Friday, February 13, 2015

The Roots of Friendship

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." Isaiah 6:8

It is a blessing in life to have complete strangers become family. November 2008, I walked into a church as a single mother. Having been judged by the world, I had thick skin. Unfortunately, the demeanor I carried blocked out God's will in my life. I sat under the preaching of Pastor Justin Gallaway that Sunday morning, and felt loved and welcomed by those in his college and career class. After class he introduced me to his wife, Whitney, and they asked for my contact information. I thought they both smiled too much, but I would quickly find that I wanted that same genuine joy in the Lord that they had. Through five and a half years, the Gallaway family were my mentors, parents, shelter, best of friends, confidants, marriage counselors, and my rock. They are now following God's will to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to start a college and career program to the students and young people there. When I was first told they were moving, I cried and could only think, "What do I do now?" Now... I can reminisce on the events and victories that I have had the privilege to have them with me.  It has been amazing to see God work in their lives and my family's since their move, but still often reminded of them.

When Dallas was 1 year old, I was in a place of growth and healing. Justin would always have great parenting advice for me; rap music did not seem to be suitable for Dallas at such a young age according to him. Having him hold me accountable to my influence truly was a blessing. Thankfully, I can say that I honor Justin like a father and was able to see the love in his "suggestions". Being able to trust him was a building block to the support I would need with trials to come. Forever, I will remember his guidance when Wes passed away. Being in his home when a police officer vaguely told me the news of Wes' passing was a "God thing". I felt safe yet so lost. On the drive to the police station where the events of his passing would be told to me, John Tesh was giving marriage advice on Sunny 92.3 for the ways to have a successful marriage... Justin's intuition led him to change to a Christian station where "I Can Only Imagine" started to play. To this day, when it's just too hard to understand, I go back to that song as God's promise of salvation to Wes. When a group of loved ones took me back to my home after the police station, Justin was one of two men that stood guard against the flock of media wanting answers to a story I didn't want to be living. Luckily, Justin had his Cowboy mean mustache groomed that night. I don't even think the poor journalists even got a toe on my property.

Behind the tough exterior was a sappy, cry at everything, love the Lord, completely surrender in brokenness man. He is not afraid to shout "Amen" or "Glory" in a service. The Holy Spirit flows from him. When he married Chris and me, I had placed restrictions on him to not joke and keep it serious. Surprisingly, my wedding ceremony is one of the greatest moments of my life. I knew that with Justin marrying us that he believed Chris and I would make it no matter what... Having his blessing and officiation of our wedding was the greatest gift he has ever given us. Thank you for your prayers when I have had to walk through the lowest valleys of my life. Thank you for showing me and guiding many others to a life of holiness- set apart and living for the Lord. 

(Look how little you are! How are those size 34 pants working out in Myrtle?)

Whitney is Justin's better half. (His words, not mine!) But I do have to agree with him. I had an extreme bitterness towards women before I met Whit. Learning of her testimony over the years has only brought us closer. She is not one that I want to speak at my funeral- the 4 am talks on her couch will go to our graves! It is so good to have a friend that I can be completely real with- failures and showing brokenness, sharing successes without worrying if we are sounding too proud, being able to say that life just doesn't seem fair sometimes. I love this lady so much. I barely want to write about her, because I want to keep all of her goodness exclusive to our friendship. 

But let me tell you, she is stretched far and wide in the area of friendship. I don't know of any enemies that Whitney has. She is supportive, kind, and genuine. The girls of the college class would joke at the advice that Whit would give and we wouldn't take. Most breakups were summed up with, "Should have listened to Whit that my ex wasn't the one for me!" Although we should have led her to a life of craziness, she was always there to support and lift us up in prayer and God's Word. 

I cannot count how many things I have struggled with or number the prayer requests that I have carried to Whit for accountability, but she has always been someone I can count on. Most importantly, she has taught me that God always has a purpose for His timing. If nothing else, I know that my life is watched over by a loving God that wants the best for me. She has been an encouragement to me and many others to recognize our worth in His eyes. 

I have had many "Ah ha!" moments under Whitney's teaching. I remember her filling a cup of water, shaking it up, water splashing everywhere, telling the story of Jonah, and just sobbing while she talked... Being at a point where I felt like everything had been taken from me, that night I just knew God was preparing to fill me back up. Fast forward three years later, and I am still being filled. Her encouragement has helped me to see the Savior that my Lord can daily be. It's so real to Whitney, one can't help but to want what she has. 

I pray that the Lord blesses your ministry with relationships to help sustain you in the valleys and triumphs that make climbing the mountain a beautiful journey. May you always feel that your life has purpose and that the words hitting sorrowful faces are sinking to the heart. I pray that God opens doors wide and that you have the strength to stand in the hallways. 

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