The Ones Who Knew Me Before

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I spent last weekend at the beach.  I know that it not a novel thing to do.  Probably lots of you have spent or will spend weeks at the beach this year.  However, this was different for me.  I went to the beach with just my friends for the first time ever.  No kids, no husbands.  It was amazing, but the most amazing part was not the beach or the room, or even the no kids part; it was the ladies I went with.

Moms have a lot on their plates.  There is so much craziness that exists in our homes with school schedules, sports, meetings, appointments, dating our husband, helping our own parents, documenting all the cute stuff on social media, being active in our church or causes that are important to us, and of course, caring for our friendships.  That last one gets dropped a lot because sometimes it’s the thing that CAN when something HAS to. 

I’m not at a place in my life where I can manage high maintenance friendships.  I need people who trust that I care, give me the benefit of the doubt, and will get together and laugh with me when we can.  I need to be able to send one of those memes with someone falling awkwardly and say, “This is my week,” and that be the only text I send that week and it’s FINE.  I need to do that MOST of the time. But sometimes I need to actually be with them and be connected to the people God has given me. 

friends at the beach

I’ve known these girls I went to the beach with for 20 years.  That’s why this whole trip came about to begin with.  We realized that we had been friends for 20 WHOLE YEARS.  How are we old enough to have 20 year old friendships? We found each other in high school, and realized quickly that these were our people.  We navigated some of the most awkward and amazing times of our lives together.  We attended the same church, so very early on we were connected on more than just a superficial level.  These girls prayed for me and with me, and we discussed deep, spiritual things that formed a lot of who I am.  We also did lots of stupid things and had a ton of fun.

One of us (me) now lives in a different state, some of us have children with special needs, some of us are wealthier than others, and some of us struggle deeply… but through the last 20 years, as we have walked through all that life has thrown us, we have somehow remained friends.  We have definitely had our seasons where we hardly spoke at all.  We have 18 kids between us and that just takes its toll on friendships, but we always come back to the table.  It is an unspeakable blessing to know that people are THERE. 

I am blessed to have a lot of amazing friends in my life.  When I moved to Tennessee I prayed for good friends and that prayer has been answered over and over again.  These people know me in my daily life and their kids are my kids’ best friends and we have a great connection.  They are not less than my old friends, but they are different.  I am so thankful to have both. My old friends aren’t here for my daily life, I can’t borrow a brush when we get to school (because 6 year olds suck at brushing their hair and I suck at checking) or meet up at the park for a coffee and connection.  We are all busy and occasional check-ins are most of what I can do 3 states away, but I know they are THERE. I know for sure that if I was in need, they would figure it out and come, or send, or make a way.  I know they will pray for me.  I know they care if something funny or sad happens.  I know I can reach out and they will reach back. Its a treasure. 

friends at the beach

On the beach this weekend we talked about everything.  Everything from husbands, to difficult kids, to money, to aging parents. Nothing is off limits with these ladies and that is one of my favorite things about them.  However, the thing we talked about the most was probably how NICE it was to get away together.  We kept saying over and over how amazing it was to be by ourselves to hang out and how we can’t believe Spring Break 2000 was the last time we were at the beach together. We have texted about it since, trying to put our finger on what made is so special.  

I think it’s because they knew me before; they knew me as just me.  I’m not someone’s wife or mom or teacher to them; we knew each other when it was just us and we know things no one else ever will.  There is something very sacred about that. 

Then one day when we were eating lunch on the pool deck, someone said, “I hope our kids have friends like this.” And we all agreed.  Not just friends; friends like THIS.  The kind that are aware of all your junk, who don’t need a backstory for your in-laws story, who know all your quirks, and shortcomings, and weirdness and DEFINITELY make fun of you for it but love you anyway. I hope my kids have friends like THIS…  and do what it takes to keep them.

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Jessica Steward
Jessica was born and raised just outside of Atlanta, GA (Go Braves!) She has a BA in Psychology and a teaching certification, which she used to teach K-2 self-contained autism classes before her children were born. She moved to Memphis 6 years ago following a job for her husband. Their whole family fell in love with this city and now her mom and brother-in-law’s family have moved here too! She has a 9 year old daughter, a 6 year old son, another 6 year old son (not twins – adoption rocks!), a five year old daughter, and a live-in mom. It’s a busy house but always an adventure! Jessica home schools 3 of her children and one is in public school. Two of her children also have chronic illnesses so she spends a lot of time on the phone and in doctors offices, and just trying to keep up with life in general – not to mention the laundry! Jessica and her husband, Jody, are planting a church in downtown Memphis called Riverdeep Church. They just celebrated their church’s 1 year anniversary and spend most of their free time renovating their 100+ year old building. When there is any other down time, Jessica has developed the ability to sleep on command and does so whenever possible. She also enjoys cooking for her daughter who has very specific dietary needs, coffee with friends, dating her husband, and watching people’s faces when she blasts the rap music in the minivan.