“There is the truth of history, and there is the truth of what a person remembers.” —Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
“Truth is deeper and wider and much more demanding than many people would like, but Jesus promised that it would set us free.” —Madeleine L’Engle
A July summer breeze was blowing through the tent that I had set up in the San Juan Wilderness outside of Lake City, Colorado. I shut my eyes and rested peacefully on top of my down sleeping bag. I listened to the wind in the aspen trees around me and then asked God a question, “When was a time where you were proud of me?”
His response came immediately, as clear as the rays of sunshine cutting over the corner of a powerful peak nearby. I smiled, feeling warmth collecting in the corner of my eyes as tears began to form while I reflected on His response, When you asked Rickelle for forgiveness last May.
I first met Rickelle in the fall of 2001. Erin and I had just started dating and I was meeting the hundreds of people in his life in the Colorado town of Fort Collins. This redheaded guy had a lot of friends. Rickelle was on Young Life staff at the time and I first met her at a Young Life event on the Colorado State University campus. She wore her hair in two tiny dirty blonde buns with bangs that swept over her brow. She naturally had the most beautiful long eyelashes on the plane—the girl never would need mascara or lash extensions. (Rickelle will blush when she reads this, but it’s true: She is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met, both inside and out). With clothes from American Eagle and Rainbow flip-flops on her feet, she definitely knew what it was to dress cool. I liked her instantly. Rickelle was one of the girls in the group that I could see was a “chick magnet” in the sense that girls were drawn to her and wanted to be her friend. She always had someone by her side, engaged in a good conversation. A few girls that I ended up getting to know well were close to her, so we would see each other from time to time at the same gatherings, but Rickelle and I wouldn’t get to know each other until much later.
Fast forward to the summer of 2002 where I was starting my first season as a backpacking guide for Young Life’s Rocky Mountain Region Backcountry. I was stoked beyond belief to be a part of such an engaged, tight-knit, and authentic community of young men and women with the common heart of showing teenagers the love of this amazing God in the Colorado wilderness. Rickelle (Kel) and I were chosen to guide together for an all-girls trip in July. At basecamp, our friend Megan braided our hair into at least 200 tiny braids so our hair wouldn’t be so nasty after not showering for 7 days on the trail. I remember thinking, OMG, I can’t wait to get to know Rickelle and I love that we look so freaking cool with our braids AND I get to be her twin for a week!
We guided a group of girls from Michigan for this trip and I’ll be honest: I believe the reason we were chosen to guide together on this trip was the sole purpose of beginning what would become a soul-connection sisterhood to each other. The girls we guided were complaining and ungrateful 95% of the time and I remember giggling, venting, and saying, “Dear God, these girls are not my favorite” to each other when we would have time alone to prepare content for the next day. We even ate an entire can of Pringles in secret that was meant to be shared with the group for one of our lunches and we didn’t feel bad about it for one second. Kel and I were totally selfless backpacking guides, ya’ll! During the long early morning hike of our peak climb, I remember one teenage girl who was a foot taller than me was moaning and saying she wasn’t going to make it. She made it her job that morning to be totally over-dramatic and she was bringing the group’s morale down. I got close to her face, threatened to carry her up the damn mountain if she didn’t get it together. She shut up and kept moving. Grace and truth, guys, sometimes the brutal truth is what is needed, right? Kel and I shared great, inappropriate laughs at so many things, like almost setting the “Big Meadow” area of Rocky Mountain National Park on fire with our whisper light stove. Inside jokes were birthed this week, our free time was spent having heart-to-heart discussions about what was most important to us at this stage of life: our boyfriends, our hopes for the future, our fears. All of this took place in the gorgeous grandeur that surrounded us, and became holy ground to our story, with Jesus joining in on the talks.
This all led to something I’d treasure the rest of my life; the beginning of a super important friendship. I remember when the well-known author, John Eldredge, came to one of our Young Life regional staff meetings and talked about the gift of giving one another our “swords” as we walk in ministry together. To fight for one another, to fight for the Gospel and the best story ever told. I remember Rickelle passing me a note. It read: “You have my sword. -Kel.” I kept it in my bible for years, grateful she had my back. We would go on to share many, many deep dives over cups of coffee as we walked side by side doing Young Life ministry together in Northern Colorado for a season and committed to staying in touch when she moved out further West. I have had very few friends in my life who know how to cut the bullshit and get to the core of you, get to the core of what’s sacred and important in your heart and Rickelle is one of those women in my life. She taught me how to go after the gold, the excavation of what’s real, what’s genuine. I have met few women whom so many women were drawn to… but they’re drawn to her because she is beautiful and real and raw, wise beyond her years.
Years later, I got married, as did she, and years beyond that, we both began the journey of trying to get pregnant and start pursuing our dreams of having families. Rickelle was now living in Grand Junction, Colorado, and she got pregnant before I did, carrying a baby boy. I then got pregnant and was carrying a baby girl, my Everleigh. It was a fun time of expectation and growth, both physically and emotionally, for both of us. The first experience of this is hard to describe. Your mind is trying to wrap itself around the concept of a new life growing INSIDE of you. How this new life is being knit together daily, without you having to even think about it. It’s just happening, and it’s the most holy thing and yet the most terrifying thing because you want this precious life to be doing perfectly well inside your womb. You want to make sure their spirituality, their emotional well being, their physical state is simply PERFECT and WHOLE. I prayed daily for these things over all three of my kids while they were in-utero, Jesus, please, please, please keep them safe, let them be healthy. I was in a constant flux of both gratitude and awe, fear and worry. There’s a bit of crazy that becomes your norm from the moment you find out you’re pregnant, to the moment you hold that precious life in your own two arms. The crazy is a cloak you wear and you just simply cannot take it off until you’re no longer pregnant.
During this time, we still lived in Fort Collins and I had just become a brand new labor and delivery nurse and was super passionate about my position. I was excited to think about how cool it would be to get to be Rickelle’s nurse if I worked at the hospital she’d deliver at. We texted about it and she said, even though you can’t be my nurse, I’d love for you to be my doula during my labor and birth. I, of course, was freaking excited at the prospect of that. The moment she said that I was ALL IN. I would drive day or night across the state and be there for that: is there any greater privilege than to be present for the birth of someone's child?
A few weeks passed and I will never forget reading a text that shook me to my core. It was from our mutual friend Amy, and she had written it on Rickelle’s behalf. She stated that Rickelle had an appointment, and found out that her baby had no heartbeat and she and her husband Caleb will be going through the process of delivering their baby soon, without a heartbeat. Without a heartbeat. Without a heartbeat. Without a heartbeat. That phrase was echoing in my head and couldn’t find its way down to my heart. I wouldn’t let it. How could this happen? I was devastated and couldn’t believe that this had happened, WAS happening. I immediately reached out to Rickelle to say I’m there for her, or something supportive like that. I truly had no idea what in the hell to say. What do you say when someone’s baby is alive and then the next moment, is not? What do you say when you’re both living your dreams out and then for one of you, the dream is no longer possible? Kel responded with what she could manage to say, we hung up, and then I just collapsed, crying for my friend.
I cannot imagine what she felt, and what she had to face in the next days as she and Caleb would go through the long process of labor and then give birth to their baby, who wouldn’t cry when he was born. Over the next few weeks, I would get updates about Rickelle through texts from our friend Amy as my precious friend was going through the battle of her life. I will not speak to what Rickelle’s process was from here on out, as that is not my story to tell, but what I can offer is my honest side of the journey. A few more weeks passed and I remember feeling guilty that my belly was growing, holding Everleigh’s life inside of it and Rickelle’s was receding, no longer holding the precious baby boy that she had profoundly loved, and longed for. I tried to reach out to Rickelle and would get a delayed response here and there, but I knew our relationship was different and needed to be for right now. I started to feel the connection to her slipping away and I was afraid of that, knowing that fear never takes us to good places. I knew I needed to be patient, to be there for her in whatever capacity was best, as I knew my pregnancy was a reminder of what wasn’t for her. Our parallel paths were now running in opposite directions.
As time carried on, I delivered Evie in November, I had lost touch with Rickelle completely. I missed her and thoughts of her flashed through my mind after we brought Evie home from the hospital. I wouldn’t hear from her for a while, and my sadness gave way to frustration, jealousy, and confusion. Why had I not heard from her? Surely she got my text that Evie was born? I remember finally sitting down and doing a chickenshit email that went something like, “Hey, I’m hurt. I miss you and I know you’re hurting, but where are you?” Moments later, I saw Rickelle trying to call me on my cell phone and I wouldn’t answer it. I was a little surprised that she responded so quickly, but I was too full of pride and pain and anger to answer it. My cowardly victim mentality gave way to self-righteousness and a bunch of other shitty things at that moment and I didn’t answer the call. That call could have changed everything, but instead, I totally went the (I’ll say it again) chickenshit route of communicating and let it go to voicemail. I was running from what I wanted and in doing so, I was being cruel. All of my actions led me by the hand of the Enemy to a comfortable prison of shame, and shame kept me from moving towards reconciliation and healing with one of my favorite people on the planet. Shame fueled the duration of disconnection and days became weeks, weeks became months and months became years.
Kel and Caleb bravely chose to get pregnant again, and she would go on to deliver three of the most beautiful boys on this good Earth; Gunn, Fraser, and Hank. I would go on to have our son, Finnley. We began sporadically texting or messaging here and there, and congratulations would be sent to each other. With healing and maturing and the passage of time, our paths began to cross again as we both started writing for Yes and Collective in 2017. When my baby Bodie was growing miraculously inside of what I thought was a barren womb, Rickelle was one of the first people I told and I invited her into a pivotal journey with me. Rickelle came in close, spoke life and truth into me, helped me wrestle with all of the fear I carried about the situation. She was back in my life on a more consistent basis, I could feel it, I could see it. Damn, I had so missed her in my life. She was back in the most beautiful of timings, and I felt so much love bursting for this friend of mine. Because of the story of her life, Rickelle had a glory about her. She carried wisdom and ease when it came to things that would make most uncomfortable; the pain she had experienced had given her new gifts, which I got to receive along my pregnancy journey with Bodie and in other avenues of our reconnecting friendship.
I began a women’s group that meets monthly and last May, Rickelle made the long drive over the mountains to come and speak wisdom and her noble truth over myself and this special group of women. On this warm May night at the women’s gathering in my home, I was giddy, knowing Rickelle and I were getting to “guide” together again. It had been 17 years since our time on the trail, but this night was not just for her and the ministering she was doing to the group of women, it was for me and a secret healing the Lord had in mind for me. The abundant healing He wanted to give to me as a gift. Kel was outstandingly fierce, exceeding every expectation I had, and she did exactly what I knew she would do: Show these women her authentic, vulnerable, compelling self. Kel carries the Presence of God and with that, she carries His courage into a room. As if shooting an arrow to the heart, she looked at one of my friends and said this phrase out loud, “We need you here. We need you be on this Earth. We need you here.” In an instant, I watched that arrow decimate a revolting lie that this woman had been believing for years. That’s what Rickelle does. She tells the truth. She tells you it in such a way, that you want to be her best friend for life. I freaking love her.
I do think the Lord sets up a stage for us—when we’re not expecting it—to take front and center in something when it’s time. He was setting up a stage for me with this entire night, and it would offer me a chance to heal in the spotlight, which is not where I would have chosen to experience this healing. As I was listening to Kel speak there was a moment when I felt the Holy Spirit say, Adge, you need to ask her for forgiveness. I started fighting back the tears and waited for the right moment where there was a pause. And then I obeyed because I knew He was giving me the chance to not only walk out of my prison of shame that had caused wounds to myself and to her, but also to obliterate the whole effing thing so that it wouldn’t be a place I would run to in our friendship ever again. “Rickelle, I just need to say I’m so very sorry…I…” and I started crying, became a blubbering mess as the words came out and then Rickelle goes, “Oh, Adge, you…” and I interrupted, “No, I need to get this out. I am so sorry for how I hurt you during your time of grieving Lake. I am so sorry I didn’t understand. I am so sorry I was angry with you and didn’t see you. Please forgive me.” Rickelle nodded with her gorgeous eyelashes blinking. Seven years of shame was taken out on the stage for all to see, and every inch of that stage became holy ground. In my moment of naked vulnerability, I felt a complete covering of freedom.
God, in His thoughtfulness validated my pain when He gave me the gift of validating her pain and the pain I had caused. I love that “mostly” is not a part of God’s vocabulary. What I mean is that God saw our friendship growing and moving forward and said, Let’s go for wholeness here, Adge. Not just mostly whole when it comes to your friendship. God is just that good!
For women, our relationships and friendships are so freaking important and valuable to us. Sometimes when we’re insecure, when we’re hurt, we become the most heinous of beasts to one another. I wanted to show you that I became one… a heinous beast girl, but God, in His goodness and never-ending grace, let us run together in and out of seasons. He lets friendships shift and change and come in close and then go out wide and far, and I know we never want to lose connection to our favorite people… but sometimes it happens for one reason or another and it’s no one’s fault. I hope this gives you hope. Friendships that matter will come back around. Friendships that matter will have brokenness, pain, and confusion, AND beautiful forgiveness, intimacy, and wholeness… so don’t wait another day to accept the phone call when she reaches out, because you’re the one who will miss out when you stay at a distance.
This is dedicated, of course, to Rickelle Hicks. She is one of the bravest women I’ve ever met. I love you and I continue to be so thankful to God for your friendship in my life and for your grace for me. I love you, Sister. I love our history and the holy ground we have gotten to stand on in our story, together.
Colorado Springs, CO
Adge is an adventurer by heart, climbing 14ers (mountains over 14,000 ft high) and simply being in the wilderness refills her cup. She married a man who shares that passion with her, Erin, and together they have three children, Everleigh, Finnley, and Bodie. Adge has a huge heart for women. She works as a labor & delivery nurse, loves one-on-one conversations, and lattes with intricate foam designs!