Saturday, March 17, 2018

From Strangers to Sisterhood

February 6, 2007 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

From Strangers to Sisterhood
By Terri Tiffany


The heart I crafted from my daughter’s construction paper was still folded in the creases of my sheet protector. I hoped to wave it when I finally arrived at her airline gate. I knew she would never recognize us so I decided on a red heart with her name emblazoned in black letters. I never had a chance to use it.
The plan for Valentine’s weekend that winter was to fly to Baltimore to visit a woman I had known for almost five years and who was terminally ill. The idea to unite had been sparked by another lady in our small email group. I held my breath when I booked tickets for myself and a friend who had agreed to accompany me. For only twenty dollars in flight cost, I was surprised to find that we could fulfill the dream I had of seeing this friend for possibly the last time. I knew I couldn’t wait three more months for the weather to warm up, or until I had more cash or until I would be guaranteed the flu season would be over.
 We would arrive a day before another woman from Maine did. That extra day would allow me private time to visit Lori and sufficient time to visit with everyone else. The hotel and car rental bookings all fell into place. God couldn’t have orchestrated the details any smoother.
 The phone jarred me awake just days before I was to leave. My brain tried to keep pace with the caller’s words through my sleep-induced haze. I finally grasped that it was another email friend from Michigan. Her commitments had changed so she could fly out too if I would let her partner with us. I was thrilled to hear there would now be six ladies coming from all different directions of the country to celebrate the life of a friend we had only known through the internet.
 When I considered the details, my heart constricted. I wanted to pretend it was all make believe. None of us could believe we were actually going to make this trip.
 The people weren’t really real. There was no sense of urgency to visit. I really wouldn’t be hanging out for an entire weekend with ladies I never met. What happened to spending the most romantic day of the year with my husband and sharing chocolate and candlelit dinners? How did jetting across the country to a strange area to meet strange people become what I did on Valentine’s Day?
 My heart told me I didn’t have a choice. These were ladies I had bonded with through a site designed for Christian stay-at-home mothers. We were now united for a single cause. We wanted to rally around our sister-in-Christ and let her experience our outpouring of love, as strong as the love she had always extended to each one of us. This moment had to happen. We petitioned prayers for traveling mercies, good weather and perfect health.
 My stomach did its own dance as we shuffled with our luggage to the Northwestern Airlines gates. Crowds of people obstructed my view. How would I ever find her? I was worried she might think I wouldn’t show up. She would feel stranded at the airport without a cell phone or ride to our friend’s home.
 I didn’t have to search too long. From the midst of thronging people, a woman stepped forward wearing the biggest smile I’d ever seen. She spoke my name and at my tentative nod, Sue reached in for a hug.
Parting, we inched our way to a less populated area of the busy terminal. I couldn’t help but stare at her eager smile while my brain tried valiantly to connect the pieces. She was Sue but I could only detect a small portion of her personality from the person I knew from emails. I apologized for my rudeness and introduced my friend who was now standing to one side. How would we ever spend an entire weekend with this stranger? I was soon to discover God had His own plans.
 I was thankful I had arranged for adjoining rooms so we could each have personal space while adjusting to our new camaraderie. A quick meal helped to melt some of the ice and we were soon laughing and comparing notes about our various eating habits. The remaining three ladies would arrive to visit the day after the next.
I prayed it would get easier.
Women bond in ways that men cannot even begin to fathom. Food, shopping, talking, more shopping. Within the first twenty-four hours of our visit, we were gently transformed from strangers into sisterhood. Waitresses in restaurants stood patiently by with poised pens as we ticked off our different food preferences. Dressing room clerks graciously loaded and unloaded arms of clothing deemed too perfect or way too frumpy. We teased about sizes and complemented on colors. We insisted one member of our group reactivate her former career as a “professional bra fitter” while marching another lady to the lingerie store.
 Later, resting in a tired heap on the outlet floor, I tried to make sense of the day’s events. Four women who had never laid eyes on each other were connecting. How often in a lifetime can that happen? How often in a lifetime will it ever happen again? I couldn’t even count all my blessings.
Half of our ladies’ weekend was over and I felt as though I had been with these women a lifetime. Still to meet the other group of email friends, I wondered how my joy could be more complete. I was pleasantly surprised when I found it could. Not only were they as warm and caring as the first group, but they too had their own unique set of characteristics that thoroughly warmed my heart.
Besides blessing Lori, our hostess, we were continually surprised by how much were being blessed as well.
Our surprise Valentine’s basket full of encouraging cards and gifts topped off the final evening’s event. We wanted our friend to understand how much love was being sent from so many people across the country. Our hearts and our eyes overflowed with emotion as one by one she opened presents from so many. I firmly believed that never again would candlelit dinners and boxes of chocolates compete with the love filling the room that night.
We each had come on our private quest that weekend to say our final good-bye. What we had expected to find was sadness and strangers and a weekend filled with uncertainties. What we found was more than our hearts could ever have imagined.
 I didn’t need my cut out Valentine that weekend. God provided one of His own in the form of these ladies and the love they showered upon each other. Chocolates? Fancy dinners? Jewelry? I don’t think so. I’d take God’s valentine every time.
Terri Tiffany

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