I stood in a park on a fall day, leaves a kaleidoscope of colors around me. I held a bouquet of burgundy flowers in front of my simple black dress, a gold ribbon wrapped around my waist. In front of me two of my dearest friends sniffled, trying to hold back a river of emotion, clutching the tissues they’d secretly wrapped around the stems of the flowers they also held. A third dear friend with hair the color of flame wore a white dress and said “I do” to a man who had won her heart.
Afterwards, there was music and dancing, the forest floor a stage, the sky a ceiling. We ate cookies instead of cake — chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, and toffee. I snapped a picture of the bride with her head thrown back, laughing as the groom twirled her around during their first dance. It’s the closest I’ve come to witnessing a fairy tale.
Those moments don’t come often in life, the ones full of holy magic and wild wonder, the sort that make you want to ease time down to a trickle and let it run over your hands, your heart slowly, slowly. As I breathed in the scent of campfires and sugar my mind drifted back to another moment, years ago, that felt entirely different.
It happened during a year when I’d gotten on a plane twenty times, when peanuts and pretzels in little packages felt like a solid meal. It came during a season where I cried in hotel bathrooms and stared at the ceiling at midnight. It snuck up on me when, if I wasn’t traveling, I spent most of my time looking into a computer screen. The world felt flat and pixelated, the desire to prove myself in some mysterious way a constant drumbeat in my weary bones.
One day I went to coffee with the bride — although it would be years before she took on that role. Months had somehow slipped by without a meaningful conversation between us. I’d been distracted and exhausted, distant and a bit depressed. She sat across from me and pulled a letter from her purse. It said many kind and beautiful things. But they all came down to this: She loved me, and she missed me.
I felt like the Apostle Paul with the scales falling off my eyes. I could suddenly see what all my hustling had done to the people closest to me. Later, in the car on the drive home I told myself things had to change.
I’d like to say the alterations were easy. But I was hooked on approval like an addict in a dark alley, every round of applause or “like” on social media another hit. I felt the withdrawals of saying “no” to good opportunities, of choosing to be present in my everyday life where I was quite ordinary rather than on a stage where no one could see my flaws. I worried that I wasn’t keeping up or that I was letting everyone down.
But slowly the shift began to happen. I began to breathe. I felt the exhaustion start to evaporate. I rediscovered my laugh and how it felt to wake up on a Saturday morning in my own bed. I fell in love with the people around me all over again — husband, daughter, friends.
At one point during the wedding day the bride grabbed me by the elbow, pulled me close and whispered into my ear, “Thank you for everything you’ve been to me. I love you.” I felt almost undone with gratitude that she had chosen to speak truth to me years ago, to not just let me go. I looked around again at the leaves, at my closest friends with the sun on their faces and cookies in their hands, at the flower girl spinning in her dress, arms up to the sky, at all I could have missed. I thought to myself, “You just can’t do this on social media.”
I have learned this: We can’t be all things to all people. But we can be something to someone. It is our privilege and joy and duty to decide who those someones will be. On a beautiful autumn afternoon I celebrated with one of mine — bride, friend, sister of my heart. I felt so thankful she’d stood by me and that on this day she let me stand by her.
Sandra Jean says
Thank you for the reminder that real life doesn’t live inside a screen. Many blessings to you and yours Holley
Irene Bandeen says
Yes, Holley! This touched my heart as well.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I’m fortunate to have a few close “someone’s”. I met with one of them recently in a coffee shop. I’m not kidding when I say that we were the only one’s in the place, sitting without laptops propped up in front of us with cellphones nearby. Everyone else was staring at a screen of some sort, and there we were talking, laughing, praying together. We were sharing joys, trials, life events, girl talk. We sat there for 2 hours just talking and I walked away feeling refreshed….invigorated. No, you can’t “do” life on social media. It has its place – like here where we can share and relate to people that miles and distance would have prevented us from doing so years ago, but # of likes can’t hold a candle to hugs and hands held. I see young kids going to “coding camp” during school breaks. I want to say, “Go out, enjoy the sunshine, play, interact, laugh, get into feuds, do life with others.” The screen will always be there, but people may not. Spot on post, Holley!
Beth Williams says
Social media is fine for posting pics, staying in touch with friends & family. It doesn’t hold a candle to “being present.” God wants us in community. He knows how desperately we need each other. Our lives should never be so busy that we can’t call, text, or email a friend. Tell them how much they mean to you. It is super important. You never know how long you have. This past summer my neighbor lost her youngest & only living son. On several occasions I have spent time with her. Took food right after he died, got food together when granddaughter was to be out of town for a week, made a nice fruit basket from church. Just being there & giving her hugs made her day. it is the same for all of us. We want real life interactions with each other. We need to tell each other how much they mean to us. Nothing takes the place of a big hug & nice smile.
Gina grabenstatter says
Diane Hogan says
I feel so blessed with this reminder from you this morning. And I did need to hear it!
Thanks for being so transparent about your life.
May God Bless You and your Ministry!
Love & Hugs.
Holley Gerth says
Thanks for being here and commenting, friends! This kind of connection is what I do love so much about social media–that we can connect from wherever we are. I’d rather have coffee in person with each of you but I’m grateful for a way to connect right here today.
Wiggle Worm says
I know many ask for prayers to a church, I ask prayers from deliverance from church. I am a pastor’s wife physically sick from mistreatment. I’m dying inside. My heart aches for love.
My heart aches for yours “C”. I’m the granddaughter of a well known pastor. He couldn’t have cared less about the “being known” part. But, it did give my grandmother time to mentor other taxed pastor’s wives. Grandmother was one gutsy pioneer woman. Her words were firm, “I do not please the church. I please the Lord. In doing so, I will please the people, who are where they need to be with Jesus. When I do not please the Lord, He will convict me or send someone to open my heart to what I need to fix.” This isn’t a quote, per say, rather a shared wisdom I was told often through our times together as I grew into a young woman. She knew the pressure the devil puts on a God Centered family to discourage and destroy. In the world of worship I grew up in a pastor’s duties were almost an absurd responsibility to be the perfect model of Betty Crocker, Entertainer, Social Committee Director, and five star Hotelier. Grandma had it down. She was very good at it. Yet, I saw her weariness in it at times. That’s when she would walk away. She would go to her quiet place and have time alone. I don’t begin to need to know what you are going through, but I’m glad I saw your plea this morning. We may never meet and yet I will be praying over you. Be strong and courageous.
Judy Gordon Morrow says
Dear C, how my heart goes out to you! My mom was a pastor’s wife, so being a PK, I know the dynamics of that life and how difficult it can be. I just felt led to try to encourage you by praying for you:
Father, you see your daughter, C, and you know her name and her pain. Wrap her up in your arms of love today and bring healing balm to her wounded heart and comfort to her suffering soul. Please give her something tangible today to let her know like never before how very much you love her. Cup her face in your hands and lift her head so that she can gaze into your eyes of love and be filled with your peace. Continue to bring her to my mind, so with each thought I can pray for this beloved daughter of yours. Thank you, our dear and faithful Lord, for how you are going to show your amazing love to C today…amen.
Ruth Doherty says
I know this may sound cliche’ but after ten years of teenage depression I was able to testify to God’s word: The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it! John 1:5 and John 16:33 ‘ … Take heart (be of good gourage) I have overcome the world!’ We shall
overcome in Jesus our Victorious King forever.
It’s always darkest before dawn! Praying for you 🙂
I’m thankful for those very exclusive, close friends that are as close to me as my own sister. If you could know how dear my sister is to me, then you know that’s tight. My sister is blessed to have her dear heart sisters, too. Neither of us feels threatened by this idea. We thank God together often that He has given us these precious friends we call our Heart Sisters. Collectively, I have a few little sisters and she has a few big sisters more than we started with. Isn’t the Lord generous when we open up to His vision of love?
Holley Gerth says
I don’t have a biological sister but I have many spiritual ones and, yes, they are a gift!
Teresa L Martin says
I so needed this,this little note brought something to my attention that I had not considered previously…Thank you so much for giving me awarenes.
Elizabeth Auwarter says
This is wonderful! It is so easy, especially as a beginning blogger, to get so bogged down with the social media numbers instead of investing in the friendships around me. Thank you for this reminder! It is so beautiful that you had a friend that cared enough about you to let you know that she missed you.
Kristine Vigil says
I recently deleted FB from my phone as I felt myself drawn to it to waste my time and escape from my own life. I am so very thankful that I did. Yes I miss what my friends and family are up to, but I get to enjoy the present with my kids way more often. I get to be here for them and I feel God even speaking into me more about reaching out and making real connections with real people. Get out do stuff, not just like or love stuff but be a part of it.
Holley Gerth says
Brave move, Kristine! Love it!
Loved this reminder. Beautifully written and so very true. Thank you!
What a beautiful post, Holley! I always feel better after reading something you’ve written. I wish you could be my neighbor 🙂
Take Good Care!
Holley Gerth says
It would be lovely to be neighbors, Julie! Maybe in heaven. 🙂
Nancy Ruegg says
We will soon see friends whom we’ve known for more than thirty-five years. It’s a sure thing we’ll reminisce and celebrate the precious memories we share–which wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t done life together, communicated heart-to-heart with each other, laughed and prayed with and for each other. With you, Holley, I am SO thankful they have stood by us and let us stand by them. Without a doubt, such friends are a priceless gift from God!
Elmeda Weber says
Beautiful…thank you for sharing!
Shally Joseph says
This is a nice message. Touched my heart. Though honestly, no one really wants to be friends with spinsters – not even their own siblings because they have their own families and dislike any intrusion of any kind!
So the best friend Who found me about 14 years back when I was lost and lonely and broken trying to look for a good friend and be a good friend – neither worked – has been the Lord Jesus. I’m learning as the days go by that He loves me unconditionally. Besides He filled all the emptiness that was in me for so very long. In fact I’ve gotten to realize in these years of growing up in Christ that many married people are lonely folk. So really I’m better off as I can at least chose to walk away or shut the doors on all negativity.