Friendship in Seven Movements

I’ve never been someone with an overwhelming number of friends. I’m not the sort of person who can’t stand being alone. I’m not that person everyone knows, or the person who can make friends with anyone effortlessly. I’m not the smartest, the prettiest, the funniest, the kindest, or the most fun to be around. And yet, I have been honored with some extraordinary friendships throughout my life. And when I am loneliest, here on the other side of the world, I remind myself that through no virtue of my own, through only the goodness of God, my life is rich and full because of these women. Beautiful women. Strong women. Talented women. Women who inspire me with their creativity, their passion, their perseverance, their grace, and their courage. This piece to remind myself and to make sure that they know.

Friendship in 7 Movements

I. Rachel

You are one of my first friends. Kindergarten is a scary place when you’re the girl who can’t stop talking, suddenly thrust into a classroom where you are expected to sit quietly and LISTEN.

I don’t remember the first day we met, but I remember so many days afterwards. Hours of dress-up, for some reason obsessed with re-enacting the movie A Kid in King Arthurs Court and swimming in your above-the-ground pool. I was jealous of your pool, but more jealous of your bangs, which I begged my mother to cut like yours. She said if I had bangs I’d just have to grow them out by wearing one of those fountain ponytails on top of my head. You moved away before you grew yours out so I never got to see if that was true.

When you moved back in middle school we discovered that all those years apart we’d been growing to love the same things. We had so much in common – books and movies and a somewhat severe sarcasm we seemed to encourage in one another. Maybe we actually had too much in common? Sometimes in high school we seemed to rub up against each other like two flints whose friction created sparks without meaning to. We were trying to figure out who we were and sometimes it was like we both wanted to occupy the same space at the same time. Sometimes it felt like there wasn’t room for both of us.

And yet…somehow, we made it through. You extended grace where I was selfish and l Iearned that we could be alike and also different and there was room for both.

We both moved away to college and you came to visit me. You sent me cards on my birthday, and we still borrowed each others books (and I’m sorry that I never returned A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). When I got engaged, you hosted a bridal shower for me. And for my wedding, you welcomed all of my friends into your home and counted them as yours.

We have lived apart for the last seven years – in Texas and Chicago, Honduras and North Carolina, Washington DC, Denver and South Korea. We’ve been apart, but we’ve continued to grow together. Discovering some of the same things in our own ways. Catching up on skype is full of, “Have-you-read? Have-you-seen? Have-you-heard?” and “I feel the exact same way!” That thing that was too alike when we were pressed up against each other, each of us trying to spread our own wings, is now the thing that keeps our hearts connected across continents and years.

Your mind challenges me, your heart inspires me, and your generosity humbles me. (Also, the fact that you are smarter than me humbles me, but this might be the only time I admit it. ;)) You’ve been my friend for more than twenty years and you still seem to like me. What a rare gift.

Winter 2008 (I think?) in Chicago

Winter 2008 (I think?) in Chicago

 

II. Leigh

I know it’s a cliché, but really, who would I be without you? We are the most unlikely friends. You are closer in age to my little sisters than to me, but somehow that’s never mattered. It didn’t matter when I was 8 and you were 5 or now that we are 26 and 23. Maybe it should have mattered when I was 14 and you were 11, but by then you were my family.

You gave me the freedom to play when I was too old for it. Together our imaginations took us to places far beyond the blue house by the train tracks. My most vibrant childhood memories are wrapped up in those worlds that we created. We played Mandie and Annie, The Sound of Music, and American Girls. (And, OK, I went through that one phase when I was obsessed with Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter). For several years we addressed each other by various fake names (the longest-lasting I remember were Annette and Annelise). When we were little we ate hot pockets for lunch and cookie dough straight from that tub in the freezer. Eventually our tastes grew more sophisticated and we splurged on virgin pina coladas and filet mignon.

Your family became my family. Not just your parents, but your aunts and uncles and cousins, your family friends and even your doctor. Each summer I came to DeRitter and stayed at your Aunt Mel’s house so I could see you in whatever production the Little Theater was putting on that summer. I went with you to your grandfather’s funeral where I wrote an inappropriate poem to slip into his casket. For a while, I had crush on your much older cousin David. When you were sick, my mom drove me down to New Orleans to visit you in the hospital. We overtaxed your poor swollen belly with laughter and trips around the nurse’s station. I’m sure you couldn’t walk for days afterwards. Your mom and I both cried at your high school graduation when you were named Sacred Heart girl.

Your family helped me to love Louisiana for its history and unique culture. You took me places like Abita Springs and Maringouin – tiny towns I never would have known existed without you. Before my wedding, you took me on that  overnight getaway to that precious B&B in Abbeville that our younger selves would have just died to stay at. Together we explored the world and learned to appreciate our heritage.

All of these moments are beautiful memories for me, but the real beauty of our friendship is how it has grown. It never mattered that we were in different life stages or lived in different places. We understood each other at the soul-level. So even though we have changed from the people we were when we first met, our friendship has always stretched to accommodate those changes.

You have become this confident, elegant, accomplished, independent woman You are focused and organized and you work hard for the things you want. You are the very definition of charming. You are warm and kind and incredibly fun to be with and people listen to you because you know how to communicate with both wisdom and grace. I want you to know, I would love you now, even if I hadn’t known you most of your life. But I’m so glad to have had you these18 years. One day, we will be old lady friends together. I can’t wait.

Record of us once being young and beautiful - something we will reminisce about when we are grumpy old ladies.

Record of us once being young and beautiful – something we will reminisce about when we are grumpy old ladies.

 

III. Lanise

You are a beautiful soul.

We met in the high school youth group. We were both designated as “leaders” (whatever that meant) but we quickly realized we were also kindred spirits. We waded through the murky waters of evangelical purity culture together wearing safety shirts and spending most of youth retreats and summer camps trying to keep teenage boys and girls from flirting, hell-bent on saving them from their own sinfulness. And somehow, we both journeyed out of that world and into a place of grace.

We talked for hours and hours about our hopes and our fears and our dreams, the way teenage girls do. But we also laughed a lot, watching old movies, listening to music, drinking coffee and eating brownie batter straight from the bowl. We both fell in love. You were a little ahead of me in that process, but we both got engaged and then married within a year of each other. We’ve walked together through seasons of excitement and wonder and seasons of brokenness. Your capacity for empathy has always inspired me. Throughout our friendship you have encouraged me, you have celebrated with me, and you have grieved with me. You call out beauty in me that I don’t see in myself and you make me want to be the person you see in me.

These days we hardly see one another and we don’t talk as often as we should. But when we do, I am instantly reconnected, like we’ve never been apart. Our hearts beat to the same rhythm. You inspire me. Your hands create beauty all around you. The home you have built with your husband is a refuge of peace in a chaotic world.

You are lovely. Your creativity, your sense of humor, your gentleness, and your wisdom make my life and the lives of others more beautiful. And, girl, let’s face it, you’ve got some of the best damn hair God ever put on a head. 😉

I know this isn't our most flattering photo together, but it's probably the most accurate.

I know this isn’t our most flattering photo together, but it’s probably the most accurate.

 

Here's another one so people can appreciate your bridal beauty and your awesome hair.

Here’s another one so people can appreciate your bridal beauty and your awesome hair.

IV. Christina

It is possible that you are my other half. I know people usually say that about their spouse, but you are the only person in the world who can join in with a song I am making up on the spot. You are the only person in the world who understands that when I say I want to live in Disneyworld, I mean that in the most literal way possible and I am not joking even a little bit. And you totally get it. You are also the person who will listen to whatever ridiculous fear or frustration I am having without judgment and will say, “I love you, but I think you’re really wrong about this.”

When I first met you in college, I didn’t have any idea what God had just dropped in my lap. It was the beginning of college, you were my suitemate, always there on the other side of the bathroom, but frankly, there were hundreds of new people to meet and I knew that just because the college assigned people as roommates and suitemates didn’t mean you were destined to become best friends. But over those first couple of months we started to click. And then, a few months in, when you started moving your mattress into our room instead of yours, the magic happened. Midnight runs to Wendy’s without my pants on. Waking up to birthday pancakes with candles in them the way my mom always did it. Crawling into your bed in the middle of the night when I had a bad dream, you rolling over without questions to make space for me.

And after our first international trip to Russia together the summer after freshman year, the deal was sealed. Something about traveling together, something so sacred to both of us, cemented the bond between us. Now we have been in six countries together (7 if you count Disneyworld as its own country, which I sort of do.) We have been together for some of our biggest moments – my wedding, your grad school graduation, our first marathon. And we’ve been together for some of our weirdest moments – laying on the floor inside your dorm room closet, almost being trampled by an elephant in Africa, spending hours making ourselves tutus.

Nobody is as stupid with me as you are. Sometimes it’s like we speak our own language and I don’t even realize it until someone who isn’t us comes into the room and the look on their face seems to say they don’t understand anything we’re saying even though I’m pretty sure we’re making perfect sense. Our combined ability to rationalize and justify absolutely any decision (especially if it is related to why we really need Chinese takeout and fro yo again) is both a powerful and dangerous tool.

You have become an essential part of me. When you are happy, I will celebrate, when you are hurt I will be indignant. When you have to make a big decision I will help you weigh the pros and cons. When you are sad, I will cheer you up, and when it’s too heavy for cheering up, I will sit with you and share your sadness so you don’t have to carry it alone. I can say with confidence that I will do these things for you because you do these things for me.

You freely give of yourself more than anyone I have ever known. I’m pretty sure that nobody in the world (not even Jonathan or my own mother) would go to the lengths you are willing to go to just to make me happy. The people you love are some of the luckiest people in the world. I am one of the luckiest people in the world. You are a once-in-a-lifetime friend (maybe a once-in-many-lifetimes friend) and I am profoundly grateful for you.

 

One of our most recent pics together.

One of our most recent pics together.

V. Taylor

The story of how we met makes me laugh every time. It started with a boy. A boy you had dated and a boy I thought maybe I wanted to. I was jealous that he was still hung up on you. And you were (maybe?) jealous that he was hanging out with me. I thought, “Who does she think she is?” I decided to talk to you –figure out what your deal was. It took all of one conversation to realize your “deal’ was that you were awesome and we were going to love each other forever.

You taught me so much about having friends who are different from me. It’s easy to appreciate people who have all of your same interests, but with you I learned to appreciate new things simply because you loved them. Without you I can guarantee I never would have cared about whether or not Wheaton had a poms squad. And I’m sure I never would have gone to an NFL game.

I love that you are adventurous and always up for whatever life throws at you. Remember the time Christina and I hid all your bras and made you a treasure map to find them? You didn’t even bat an eye. You just followed the map giggling in that cute way you do when you are about to laugh so hard you cry.

I sobbed myself sick the night in November when you got married and I was a world away. I’m sure my absence in no way ruined your wedding, but I was overwhelmed by how wrong it was for me to miss it.

Watching you do the hard work to build your photography business over the last few years has been inspiring. Not only do you create stunning images that speak for themselves, but you have vision and you are able to invest and be patient, even when it takes years for your dreams to come to fruition. You have taught me so much through the way you manage to make life work for you wherever you are – in Seattle or in Ecuador or in Charleston. You are independent and wildly talented, but unrelentingly kind.

Last week I got a package full of sweet and thoughtful gifts. You had chosen each thing for a specific reason and put them all together with notes explaining why you wanted me to have them. I am moved by your thoughtfulness and by how intentional you are in making the people you care about know they are loved. Thanks for making me one of the people you love.

Remember that one time your hair was straight and dark and we were twinsies?

Remember that one time your hair was straight and dark and we were twinsies?

 Interlude

Check out these pictures, guys.  It’s so weird to put them all together like this! We’ve changed so much. Especially our hairstyles, haha.

Ok, earliest picture I can find with most of us in it. (Sadly, no Anna) This is sophomore year, spring of 2008.

Ok, this is the earliest picture I can find with most of us in it. (Sadly, no Anna) This is sophomore year, spring of 2008.

Graduation 2010

Graduation 2010

Roomie Reunion 2012

Roomie Reunion 2012

Roomie Reunion 2012

Roomie Reunion April 2013

Roomie Reunion/Taylor the Bride party 2013

Roomie Reunion/Taylor the Bride party July 2013

VI. Asharae

Sweet friend. I can’t think of a single fault in you. You are gentle and graceful and you dance to some beautiful music of your own creation. You make me want to love simplicity and see beauty everywhere I look.

I loved living with you in college in our stuffed-to-the-rafters room with the squeaky fan. I loved when we made that painting, barefoot in the parking lot of Northside Park – my car speakers cranked up as far as they could go playing music while we danced in the paint under the stars. I loved that we got to be roommates while we were both engaged – planning weddings and futures. And I love that we ended up in North Carolina together, finding Home in the same corner of the world.

Here is the thing I love most about you, Asharae. You are yourself. Always.. You are ok with being unconventional. You are unconcerned with the expectations of others and you don’t allow anyone to pressure you into fitting into a certain mold. And who you are is lovely.

I am deeply moved by the intentional way that you and Tim love people – your family, your friends, and your clients. The way you are willing to slow down and just BE with people is tremendously rare. You have a unique capacity to make others feel valued and important and to capture the things that matter most to them in your photographs and videos.

You are so supportive and so encouraging to me in every venture I’ve undertaken. You continually speak words of grace and hope into my life. I’ve often wondered where that never-ending fountain of hopefulness in you comes from. I wish I were more like that. Thank you for the way you always open my eyes to beauty I can’t see. In the world and in myself.

 

Asharae the Bride!

Asharae the Bride! And I’m pretty sure this photo is Adam Pratt’s work.

VII. Anna

You are one of the most loyal people I’ve ever known. When you love someone you love them forever. When you love someone you will defend them, you will stand with them, you will fight for them, and you will never lose faith in them.

You (and your family) have welcomed me so many times. Some of my best memories of college and afterwards have been the times we spent at your family’s lake house. I got the unfair advantage of getting to go more than the other girls the summer I spent in Wheaton during college and the year Jonathan and I lived in Naperville. So many happy moments spent tanning on the deck, waterskiing on the lake, eating the enormous spread your mom always prepares, and, of course, drinking too much tequila at Taylor’s little bachelorette weekend. Your constant friendship has been a gift – in times we’ve been together and in times we haven’t and I’ve gotten cards in the mail or an email in my inbox just to remind me that you’re thinking of me.

I see amazing resilience in you. There have been difficult moments for you over the years that we’ve known each other – struggles with your health, or with family circumstances that weighed on your heart, or with questions about what direction your life is meant to go in. Through all of those things I have seen a faith that is unshakeable. This especially inspires me because I am not that way. I find cause for doubt in the tiniest circumstances. But you are steadfast.

The last few times we’ve spoken or have seen each other, I have seen something new in you. A joy and contentment has welled up in you and it spills over. It’s beautiful, and I hope for my sake that it’s catching. Know that I think of you every time I see an adorable coffee mug or a killer pair of shoes, and I’m in Korea, so that’s often. 🙂

Brandon and Christy's wedding, August 2011

Brandon and Christy’s wedding, August 2011

****

This piece couldn’t possibly encompass all the people who have touched my life, who have shown me love and have taught me better ways to be. Rachel A and Julie and Mary and Christa and Julia and Jerusha and Laura, you have all been gifts to me.

To all of you: You have served, you have loved, you have challenged, you have encouraged. You make my life rich and full of beauty. And I am truly, deeply grateful.

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