Ever since freshman year it had been one of my secret dreams to live in one of those big, old houses off campus with a bunch of girls. It was exactly the kind of college experience I wanted to have after I moved out of the dorm. The girls I knew who lived in those homes seemed like they had such a sense of community and hospitality. That and I am kind of a sucker for big, old houses. So when a couple of these girls said they were getting a house together and they wanted me to be their roommate, I felt like God had seen my heart and said, yes.
Sometimes I still wonder why they chose me. These girls were kind of friends-- a few of us were in a Bible study together-- but there were probably a dozen other girls they could have chosen before me. At this point in my life I really struggled with feeling inferior; there were these people I really felt like I could connect with, who I wanted to be friends with, but I also had so much fear. I felt like I didn't deserve to be their friend and I had difficulty opening up with them. The thing with these girls is that they saw something in me that I wasn't trying to expose. And even though we were all different in different ways, we became very close and I still adore each of them.
So five of us shared this house that we called the Chat, short for Chateau, and our answering machine sounded like we were a sorority house, "You've reached Natalie, Megan, Megan, Christina and Ashley..." We had people over all the time, whether it was our Super Bowl party for fifty, our boyfriends, my Young Life girls or hanging out after going out. I have so many memories of so many faces in that place.
Our house was a mile from campus and a mile from the high school where I led Young Life and coached track and cross country. For my birthday this year my dad bought me a new bike from Walt's Bike Shop down the street, which I used almost every day to commute. This one day a couple weeks after I got it I had gone home for a couple hours between classes to study and parked Larry-- that's my bike's name-- on our front porch. A while later one of my roommates came and told me that a police officer was at the door for me. This was odd. Anyway, I met him at the door and he informed me that my bike had been located. That is, it had been stolen and found before I knew it was gone, which is the best way to have your bike stolen if it's going to happen. Apparently our crazy, old neighbor with the long, white beard who lived next door saw somebody take it and he called the cops on his cordless phone as he chased the thief down the street. So the police officer drove my neighbor and me less than a mile to the Papa Johns Pizza parking lot so that he could identify the thief and I could identify my bike. Later that night I told my story at Bible study and one of the girls said, "that was you?" Apparently she had been listening to the police scanner at the newspaper where she was working and heard the whole exchange.
Another secret dream I had was to be mentored by someone like Kelley Wampler, who was the super fun wife of the pastor I was closest to at the Crossing, where I went to church all throughout college. I told him one day that I was looking for a mentor but I didn't mention Kelley. Then one day Kelley came up to me and said that Ryan had told her I was looking for someone to meet with, and that she wanted to do it. I just about peed myself and I don't know if I ever told her that she was exactly the one I was hoping for. This was just one more example of someone who I thought was totally out of my league, who actually wanted to be my friend, too. And meeting with her, going deep and having someone who would listen and counsel me during those years, that was one of the most precious relationships of my life.
I still friend-up, as I call it, where I make friends with people I completely admire even though I don't think I deserve them. But now I am not ashamed. I think everyone should friend-up because that is how we grow and reach our full potential. I have this theory that the reason we admire the people that we do, is because we see something in them that we have the potential to become ourselves. And if we befriend them then they will only help us become the best versions of ourselves.
And then there is friending-out. This is about making friends with people who need a friend like you, someone who has enough to pour out into another's life. I became a Young Life leader because I had a wonderful Young Life leader and I wanted to be that for someone else, even if it was just one person. The twenty-first year of my life is when I met Andrea, who surprised me by being that one. She came to club one night because a girl in her class told her that if she came to club and didn't laugh then she would give her something, I don't remember what. I met Andrea in the driveway outside, before club even started, and she laughed about a minute later.
One day during the fall of this year Andrea called me and asked me if I would go traipsing through these creeks in the woods with her. Sure, it's weird, but I didn't hesitate for a second before I said, "Sure, yeah!" When you are a Young Life leader you get weird looks and rejection all the time from high school kids, so when one of them calls and asks you to hang out, you say yes automatically. So we did this one day and it was muddy and wet but she opened up to me about maybe wanting to go into the military and about her friends and parents, and that was when we started becoming friends. Then the summer of that year she convinced her parents to let her go to Young Life camp with me at Windy Gap in North Carolina, and that's where she met Jesus.
I don't like to hyper-spiritualize things, but I cannot help but believe that God is the greatest matchmaker ever.