I have known my friend Nadine for forty years.
The first time I met her, I was walking up Julie’s back brick steps to attend her seventh birthday party. Leaning against the brown metal railing leading up to the door was a dark-haired girl I’d never met before.
Julie went to Private School. This must be a private school friend.
“Do you know why I tan and you don’t?” she asked me.
“It’s because I have an olive complexion and you don’t.”
She had found me out. I was the fairest of them all, but not in a good way. I did not think I was going to like this girl.
I was wrong.
I saw Nadine every year at Julie’s birthday party. Occasionally, I would go to school with Julie when the public schools had a holiday and the private schools did not, and I’d see her there, too.
Nadine left private school to come to my junior high school in 7th grade. We gave each other an “Oh, hi!” on the first day of school as we crowded outside of Mr. Kleto’s science class. We were in the same home room, but we rarely saw each other. Except for Julie’s birthday.
And then came 8th grade. In 8th grade, we had every single class together, including homeroom. Identical schedules. Clearly, we were meant to be friends. Since we hadn’t really taken the hint on our annual birthday meetings or in Mr. Kleto’s homeroom, the Universe stepped up its efforts and thrust us together. And we clicked.
Nadine and I are not very much alike. But thankfully, our friendship works very well, and I treasure it.
An Odd Couple, she’s Felix and I’m Oscar. (Just ask The Beloved and he will tell you that I’m Oscar).
She has her circle of friends, and I have mine. We are the overlap of our friendship Venn diagram.
She owns so many pairs of Amazing shoes that it boggles the mind. I have two pairs of comfortable slippers.
She travels all over the world. Me, not so much.
Nadine went to graduate school in Belgium and studied the Future EU Consolidation of 1993 When I asked her why that subject, she answered, “Duh: Belgium!”
I went to graduate school in my hometown.
She leaped early; I was a later leaper.
Nadine was always very active in her church. Me, not so much.
About ten years ago, Nadine sent me an email with “A Little News” in the subject line. In it, she declared that she was going to attend seminary with the goal of becoming a minister and having her own church. She felt called, and she leaped.
For the next OhSoMany years, she worked in a small town outside of Charlotte and then made the commute to downtown to attend her classes. I believe she may also have had Saturday classes. After a couple of years of that, she stepped down to part time at the job and full time in seminary. Then, she leaped again and started working in the development department at the seminary. Full time student. Full time fundraiser for the seminary.
We lived in Florida for a large part of her time in seminary, so Nadine and I only saw each other once or twice a year. We’d come up for Christmas to see my folks, and we would meet for a very long lunch, or a very long cup of coffee. On one occasion I became alarmed over how she looked. With too little sleep and too much work and school, she sort of forgot to eat, and I was worried for my friend.
But my friend Nadine is a very strong person, s she soldiered on and also remembered to eat. I like to think I had something to do with that.
I watched as my friend pursued her goal with intent and focus, and as we celebrated her graduation from seminary almost two years ago with not only a Master of Divinity but also a Master of Arts in Christian Education and an award for preaching, I was certain that she would find her church quickly. Or that her church would find her.
Although she continued to work at the seminary and was called upon almost every Sunday to guest preach and/or fill in for other ministers who were on vacation or sick or to help with Sunday School or services at her home church (my attempts to teach her to say no have all failed miserably), her church hadn’t found her yet.
Or maybe they just weren’t looking for her yet.
I’m sure that Nadine had faith that her church would find her. But even the strongest faith can be tested when, after working so hard for so long, nothing seems to be happening. Over the months, I knew to stop asking.
The Beloved and I visited Nadine and her wonderful husband Bill for a few hours this past Christmas Eve. That was when I found out that her church had probably found her. She was getting ready to officiate at her first Christmas Eve Service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Charlotte. I welled right up. This could finally be It!
A few weeks later, I received an excited email from Nadine letting me know that my invitation to her ordination service would be arriving shortly. I emailed back a long string of exclamation points followed by a most heartfelt, “I would not miss it for the world!”
As my parents and I—along with Nadine’s husband and family, other friends and fellow classmates, members of the Presbytery, coworkers from the seminary and the beaming membership of St. Andrew’s—sat in the congregation, I could hear the click.
Not the click of two magnets of opposite poles.
The click of the last piece of a puzzle as it finds its way home.
I could not be more proud of her. Or excited for St. Andrew’s.
Although her journey is not my journey, I have walked beside her through it all and have fervently wanted for her what she has been called to do, and I am overjoyed that she and her church have finally found each other.
I know that Profound and Wonderful things will come of this union; of this I am certain.
And as Nadine stood in front of her congregation on a recent Sunday afternoon and raised her hands in benediction—her first benediction as an ordained minister—I did not even attempt to stop my tears. When pride gets that big, it leaks out of the eyes.
I want to support my friend in any way that I can, and Nadine and I have talked casually over the years about my baking bread for her eventual Communion services in her eventual church. Now that she has clicked into place at St. Andrews, it is time to put project Awesome Communion Bread into action.
We will be ironing out the details over the next few weeks, so I’m not sure what types of breads I’ll be making.
This I do know, though: As I mix the ingredients, as I blend and knead, shape and let rise, I will be channeling all good thoughts, prayers, love and intention into each and every loaf.
In my small baker’s way, I will show support for my friend and for her calling.
Thank you for allowing me to share this story with you all. Have a lovely day.
Update: The Communion Bread