me how important it is to have healthy relationships. God refers to the church as a family, an army, a body made up of many parts, a people – all collective words that require and describe some type of relationship. As a Christian I am not out there on my own – I am part of the family of God. Those relationships I have with other Christians teach me a lot as well as produce joyful interaction.
After several months of struggle, God did bring some precious friends into my life. I can truly say that I have fond memories of our time in Kentucky because of those friends.
Then we left Kentucky and returned to North Carolina. Over the years I have been blessed with friendships that have allowed me to grow as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, and most of all, as a Christian. These friendships are vital to my health and wellbeing. These friends have laughed and cried with me, prayed and sung with me, they have corrected me at times and loved me in spite of my weakness. By living honest, transparent lives before me, these dear friends have allowed me to realize that we all fall short of God’s glory, but we can press on together to become all God has called us to be.
Philippians 3:12-16 (NIV)
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I am so blessed by the friends that have graced my life with their love.