I first met Carla in 1980. She was being the kind of friend to my friend Susie that I should have been and once was. For that, I did not like her.
In 1980 I graduated High School and my parents decided to get divorced. I felt like a ship without a rudder. Like a rug had been pulled out from under me.
Susie had been my camp counselor during the summer of 1979. We bonded quickly and she became a great big sister, mama hen and Godly influence in my life. I wanted to be just like her.
Unfortunately not long after summer camp my parents informed me we were moving to another state.
Carla who lived close to Susie and attended the same church became the friend that I no longer could. During that year in Washington State while my parents marriage fell apart, Susie became ill and was diagnosed with Lupus. It was so difficult to be so far away.
As soon as I graduated High School I moved back to Fresno, California. In the midst of this time I was struggling emotionally. I had nothing to give to Susie. I was in so much pain myself that all I could think about was how to rid myself of the pain inside. There was no room for Sue no matter how much I loved her.
After months and months of pleading for me to attend church with her or to just get together and my constant excuses she gave me the space to do my own thing. When a singing group I had loved was scheduled to come to town she called and I agreed to go. Waiting in line outside the church I saw so many families and people that were happy. I was miserable. I wanted to run. Carla who was with us began sharing her testimony. I pretended not to listen. She talked about her alcoholic father and how her brother accidentally shot himself to death. I was stunned. I would not show it. I remember at one point she stopped and took a hold of my arms and looked me in the eye while saying she understood. It shook me like nothing before. I didn't want anything to get past this wall I erected around my heart.
During the concert my heart continued to be softened. I still remember the words to one of the songs. "Why should I worry, why should I fret? I've got a mansion builder who ain't through with me yet." I thought to myself, you mean God could still do something with my messed up life? I had already tried suicide and drugs. Did He still care? I wrote a note and passed it to Carla. "Would you pray with me? I wrote". During intermission we got on our knees and I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and be my Lord and Saviour. When we finished and sat back on the seat I saw Sue sobbing tears of joy. I know her prayers paved the way.
Carla began to be someone I could confide in. I adored Sue but saw her as somewhat of a saint. Carla was more open and transparent. I felt I could be real with her. I related to her.
For the next few weeks I learned as much as I could in our time together. She was to be moving soon and I wanted to grow so much in my new walk with Christ. Often in my childlike exuberance Carla would be smiling with a chuckle. "Oh Julie" she would often say.
She was also quick to point out that anything good I saw in her was the Lord. She did not want credit for anything.
After she moved away I cried. My big sister was gone. I would end up moving back up to Washington State within a few months and where I have remained to this day.
Over the years we would all keep in touch. Usually with Carla I was the one hunting her down.
One day in 1993 our friend Sue called me in Washington State. Her Lupus had gotten quite bad and she was needing a serious operation. If they paid for my flight would I come to Fresno to be with her? I had just had my second son Alex. I agreed to go and carried Alex on my lap.
During the visit I had such a good time with Sue. I also saw another mutual friend Cheryl. I had yet to see Carla and it had been a few years. One night after Sue got home we all got together at her house. As we shared our stories and caught up it was so special. Something seemed sad with Carla. She was struggling in her marriage. Walking her to the car to say goodbye I gave her a hug and she broke down and cried. I prayed with her and said goodbye.
All that night and the next day as Alex and I flew home I had her on my heart. The next day I called her and asked if we could study a book together. She was hesitant but agreed. I truly believe that was the start or continuation of a friendship that would last forever.
The book was called "Lord Heal My Hurts". I sent her a copy and we began to share notes each week on what we were learning. Little by little as we prayed for and held each other accountable, things in our life were changing.
Not long after her family flew to Washington to be with my family for a week. Our children being the same ages was a blessing.
I am skipping so much in here. How do I write all this?
One day I asked Carla what Co-dependence meant. As she read off the definition I realized it was me. That began a journey into healing of my past which included sexual, physical and emotional abuse. It included counseling and working through the hurts of my past. It meant me walking through truth and pain. All the while we practiced boundaries in our friendship.
She would not fix me. She would not let me depend upon her more than God. God was who I needed to turn to. I learned to grow in such healthy ways.
In 1995 I learned I was at risk for a fatal genetic disease. For five years I did not test. All this time my friend walked with me respecting my need to not talk about it yet asking often how I was. We shared so much.
I walked with her through struggles in her marriage and she with me. After five years I tested and she and her husband flew to Washington to be with us for the results. I did not carry the fatal gene for this disease. My mother would later die from it.
Within a year my husband would inform me that he did not love me anymore and wanted a divorce. Still my friend remained steadfast. Her truth and love kept me anchored in the Lord and His promises. Her allowing me to be "real, imperfect and human assisted me in my healing.
Now as I am happily remarried we keep walking. Our kids are teens. Almost out of the house. She has lost her mom recently. She struggles in her marriage. She turns to the Lord and finds her strength in his promises. We walk the road honestly and humanly together.
I believe in hope for her. I believe in God in her. Her husband once said you two must share a kidney. I believe it. I have lost a great many people in my life including Susie who passed away from Lupus several years ago. Carla and I were two of the ones asked to speak at her funeral.
And my mother two years ago. Carla lost her mom a few months back. It has been a long, hard road. There have been other trials as our kids have grown and faced the challenges that go along with it.
Through it all we have been there allowing each other to be normal, real, imperfect and yet always pressing each other toward the Lord.
I love my friend more than words can say. It is a love that is Godly. Not like this world. It's not physical or sexual. It's like she is my twin. I love her like she is a part of me. She is my sister and she knows me like a book. She is my mensch.
For her I would die. I have a friend who has been with me for 27 years. I was 17 and she was 20. We are now 45 and 48 respectively. We are each married with children. We live two states away and yet just by the sound of her voice I can tell how she is.
We have a friendship that is healthy and good. One that uplifts and encourages. One that understands, forgives and has grace.
I can't imagine making it this far with out her. Nor can I imagine not ever having her in my life.
I am so blessed to have this gift. Of all the people in this whole wide world I was blessed and gifted with her friendship. And I am better because of it. Better as a friend to others, as a wife, a mom, a sister, a friend. I am richer.
No, my chum is not perfect. Just a perfect friend for me.
I love you my lil big sis.