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This One’s for the Girls

August 24, 2011

The champagne cork pops.

Glasses are poured.

We fill our plates with cake and berries and bananas and drizzle it all in chocolate that has been melted on the stove.

We raise our glasses.  A toast.  To birthdays.  To friendship.  To being ourselves. To laughter.  To the hard stuff.  And to the really good stuff.  A toast to each other.

All my life I have had friends, but never girlfriends.  Friends were who I met with at coffee houses and breakfast spots to sit and talk about life for hours.  Friends were there to analyze relationships, faith, and where “my heart” was.  Friends were the people I would talk with until there was no talking left.

I am grateful for friends.  Some of my deepest relationships are with friends – built over lattes and cappuccinos and laid out on old suburban bedspreads.  But for all of those conversations and heart-to-hearts, I do have to say, my friends only brought out one side of me.  For the longest time I really didn’t know how to have fun.  I didn’t even think I was fun.  I didn’t know how to be a committed person of faith, a serious thinker, a passionate academic – and also let my hair out.  I didn’t know how to get dolled up.  How to be pretty and silly and girly.  How to go out on the town and have a good time because I’m fabulous and I can.  No one taught me to do that well – the serious and the fun.  The Christian who is the young 20-something.  The conservative dresser with the cute body.  But that all changed a few years back.  I met The Girls.

I wish I remembered my first encounter with The Girls.  I wish I remember the first time we all hung out, but the memory evades me.  Perhaps it’s because I feel like they have been with me for so long now, that I don’t remember a moment without them.  It’s like they’ve always been by my side, teaching me how to accessorize with bracelets.  While I don’t remember the first time we all met, it’s the memories that came later that I hold closest to my chest.  I remember hours of movie-watching together, with my old futon folded down and everyone squished together in a pile of pillows and legs and painted toes.  I remember walks through farms on Sunday afternoons when time ticked as slowly as our meandering through knee-high grass.  There were quirky towns we discovered, traditions we created, and tears we wiped away from each other’s eyes.  I remember good wine and long talks and the feeling that finally, finally there were people in this world who got me.  They got all of me.  They understood my profound and beautiful life of faith, but forced me to acknowledge that God gave us this life to live in abundance.  We were created for joy, and meant to live in it.  The Girls stamped those moments into memory.

We celebrated a birthday last night, but it was just an excuse to be together.  It was really a moment to pause, and thank God that these relationships have entered my life.  What an incredible gift to be so perfectly understood.  So beautifully un-judged.  So wonderfully celebrated for who we each are.  How incredible to be able to cry and laugh and pray and dance with the same group of women for the past few years.  I didn’t know I could have friends who were girlfriends too.

I raised my glass as a toast to them.  To the women who taught me to love myself, my whole self, and never apologize for who I am.  To the women who invited me into their lives to share in this journey – this very messy journey of growing up – armed with a glass of wine in one hand and a Bible in the other.

I toast to you, Girls.  The most fabulous women God could have put in my path.

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