The first time I met Claire was the day lifegroups launched for the first time at my church. I had fallen in love with the life groups at my old church and decided to jump into one at 4Corners. I went to Claire's table because she had cookies. (What? I love cookies!) This was spring of 2005. I was never not in a life group again until just recently, and I'll be joining up in one again here soon.
Claire was the first person that I really got to know at my church. I was really terrified to go to her life group meetings because I was pretty sure no one would like me. They were probably all smarter than me and they would realize that I stink at this Jesus stuff and :insert any number of self-concious things here: In some ways I still feel that way whenenever starting a new group. Through her group I would meet Justin and Bobbie, who will have their own post later in this series. I also met Courtney there (who told me yesterday she's reading these so Hi Courtney!)
Claire's lifegroup gave me a lot of confidence in asking questions and sorting through a lot of baggage I was holding on pretty tightly to. I was in that group through the things that happened that brought all of the childhood happenings with John, Mae and Betty to light. That group, and Claire specifically, really held me down and grounded me when the drama of those few years threatened to blow me away. I learned about prayer from Claire, about worship and about a real life not always pretty but always worth it realationship with Jesus from her. She and her husband Fred have taken me in and loved me in a simply refreshing way.
When I would try to spout some of my bullshit about myself Claire would just tell me over and over again, "You know that's just not true right?" Whenever I would miss church or life group Claire would call and "touch base" which made me feel so wanted and included. It never felt like something she was just doing to do, but it truly felt like she cared where I was. At times when I sometimes felt like I was drowning in baggage and drama hearing her voice on the end of the phone was a true life line.
Our lifegroup disbanded in 2006 and I was pretty sure I'd never find another life group like that one. I was right on some levels, but on another, it's good that we all moved into different groups. I've learned so much from each of them and some of my favorite friendships at 4 Corners were birthed out of life groups.
Even after our group ended I would chat with Claire on the phone, I dog sat at their house and just generally hung out. Claire and I would hang out and just chat. We'd have dinner or give each other books to read.
Claire challenges me to deepen my relationship with Jesus and to step out boldly as a leader. When I was floundering and wondering why on earth anyone would want me to lead anything she called me out of the blue (although I realize it was no coincedence) and told me that she was proud of me and knew that I was going to be great.
The other thing I love about Claire is seeing her relationship with Fred. Like Ben and Jill I have no illusion that theirs is a perfect strife free marriage. But, I see the way they handle each other and interact. I see that they don't coddle and back down, but they aren't needlessly cruel (or really cruel at all). Even when they argue you can see the mutual respect in the arguement, which does a world weary single girl good to see. One time, back when 4 Corners was still at the high school, Fred had gone out of town on a camping trip. I was sitting with Claire and Fred showed up at church when he wasn't supposed to be home until later. He snuck in and sat beside Claire and they both just lit up. It was terribly cute to witness.
Claire has taught me so much about having a relationship with Christ and how to live that out every day. She's shown me how to have humor in the face of sad things and that I should be more confident in the ability that God has gifted me with. I can't imagine these last few years without Claire's friendship and wisdom and I'm very glad that I decided I needed a cookie that spring morning.