“In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers.
In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births,
a few more miles between certain houses,
the choice of one university instead of another...
the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--
any of these chances might have kept us apart.
But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances.
A secret master of ceremonies has been at work.
Christ, who said to the disciples,
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,"
can truly say to every group of Christian friends,
"Ye have not chosen one another
but I have chosen you for one another."
The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating
and good taste in finding one another out.
It is the instrument by which God
reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
-- C. S. Lewis
The third part of the unexpected gift that came of my friend's death was the reunion of so many friends from long ago. I really don't think there is any other way that all of us would have ever met again in Vermont at the same time.
Here are our two families so many years ago:
It was a special treat to be able to worship Sunday morning in this church that holds so many memories from over the years and in which Amanda grew up (her dad was the pastor back then). There is a new church plant now meeting in this otherwise vacant building.
The church was a backdrop in so many of our childhood pictures and it was the place I mentioned in Christmas in Vermont.
There were many new faces in the pews but several familiar ones too. One of the best things about traveling is participating in worship with other congregations and being reminded that I am part of a family that is world-wide. The Gospel joins people in every place, every language, every culture, to the culture and language of heaven.
And I had to go back to the kitchen since I have strong memories of its coffee scent and the old ladies who would be preparing for coffee hour.
Just across the churchyard is Amanda's childhood home where we spent countless hours together:
Some of our classic pictures in front of the lilac bush when we came back into town.
Amanda's memorial service was held in the early afternoon and was followed by a special time of fellowship. Here is "the old gang" all grown up now. Twenty-five years ago we sat in this very same room having Bible studies as teenagers!
Another friend: Courtney. Our friendship is also as old as we are.
And there is still plenty to laugh and talk about:
Amanda loved Vermont. And she loved maple syrup. It was decided that having a proper sugar-on-snow element to the evening would be a fitting way to honor Amanda's memory. This was yet another gift. I pine for maple syrup. I'm sure syrup runs in my blood, as it does in most people born in Vermont. :) But it's been since I was a preschooler that I've had a proper sugar-on-snow experience complete with pickles and donuts on offer.
Just look at that delicious, golden candy being poured out on that snow!
Here I am with Kristen and Jason -- two of "the group" that actually married each other! How fun is that?! We were whipping up the extra maple syrup into maple cream.
Here are Kristen and I when we were very little.
And Erica, yet another friend! It's amazing to meet people 25 years after you've last seen them and still feel a close bond.
I have all these friends because our mothers got together weekly for Bible study when we were babies and toddlers! Our mothers laugh at us because apparently, forty years ago, they were all into raw milk, recycling, and eating healthy too! ha ha ha!
Mention must be made of the gluten-free maple scones that were on the dessert table. They were so amazing and what a treat to have something we could eat!!!! (Note to self: be sure to make maple scones in the future!)
And here are Amanda's dear parents who invested so much of themselves in our lives over the years. How we pray for God's comfort to be with them in the days and years ahead.
Friendships are a great blessing. Hearing many of these friends share their memories of Amanda brings to the forefront just how important and far-reaching a friendship can be, and how important it is to invest in relationships.
I will always be thankful for Amanda's investment in our relationship and for the friends that God chose to bring into my life beginning at my birth to the present.
"Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold."
-- Author Unknown