I sit here today reading the section on "sanctifying friendships" towards the end of Mary DeMuth's newest release Beautiful Battle. And I reflect on my own connections with Mary.
Several years ago, maybe early 2006, I came across a blog by an American woman who had moved with her family to southern France to plant a church. (Little known fact about me, I am a bit of a Francophile.)
I was fascinated with Mary's stories of culture shock, language shock and spiritual shock. I loved how she chronicled everything from using European washing machines to the small town festivals. Plus, I could tell she was a foodie - a trait I appreciated.
I just knew I'd like this woman if I were to ditch my American life, move to France's wine country, and share a community garden with Mary. Which, I would be apt to do if I didn't love our university life here in Wilmington. And if I'd gotten better grades in my high school French class.
Mary and I sometimes trade emails in which I say "thank you" to her in French. She'll reply something like, "No problem; my pleasure," in French. And then I realize I am out of French phrases I both know and can spell, other than: "My hair is brunette," or "Excuse me, can you point me to a bathroom, please?"
So I email her back one of those phrases. She doesn't seem to mind my randomness.
Fast forward a couple years from 2006 and Mary is at the annual P31 She Speaks conference. Took me a while to connect the dots and realize that this Texas-dwelling writer is the former expatriate French church-planter I'd enjoyed reading about online the winter I was on my Peter Mayle reading kick.
Of course, before I even connected those dots, we had connected. And I liked her - she was interesting, passionate, intelligent and fun. She also had a depth to her. Over time I could sense that this woman sees the spiritual realm. Not literally, but more so than most.
One summer weekend a couple years ago, Mary flew from Texas to North Carolina to hang at the beach with me and several other writer friends. That weekend I learned of the experiences that lead to that depth I'd sensed in her. (Many are now chronicled in her memoir Thin Places.) And I gained a new level of respect for her beyond her writing, her work ethic and her commitment to Jesus and family.
Mary shares my passion for good food and powerful words. She laughs endlessly at my stories, asking me to tell them again every time we meet. Hardly a month or two goes by that she doesn't send me some encouraging note or compliment on Twitter or Facebook. (Hence my "merci" replies.) Plus, she makes killer crepes with Nutella spread and strawberries. What's not to like about a friend like that?
But more than any of that, she is a humble woman of discernment and integrity. And, I suspect, a good amount of prayer. And that makes her a sanctifying friend in my life. We all need those.
And if you've read It's No Secret, you know from chapter 8 that it's okay to need them. If you haven't read it - proceed straight to Amazon, or Barnes and Noble or Christan Booksellers and download a FREE copy of it this weekend. (Monday it goes back to regular price.)
Who are the sanctifying friends in your life? Go let those friends know today that you value them. I'm off to lead a retreat this weekend and make some new friends!
Merci, Mary, for all you are, and for all you are to me.