My "outside the church" friend
My friend's name is Ada (pronounced Add-uh) Alfonso, (pictured above with her husband and two youngest children), she lives here in Tampa, and she's my friend and my hairdresser, in that order.
Ada has improved my hair 100% but most of all she's improved my mental health. And she has enriched my life so much spiritually. Let's see, where do I start in telling you about her?
She's one of the most incredible people I know. There are many multiple layers to who she is, her life story, where she came from that makes her who she is today. She has been through many difficult things in her life and triumphed. She has an amazing life testimony but since I don't have her permission to tell it here and I'm writing this blog without asking her, I won't tell it. This is simply because I'm not sure how she'd feel about it. (The loyalty and confidentiality in our relationship go both ways.)
Ada is an incredible woman, wife, mother, hairdresser and friend. She is a wife to Chris, and Mom to three beautiful children ~ Zach, Albert & Sophia. She is a member of Grace Family Church in Tampa and has been since the very beginning when the church was just small. She has worked in their ministries and grown with them all along. (I think they number about 4000 or something like that now, not quite sure, I might be off either up or down by 1,000, but anyway suffice it to say, they are a mega church.) Ada works in the kids ministries, the youth ministries, the cafe, on the ladies retreat committee, and all kinds of other stuff. She will probably always do this even if they grow to 20,000. She's very ministry minded.
Ada is a gifted hairdresser who is just absolutely expert with color, and very creative. I trust her implicitly and would have no problem just sitting in the chair and saying, "do whatever you want" and know I'd come out looking great. If it wasn't for Larry and his preferences, we'd do something radical every month, but we get as creative as we can possibly get within the boundaries. :-)
Ada is a beautiful woman as far as appearance goes, who has what I would call a trendy or an edgy look most times. (She likes it when I use that word "edgy".) She's petite with beautiful skin and perfect straight teeth and she smiles a lot.
She's a great cook. (She's Spanish and I don't think I've ever had pork, rice and beans better than hers anywhere.) She's one of the most giving people I know, and she's basically what most people picture as your stereotypical "perfect Mom." But she'll be the first to admit she's not perfect.
So what's so fabulous about our relationship? Well, it's like this. Ada understands a lot of my world because she is so involved in church ministry and has been with a church in leadership from it's fledgling stage, to a mega church. She is close to her pastor and his wife and sometimes a confidant to them on various things. I've never heard her say one bad or questionable thing about them. In fact, she would defend her pastor and pastor's wife to the wall to any naysayers - and she does! She gets really peeved if anyone criticizes them. This is one thing that really attracted me to her as a friend. Many times we share about the things of God and there are times she points me to one of her pastor's messages or even gives me a copy when it's something she thinks is particularly awesome that others need to hear. She is always praising her pastor and church and this endears her to me.
As much as she loves her church she is also very excited for me about what is happening in my church! Every now and again somebody will come to her church that just doesn't fit with the mission, vision and core values set forth by her pastor and they may decide Grace is not the church for them. Maybe by what they describe, she thinks they may be a good fit for our church, so she tells them about us. We are very supportive of one another's place of worship.
She understands the demands of a growing church and she knows what it's like to be serving in a church at every stage of it's life. She pretty much knows the levels and what they demand. And she knows the expectations placed on pastors. Although she is not a pastor, I can talk to her easily about pastoring stuff, and she "gets it" without any explaining. There are times she admonishes me about this or that and says, "no Deanna, you've already done more than enough in that situation...I think it's time you just go on to something else..." She's always got my best interest at heart.
Through the past few years of my being her client, our relationship has developed into a wonderful friendship where I have come to realize her faithfulness, confidentiality, and complete loyalty as a friend. There are very few friends in this world where I am absolute certain that they have my back absolutely 100% of the time and she's one of them. I really am completely safe with her, and that is a wonderful thing.
I never hesitate to tell her something because first of all, she holds me in strictest confidence but second, there is not a conflict of interest because she doesn't attend my church. Nor do I want her to. If she came to Northside it would ruin everything!!! Please understand, she's probably one of the greatest assets a pastor could ever have...basically she's a "model church member." But one of the pluses for me is that because she is not a member at NS, I can just freely lay everything out to her and talk to her about it, without feeling like I'm crossing the line in some way. At the same time, when I talk to her she understands the issues I talk to her about because she is very involved in all things church.
If I was particularly worried or upset about something one day she'll always call me the next and say, "okay, I just needed to check in with you and see how things are today...are you okay?" If she knows I'm not feeling well she gets really concerned. Many times she will give me her insight on what it's going to take to solve my problem or grow to the next level, having gone through it with her church or in relationships before.
When I get my hair done, she generally blocks the time off and doesn't have any other clients come in during those hours so that they are exclusively ours to catch up. I know that costs her quite a bit -- most hairdressers are working on several people at once - putting somebody's color on, then doing a cut or style, then coming back to rinse the color, etc. But to her it's not about money. She says that she likes that it's "our time." She tries not to book anyone else when I come in, unless it's an emergency or something with a client. Reason being, we like to spend the whole 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours that I'm there talking exclusively.
She's always happy for me when good things happen for me (I mean, she get off the charts happy...totally elated!) She roots for me, compliments me, prays for me, and really cares about my success. She prays for me about things going on in my life. She feels sad for me when I'm going through something. She doesn't just listen -- it's not her style. Although she's a great listener, the word of wisdom and exhorting is one of her greatest gifts. I don't think anybody in Tampa has seen me cry as much as she has. (I hardly ever cry, but when I do...look out! There are days I've just sat in her chair and sobbed.) She always makes me feel better. I probably laugh with her so much because I'm really not afraid of her thinking something I'm laughing at is inappropriate! :-) I usually blurt out whatever I'm thinking off the top of my head with her because I don't feel there is any reason not to. I know it's not going to come back on me. Sometimes if I have something particularly funny to tell her, I don't call - I have to wait to see her in person because I love to see her face when she laughs about something we both think is really funny. So I e-mail her and say, "I HAVE SOMETHING SO FUNNY TO TELL YOU!!! But it will have to wait..."
She's one of the kindest person I know. Sometimes she does difficult people's hair and I don't know why she puts up with them. I'm always telling her it would be just fine for her to ditch them but the truth is, she would never hurt their feelings by not scheduling them if she had an opening. I don't know how she keeps her cool many times but then again, I'm sure she wonders how I keep mine in pastoring sometimes.
There's only one downside to my relationship with her and it's really the same downside that we all have with a great friend - we simply wish there were more hours in the day to spend time together. My life is busy. Her life is busy. But the time we DO spend together is precious, and even when we are not spending time together in person we always know the place we hold in one another's hearts.
I love you Ada! Thanks for being a phenomenal friend.