From South Florida to Kentucky to Minnesota to Florida to Turkey to the Azores and back to Turkey again, my life since I left home for college in 1995 has been about hellos and good byes.
I have many friends that I love dearly. But I have a few friends that have stood the test of time. I always say that each place I live, I take between 1 and 3 people with me and keep them forever. This probably puts my "Tier One" people (as I like to call them) at right about a dozen or so.
These are women that I can call after not talking for months. They are people that love me absolutely unconditionally and I never fear something causing a rift in our relationship. They are my intimate and bosom buddies.
So you can imagine, after so many years overseas, the opportunity to see THREE of these gals in a matter of days was nearly cry-worthy. (In fat it was cry-worthy as I teared up many times during these visits.)
So, without further ado, the highlight of my year:
A picture of Sarah the last time I saw her -- Disney World -- right before we left for Turkey in 2010. Sarah is married to my cousin Josh. They lived across the street from us in Franklin, Kentucky from 2001-2003. We like to joke they were like Ethel and Lucy. Truly just kindred spirits that could talk and be together without any pretenses. I am so amazingly blessed the Josh and Sarah live just thirty minutes from us now! Of course, we have no idea where we will be heading after this year. But just to be close to them for a time is like a balm on my spirit! I have now gotten to see Sarah three times since we got back, and I know there will be many more visits. She has three children: Jordan (10), Tyler (8), and Mary Beth (4 almost 5).
The last time I had seen Kelsey -- right before she entered the convent in July of 2009. One of the highlights of my YEAR was the phone call I received on Friday morning. My friend Kelsey (who now no longer goes by this name) called me! John answered the phone and his face immediately entered a state of shock. He wouldn't tell me who was on the phone but then handed it to me. I literally began jumping around! Kelsey is not supposed to make phone calls but due to the fact that she had just gotten my letter with my phone number and only had two days before she left on a month long mission trip, her Mother Superior broke the rules on her behalf! Kelsey's convent is just 30 minutes from me! She is two years away from final vows and is working as a school teacher in Knoxville right now. She happened to be home, my card came, and she had two days before she was gone again. She only gets a set number of "family visits" a year, and as the godmother to my children, her Mother were allowing us to come as her family for the day. Could we come in an hour? OH MY YES! We got those kids dressed and out the door as fast as we had ever done. I was literally jumping out of my skin when Kelsey emerged from the long hallway and into the room!!! To hug her was seriously a moment I will never forget. I have loved this girl since our paths crossed in Minnesota, and she will always be a sister to me. We spent the entire day in the convent with her seeing the place she has called home for five years. What a fantastic moment! I hope I can see her more during our time here!!
One of the last times I had seen Shea -- October of 2008. On Saturday, I drove two hours to see my friend Shea in Kentucky. Shea was my teammate in college and is truly one of the most loyal, kind, giving, good-hearted people you will ever meet. She is a country girl at heart and is now the mother of two boys (Heath who is nearly 3 and Luke who is just 3 weeks old.) She and her husband Justin let me spend half the day with them on Saturday. To see Shea and hear her voice was something I could not wait for. She has really supported us during our years overseas and is one of those people that I could call at any moment and know she would be there as soon as she could. I am so blessed that I'll be able to see her more now that we are in the same region of the country!
I am one blessed girl to have these women in my life. Of course they are not my only great friends, but they are three of my very special people!
P.S. I also got to talk to my awesome friend Kristi on the phone the other day!!! Aaaahhh, the goodness goes on and on!