After a weekend like this, where you marry off one of your best friends, it’s hard not to spend a little time on the couch looking back at college photos and remembering the little nuggets of gold and friendships that cultivated during those late-night library study dates and Sonic runs and sweatpants and how it’s impossible to remain changed after living a dorm life, so forgive me for wearing nostalgia like an oversized sweater today.
Six years ago I was still getting over burying my grandfather and didn’t care much about church or community and just wanted to walk through life a little unknown. Boy, did that change.
Five years ago I met this sweet friend, Jeannene, at some church in a Bar, so radically different from my upbringing…a church that gave away t-shirts and coffee from a bar room tap. I went to my first Bible study with a group of ladies that are now in such different places in life. I nestled coffee cups in my hands and soaked up the audacious words Josh spoke from the stage.
Four years ago I started my first little Bible study that fell apart and fell back together at least three times. Four years ago, I think, we became the Sunshine Gang in the wee hours of weekday mornings in Valhalla with biscuits and tired eyes and a sweet soul that wanted desperately to pour into exactly who we were and make us more. Four years ago I read Radical by David Platt and couldn’t contain my heart flutters at the thought of craving the Word like an underground church in Chinta and the very idea that Jesus was the first small group leader, living life and breaking bread with his disciples – challenging, encouraging, and calling out the very things they were to be in the Kingdom, dusting the dirt off their feet from long walks and speaking truth over them and telling them to leave it all and go.
Three short years ago I was telling Madi that my life as a student wasn’t enough for me to survive on, that I was tired of being the one poured into with information and knowledge and concepts of what it means to live and serve. She was rockin’ the study abroad life in San Jose and I was staying up way too late writing essays and sonnets for class.
Two years ago I met Morgan in Swaziland with an Auburn sweatshirt and potato salad after celebrating my birthday in Nelspruit. I was miserable and green at the international life, but loving the green shade cloth and the red dirt and the lightening from shipping containers in the yard. We killed turkeys for Thanksgiving, y’all, and I remember the email I got from Madi that Thanksgiving morning – full of encouragement and home.
And now I’ve been in Rome for another year. I’ve had coffee dates and sleepovers and learned to make sweet potato souffle. I had to buy new pants and watched my three best college friends get rings from their men. Two days ago I watched the first get married.
We have our differences. It’s most apparent in wedding prep and the little details of planning such a big day – we.are.all.so.different that our friendships almost don’t make sense. But we love each other big, nothing will ever change that.
I hugged Jeannene, Gus, Emily, and Lindsey in that order just after the wedding Saturday, and my heart couldn’t have been more full than at that moment. Those four souls are the ones you meet and never “unmeet.” They’re the ones you can’t ever get rid of, even if they live states away and you don’t see them for two years or if they live across town and your paths don’t cross for months. They’re the ones that you’ll always hug with the biggest part of you and squeeze real tight, knowing your lives are different because you walked a little bit of it together.
I am a compilation of the people I’ve walked life with for 25 years. They’ve added notes and phrases, pauses and breaths, to the symphony that sings in my soul. You are the best you because of the friendships you’ve walked.