The theme of this month’s CWO issue is Family. In thinking and praying about this topic, I kept coming back to the fact that for me, the word family most often means—friends. I grew up in a very small family. My parents divorced when I was quite young and Mom never remarried. We had no aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents on my mom’s side, and most of my father’s relatives became non-existent to us when my parents divorced. Later, when Grandma and Grandpa Gappa passed away, there was no one left but mom, my older sister and younger brother. Mom went to be with the Lord a few years ago, leaving the three of us comprising the nucleus of our original family. That’s it—three of us.
We each have our own families now, and we get together whenever possible. Like many baby boomers, we’re getting closer the older we get (funny how that works for some of us, eh?) But also like many mobile families of this century, we all live in different states.
That’s why for me, the term family has for many years included my closest friends. For me, my friends are my family. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. That’s why I’d like to share a story with you now about my Family of Linda’s.
Lord, Send Me a Linda!
“You’ve got to get us out of here,” I overheard my mother saying to my father one day as he dropped off an envelope of cash that was formally called “child support” but that we had come to know as “food money.” “The roaches are every where,” she cried to him. “The spray they use every week is killing your children, you have got to do something!” And that is how we moved from the projects of Cleveland, Ohio to the lower west side back in 1960. I was five years old. It’s also how I came to know my first two Linda’s.
Next-door to our rented house on West 105th Street, was Linda S. and across the alley behind our house was Linda B., my very best friends growing up—more like sisters than friends. For over a decade we did everything together. We played dress-up together, went to school together, my mom took us on outings together. We had countless sleep-overs where we talked about our dreams and shared our secrets. We smoked our first cigarettes together, turning green in equal measure. We grew up and parted, but their friendships were cornerstones of my life. Over the years, any time I met someone named Linda, I felt a warm glow in my heart.
Decades later in Arizona as a new Christian, it was another Linda B., hundreds of miles from my Ohio hometown, who befriended me and showed through her example what a woman of God was like. We were as close as two sisters could be. I was 35 and hadn’t lived near my own sister for many years. My Linda, as I came to call her, showed me as a new Christian what it truly meant to have a “sister-in-Christ.” She was my family—as were many of the new people who came into my life when I took a major u-turn and joined the Family of God.
When I met my husband a few years later in a long-distance whirlwind courtship it was bittersweet. We both felt that God had orchestrated our union, yet it meant moving from my home in Arizona to Minnesota. I was leaving the only Christian family I had ever known. I was leaving My Linda behind – and the pain in my heart and soul was deep.
“Lord,” I cried. “Please, please send me someone like Linda,” I prayed as I began another chapter in my life in my new Minnesota home. I was turning forty, and lonely for a sisterhood friendship like the one I had left behind in Arizona.
“Hello, welcome to our church, how are you?” a lovely woman warmly greeted us as we entered. Praying for a church home to call our own, my new husband and I walked into the small neighborhood church not yet knowing God’s plan for us. With a glowing smile that matched her spirit, I breathed deeply and held onto her a little tighter as we shook hands in greeting when she said, “Hi! My name is Linda, what’s yours?”
Today, over ten years later, Linda L. is more than a friend—a true sister-in-Christ, she is family. God answered my prayer. He sent me a Linda and I send him my thanksgiving daily for the friendships He orchestrates when we open our hearts to Him.
My husband and I have been mumbling for years about leaving Minnesota to relocate to Texas. The older our boomer body’s get, the colder the winters seem to become. As I think about starting over in another state in this, my fifth decade of life, I wonder what surprises the Lord will have in store for us.
Surely, He can once again send me a Linda, don’t you think?
I’ll keep you informed.
Until next month, God be with you and your family. 🙂
©2007, Allison Bottke