friendship

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 36: Hiking in Charlotte

This past weekend was our first real weekend in Columbia. So naturally, we left town. 🙂

Some of our best friends live in Charlotte which is only 1.5 hours form Columbia. Since it was Labor Day Weekend and there was no work or school on Monday we headed to Charlotte on Sunday afternoon after attending our first church service in Columbia. (It was an Anglican church, so that was new, but more on that later).

After arriving in Charlotte we joined our friends and the four of us piled into the car and headed to Crowders Mountain, the closest hiking spot in the area. It was a 45 min – 1 hr drive to the trail head.

The trail was gentler than most of the Korean hikes we’re used to, which was fortunate since the Dunn clan isn’t in peak physical condition these days. After about an hour we made it to the top and enjoyed the view. While it was a much smaller mountain with a lower elevation than the ones around Daegu (a measly 1,624 ft), the air was much clearer which made for a better view.

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We loved being able to hop in the car and see our friends who we’ve missed so much over the past two years. We also loved getting to do some hiking which was one of our favorite activities in Korea.

After hiking we went back to Brandon and Christy’s house where we had dinner together with Bill and Jordan, a couple they’ve become close to while we’ve been gone but who we’d never met before. (Spoiler: They were totally great). After dinner we played a pretty intense game of Funglish (I’m still convinced the boys were totally cheating) that went on into the wee hours of the night, mainly because we girls were so infuriated that the boys kept getting the easiest cards and we refused to admit defeat.

We didn’t get home til 2 AM which felt wild and crazy for someone like me who is normally in bed by 10 if not before, but it was well worth it. We deeply missed sharing life with our friends while we were gone and we want to take full advantage of being so close to them now.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about my epic roommate reunion you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

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Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 35: Epic College Roommate Reunion

After a whirlwind first week in America I left my hubby and new home and headed up to Chicago and then Wisconsin for a reunion with my college roommates at our friend Anna’s family lake house – a place that holds a lot of sweet memories for all of us of our time in college and beyond.

To be honest I was nervous to see these girls after two years living abroad. While we’ve all been friends for a long time now, through five post-college years and different life stages I was anxious about whether it would feel the same to come back together after being gone for two years during which I grew and changed at what felt like an accelerated pace. It also felt strange that the other girls had all seen one another without me on multiple occasions during my time in Korea and frankly, I was worried about whether or not I still fit.

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Together again! We all made it! 2 from South Carolina, 2 from North Carolina and one from the Chicago area (where we all met).

I was relieved to find that even though some things were different and I had moments where I felt disconnected from the lives and experiences of my friends, for the most part I still felt like we clicked and meshed well together. And more importantly than our different life experiences over the past few years, we still care about each other and are genuinely interested in each others’ lives.

One of the most exciting things about the weekend was celebrating Christina, who is getting married this month, with some special bachelorette activities. (And by bachelorette activities I mean Christina wore this headdress and we gave her lingerie and lots of dubious marital advice and drank tequila).

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Asharae describes this headpiece as her crowning achievement in crafting and I am inclined to agree! My favorite part of this picture though is Taylor in the background eating chips and guac and saying something with her eyes closed.

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Unfortunately, it was fairly cool (for August) and rainy during our weekend at the lake, so we didn’t do a lot of our usual lake activities like sunbathing and water skiing. We did make it out on the lake for some casual boat rides around the rain, but mostly we stayed cozy inside eating tons and tons of foods, talking each others’ ears off, playing games, and watching movies. Basically, it was perfection.

I brought my friends some gifts from Korea – superhero minion socks, scary face masks, and hilarious lip masks, all of which we tried out on the spot.

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Since I’ve gotten really into makeup and makeup artistry over the past year or so, my friends graciously allowed me to do makeup experiments on them  – some more successfully than others – to try out new things and practice looks for Christina’s wedding.

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The best part of the whole weekend was that this time when we all said goodbye we knew it would only be 4 weeks til we will be reunited again at Christina’s wedding which three of us will stand in as bridesmaids while Asharae and her husband do the photography.

I am so incredibly thankful for these women and for their friendship over years and miles. It’s kind of a big deal. ; )

Thank you also to all of you who have sent such kind and encouraging messages during a very busy and stressful time. Now that moving and my travels are done I am ready to get back to more regular posting here and to figure out what normal life will look like in this new season. I admit that the transition has been both easier and harder than I anticipated, but more on that later. For now, thanks to the many of you who have shown such kindness and support over the past few months and especially the past few weeks. It is genuinely appreciated.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can also click this button to read other bloggers’ adventures. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few. If you missed last week’s adventure about our not-so-extreme home makeover you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Thankful Thursdays Guest Post: Old Friends are the Best Friends

I’m excited to share today’s guest post from fellow writer Cara Meredith. Cara and I “met” (online) because we run in some of the same circles, blog-wise. I’ve been enjoying her blog, Be, Mama. Be. for quite a while now and was honored to  do a guest post for her last month. Whenever I read Cara’s writing I just want to sit down with her, some big cups of coffee and a cozy couch and talk about all the things. I think you’ll see what I mean.

Old Friends are the Best Friends

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Old Friends are the Best Friends.

Now I’m not knocking those who’ve only been in my life for a year or two, but to me, there’s something powerful about being around people who stake double-digit claim to how long they’ve known you. Suddenly, that which unites current, everyday friends – children who are similar in age or religious beliefs and practices or the city we dwell in – doesn’t seem to hold so much weight.

The irony is that when Old Friends step into the picture again, we can seem to hold little in common: staunch Republican, left-wing Democrat; traditional evangelical Christian, meditative Buddhist yogi; married with four children, single and still ready to mingle.  If you’d asked me ten years ago if I thought I could stay in relationship with those who hadn’t moved and grown along with me (and like me, I might add), I’d have likely mumbled a pithy reply.  I’d have shaken my head in solemn understanding of the sadness of my own plight.  I’d have said my good-byes, at least in my mind, no sooner than burning old letters and dreaming of Friendship’s Funeral.

We share great memories, I would have said to you, but memories can’t sustain a friendship in the present. 

Or can it?

I’m beginning to realize I was wrong.

Maybe wisdom is starting to grab hold of me.  Maybe I’m learning that life isn’t as narrow and compartmentalized as I make it out to be, at least when I’m hurting and sad and missing the people who make me whole.  And maybe I’m also realizing that life is merely and solely and wholly made up of relationships.  Life is made up of people, of lovely, messy humans who are mine – and who, the grand scheme of This One Beautiful and Precious Life matter to me.

To say that I’m thankful for Old Friends is an understatement. Because gratitude burgeons deep in my insides when their faces come to mind, while affection for the stories we share mercilessly stirs the waters of my soul.

Because the books I own, they don’t matter.  The writing I do, it too doesn’t matter.  The house we love, the television we watch, the baseball games we attend – don’t matter, don’t matter, don’t matter.

But the people – oh, the people, they do matter.

For me, I’m beginning to sprinkle a bit more grace into my relationships.  My standard for friendship used to be high, even though I wouldn’t have classified it as such – but for me, you were a good friend, we were good friends if you pursued me and sought after me, if you showed me you wanted to be my friend.  And maybe that’s why if and when someone – an Old Friend of sorts – didn’t live up to my standards, like the cardboard I stockpile in our recycle bin, I discarded them easily, carelessly, breezily.

But now I want my cardboard back.

I want and I yearn and I salivate for those Old Friends, for the ones I don’t have to explain myself to, for she who loves me despite my flaky nature.  I want to be around those people – who are, by all accounts My People – even if we don’t dress the same way or eat the same way or worship the same way anymore.  Because there is tenderheartedness toward each other in the stories we’ve shared, as we remember and retell and revisit our histories.

After all, we share us. We share the memories that made us and shaped us and defined us, the adventures we took together when we didn’t have more than $74 to our name, when we thought backpacking was the greatest invention since sliced bread.  We share stories of Europe and Costa Rica, of Santa Cruz and Portland and Seattle, of campfires and barbeques, sleepovers and road trips. We share the growing up we did together, as teenagers and as young adults, and we share the common experience of learning how to be our most raw and real selves, the Real Me hidden inside all along.

Because here’s the truth: joy and gratitude can mingle anywhere. Maybe it’s the optimist in me, but I believe they’re there, waiting for our cue to start the dance party, ready for our eyes to open to what’s already there.  For me, this mingling happened with old friends on Friday night, over wild boar and cheddar sausages and chunky summer salad and coffee mugs filled with chilled Chardonnay. We gathered to visit with our old roommate and friend who’d flown across the Pacific to say hello, but it ended up being so much more than a backyard barbeque.

It ended up being a reunion of Old Friends.

And Old Friends, as you well know by now, are the best friends.

Carabio1About Cara: 
Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from the greater San Francisco bay area. She is passionate about theology and books, her family, meals around the table, and finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places. A seven on the Enneagram, she also can’t help but try to laugh and smile at the ordinary everyday. You can find her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter
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Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 10: Putting a Ring on It

Living abroad can be exciting, but there are some really difficult things about it as well. One of the hardest things is missing out on important events in the lives of the people I love. Our first fall in Korea one of my roommates from college got married. On her wedding day I cried for hours because it felt so wrong not to be there. This week’s adventure is a story of me trying to be involved in the big moments from the other side of the world.

Last summer when I went home to the US for vacation, my best friend, Christina, flew out to my in-laws house to spend the weekend with me. At the time, she had just begun a serious relationship with a guy I’d never met – Andy. In the way of best friends, I knew almost immediately that this was it. He was “the one.” So I dragged her to every jewelry store in the mall and made her try on engagement rings. They’d only been dating for a few months at the time and I never would have done that under ordinary circumstances, but I was about to leave for another year and a lot can happen in a year. I wasn’t about to miss this.

Me and my Christina.

Me and my Christina. Can’t fight a love like ours.

See what I mean? You can totes tell they want to be together forever.

Christina and Andy. Not quite as much love as Christina and me, but you can totes tell they want to be together forever.

It might have been pushy at the time, but I felt pretty validated when Andy started asking me about rings in December. If I’d been there I would have just taken him ring shopping, pointed out what she liked and didn’t like, and graciously tried on as many rings as necessary for him to get a visual. But I was in Korea, so I did the next best thing. I made him a thorough, 20-slide powerpoint complete with quiz questions and prizes that plays Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” throughout the presentation. (Remember, Andy has still never met me in person and so undoubtedly thinks I am a complete freak. Worth it).

Put a ring on it

This is the final slide of the powerpoint I made for Andy. For the record, Christina was not being picky and demanding about the ring. She would have been delighted by anything he picked out. I was the one being picky and demanding.

So I “helped” Andy shop for a few months. There was much conferring. There was much secrecy. Then, a few weeks ago I was skyping with Christina and she said, “I think he’s going to propose soon.” At THAT EXACT MOMENT I got a message from Andy.

“Are you still skyping with C? I have an excellent update.”

“Ring has been purchased. I’m picking it up in an hour.”

I stayed stone-faced like a baller. I deserve an award for this. I have a VERY expressive face.

Last weekend Andy and Christina got engaged. (Hurray!) I knew it would be happening while I was sleeping Saturday night which made me so excited I hardly slept at all.

If I had been there I would have met Christina at the door with champagne and a Brides magazine and I would have taken her to get a manicure the next day. Since I am in dumb Korea (just because everywhere that is not where my friends and family are is dumb at times like this) I had to improvise. Another awesome friend of mine who lives near Christina agreed to act as my agent and got the champagne and the bridal magazine and other goodies and brought them to her apartment while she was out getting engaged. The whole operation was a big success.

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Didn’t we…er he…do a great job? Look at that bling!

Now to tackle my next trial – obnoxiously inserting myself into every part of the wedding planning that happens in the six months before I get back home. Challenge accepted.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Friendship for the Socially Anxious

Today I’m participating in Cara Strickland’s synchroblog on friendship. I thought about reblogging my Friendship in 7 Movements post from last year, but it is long and specific and also, I wanted to do something new.

I’ve never been good at surface friendships. I guess I don’t have a lot of interest in talking about things that don’t matter. I don’t like conversations where you’ve spent an hour talking to someone and walk away feeling like you don’t know one another at all. I want to skip the getting-to-know-you part of the relationships. I want sweatpants and you snorting when you laugh and me accidentally breaking into song without noticing from Day One. But as it turns out, most people don’t want to talk about family histories and their biggest dreams and how afraid they are of being a mother (and, equally, of not being a mother) fifteen minutes after meeting someone.

I’m a classic introvert – I greatly prefer one-on-one interactions to groups of people.  Parties both terrify and exhaust me. Most people would never guess that 9 times out of 10 I have to push myself out the door to keep a social engagement. The night of my junior prom I got all dressed up, hair and makeup done, and promptly burst into tears because I didn’t want to go. I suppose you’d call this social anxiety.

But unlike some introverts I know who fade away into the background at a gathering, I’ve always tried to combat my social anxiety by acting self-assured. Ironically, it is in social settings where I am least comfortable that I am loudest. I try to be the funniest, the friendliest, the most interesting. It’s like watching a train wreck from above where I can’t seem to stop myself from blurting out the first thing that pops into my mind.

Believe me, the irony of trying to make deep connections with people while putting on this party persona is not lost on me. I know that it makes no sense and is even counter-productive. But sometimes I feel like something comes over me and I can’t stop myself even as a part of me watches in horror. I am desperately uncomfortable, but something in my subconscious screams that if I give in and stand quietly against the wall no one will like me and I’ll never have friends. And what could be worse than having no friends?

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As a child I fell in and out of best-friend-ship on a yearly if not monthly basis.

My problem with friends wasn’t the cattiness or pettiness that ruined so many other playground friendships. It was the intensity I brought to friendship that seemed to overwhelm my peers.

I loved too fiercely. I chose someone and I clung to them with a loyalty that sometimes frightened us both. I wasn’t possessive – wanting to be their only friend—but when I chose someone I longed to show all of myself to them and to have them choose me back. And often, who I was was just too much.

It wasn’t that these friends didn’t like me – they just weren’t prepared to or maybe even capable of putting as much into the friendship as I did. I cared about all of their details. I wanted to show that I loved them by learning as much as I could about them. And inevitably, the day would come when I would realize that I knew all their favorite songs, their middle name, and what kind of sandwich they brought for lunch, but they didn’t even know my favorite color even though I’d told them three times. My feelings would be hurt and they would be freaked out that I had a notebook where I recorded all of their preferences (just kidding!) and we would move on to different friends.

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Eventually, I learned to be self-protective in my friendships. I learned to expect that others would not love me with the fierceness and loyalty I felt towards them. I learned to guard myself from sharing too much too quickly and from expecting that everyone I chose would choose me too.

And then, in college, I made a new kind of friend – the kind I’d longed for growing up and nearly given up on. I found my people, the ones who will forgive you when you’ve hurt them and will join in when you make up a song about your toothbrush. And I learned something crucial about friendship – you can’t make it happen the way I try to at parties.

True friendships are divine. Yes, they require attention. They require effort. But mostly, they are gifts. Like love letters from God himself.

A friend isn’t a possession. You don’t collect friends like souvenirs from places you’ve been. You can’t make friendship happen. But when one comes your way, you say thank you. You treat that friend like a spectacular sunset or a stunning concerto – you thank God for its beauty and for letting you experience it, even though it’s something you can never wrap your grubby hands around.

I have a friend I’ve known since high school. She’s a few years older than me and we didn’t do a great job of keeping up once she went to college. We have seen each other only a handful of times over the past decade. We don’t talk on the phone. We only occasionally chat online. I try to see her when I’m in town visiting my parents. But she is precious to me beyond words. She is a friend of the heart –someone I trust completely and admire deeply. She is one of the first people I think of when I need support and one of the people whose encouragement means the most to me. I cried when I saw the first pictures of her daughters and on my wedding day she gave me a handkerchief she’d used at her own wedding to use as my “something borrowed.”

This friendship is not the work of my hands. It’s not a credit to my engaging personality or a testament to what a good friend I am (because, as I said, I am rubbish at keeping up with this particular friend). It is pure grace. And all I can say in response to that kind of grace is, “Thank you.”

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.