“We’ll live side-by-side in log cabins, with matching dogs, and even our husbands and kids will be best friends.” Tricia scrunched up her nose waiting for my reply, and then we both busted up in laughter, but honestly, we were so close, it was not far from the realm of possibilities.
Trish and I had been friends since we were two little girls sitting side-by-side in children’s church, but as we had grown into our teenage years, we did pretty much everything together, except for one thing. She was really smart, and I…well, I was just me. Trish was in the NASA program at her school, and she had even traveled to Canada with it. She was on target to be something big, something great, while I struggled to read a paragraph and comprehend the message.
When I had turned sixteen, when Trish was keeping everything in check to enter the U.S. Air Force in route to her NASA dreams, I walked out of high school with a solemn “So long.” I was tired of the struggle. I was frustrated and embarrassed, and I just couldn’t figure out why God makes some people to have an easy journey in learning, and why others He seemed to abandon to their own demise.
“What were you thinking?”
“I’m not like you, Trish!” I puckered my lips in disappointment, and I dropped my face into my hands, as my eyes watered with my frustration. “I’m not smart, okay? I’m dumb!”
“Don’t you ever say that again!” Trish looked up at me. Her eyes narrowed. She jerked her hands onto the hips of her small frame. She quickly adjusted her flower trimmed hat to make sure that her words clicked down deep into my spirit as she threw down her verbal gauntlet.
“Misty, you are one of the smartest people I know, and just because you struggle doesn’t mean you’re dumb. It just means that you have to fight harder to get it accomplished, but in the end you will appreciate it a whole lot more because of the fight you had to put behind it. So, you better never say that you’re not smart again. You better pull up your big girl pants and keep going because we’ve got a whole lot ahead of us, and God didn’t create you to just give up!”
I wept at her words, but the truth is that it took years for me to pull those pants up and move forward, but during all that time, Trish never stopped believing in me, and four years later, when Trish was ready to move on to college, I had gone to night classes, finished high school, and I moved on to college with her, but the truth is that God had done a work in Trish’s life too, and now, that NASA track she had been on had come to an unexpected end. It changed her, but at that point, I had grown to become the friend that helped lift her from her ashes, and in 1995, we moved on to college together.
I’m not going to lie. That first semester was tough! I fought for every single passing grade I earned. The Lord did not let a single one come easy, but then again, He never said that His plan would be easy. He just said He’d “never leave” us, nor “abandon” us in the battle, and after the first semester, Trish didn’t come back with me.
I was angry. I was hurt. “You mean you brought me all the way here, and now, you’re leaving me?”
“Misty, God didn’t take you to Bible college to be with me. He took you to Bible college for you. He’s got something He’s doing for you and in you, and you need to just trust Him. No matter what happens—just trust Him.”
I was still upset, but somehow her words brought some comfort to me. Could it be that God actually had a plan just for me—struggles-to-read me, can’t-stay-focused me, has-to-fight-to-accomplish-every-assignment me?
It was only two months later that I received word that Trish had been killed in a freak auto accident. She and her boyfriend George were driving to his brother’s birthday celebration when a car swerved and hit them head on. A seatbelt malfunctioned, and within minutes, my best friend of eighteen years, was gone from this world forever.
Devastated! Utterly devastated! I couldn’t even speak. I couldn’t breathe. It was like suddenly, God had pulled the very oxygen from my lungs. My world whirled about me, and then my world was GONE!
I did not care about grades anymore. I wept through my classes. I doubted whether God loved me. I doubted whether God was even real. Why in the world would there be a God so cruel as to take my best friend away from me? I don’t even know who I am without Trish! Who am I?
One day as the cool spring breeze whipped through my long blonde hair, my feet heavily plodded along the prayer walk path on the way to my class. I just paused on the path, and closed my eyes.
Jesus, are you here? If you are, then please let me know that everything is going to be okay. I quickly dabbed at the tears attempting to pool in my eyes. Because I’m starting to doubt everything right now, and I just need to know that you’re keeping your promise to me—that you’ll “never leave” me and never “abandon” me. I need to know that I’m still supposed to be here at this college. I need to know something!
Just then, a bug hummed near my face, and I quickly swatted it away. Then another came. What in the world? I tried to open my eyes, but the bugs kept coming, and I kept swatting.
The deep voice caught me off guard; I quickly jerked around to see a young man headed to class beside me. “Oh, hi.” I smiled, as I shooed the bugs away.
He chuckled. “I’ve never seen that many butterflies, especially this time of year. It’s kind of too cold for butterflies to be out, but I guess God does His thing despite what we think, huh?”
Butterflies? Oh my word, that’s what these bugs are that are flying into my face. “And that’s just weird! They’re flying all around you, like they’re trying to get your attention.”
As I looked around, I realized he was right. There was a swarm of butterflies surrounding me, soaring carefree. The young man chortled. “Have fun with your butterflies,” he called out over his shoulder as he hurried on ahead to class.
I froze in my steps, and I watched butterflies flitter about me. God, are you doing this? My lip quivered, as I realized the sweet move of God to show me He was still with me and that His plan for me had not changed. How can I do this without Trish? I’m not smart.
Suddenly, Tricia’s words came to me. “Don’t you ever say that again.” In an instant, I realized that those were never Trish’s words to begin with. She had never been the kind of person to speak so boldly to me. I had always been the leader of our group of two. That’s when it clicked. God had used Trish to speak His words to me because I had lost track of His voice. I had listened to my own doubts more loudly, than His faith in me.
So, this October will be the twenty-second anniversary of my beloved Trish’s passing. She went from my presence to the presence of our Creator. Do I still miss her? Yes, not one event happens in my life that I don’t think of what it would be like to still have her here with me. I shed a tear for her at my college graduation, at my wedding, and at the birth of each of my children. As a matter of fact, my youngest child, out of our three children, loves to wear hats, and I’m so grateful for that because I believe it keeps a part of my hat-loving Tricia near to me, but I have never had another friendship like ours was.
Dear friends are a precious gift of God, but the greatest gift of all is a friend that allows God to demonstrate His love for us through them. Trish and I will be reunited one day, but until that day, I will continue to press on, living by the words of God that she spoke to me because God’s not done with me yet, and His plans for me are still greater than anything I could ever ask or even think.
I still have so many here that God uses me to impact, empower, and encourage to surrender to the ONE that created us and believes in us—the One who has BIG dreams for us, so here I am, and every time I start to lose focus or start to doubt that God wants to use me, God sends a butterfly my way to remind me that He’s still here, His plan for me is still great, and everything is going to be okay.
So now, I speak these words to you:
You are smart, and just because you struggle doesn’t mean you’re dumb. It just means that you may have to fight harder to get things accomplished, but in the end you will appreciate it a whole lot more because of the fight you had to put behind it. So, never say that you’re not smart. Pull up your big kid pants and keep going because we’ve got a whole lot ahead of us, and God didn’t create you to just give up! He’s got something He’s doing for you and in you, and you need to just trust Him. No matter what happens—just trust Him!
(Trials will come and go, and friends will come and go, whether by choice or by accident like Tricia, but the God that created you will never leave you, nor abandon you, and He has great plans for you, but you must surrender your plans for His. In those plans, you will find that He is always cheering you on and believing in you more than you could ever believe in yourself, and in His plans, you will find peace and joy. Despite all adversity, you will find, when you spread your arms wide to Him and just surrender, you will soar.)
John 10:10 (TLB)
The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.