Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Friend, Jeni

Fall's almost here! J the Grockle has been sharing the love in gratitude, and has asked her bloggy friends to do the same, sharing thoughts on someone we're grateful for. Since gratitude is something I know I need to work on (I tend to take people and things for granted, in a very concrete fashion), I'm leaping at the chance to PLAY! I love to play.

The question is, who in my 40 years of life do I single out to express thankfulness for their existence, their place in my life? That's a tough one, ya know? I mean, who would you choose, of all the people in your life? There are so many. I'm grateful to my mom for bringing me into the world, raising, loving and nurturing me (some moms don't nurture), and for our relationship now. Grateful for her relationship with my husband and kids. I'm grateful for all the teachers I had as a kid (I lie - many of the teachers I had as a kid), for encouraging me to keep learning and growing in the midst of mediocrity and ignorance. I'm grateful for my dad and for working for him as a kid, learning mad people skillz at his place of business (stop laughing). Grateful for the guy I seriously dated in college, for sharing his life and family and sense of humor with me, for being patient and kind and an example of grace and humility. And for introducing me to Monty Python's Holy Grail. Thankful for my husband, who's stayed with me all these years and put up with my lousy housekeeping and poor excuses for dinner. Grateful for every friend I've ever had, and I've had quite a few, many I still call best friend (can you have more than one best friend? I believe the answer is YES).

That leads to the one person I choose. My friend, Jeni.

Now y'all have to know my thoughts on friendship, at least on the bosom buddy type of friendship. I really believe that a best friend, the kind who feels like a long lost sister, separated at birth, complementary, is a fit from the beginning. I've always fallen into every good friendship I've ever had in a very natural, almost immediate fashion. Do you know what I mean? Sheryl, Joyce, Laura, Jeanine, Sue, Jen, JoAnn, Kathie (I know I'm forgetting some, because I keep coming back and adding names, so I'm going to stop that now. Forgive me if your name's not here) - hand in glove type relationships. We click. It's like love at first sight, in a way. You meet, you talk, you ask questions and go a little deeper into each other's lives - this is the person I've looked for my entire life! And aren't we women all about relationship? I know that's a pretty blanket statement, but I think it's true for most women. But what do I know?

Jeni is not one of those friends. We didn't connect from the instant we met, or even the first three years. Our boys (we each have one girl and two boys) connected immediately, becoming fast friends. In fact, Little Guy still occasionally calls her youngest son and makes weird noises into the phone for half an hour. Bizarre. What the heck? Jeni and I, however, didn't click.

It wasn't until, several years in, Jeni decided to lead a women's Bible study at our church (the place we met), and asked me to co-lead with her, that I even got to know much about her. Lemme tell ya - Jeni and are are pretty much opposite personalities. I'm an INTJ, meaning I'm a thinker, a detail person, an introvert (better with words on the page than words in person). Jeni's a feeler, a big picture person, an extrovert. I'm guessing she's an ENFP. She loves girl things, princess stuff, feeling special and frufru-y. The first class she led - before she asked me to help - she used a huge piece of poster board with a path to illustrate the point she was trying to make, and she had a Barbie doll walking down the path. I don't think she handed out tiaras in class, but it wouldn't have surprised me if she did. Yeah, she's that girl. So I thought there wasn't much there. MAN, was I wrong.

Over the next year or two I found that Jeni is one of the most intelligent, inquisitive people I'd know. Deeply wounded by family and life, fearful and hurt, guarded. Sweeter than anyone I'd ever met. And always, always wanting to be more than she is, to be all God designed her to be. She is always looking for ways to be more and better. Transparent, honest with herself and others.

As we led together, I found myself challenged by her transparency, by her drive to improve and change. Challenged especially when she'd realize something ugly about herself and, rather than hide or deny it, she'd actively seek to eradicate it. I've been challenged by her fierce love for her kids, the open communication with them that she consistently models. As a single mom of three, she's challenged my concept of motherhood more than anyone I know. Tenacious is definitely a word I'd apply to her. I've been challenged by her humility, coming to me for advice, when I know full well that I'm the one learning through those conversations, being blown away by her insight.

Friendships are give and take. I hope I haven't done all of the taking. I've tried lighting a fire under her butt to get back in school, become a nurse (or a doctor). I've covered for her in our classes when she's gone through rough patches in life. And I've prayed for her. But I feel like she's gotten the short end of the stick in our friendship.

Gratitude? Thy name is Jeni. Jeni, I'm very thankful to God for you, for our friendship. It means the world to me.

Until I write again ...



Mental P Mama said...

What a beautiful, beautiful tribute. How blessed you are--both of you.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Oh Flea, this is a beautiful gratitude post. Absolutely perfect.
Imagine the admirers Jeni will now have (you may have to make mugs) ;-)
Thank you for entering this post, it really is superb.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing post about what sounds like an amazing friend. I want to know Jeni!

That you didn't click at first and yet you now appreciate her in such nuanced and heartfelt ways says a lot about your "gratitude" skills. I think you're better at it than you realize.

AutoSysGene said...

I believe that Jeni sounds a lot like all I need is a Flea.

I would suspect that you give much more to the relationship then you will ever know. Sometimes the biggest lessons we learn come from the place we least expect them.

Sounds like both of you fulfill that need for one another. :)

Mom Knows Everything said...

What a really sweet post about your friend! :o)

Anonymous said...

That was a very sweet, insightful post. What great memories you brought up. Jeni is such a remarkable person and mother. I am awed and inspired by the person she is and what wonderful children she is raising.

Kidzmama said...

Every woman needs a Jeni. You are fortunate to have one. Jeni's are one in a million. And she is fortunate to have you too. Great post Flea.

Tanya Brown said...

Great post. Thank you for sharing i.

Tanya Brown said...

it. I meant it, not i.

Wineplz said...

Wow...what a beautifully written tribute to someone who I suspect has gotten as much from your relationship as you have. I'm sure she was so touched when she read this.