A few years ago, on a chilly fall morning, I sat at the table with my grandmother sharing a pot of tea. It was quiet in the house, which was abnormal – because wherever we are visiting, we bring the noise. On this particular morning, my husband had taken the boys on a walk through the woods so it was calm. I remember that morning so well. My Grandma reached across the table for my hand and said, “I worry about you. You have such a heavy load. I pray for you all the time.” I smiled and thanked her and we had barely finished our tea when the boys came barelling through the doors with news of their adventures.

It’s exhausting sometimes. Having two autistic children can be challenging enough when I am the one mainly responsible to field the calls and e-mails from the school, to schedule the appointments and therapies, to help strategize and plan everything. It often feels like a full time job! It is, in a way. When you add in my own chronic illness and all the appointments and therapies, and my limited amounts of energy – some days it’s a struggle to do all the things. I understand why my loving grandmother was so concerned, and why she felt the need to pray for me often.

I often think about that morning chat over tea. That visit was the last time I saw my Grandma, she passed away the following spring. A few months after she died, I thought again about her words and knew I would miss her dedicated prayers for me. But God lovingly takes care of His children, and shortly before she died, He placed me into a new family. Where I thought there would be a void, God instead gave me an overflowing abundance of love and support.

Last night we met with our life group. We meet together often, aiming for once a week. We talk to each other about how our weeks are truly going, about our deepest struggles. We laugh until we cry at hilarious things that happen or are said. We worship together with our voices raised to Jesus, our hearts full and overflowing with joy. And we pray for each other. We cry out the the Lord on behalf of our best friends, praying for intercession, praying to be filled with the Spirit, praying for His will to be done. And often, when my friends pray for my husband and I, tears fall down my cheeks in gratefulness to be truly covered in love.

I look around the room and I’m so thankful for the gift of friendship. I am thankful for Pamela’s tender heart and kindness. I am thankful for Tim’s passion for the Holy Spirit. I am thankful for many things about Jody, who is one of my oldest friends, but one thing that stands out is how she powerully prays with authority. I am thankful for Ben’s humbleness and knowledge of the scriptures. I am thankful for the way that Brent makes connections in the Word and in life and for his gift of preaching. I am thankful for my friends Karen and Jill and for the way they mother their children (and wish I could be like them, if I’m honest!) I am thankful for Emma’s wisdom and her heart to serve. I am thankful that my friend Michelle gives healing hugs. I looked around the room at these people who are my family, and I feel incredibly blessed.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Friends who are family. Living in our own homes, the with connected hearts. When someone Greaves, we grieve with them. When someone celebrates, we celebrate with them. If there’s an emergency, we rearrange plans so we can help.

Together we have witnessed our brothers and sisters walk through a lot of fire. We have prayed them through many trials. Experienced a lot of heartbreak. And it’s the hard stuff that brings you closer together. It’s the hard stuff that makes the Love shine through. Still, I don’t think a week goes by that we don’t laugh over something. Because while we walk each other through the hard stuff, we also help each other find joy. We encourage and uplift each other. We point each other to Christ.

I still miss my Grandma, and think of her often. But I don’t miss her prayers. I am so covered in love and have felt the powerful prayers of the righteous. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”(Matthew 11:28-30). My circumstances haven’t changed, and my load is still heavy. But my heart is so incredibly light. And in Him, I find true rest.

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