Two years ago my world turned upside down.

I’ve written about this season before, but in the span of a single month, I had my heart broken, was banned from a bar (by the man I loved), and lost a friendship because of an altercation that resulted in a black eye. And then I had to bail this former friend out of jail.

Oh and I somehow wound up with bed bugs and lost a large percentage of my belongings.

March 2017 was a kick-me-in-the-crotch-spit-on-my-neck motherfucker.

The aftermath of all that chaos was an emotional doozy for me. All of a sudden I didn’t know who I was anymore. For most of my life, I have been the quieter, shy girl … the wallflower. The good kid, good student, good Christian girl. I didn’t date, I didn’t party or drink, I didn’t have sex till I was 23 and I stayed in a monogamous relationship for 8 years.

And now I was apparently a trouble-making hellion who dated the wrong men, got in fights and got thrown out of bars.

I didn’t know who I was anymore and it scared me. Add to that, my personal failings were incredibly public – a lot of people I didn’t know very well knew about my affair, the bar banning, and my friend and I falling out. And I started to fear that maybe what these other people thought about me was true. Maybe I was nothing more than a harlot … a terrible friend … a rabble-rouser?

I went through a really difficult time of self-doubt and questioning coupled with crushing heartbreak, and the only thing that kept me afloat during that season was my friendship with Ash.

And this is because Ash is a safe place.

We have written about our friendship before, but to me this is the greatest aspect of it. And I’m certain my words will fail to truly do it justice.

What do I mean by a safe place? Well for me, a safe place is a place I can go, with all my horrific failings, all my atrocities, all my hurts (be they self-inflicted or not), and know that I will be seen for the person that I truly am. Safe places are those precious people who provide a reprieve from the voices in our heads and the confusion in our hearts.

A safe place for me means that I can be whatever I am, in that moment – petty, jealous, uncertain – and know that I will have room to figure out what I’m feeling, room to figure out if my emotions are real or not, figure out what the truth is …. even if that truth is uncomfortable. And I won’t be abandoned or blamed or shamed.

A safe place for me means I am given grace even when I screw up (which is often) and it means true forgiveness. Ash is that place for me. We don’t hold wrongs against each other, but that doesn’t mean we don’t hold each other accountable or call each other out, because we do. But that is what a safe place is for – a place you can grow and be made better. I know that when she calls me out for something, it is always said with love and kindness. And it is always said in the hopes that it might help me grow. Because I know her heart is ALWAYS for me and never, ever against me. And I hope she knows the same from me.

My best friend, Ash, is a safe place.

My best friend, who has faced the wrath of my demons and loved me in spite of them. My best friend, who has reminded me of my truth, my worth, when I felt so lost and unlovable. Who held me as I wept angrily in a bar after a man she wanted to protect me against, broke my heart. Who calmed me and showed me the truth when I grieved the very volatile loss of a friendship. My best friend who has seen my selfishness and my sharp edges but understands the real heart hidden beneath my brokenness.

Ash was able to see who I truly was despite all that had happened. She was my anchor during that season and quite frankly, she’s been my anchor for the better part of 15 years. Because Ash knows my context.

She was with me in my early 20’s as I struggled with deep depression and the loss of my faith at that time. She was with me when I got married and with me again when I got divorced. She gave me a place to stay and she let me experience what I needed to experience during that season — being wild, being rebellious, barreling through life lessons at an alarming rate. And she’s allowed me that freedom and grace during all my seasons really.

She helped me, after all that happened two years ago, to see that I am a genuinely tender, imperfect, but loving soul that will absolutely combust when pushed too far  … when all I could see was a monster staring at me in the mirror. She helped me to discover that my true failings had derived from a lack of boundaries and a lack of standing up for what I was worth and what I knew to be right. I had been too weak in the situation with the man who broke my heart to leave sooner, and too weak in my friendship to realize how toxic it had become. I didn’t deserve the bar banning from the man I loved, and I didn’t deserve a friend who backed me into a corner and tried to fight me. But sometimes these are the consequences when you don’t enact boundaries, sometimes these are the consequences when you fail to love yourself well. These failings weren’t a sign of my cruelty or atrociousness. They were just signs of screwed up people screwing up.   

How could she see this? Why is she so gracious? Because she knows me. And I know her. And not in this, well we went to school together and have kept in touch kind of way. But in a very closely knit kind of way. I know her character and I know to trust her when she tells me about my nature. She speaks the truth with grace. She knows me because I haven’t shied away from telling her my terrible truth and she hasn’t shied away from telling me hers. She doesn’t lie and she doesn’t back down from the good kind of conflict, the kind of conflict that makes you stronger. I’m not going to lie, at times this has been exhausting, ha … but only in those times when I know I’m fighting the truth. But ultimately it is the thing that I value the most about my best friend. She allows me the freedom to make whatever choice, good or bad, while still gently calling me to do the work on myself.

And this is what a safe place is – a place you can go through seasons and transformations and evolutions and know that you still have a home to return to.

Truth. Truth has helped to build this safe place for us. Honesty. Vulnerability. Trust. And hard, hard work.

Ash is a safe place because she knows my vulnerable, honest truth and accepts it. All of it. Every good, bad, dark, wonderful, crazy, chaotic decision. She loves me exactly where I’m at. It isn’t co-dependent, she has fierce boundaries and has taught me to have my own. But it is an intimacy I don’t think many people get to experience in a lifetime.

With Ash, this safe place was forged through fire. We went through so many life changes, we even pushed each other away countless times. But we always humbled ourselves and made our way back to our friendship, knowing that if we just worked a little harder, the reward would be so worth it.

And it has been.

This life is bat shit. And wonderful. But without this safe place, I don’t know that I could be here right now. (God, this is mushy, but I’m just gonna say – she is the GD wind beneath my wings. Ok, ridiculously mushy part over.)

It is incredibly daunting to be alive at times. Self-discovery is a weighty and painful journey. And often a lonely one. I think that’s why God gives us these people, these safe places for us to rest on our pilgrimage to our true north.

These are the people who know our context. They’ve witnessed us grow. They can see us separate from our mistakes. They can witness us be cruel and know that we aren’t cruel, that we are just hurting. If there is anything I could wish for you, for anyone who might read this, for anyone who will never read this, is that you could build a safe place with someone. That you could reach that kind of depth in a friendship because it is life-changing.

Ash is the Ann to my Leslie, the Tina to my Amy. But really, deeper than that … she is the David to my Jonathon. If you don’t know that story, it’s a good one … even though it does come from the Bible.  It’s the kind of friendship that makes someone a king (queen), it’s the kind of friendship that survives every kind of adversity.  I feel so lucky and grateful because her friendship has taught me what a true, healthy relationship can look like. It has shown me the reward of investing in someone emotionally, with complete transparency. It has made me a better person.

She is my heart and my home. And I know that what we have will always be worth fighting for and working on. I will say this, I don’t deserve her. She’s a rare breed and I’m so grateful that for whatever reason, God gave me her as my best friend.

Ash is my person. And my safe place.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

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