The Fringe Hours That Fuel My Life

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The lock clicks as it slides open, a loud pop announcing the beginning of the day. I had already been waiting a few minutes outside the door for the restaurant to open, rubbing my tired eyes and stretching my muscles that weren’t yet aware they were supposed to be working this early.

Every Friday that we can work it out, we meet at the same table. I don’t wait for her to order anymore because I know just what she will want and even which side of the booth she will choose. We always say we will be done talking at eight but never are. We know that we’ll be late to the rest of the day waiting for us, but that’s okay. It’s these early morning breakfasts with my friend — the prayers said in this place — that sustain the rest of my week.

There is this aching need to sit with someone who understands that this moment is more important than the next appointment.

This friend and I met eight years ago through a small group in our church. She showed up at my house with a meal each time my babies were born. Her story of living overseas and coming back earlier than expected mirrors my own international journey. I wept with her when her dreams were literally crumbling around her, as earthquake after earthquake shook the fabric of her family’s home.

There are things we understand about the pain each of us carries that allows us to pray for each other in a way others just can’t. There are things we say in this space that we wouldn’t dream of repeating to others, but it is the words we don’t have to say that bind us together. We understand the loss and the hope behind our words without having to speak them into existence.

In a world of superficial connections, I can’t go long without hearing these prayers. Spoken out loud, passionate and raw — not polished and perfected. It’s these words that carry me to the Father when others just ring of hollow spirituality. It’s these early mornings that fuel my life.

***

The chairs squeak a bit as they rock back and forth, creating a rhythm almost like a lullaby. We sit inside for hours — eating and talking until our server stops coming to ask if she can refill our drinks. She gives up hope of filling the table with other paying customers so we have to flag her down to get a to-go cup, one last sweet iced tea for the front porch.

We said we would meet every month but it has been more like three since our last dinner. Only four miles separate our two homes but life can get so busy that finding a childfree night for me and an obligation-free night for my best friend can be difficult.

Even if it has been longer than we promised, we never give up trying to find a time to spend together. My husband kissed me goodnight before I left the house even though it was early evening. He knew I would stumble in just before bed; we always shut down the restaurant as we talk into the night.

She and I always laugh together about our wild nights — how this is the only place we shut down anymore. The irony that we sit in side-by-side rocking chairs after dinner isn’t lost on us. We are old friends even though we’re only in our thirties. Our friendship started in our early teens and has weathered all the drama of teenage girls, marriages, divorce, living together, and living continents apart.

We have fought with each other and fought next to each other against lost love, shattered dreams, and a friendship it would have been easier to let go of years ago.

Easy has never been our thing though. I imagine we’ll still be rocking here when we’re more suited for these rhythmic chairs, when our bones creak more than they do now. We’ve made it this far when common sense says our inside jokes should have stopped being funny in the nineties.

In a world of superficial connections, I can’t go long without hearing these stories. Spoken out loud, memories and dreams mixed together — one of the only times in my life I can be fully myself. It’s these words that carry me to the Father when others just ring of hollow connection. It’s these late nights that fuel my life.

***

I have lived on three continents and have met incredible people all over the world. I am so grateful for those experiences, but in all my journeys there are still only a handful of people who I have a real connection with day-in and day-out. It’s these connections that anchor me to who I want to be, that keep me sane.

These days work and kids and all the obligations of life can crowd out time for really being with people. I can find excuses not to make the time while I hide behind a newsfeed full of people who don’t really know me at all.

In these fringe hours of my life I carve out time for friends who’ve seen me through the good and the ugly — because I know there are more of both coming. It’s hard to remember that when the alarm goes off at five. But I hold onto these moments for dear life and I remind myself how much I need them.

I believe we were created for relationship — first with God and then with others. If life is all about relationships, it’s these moments that I want to define me. These fringe hours that fuel my life.

Nicole T. Walters

Nicole T. Walters

Nicole T. Walters is a wife, working mom, and writer from metro Atlanta who loves to experience the messy, noisy, beautiful world and cultures not her own. A proud member of the Redbud Writer's Guild, she writes about finding God’s voice in all the noise, faith, and culture at A Voice in the Noise.
Nicole T. Walters

Latest posts by Nicole T. Walters (see all)

  • How perfect that I am reading this on the morning of a day in which I plan to meet after work with one of my friends of the heart — well into her eighties, and who knows how many years I will be able to seize the opportunity to sit with her wisdom? There’s never really time for this kind of thing, but thanks be to God for the “fringe hours!”

    • No, there’s never time! And boy, do I feel guilty leaving my husband with the kids several mornings or nights to meet with these friends. I constantly have to remind myself I am a better mom when I keep these connections alive, that my kids need more than my constant time – they need my soul well and the wisdom and accountability I gain from these times is priceless. Oh, enjoy your friend and all the wisdom she has to give:)

  • Distance has separated me from those friends for too long. It takes work to nurture any friendship and maybe a bit extra for the long distance ones but it’s so very worth it Nicole. Yes, we were created to live in relationship. With others and with Christ.

    • That makes it extra hard. I have one other friend who I could add to this list and we see each other a couple times a year only because of distance. I have boxes of letters from our after our college days and now it’s email. Thank God for social media and email!

  • Sadie Young

    And I am crying happy tears! I am so glad we have held on when it was easier to let go, and I intend to keep holding on until we need to hold onto a young person’s arm to get out of those creaky rockers. I love you! 🙂

  • My closest friends are far away, and I miss the time we lived close. Your post was like an invitation to sit with you and your friend for a moment. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Amanda. It is so much harder when they live far away. I know that these friends won’t always live near so I’m trying to make the most of it now. Blessings!

  • Joanne Peterson

    Nicole, you are reminding me how important friendship, and nurturing the friendship is to my soul. I have a couple of friends that no matter the time span, we just pick up where we left off. And I have friends who do live far away now. I need to do more than think about them, and pray for them, I need to pick up the phone and connect. Sweet, sweet message. Blessings, Joanne

    • Joanne, I am so glad the story connected with you. It’s so universal, isn’t it – the need to be known? I too have friends that I let slip away far too easily and I need the reminder often that we have to fight for it. Thank you!

  • What a blessing to have such a friend and to be able to meet to talk and pray. You are right that we are created for relationship. It would be an awfully lonely life if there were no people to relate to. Thank you for the reminder of the importance of carving out time for these relationships. Blessings to you, Nicole!

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