A Token of Friendship

"Summer", Frank Weston Benson

I can’t believe that it was fifteen years ago. How could anything be fifteen years ago?

It was April. One of our number was turning 21 and we had spirited her away to one of the most enchanted places on earth to celebrate: the coastal isles of Georgia. Twelve girls in one hotel room (don’t even try to imagine where we all slept: I have the distinct recollection that there was very little sleep to be had) and a mass chaos of feminine frenzy any time we wanted to go anywhere (in which we were divided between a fifteen passenger van and Nikki’s mother’s ginormous station wagon). A weekend at the beach for $40, complete with groceries, gas and meals–and one of the shining moments of my girlhood. (It was also the occasion of one of the most humiliating experiences of my entire life, involving the aforementioned station wagon and the golf course of the Sea Island Club–yeah, that Sea Island–but I’ll save that one for another day. Or not.)

One evening after dinner (the birthday meal at the late, lamented Blanche’s Courtyard) we went for a walk along the shore, abandoning our shoes at the boardwalk and flitting down towards the water in the fading light like so many moths, unbounded by the trappings of earth. We laughed and splashed in the tide, soaking the hems of our flapping skirts and, doubtless, one another. And then, as the darkness dropped down and enfolded us in an uncanny quiet we all became more serious. Quieter, in keeping with the great stillness that enfolded all the world and the deserted beach which was our corner of it.

Sarah taught us a song, a haunting round her mother had learned in France, that just seemed to speak the yearning of our young and uncomplicated souls in its simple adoration of the Savior:

Jesus my Lord, my Rock and my Shield, You gave up Your life that we might live.
You gave up Your life that we might live.
Gracious Savior, Gracious Savior, Gracious Savior, Jesus Christ.

We sang it, again and again, loving the words and the sounds of our own voices blended together in worship along with the winds and the cresting tide. And then we were silent, hardly able to make out one anothers’ faces in the moonless gloom. Hardly daring to breathe for the beauty of the moment.

A sound of clapping startled us out of the spell: slow and satisfied, first one and then another. Squinting in the darkness we made our way over to a driftwood log where, unbeknownst to us, a couple had been sitting for some time, watching the evening fall and listening to our singing. It turned out to be friends who lived on the Island (glorious Kingdom coincidence!) and they were so delighted with our visit and with our music that they asked us on the spot to come to their church the next morning and sing for their youth group.

Which we did. And which I still find absolutely hilarious to this day. But, oh so touching to remember on this April afternoon when life has scattered us literally all over the world.

A few years back my husband recorded some of us singing it, and I offer it here in token of friendship. And in praise of the gracious Savior that makes it eternal.

Jesus My Lord

15 Responses to “A Token of Friendship”

  1. Rebekah says:

    What a beautiful April memory … almost as loved as September ones. Was it really 15 years ago? I am ready for a reunion sans the humiliation that …well … two of us carry with us (no naming names of course).

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Yes, dear Bek–almost as loved as September ones…
      And thanks for not naming any names. That is generous of you… 😉

  2. Laura says:

    I read this post just after I started thinking about planning my older sister’s bachelorette party! Just the feel I would love for it :-) I’m not sure about a lot of the details yet, but I do want it to be feminine and girly (not wild and obnoxious :-) We will probably watch A&E’s Emma :-) Your totally delightful, elegant, and feminine parties will definitely be the basis for my planning! :-)

  3. Lisa says:

    That was so beautiful! My family has choral roots, starting with my dear late Grandpa, who was in a band at the monastery where he studied (before falling in love with my Grandma, of course!). He passed down his love for music and singing to my Aunt. In my generation, it was passed to two of my male cousins and myself. Listening to that piece brought me back to a time, not long before his death, that he, my Aunt, and I sat in the car, listening to a beautiful choral piece that my Aunt had brought back from Italy. Tears streamed down all our faces at the stark beauty of the choral harmonies, and in the recognition of the gift, the love of music, that we all shared. Thank you for posting this song.

  4. Deanna says:

    That is simply lovely!

    I may try to teach it to my girls…it would be lovely to sing at our small church…

  5. Josie Ray says:

    Lanier, thank you for another song–I do treasure these, and this one is lovely like the rest–and for a funny, charming story.

    If you have time, please stop by and take a peek at three lovely music videos I posted at my blog today. They’re full of beauty, grace, womanhood, faith, and I think you could do something like these. They actually reminded me of your spirit. Well, I think you’ll see some similarities.

    http://appalachiandream.blogspot.com/2010/05/too-well-kept-secret.html

  6. Josie Ray says:

    p.s. It’s only one step from having lovely photos and recorded songs, as you do, to making lovely music videos. I can’t help but think that you, and perhaps some of your friends, would find great pleasure in creating something like these.

  7. Josie Ray says:

    I wondered why, after listening to Jesus, My Lord, for the rest of the day I was singing By the Waters of Babylon (of Don McLean and R. Mullins fame). It seems the melody was composed by William Billings, an American composer (1746-1800), famed for acappella rounds, and he set to it the opening of Psalm 137. (Though I did find one reference that claimed that it is commonly, yet erroneously, attributed to him, and is of unknown origin).

    It is indeed a haunting melody. Here it is performed (fast-forward to about minute 7:30 on this video):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVj5s9YkE2Y&feature=related

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Wow, Josie–that was beautiful. And thank you so much for the background on the history of ‘our’ song. I am smiling at the fact that the melody is commonly attributed to Billings…our little group *loves* Billings. :)

  8. Jodi Lenz says:

    Exquisite…thank you, Lanier.

  9. Elisabeth says:

    This comment you may want to moderate – I feel as if I’m spamming your comments! :) I’ve been given a sweet blog award and have to pass it on to five bloggers. I instantly thought of you, although I’m not sure blog awards are in your style. Please don’t feel any pressure to pop the award in your sidebar unless you want to do so, but consider yourself awarded anyway! Thank you so much for all the beauty and sweetness you share on your blog. You’re a wonderful blessing and encouragement!

  10. Rachel Dettmann says:

    I cried just now for my mother….the arms that would rock me to sleep with a small song from the French countryside.
    How far the threads of our lives reach.
    Mama would not have thought that her mission trip as a fifteen year old…and then a lifetime spent in humble hiddeness, in the home with numerous children, could have brought beauty to all of us as emerging young women, or through you, dear Lanier, to a wider world.
    I wonder at how frequently and simply Mama would infuse beauty into our small everyday…but then she lived in awareness and adoration of one Beauty that fills the universe and permeates every corner.
    She believed in a hopeful light increasing, and whenever she would discover a spark somewhere, she would delight in it like a child, and then playfully act as a mirror, loving to see God light dance across little faces and around the room.
    You have reminded me again, that it is not what we say that will impact our world but our passions…what we take joy in.

    It amazes me how beauty and joy do not die…..but compound….
    I take hope this morning that we WILL see the triumph of Light over the darkness.
    Friend you are a mirror too.

  11. Rachel Dettmann says:

    That was the weep post (I cant listen to “Jesu..” without strong mother associations)…but this is the naughty post:

    Ahem…

    “We dream, disturbed
    Of unexpected green and wagon widely looming… of dashing men….. how they leap…
    and incredulous wrinkles peering in.
    Ah….the polo loafered splendour…
    inviolate until now.
    Flee, we flee away
    though in panic, crowd, confusion…
    the freedom most obvious
    is where the white ball flys.”

    Lucky you that I didnt

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Rach, I am an idiot. I just ‘got’ this.

      I kept thinking it was an Aussie ode to cricket. Of all things.

      Someday I am going to pen that tale. But I don’t think I could capture the glory and the angst as well as you have, my friend (in panic, crowd and confusion…) You poet, you.

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