Growing up, my sweet grandparents would buy my sisters and I a gold bead for a necklace every year. Granted, at the time it was an anti-climatic gift as compared to Pound Puppies, Easy Bake Ovens, American Girl dolls, or whatever else we absolutely needed to exist that year. And, if you know my fearless little sister, Brittany, you would not at all be surprised that every year, upon opening these gifts, she would pout dramatically, tear up, and say loudly, “Oh, no! Not balls again!” We still laugh about it now! But seriously, though the beads were pretty simple alone, when we started to see them strung together on each of our respective necklaces, I think our opinions began to change.
In the same way, the past few months have seemed like a series of goodbyes with these family friends or these students or these church friends. We have been blessed to have sweet times with many of our dear friends and family celebrating what God has done and who they have been to us. As we are approaching our departure (we are just rolling out on May 15th, house finality or no house finality!), I am blown away by the picture of His faithfulness through friendships and kindred families.
We had a sweet weekend at the Isle of Palms with our dear friends the Cope’s (round one of our goodbyes) and then were able to make a memory where the kids washed each other’s feet as a symbol of real friendship in Christ. As we drove away and I teared up, G was quick to remind me that they were sweet provisions of friends in a very lonely season of life for me. It was incredible to think how much God has done since I first met them and how He forged lasting friendships in our families. Ty and Drew are best buddies and to hear them laugh and have inside jokes makes my whole soul smile. Eli and Evi were born only days apart, and they really do love one another!
We were also able to visit one of G’Joe’s dearest friends, John Roland, and his family in Atlanta for the weekend. The Roland’s graciously hosted a get-together so we could say bye to our Atlanta friends. We were able to chat and laugh hysterically with Randy and Barbara Smith, our former pastor and his wife but more importantly, mentors and friends. We got to hang out with Jessie and Chris and the Sanders, too! The kids played for hours, we set off a rocket, we spent an entire Sunday afternoon in their driveway playing charades and chalk. Every time we hang out with John and Whitney, we stay up and hear stories from when G and John were hopelessly single (and happily so!) and talk about marriage and parenting and life. I treasure those times with the Roland’s and see Jesus through them!
Even though the Baxter’s and the Lightcap’s live close by, we don’t get to see them near enough! We had a sweet night hanging out with the brood of children we all have produced in the past 7 years. The kids watched movies on the projector screen (another momento from G’s bachelor days) outside, while we caught up and dreamed and shared on their porch. As we pulled away at 10:30 pm with wired children, we were both so thankful to have friends who have known us for so long and seen us through many seasons of life.
During a San Diego Send-off with the Greenville staff team, we laughed hysterically at dinner with the Meisenheimers, the Arrrowwoods, and the Creasmans over dinner. These people have walked through life and ministry and marriage and parenting with us for so long, they have become family to us. We love their kids and they love ours, we have lived in many a nasty hotel for weeks together, and have seen God do so much in our own lives!
Each of these “good-byes” and a hundred other little conversations or moments here and there with so many others who have become so dear to us in and of themselves have value. But as we string these moments together and get ready to leave, I have been so humbled and blown away by the faithfulness of Jesus. God has provided many friends and a few deep kindred spirits; He has knit our family with other families; and He has even provided kindred spirits for Tyus and Eli. While it is overwhelming and scary to be leaving so many of these, I can’t help but see His faithfulness and be hopeful for this next season of life. G keeps saying we are leaving for MORE of these friendships and this community, not LESS. Oh, how I pray that is the case!