I’ve just had one of the goldenest of golden days with my best girl friend.

She’s here from Australia, whence she wandered when she married her true love almost ten years ago. Every time I go up to her former home—almost an hour outside of the city and set on a hill commanding views of rolling pasture land and neighboring farms—I feel the years slipping away. I remember the endless walks we’ve taken through scenery as lovely as an English countryside. The lively conversations in the wee small hours of the morning, our Bibles spread open on our laps and the music of a whippoorwill outside the open window. Lazy afternoons on the porch swing and picnic lunches and midnight snacks.

The last time she was here we had tea on the front porch overlooking the old memory-haunted valley where we’d spent so many happy afternoons as girls. We laughed at the time that had passed, and pretended like it was ten years ago and that we still had all of our dreams and visions before us.

    “Only our skirts were longer then,” I smiled, glancing down at our almost identical, chic knee-length numbers.

    “And there weren’t all these lovely children!” she declared, snuggling her little girl who had sidled up with her own tiny tea cup. We both laughed at the parade of small boys who just then marched onto the porch with muddy boots and stick swords.

    “What children?” I cried. “Why, these are all just little fairies!”

But this week we went for one last ramble through the valley in its springtime glory. Sadly—tragically—development is lurking beyond its pastoral charms and its days are numbered. As we tramped down the drive there was a great mingling of joy and sorrow in my heart. I thought, unavoidably, of the coming destruction, and my imaginative mind made all manner of parallels to the eroding values of this modern day—what Sir John Betjeman so tellingly calls the ‘age without a soul’.

However, the joy of this beautiful friendship and all it represented, the life God had blessed us with and the dreams He had fulfilled in all the years since we’d been there together swelled within me as a wordless song of praise. My spirit kept whispering thanks to Him for His great beauty and goodness. My happiness was beyond expression and my dear friend knew it.

We slipped through the gate and ambled down a light-filled pasture, our feet crunching on the tussocks of grass, our every sense awake to all of the fleeting gifts of loveliness that dear realm had to offer.

    “The last time I walked here I was in a medieval gown with roses in my hair!” I laughed. Visions of knights and ladies danced before me, imaginary feats of derring-do, cows that became henchmen of an evil prince and an old vine slung between two trees that was a swing for the fairies.

I wore jeans this time, and my hair was in braids. In place of the faithful old Sheltie, ‘Bear’ a new companion fittingly named ‘Merrie’ frisked about in the grass just ahead of us. And two little boys pranced along beside, their eager commentary supplanting the giddy chatter of days gone by. So we went, past a pond holding a cup of sky, through a patch of wood, down, down to the valley itself, all green and gorgeous, with a little river cut through its heart, red-banked and overhung with budding trees.

The boys scampered down the path and I watched them with delight. A five year-old, slim and spry, with a darling mop of hair and the eyes of a poet; a three and-a-half year-old, adorably pudgy and utterly devoted to his big brother, trotting along behind pumping his fat little arms. Like Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear. Like the children my friend had envisioned so long ago.

We settled ourselves on a soft bit of grass in the sunshine and watched them play on the sandy bank. Murmuring softly over our cherished memories—in between removing little socks and shoes and forming the clumps of clay we were presented with into cubes and spheres—we honored the past. Our past, beautiful, maidenly, and sweet. And, in our hearts, we honored our wonderful Lord who is ‘righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made’.

Ten years ago this very spring we were light-hearted girls, gathering dreams for the future with as little care as we picked posies of violets on the wooded hill beyond the valley. I remember it yet—what we ate on our picnic, what we talked about. How I confided to her my dream of a ‘bit of earth’ and a man who loved the land. How her eyes grew soft over the plans for her coming wedding. How we both sighed over the romance of her unfolding love story and the devotion of her Australian sheep rancher.

It amazes me now to see how we’ve both grown since then, and how quickly ten years can fly. What figurative valleys God has led us through, and what sunshine His presence has been! What lessons we’ve learned and what loving cautions we’d give our younger selves if we could. We’re older now, and hopefully wiser, but deep inside we’re still those same girls. Idealistic enough to really believe that God is good; hopelessly in love with our husbands—who were but dreams back then; in awe of the Lover of our souls. And with a world of beautiful hopes for the future stored up between us.

Those friends whom thou hast, and their affection tried, grapple to thy soul with bands of iron. ~Shakespeare