Okay, I admit it right up front. This picture has been edited. It doesn’t really exist in the fashion I’ve presented it. I mean, okay, well, it’s been photo-shopped. But the friendship bench is indeed real, and I discovered it while attending the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. Let me tell you about it.
It all started when I decided to attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Once that decision was made, I discovered that there was a “genre” night. Each conferee was to dress in a costume depicting his/her particular genre of writing, or possibly a character from their book. Let’s be clear here – this was way out of my comfort zone. I don’t enjoy dressing up in costumes, Halloween, or for that matter I must confess, I don’t even like to be around clowns. But, well, here I was at the conference and I had determined to participate in every single event and so I dressed up. Can you guess who I was for that night?
I was the same person I always am, an Inspirational Travel Blogger.
Now because I dared to stretch beyond what I consider to be the infamous comfort zone, I met several new friends that night. We were all laughing at ourselves as we made our way toward the next event for the evening. And then our paths crossed at the park bench. The Inspirational Travel Blogger, Ms. Ima Grump, and Lady in Search of God’s Will.
Something quite magical happened at the Friendship Bench. Our conversations began as we exchanged comments about our costumes and what we represented. An hour or so later we were no longer strangers but had become friends. Each of our journeys had been vastly different, but as we shared many life experiences, the bond grew stronger and we parted as sisters in Christ. “Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV) So it is when friends share ideas and insights.
Many Friendships Begin in the Same Manner
When I think over a lifetime of friendships, I discover how truly blessed my life is because of the lives of those I call friend. There may not be a literal bench involved in the formation of the friendship. Some begin in kindergarten, elementary school, high school, or college. Some start because of shared interests and common goals. Others are chance meetings with an immediate feeling of kinship.
One of my lifelong friendships began with my neighbor sitting on my front porch steps listening to my daughter play the piano. Another happened at the work place as I was mentored in a new employment position. Following church choir rehearsal a new friendship was born as we stood in the parking lot discussing life and how we had a desire to live it more fully attuned to Christ. One special friendship just happened when the two of us met in the drive between our houses and talked away the morning. This happened so often that we considered buying a park bench and calling it the friendship bench, but we never did.
New Friendships At Ridgecrest
At the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference this past May, I realized that I was surrounded by hundreds of potential new friends. We were there with a common purpose, united by an eternal kinship in the person of Christ. Each of us were seeking to become better writers so that we could more skillfully use our words to change the world. It was a glorious thought as I looked upon the crowd.
We attended workshops, one-on-one meetings with professionals, praise and worship sessions, working meal-times, and then occasional times of rest. In the midst of all that activity, many new friendships were born.
“A Friend Loves At All Times.” (Proverbs 17:17)
We encouraged each other regarding our newest book releases, book ideas, articles, devotional guides, and Bible study courses. We laughed about the funny things that happened to us on our way to becoming writers – and we cried together over defeats. We took time out to pray with a discouraged pilgrim, and with a mom whose son just left for war. There were prayers asking God for His healing touch on the lives of many who had just undergone surgery, or were facing surgery when they returned home. A missionary to Brazil had a prayer request for the children she would be leaving stateside when she returned to her mission field. Another was facing difficult decisions when she returned home.
There were those moments of heaven reaching down to earth when our Keynote speakers and praise team led us in inspirational worship. There were amazing workshops to teach us how to better shape our craft. There was the incredible beauty of the Conference Center adorning the hillside of the Blue Ridge Mountains – and then there were the new friendships.
I am truly blessed by all the friends God has brought into my life and now for all these new friends that have eternally touched my heart. They may not have started at the friendship bench – but they are real.
Have you discovered a friendship bench – a place of beginnings? What was the most unusual place you remember a friendship beginning?