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About the Writer:
Joanne Sampl

With grown step-children, college age sons and a self-employed husband, Joanne offers her time to God and to others. Her interest in writing and communications brought her back to college as an adult and through several reinventions of her own business and ministries. With time on her hands, she writes about God and life.



Gathering the Bundles of Friendship

By Joanne Sampl

There are predictable seasons for activities, aren’t they? As soon as the crispness of an autumn breeze jackets me, I start thinking about family traditions like picking apples and jumping into freshly raked leaves with my kids. Turtlenecks and plaid cotton shirts are pulled out of the closet and the hunt for thick, warm socks begins. What coat needs to go to the cleaners and which one is it time to replace become serious decisions.

And then, like clock-work, I start the emotional bundling of friendships like I am gathering firewood for the long winter ahead. Who haven’t I talked with lately? Who did I want to get together with over the summer and just ran out of time? Who is so important to me that I want to make sure they know I care and want to keep the relationship warm and cozy for us both? This list is longer than I expect, but I am grateful to God that each friendship has its own glow of deep, warm memories. Honest moments. Tender sharing. Genuine love and affection. Some have burned longer than others, but each one is vital to the kindling in my heart.

Then the storm of busyness hits, and scatters my best intentions. Did her birthday slip away and I didn’t send a card? Has it been three days since she left a voice mail and I haven’t had time to call her back? Has it already been a month since I promised to have lunch with her?

“Lord, help me make order out of the disorder of my life so the people who really matter to me know how much I care.”

In response, the Lord opens a door from heaven of calmness, and the gentle fall breeze returns. The colorful leaves still dance to the ground, but I at least have time to watch. How I choose to spend this calmness is the real decision. As sweet, hot chocolate sips fill my bible study time, the Word nourishes me. Although I ache to spend time with my girlfriends, and feel pressure to squeeze time away from my first priority to meet my needs for connection, I know I must first spend time with my Best Friend.

After all, it was His Gift to me that I should be blessed with such a bundle of friendships.

I read His Letter to me expectantly, discovering new principles out of familiar lines and snuggling up with His obvious love for me like I am wrapped up in His personally hand-woven blanket. His warmth for me is a blaze.

One by one, each special friend comes again to my mind. He’s gathering them for me in my heart, reminding me of why He made them so special and how much I have learned and am growing because they are part of my life. He warms me with the truths I’ve seen of His power in their lives.

From some friends I have learned how to have faith when it seems impossible. How does she keep her faith during serious health issues, or how does the other one keep faith during another unpredictable change? How does she keep her faith when that happened to her or how does she keep her faith when she knows what’s still ahead? I have seen the faith the size of a mustard seed actually move mountains in these women’s lives.

From other friends, I have learned what hope looks like. How does she smile again after losing her loved one? How does she keep going look ahead to the future when she’s had such tragic things in her past? Where does her strength come from when she literally has nothing left? I have watched hope in the Lord not only change lives but actually carry lives on through insurmountable circumstances. The Lord warms me with the flame of hope in their lives when my own hope flickers.

And, then, through the entire bundle of friendships, I am constantly aware of the warmth of genuine love: my love for them, their love for me, but mostly His love for all of us. His are the arms that hold us together, whether for a season or for a lifetime. He holds us to His chest to start the warm glow, and it’s His love that spreads through each of us. No wonder I love them so much! It’s isn’t just my love that I feel for them. It is His love added to my love that makes each friendship so warm and inviting.

Jesus is the Gatherer of my bundle of friendships. He holds us together as long as we hold onto Him, so that through each other we will know the warmth of His love more fully, more deeply, more intently. This isn’t about who I have forgotten to call or write, or who I’ve been too busy to stay in touch with. This is not about my best intentions but it is about His best love for us all. My own love will never keep the embers going in these friendships. It is His love through me that really ignites the hearth of friendship.

To all my dear friends who are part of the Lord’s fireplace of love in my life, I cherish you all deeply. I have learned so much. I am blessed so much. I am growing so much closer to the Lord because of your love joining in my bundle of friendship held by Jesus. Thank you for warming me with your love and His.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13.


Copyright © October 9, 2006 – Joanne Sampl. All rights reserved.


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