I used to think I was a pretty encouraging person. I’d write notes to friends and use humor (however cheesy it may be) to make them laugh on a bad day. Yep, I thought I was good.

Then I met Andrea, and my Encourager IQ dropped about a thousand points. Not that I’m having a woe-is-me-I-fail-at-encouraging pity party. But I just realized what it really meant to be a real friend, a Proverbs 17:17 and 27:17 kind of friend.

My Life was Average 

I know that many people view their twenties as that decade when everything is awesome: lots of friends, lots of—I’ll go with “activities”— lots of carefree, spontaneous fun, without children or pesky spouses to get in the way.

That’s not quite how it has been for me, though. And while I don’t agree with what our culture values for the twenties, in my more candid moments, sometimes I wish I did. In the five years I’ve claimed the title of “twenty-something,” it has been less of a party and more of a wasteland in the social life department. That sounds harsh, like I don’t know anybody and have whittled away my existence in my parents’ basement, but that’s really not true (okay, the parents’ basement thing is true, but not the whittling part).

College was amazing, but since moving home, let’s just say I’ve had a pretty empty dance card. And I really wondered what God was doing, because I just didn’t fit in anywhere. I was too old for this group, too young for that group, and well, too single for the other group.

But then, almost out of the clear blue, Andrea shows up. We had known each other for a while, or at least known of each other. But when she was the only one who laughed at one of my (albeit cheesy) jokes, I knew it was, as they say, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Encouragement Skill Level: Master

It felt as if Andrea and I had been friends forever, a lifetime even, like in some weird, completely platonic version of Inception. (Great movie, by the way.)

It wasn’t long before I realized that Andrea had this encouragement thing DOWN. I mean, she was really, really good at it. Cards, emails, ice cream. Seriously, ice cream. I love ice cream.

But it was more than just thoughtfulness. More than “Hey, I think you’re cool, let’s be friends.” No, it went way beyond that. Bible verses and prayers—not fluffy fridge-magnet Bible verses or spiritual platitudes or glib prayers. No, I’m talking deep spiritual truths, reminders of who God is, and what Scripture says about who God made us to be. And prayers only legit prayer warriors pray: “I’m praying you get the perfect photo of lightning without getting struck by it;” “I’m praying that whoever God has for you to marry is tall enough for you to wear heels;” “I’m praying that you stay awake during class tonight.” I mean, come on. Who prays those kinds of things?

My best friend, Andrea. That’s who.

Once, she gave me a scarf, just because she knew I liked scarves. (Guilty as charged.) Now every time I wear it, I think of her. And I realize how truly, how incredibly blessed I am.

It’s the Little Things

Most of the time, blessings come unexpectedly. You don’t see them coming, and you’re never quite sure how it happened apart from God’s gracious and sovereign hand.

Sometimes they’re huge—like an amazing spouse, the perfect job, or a free brand new car. But sometimes it’s the little things that turn out to be huge—like laughing at a semi-funny joke, a prayer for Mr. Six-foot-four Right or a scarf.

I could go on about Andrea, and give you all those cutesy lines from Hallmark about friendship. But I think we would both be missing the point.

It’s in this blessing of true friendship that I see God’s grace and faithfulness every day. Apparently He thought it wasn’t enough for Him to give His only Son to win victory over sin and death. It wasn’t enough that He has opened Heaven for our eternal state. He could have stopped the generosity there and I would render my eternal gratefulness and service to the Almighty. But He didn’t. Because there is no limit to His love, His grace, or His blessings.

I would have survived the twenty-something wasteland. I might have gotten some cats (actually, no—dogs) and started knitting, but I would have survived. But God chose to extend His hand of grace and bless me with Andrea. And I would be remiss if I went through the season of giving thanks without recognizing that.

What’s your favorite way to encourage a friend? How has God used your friends to bless you?