Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Billy and Sherri

Jim and I married mid-way through our college years. Not the wisest decision, you know, financially speaking...but I feel certain that we'd both do it again the same way, because we haven't figured out how to learn from our mistakes we were in luuuuuuuvvvvvv. And because the lessons we learned, from and about each other during that time, were invaluable to the foundation of our marriage.

We learned that those lovin' feelings? They come and go. But commitment...and laughter, prayer, community, church, and friends...went a long way in establishing the basis of our marriage.

The very first people who invited us to church were our friends, Joe and Vickie. This just proves what we've been told the statistics show...that people can KNOW that there are churches, and they can know people who ATTEND those churches...but the main way those people will actually COME to those churches...is by a personal invitation.

We started attending that church, and we sat with Joe and Vickie. They would invite us over for dinner, and I think their house is the very first place we ever ate that "Chili's style" cheese dip.

But, Joe and Vickie moved...but, just as a side note: we are still friends with them to this day. They moved to Little Rock, and later WE moved to Little Rock. Years later, we moved to Searcy...and THEY moved to Searcy. And we've moved a couple of times since then, and so have they...and they now live about 30 minutes up the interstate from us. 

God is good.

It was through our church that we met our friends, Billy and Sherri. They lived in a house. We thought it was so cool, because, at the time, we lived in a mobile home. A "trailer house," as they call it around here. We owned it, but still didn't think of it as a house-house. We lived in that mobile home for 4 years...our last 2 years of college, and then 2 years after that, until Jim got on with the utility company.

We started hanging out with Billy and Sherri, and another couple. In the beginning, it was the 6 of us. We went out to dinner, or had cook-outs. We went camping, or to the lake. Most of the time, tho, we hung out at Billy and Sherri's house.

And, as time went on, it was mostly the 4 of us: Jim and I, Billy and Sherri. Sherri and I joked that Jim and Billy were "brothers from another mother," or "twins separated at birth." They were a LOT alike. And Sherri was the encouraging, self-less, hospitable, fun-loving, family-oriented friend I never knew I wanted, but always wished I'd had.

If that makes any sense.

Nearly all the memories we have of those early married days...have Billy and Sherri in them.

When Jim got his job, we had to move up to Little Rock and leave our dear friends...and it.was.so.hard.

And we said we'd keep in touch, and we did...but it was all different, because life goes on. Right?

But on March 28, 1986, we were in the hospital in Little Rock. I had just given birth to Joshua that morning, and Jim had to do the hard task of calling everyone to tell them the news: Joshua had Down Syndrome.

I remember hearing him on the phone with everyone. He was trying to be so strong. We had NO CLUE, really, about DS. We just knew it was bad...reeeeeal bad.

Of course, now we know that it's not bad at all. It's hard, at times, but it's also joyful. It's sad, at times, but also happy. It's frustrating...but it's also inspiring. For our family, it's been a good thing. No, I wouldn't have chosen it. Not at all. But, Down Syndrome has opened our eyes to the challenges and struggles of others; it has shown us how to love deeply and without conditions; it has opened countless doors for us to share the faithfulness of God.

Joshua has been, and is, a blessing.

But I remember Jim called Billy and Sherri to tell them. He was kind of dreading the call. I mean, telling family was easier, because...well...family. I remember Jim's voice cracking as he told Billy, "we've named him Joshua...and, Billy, they are telling us he has Down Syndrome."

I could only hear half of the conversation, but Jim said that, after he got done talking, Billy quietly asked him, "well, do you think he'll be able to hold a fishin' pole?" And Jim said, "yes...I think he will." And Billy said, "well, then he's a keeper."

Apparently, Billy also asked if we needed them to come...if we wanted them to come...because I remember Jim saying over and over, "no, don't come...we're fine. We'll get together soon."

Well, it was about an hour and 15 minutes before there was a quiet knock on our hospital-room door...and in walked Billy and Sherri. Of course they came.

Of course.

Because that's what friends do...they show up for the hard stuff.

Even tho we've moved all around central Arkansas, Billy and Sherri have stayed in the same town...and it's a constant to us. We always know where they are. The running joke was that one day, we would build our empire together...and we'd all live together in that empire. When Billy and Sherri bought their house, I remember them telling us, "we're saving an acre on the back corner for y'all."

You know, "they" say that if a friendship lasts for 7 years, it will last a lifetime. Oh I HOPE that's the case, because we've already got a 30 year run going on!

In 2007, Holly graduated from high school, and headed to OBU for college. Billy and Sherri's daughter was also at OBU, but she was a year ahead of Holly. For the next 3 years, we spent quite a bit of time going down there for all of Holly's activities, and reconnecting with Billy and Sherri. One year, our daughters were even roommates...and that brought us so much joy!

When Billy and Sherri's daughter got married, Holly was in her wedding. When Holly got engaged, she had her bridal portraits made at Billy and Sherri's house. When Holly got married, their daughter was her matron-of-honor.

Holly saw her friend's love for nursing, and that sparked a desire in her...and when Holly came to her Daddy, after getting her 4 year degree in Biology, and said she thought she might want to be a nurse, her dad freaked and said, "it would've been nice if you had gotten this desire while you were still in college because it would've saved you a lot of time, and me a lot of money (I'M KIDDING) I thought, "well, of course she does."

And so just the other day, when Holly went to apply for a job at the hospital...guess who works in the NICU? Yep. Her friend. Billy and Sherri's daughter.

God is good.

I hope and pray that He allows us many more years of friendship with Billy and Sherri. MANY more years. And I hope and pray that He allows a friendship to grow and flourish between our daughters and their husbands. I hope and I pray that it will be a friendship that brings them much joy and laughter, that makes many wonderful memories.

And I pray that, should life take a sharp turn, it will be a friendship that shows up for the hard stuff.

"A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity." Proverbs 17:17

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