Two Cultures Knitted Together

Updated: Jun 24

The moving truck pulled up to 8615 Westchester Lane, and two-year-old me was in the car behind it. New home. A new city for little ol’ me. Let’s be honest, though… I was only worried about the goldfish I was eating and topping off my milk cup. Two-year-old Vanessa had very few worries in life.

Our family relocated from Columbus, OH, to Detroit, MI, for my dad’s job. He was in the automotive industry, so this just made sense. My little sister, a baby, was there too, and my older half-sister would be joining us on holidays and weekends. The weather was about the same between the two, and we moved into a middle-class suburb just like the one we left 2 hours and 56 minutes ago.

What I didn’t know on that day was that there was another two-year-old girl that lived in the white and black house one door down and that she would become the biggest blessing of my life. Her name is Angela.

Angela was born and raised in that house – her parents immagrated here from Palestine during the six-day war around 1967. Their house was SO MUCH FUN. If you’ve never been raised Arab… you are missing out! The “Titas” (grandmas) are a RIOT! The food is delicious, the people are vibrant, their belief in God is inspiring, the food is sweet-smelling, and it’s just an indescribable experience. How do I know this? It feels like my upbringing WAS partially Arab because I spent so much time at their house as a child. I ate lamb and rice. I learned a few catchy Arab phrases, and I was immersed in the culture. To this day, I still yell “YELLA!!!!” to my girls when we are late because that Arab word was hollered to us as kids. It means “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!”

Ok, so let’s set the scene. Angela and I eventually find each other, and the connection is instant. It feels like our souls had been searching for each other and finally united. We spent almost every day together until we were 13 years old, and our family moved back to Columbus, OH. It was a common joke that we were each other’s, only friend. We would only hang out with each other. Why? When your best friend is fantastic, there are no additional gaps to fill! You have all you need! When I moved, many people said we would drift apart, but it wasn’t going to happen. We were soul-sisters.

Angela and I have been through so much together. She has been my rock my entire life. Why do I say that she’s the biggest blessing of my life? It’s simple.

When someone who isn’t related to you decides to love you unconditionally for your ENTIRE life, it changes something in your soul.

Angela and I have been through everything together. Life has thrown us the early death of her dad, my parent’s divorce, burying our grandparents and aunts, graduations, boyfriends, weddings, new friendships, bullying, bad haircuts, college, successes, mistakes, new jobs, nose rings, relocating, five Presidential elections, and now… motherhood for both us – her with a baby boy and my two girls.

When I type out that I have tears in my eyes writing out those events, I mean it. I’m not a crier, people. Having someone who DECIDED to love you, who chose to stand with you through all of your ups and downs, who provided strength when you needed it… since you were two years old…there are no words that can describe it. It’s a spiritual thing.

It’s a love that can be described as divine. I’m not sure why God chose to give me an earthly experience of his love, but he did. Jesus came down and lived and then died for us. He didn’t have to associate with us humans, just like Angela didn’t have to associate with me, but he decided to anyway. It’s not an easy thing to do! Even when it’s not perfect, choosing to love someone unconditionally is holy.

The story isn’t done there, friends! Let me show you that God exists and has a plan that is so much bigger than ours. Keep going. It’s worth it.

So, Angela lives in Detroit, I live in Columbus. Stage set? Good. Moving on. Eventually, I move to Jacksonville, FL, to be with my sister, find the most amazing man, marry him, and start a family. Angela finds her prince charming, but there’s one problem. He lives in ALABAMA. What? God? Are you joking? Hang in, friends. It’s about to get crazy.

Angela falls in love and realizes that she will be moving from her close-knit family in busy Detroit to Alabama. But wait! Where do her husband’s sisters live? Did you guess Jacksonville? Her new in-laws live DOWN THE ROAD from me! They drive to Jacksonville for visits, and now we see each other all the time! She has a sister-friend that is close and isn’t so alone. We are connected and threaded together in unexplainable ways, yet again. God had a plan all along.

Our friendship has taught me two things – (1) we don’t know the plan of life, and (2) God loves us beyond our comprehension. Angela is that tiny thread holding my button to the sleeve of life. My mental health hasn’t always been excellent, but Angie has loved, helped, and carried me through all the trials. She has celebrated my most minor wins and been the only one strong enough to stand up to my bullshit. I am who I am because of her. I know that I can do anything because I have one person that will catch me when I fall. I can try different things, reinvent myself, and progress in life because one person chose to understand the real me.

To my family reading this: Thank you for bringing Angela to our family. Thank you for allowing me to connect, bond, and weave in someone from a different culture into our own. It can be awkward to hear proclamations like this when you’ve been dragged through my craziness by DNA connections. But, you handle it with grace. You’ve fostered and nurtured this friendship and allowed Angela to become our fourth sister.

Angela – thank you. Thank you for teaching me about culture. Thank you for forgiving me for stupid fights and severe transgressions. Your dedication to our friendship is omnipresent. I’m so excited that Luca is here and that our children will continue to be blessed and educated through our loyalty to one another. You are an exceptional mother, and I’ll support you every step of the way.

In closing, I challenge you, the reader, to find a friend and love them unconditionally. Especially in our world of division and tension… find someone that you can learn from and create an unbreakable bond. Chose to unconditionally love someone different from you.

It’s not easy. No way! It WILL be a decision that you make every single day. You will have to have awkward conversations, brutal honesty, and covenantal love. But, trust me, if you can tap into Jesus and ask him to help you… both of your souls will experience blessings beyond your wildest dreams, and our nations will transform.

How do you feel about that? Comment below with your story of unconditional love and unexpected blessings!

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