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Breathe in, breathe out

July 6, 2020

One of my cousins who has a heart like mine for loving others, regardless of their story, participates in a ministry called “Mother to Many” which serves homeless youth in Washington state.  Over the course of the last week, I have been a safe landing spot for several women and teens in my life who have been dealing with one of life’s hardest lessons – losing someone they loved. I’ve often wanted to create a sign for my front deck (which I imagine is an actual front porch with a swing, some rockers, comfy cushions and big ol’ pitcher of iced tea) where the sign would sit.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

“Braggin’ and Bellyachin’ Allowed Here”.

We were made to fellowship. Women need a tribe, a circle, an inner sanctum, and if my wistful front deck can be that spot, the welcome mat will always be out.  If you need to celebrate, I will cheer with you.  If your heart has nothing but lament, I will hold your hand, wipe your tears, and rock next to you.

The women in my story are all like my own daughters, but I think my dear friend, Joy, who upon my announcement of first going back to chase the jaunty chapeau of doctoral studies, proclaimed that because she knows me as an extra momma to many in our community, that my official title upon graduation would not be Dr. Kandy Noles Stevens, but rather the more appropriately fitting – Dr. Momma K.  Throughout the last four years, she has always used that title in every exchange and perhaps she won’t know until now, how deeply and profoundly her belief in me encouraged me – EVERY. STEP. of the way.

So, life has brought me back to the place I love now that the textbook readings and exams are over to having the time to be a “Momma to Many” and wiping tears, while listening to the tales of sadness after sadness has been a noble calling.  The unfortunate thing is the loss hasn’t been from an actual death, but rather the ending of a friendship.  From the teenagers in my world to the mommas, discontent and leaving others out or behind seems to be running rampant, and from what I have seen, the women and girls of the world are hurting.

Much like not knowing you lost the plug to your Yeti cooler while driving across country with red snapper caught fresh in the Gulf of Mexico, I wish I didn’t know the stench of losing a friend.  Sadly, both malodorous experiences are ones that clings to your soul.  The fishy smell in my vehicle eventually went away, but the heartache of betrayal and loss never really do. I have learned some truths through my experiences and to be honest, writing about it is about the very last thing I want to do today.  For those who’ve followed my writing over the years, they know that I often wrestle with God about the things I don’t want to share like having someone formerly very dear me tell me that I am doing a horrible job of remembering my son. I just don’t want to share this story, because frankly, the pain cuts too deep.  But just like the horrible truths a momma learns after losing a child, there are corollary truths following the loss of a friendship and for some reason unbeknownst to me, God really wants me to share because I keep waking up in the night thinking about this blog.

In the same way that I can only imagine a prize fighter picking themselves up and assuming a pugilistic stance, protecting themselves from life’s body blows, these sweet women have picked up the shattered pieces of their hearts and came to me with the shards in their hands.  Together we wiped away the splinters and bandaged the wounds as I shared three lessons I have learned when a friendship runs its course.

  1. Despite how we believed a friendship was supposed to last, some people are only meant to come into our lives for a brief moment, teaching lessons we needed at that time, and others will be there for a lifetime. It is easy to confuse the two, but the life long friends show up with your favorite drink and a hug when they know you are going to face a terrible day and you didn’t even utter a word. They sit on your deck and hold your hands as you cry because there was another bus crash. They call simply to breathe God’s words into your ear and pray so fiercely that you find yourself not knowing whether to cry or to celebrate, ending up doing some sort of awkward dance of both.  Finding these women may take well into adulthood, and for some, that girl has been with you since childhood.  Whomever they are, love the momentary friends lightly and let them go, they were never meant to stay.
  2. Some of my sweet women are grieving friendships that started off wonderful, but slowly over time ignored signs that much like the frog in the boiling pot of water indicated clues that the situation was becoming toxic. The ghosting.  The negative things said behind the back, but never to the face. The little things that grow into big things, until an explosion happens.  I have learned the hard way, my dear ones, that in the long run these momentary friends really are doing you a favor.  No matter how deeply it hurts, they really are. For those of us raised with the values of forgiveness and turning the other cheek, leaving behind those friendships which have really soured can be incredibly difficult.  I once heard Christian author and speaker, Julie Barnhill, address this very concept. In any toxic relationship, God isn’t mincing words, forgiveness still needs to happen, but we were never called to hangout with basement dwellers.  Did you read that correctly?  If not, read it again.  God still calls us to love, but we were never asked to be someone else’s punching bag or toxic waste dump.  In the sacred rhythms of life, breathing prayers in, breathing prayers out, and moving on may be the greatest gift of those friends. 
  3. Finally, the granddaddy lesson of them all, Jesus truly gets it. I think in the midst of deep pain we (well, at least, I know I do) forget that while fully God, Jesus was also fully human.  He wept outside his friend, Lazarus’s grave. Much more like me, he got mad and flipped tables.  And he also knows the pain of betrayal and loss of friendship.  Remember he started with twelve friends, whom I would call the inner sanctum, but his time on Earth ended with eleven.  When I first heard a speaker share that truth, I wept, because it was closely following the words that to this day still make me cry, you are doing a horrible job of remembering Reed.  I cried knowing that Jesus knew who would betray him and knew the consequences of that betrayal. While I could say something so trite, almost trivial to another hurting, I understand.  I’ve been there before. Little comfort would be found in those words, but pouring your heart out to Jesus, sage wisdom and endless comfort can be found with him.

Loss of any kind hurts.  Losing a gal pal has its own kind of sting. Beautiful girls – take time to grieve your loss. Mourning is necessary, but allow God to collect those tears in his bottle, knowing that he designed you for fellowship with other women and knowing God has other doors to open while you praise him through tears, sometimes loving from afar, while standing in the hallway.  Hold lightly to those momentary friends, saving space for the tribe of women he planned to hold you close to their hearts all of your days.  For they will be the ones who will walk with you to the finish line, holding your hand and maybe your iced tea, and praying with and for you, every single time.


Some of your lifeline friends will also forgive you when the ocean and salt air makes for interesting hair.  For the record, I only see love and support in this photo.

On heaven’s time, Jesus not only understands the depth of your pain, he once lived it.  And here on Earth, I don’t have all the answers, but what I can promise is there will always be rockers, iced tea, a hug, and a listening ear at my house.

Breathe in, breathe out – you are loved and cherished, even if it at this moment, it doesn’t feel that way.


  1. Val Breczinski permalink

    Kandy thanks for the reminder of lessons about God and Jesus because right hard time for me it will be a year July 12th that I lost my father unexpectedly I felt alone before he passed but had a priest come his last rights and when he passed the priest came and a prayer for me and dad it still wasn’t easy but I felt God’s presence and wasn’t alone. Thanks again for sharing

  2. Val – Your dad was a great guy and a true community gem! I am so sorry that you are feeling the deep pain of grief as his one year Heaven-going date arrives. You are so right. We are never alone. Sending love and hugs, remembering your sweet dad. Kandy

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