Okay, before I get much further, I do have to give a little disclaimer here. I use the words "Grand Rapids" to refer to all of Western Michigan, really. Because none of my friends live in Grand Rapids anymore. I don't even go to Grand Rapids anymore. But I still call it Grand Rapids.
This past weekend I drove up to Grand Rapids for a friend's baby shower. I have made this drive probably 100 times and every time it makes me so excited. Once I hit a certain spot on the highway my stomach just fills with butterflies because I am so excited to be there. There's something about Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids is like my perfect place. Seriously. It represents so much to me. Hands down it is the place where I experience the most spiritual growth in my life. Not only did I learn how to dig deeper into the Bible, but I met people who had a deep love for Scripture. People who truly felt a burden to pray for me. People who you could tell just by looking at them that they loved to spend time with God. I am so encouraged by the culture in Grand Rapids. It is assumed that you go to church there, you're not looked down on for it. Families spend Sunday afternoons together, eating dinner, playing games, and just relaxing. Not running around with everyone separate.
I know I'm making sweeping generalizations, but this is what Grand Rapids is to me.
It's a family-oriented place. A place where I feel comfortable raising my children. A place where my children can be encouraged and grow in their faith, where they will see other people around them living the life that we tell them about. They can be surrounded by spiritual mentors.
Grand Rapids is where I met my life-long friends. Girls that I grew into friendship with. We were friends before we had husbands (even before we had boyfriends!). Before we had jobs. Before we had kids. We're not friends because we're in a mom's group together. Or because we go to the same Bible study. While I love all of my friends and I love having friends from those groups, these friends knew me before all of that. These are the friends that I can talk about my spiritual life with. We talk about the struggles of being a wife or a mother. We talk about our shortcomings. We encourage each other in our faith. We encourage each other to be better wives and mothers. We have serious conversations. Conversations that I long to have more often. When I leave Grand Rapids I feel stronger. Challenged. If Kathy can do this for Jon, I can do it for Brad. What Sarah said really made me think. Erica tried this so I can try it, too. While I do feel like we could go even further, I always walk away feeling like these are the kinds of friendships God wants me to have. The friendships I long for. And it makes me miss Grand Rapids even more.
Of course, it's not all serious. We have lots of fun, too. We go to the beach. We scrapbook. We shop. We have fun together. It's like the perfect mix of encouragement and support and fun. Sometimes I just want to pack up everything and move to Grand Rapids. Of course, I know the truth is if I were to move there it wouldn't always be like this. We do all have lives. Families to take care of. We couldn't get together every night and scrapbook. Or go out to dinner ever week. We might still go weeks without actually talking to each other. But I still like to dream. To think that if I moved there, life would be perfect. But the fact is it wouldn't be. And I can't move there. So, instead, I have to deal with my reality. And I think part of that is developing those friendships here. Finding what I love about Grand Rapids here where I live. It's hard to remember, but it took years to form the friendship that I have with those girls. And we saw each other every day. The only thing that stood in our way of growing our friendship was school work, and often we could do even that together. So, I'll still be encouraged by my friendships in Grand Rapids. And I will cherish them. But I will also continue to work on and grow the friendships that I have here at home, remembering that if this is where God wants me to be, he will provide all that I need.