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.