I’ll never forget just how much I needed to meet her…
No matter how I tried, I was a fish out of water at the University of Oklahoma. Turns out my niche was at home with Mama and Daddy, and my home church was always heavy on my heart, making it extremely difficult to forge deep relationships, even at the Baptist Student Union…a place that should have been my stomping ground. The ministry there was amazing, bringing up a thriving and passionate group of young believers who loved the Lord and lived on mission. During school breaks, many of them were traveling overseas to spread the gospel, and everything they did was very intentional and very inspiring.
In contrast, I stuck out like a sore thumb.
Rather than finding a new church home in Norman, I made the 2-hour drive home every weekend to drink in the home air and attend church where my heart was. The thought of an overseas mission trip made my knees wobble. And while I was in awe of the staff leaders and absolutely thrived under their large-group teaching, I was pretty sure from our attempts at one-on-one time that we were on totally different pages. Maybe in different books. Perhaps written in different languages.
Looking back, I can clearly see now that God had definite and unique plans for my life that involved those tight bonds to the homefront staying securely in place, but at the time, I was extremely conflicted, trying to do what I thought I was supposed to be doing, but feeling very alone and like a total oddball, even as I admired and became friends with many wonderful students in my small group. In fact, my brothers and I even referred to me as “the black sheep of the BSU”. This was no one’s fault: I was a people-pleaser who simply did not know where to fit in…and they did not know quite what to do with me! (And I can’t blame them…what are you supposed to do with a girl who is “there” but SO not there?!).
But then I met Andrea.
She was visiting our BSU small group one night, considering the possibility of making a permanent move to Norman to join the staff as a sorority ministry leader. We hit it off immediately, and I was drawn to her like a crayon to Baby Betsie’s mouth. We had many shared interests, mostly involving shopping and music and popular entertainment, but it turns out, God had deeper plans for us, that would eventually involve discipleship and accountability, and several years of sweet fellowship as Andrea allowed me to help her with her ministry to sorority girls. Our favorite times together happened over steaming cups of hazelnut at Panera Bread, or at my parent’s house on weekends as we melted under the ministrations of my Mom’s hospitality, and laughed at Andrea’s city girl ways. But here was a woman who loved me as I was, seeing the beauty of my life at home in the country, appreciating it, and even finding ways to employ it – I’ll never forget the week she was brave enough to bring a small group of sorority girls to Mama and Daddy’s house for a retreat, titled “Pampered on the Prairie”. I don’t remember all of the details, but I do remember lots of laughter and joy and feeling…vital. Useful. Normal. My life was once more in one piece and my heart was no longer torn between where I needed to be and where I wanted to be; the BSU and the homestead had finally found a way to share custody, and as a result, I was at rest.
Life went by quickly as it always does, and graduation soon came. I happily returned to my home, this time with a shiny engagement ring on my finger, and two years later, I was married, living in Kentucky, and great with child…
But if what happened to me during my years after leaving OU was a whirlwind, Andrea’s was an F4 tornado: my blond-haired city friend fell quickly and deeply in love with a Texan who had made a short pit-stop in Norman, and was whisked away to his game ranch in the Hill Country, complete with rattlesnakes and scorpions and…the nearest Target? Who knows where.
But regardless of walking into a completely different lifestyle, Andrea is still refreshingly the same. The proud mother of 2 beautiful girls, she is our own version of the Pioneer Woman, and helps her husband, Phil, manage Selah Springs like a true pro, even cooking for the large groups who rent out the Main Lodge. If you had told me 8 years ago where she would be today, I would never have believed you, but no one is surprised by her ability to adapt to a completely new environment; we knew it the first time we were around her…there is nothing Andrea cannot do.
All that to say, the greatest thrill of my vacation last week had to be seeing my dear friend once more, now in her new element, thriving, joyful, and most excitedly, continuing to grow in the fear and knowledge of God. ‘Tis a wondrous thing to have friends who share not only your memories, but your blood – for in the Savior you find your greatest bond as you hide together behind His great grace and sacrifice. Because of Him, we speak the same language, and therefore, picking up where we left off is as effortless and God-ordained as the day our friendship was forged.
It was a soul-stirring week as I contemplated once more God’s gracious provision for me in bringing Andrea into my life at just the right time…and nearly a decade later, He did it all over again, this time at Selah Springs Ranch.
Me and Andrea at my parent’s house in 2004…
On my wedding day in 2005…
And now, our daughters played together on the banks of the San Saba River in 2012…
God is very, very good.
Coming up tomorrow…Selah Springs: The River