She was just a young teenager the summer we hit the Yukon River for an epic ten-day float trip in the middle of no-where. Literally out in the sticks and rivers with the bears and salmon.
No cell service, no bath houses, no grocery or restaurants. It was the perfect set up for full dependence on God and lots of uninterrupted time with each other.
Did I mention we were on rafts all day on a mile wide river and wilderness camping at night?
A bus full of float supplies, coolers of food, camp gear, and students quickly taught me the best life-giving lessons of any other student trip to date.
A new brave girl came along and happened to be in my tent for the week. She really had no idea what she was in for! Both the rooming with me and what God had waiting for her.
It was actually at some crazy hour in the morning (but in perfect day light – because Alaska) that we finally got our tents up and ready.
After digging holes for the bathroom facilities and then stumbling upon some animal bones (enter all the girls freaking out with who or what may be living on the island) I got them all tucked in for the night.
I couldn’t wait to get to know my new friend’s story and begin a relationship with her… and so in Jen fashion, I dove right in with “So tell me about yourself…”
Bless her heart… she didn’t get the tired leader.
Instead she got the leader who knows that the good heart stuff comes out after 1 a.m. always.
She began to tell me the surface details but then I gave her the…”No – not that stuff, the who are you really stuff” question.
That is when our friendship and trust took root and has remained for the past 17 years.
Sure there have been hard times in both of our stories.
Of course we haven’t kept in continuous touch. There have been wide spaces between our conversations and yet it didn’t even matter.
Fast forward to our family vacation to Chicago last week where I received a text from this precious soul saying she really wanted to talk and felt like God had her at an important crossroad.
I rushed back to our hotel in time to put the baby down for his nap, pulled up a chair next to the 19th story floor to ceiling window facing the city and dialed her number.
What happened next, is what God always does when we are looking for answers or courage.
He allows us to share our hope with another because He knows that our best moving forward trust moments come from looking behind to all the times He has been faithful.
When we shine a light on His faithfulness and provision in the life of another…He speaks to our own lack of faith. Always.
We talked for nearly 2 hours bringing to the surface the truth of who we are, but mostly who God promises to be when we step out in obedience.
She said, “You know, we are in different but same seasons.”
I loved hearing an almost 30-year-old relate to my 40-year-old life (ha)…but even more than that, I loved hearing surrender in her voice.
That is something I have been lacking.
Surrender. I just want to know whats next. Why can’t I have that answer already?
She was right on – we were walking total faith journeys. Really, really, digging down deep to find courage and a way to trust without fear.
Our situations were very different, her needing to leave a current way of life on her own and me needing to leave a current way of life with a husband and 5 kids. The challenge is a little different but the required faith, the same.
I learned a critical lesson from my tent sister – now adult friend that afternoon.
Because we trust God for our eternity, we for sure can trust him for the next month or years right?
I honestly do not love not knowing what’s next. I don’t.
But in His sneaky Jesus way, I heard the solid and true voice of the One who has my back today and forever saying,
“It is time to move on without a set plan. It’s better for you. Allow me show you how to trust me and even better than that – let me teach you how to find joy out on the cliff.”
So together, my adorable friend and I are walking out on a cliff trusting Him for enough grace to see us through these next steps and enough compassion to hold us together when we maybe feel like crumbling.
I’m sure that if you are breathing, you have something that you need to trust God for.
Sometimes just sharing with another the truth you know about God in their life, will be the very thing that you needed to hear for your own.
It turns out friends, you don’t have to know what’s next to move on.