I LOVE that God in His kindness often grows our family along the way.
Meaning, we come into this world attached to a group of people my blood and DNA, but many times as we grow and venture out into the world, we stumble upon people who change us. They may not share our gene pool or our blood type or even our last name, but somehow we connect as if we do. Things seem so natural. We find that we share heartbeats and passions and purposes. In some way we collect family and continue on the journey richer because of them.
This has most certainly been the case for me.
I was born into a rather small family. Not too many aunts and uncles or cousins. Mostly me and a lot of adults...
At a very young age my family began to grow. Good friends of my parents became aunts and uncles, their kids became brothers and sisters and cousins... Holidays in our family were always big and full even though our technical family unit was not as such. I loved that and so it became a part of me and how I lived my life.
As I grew, girls at church became little sisters and I have beome an auntie several times over in recent years despite my lack of blood related siblings.
This Friday I gathered everyone I could think of for a going away gathering of sorts. Mostly I wanted to celebrate this new God adventure properly...with sombreros and tacos and so many friends who have become family and who have changed me for good. I wanted to see their faces and hug them and absorb their love and support because collectively they have made me who I am today.
These people have encouraged me, inspired me, loved me, supported me, prayed with me and for me, taught me, challenged me, and so much more. If not for them I would not be standing on the edge of this cliff that is obedience to Christ and His call on my life ready to jump with confident faith and trust and so much joy. I owe so much to these people in my life, and I am so very thankful that God in His generous, loving-kindness brought each of them to me.
I am thankful and I am certain that miles and time zones and even international borders will never change anything.
Here are a few moments of this bittersweet letting go....
(yes I did insist on sombrero photos...)
To Riss and Brian. "We" go way back. The first couple I married. So many middle school tears shared and so much silliness. I am glad we always find a way to celebrate the big moments together and the small ones from afar.
This series of photos says it all. To my dear friend, my vice president/daughter, and the future president of the United States of America....thank you for being a constant source of joy and life and encouragement in my life. I am so thankful that we always pick up right where we left off.
We go pretty far back. Thankful for a year of sharing frustrations and dreams and catching up on life and good coffee...
Speaking of which...this gal has GREAT taste in going away presents :)
Miss has endured with me through the most awkward seasons of me...including this year. She is full of grace and wisdom and a lot of spunk. I would have been lost without her this year.
Third grade teacher at my former elementary school, car pool ride, and forever resource for well, just about everything. You never know when she is going to drop by or bump into you in the most random places and I can always count on her to keep up with me in whatever way possible. Thankful for her love and support and prayers that have spanned many years and miles.
I was blessed to meet this little lady and her family just this year when I moved home from Seattle. She is a little firecracker and so darn sweet. I enjoyed our lunches at the parks and walks/swings with Lincoln.
I am sometimes afraid of just how much this lady knows about me haha. She survived my teenage years....and she still keeps me around! Thankful for all the investments of time, love, prayer, support, encouragement and energy she has endlessly poured into my life. Thankfully, RUSH will always be home.
Aunt Donna and Uncle Jack drove over and hour to celebrate with me and to say goodbye for now...just like they came from Atlanta to see me start walking and made many a drive for dance recitals and graduations and band concerts....Long time friends of my parents from the deep south who I have only ever known as family. So very thankful for them in my life.
Gma and her crew. My Grandma has probably been my biggest supporter since day one and I am sure that she prays for me more than anyone I know...and recruits so many others to do the same. Pretty sure that thanks to her I have my own personal prayer team always. She brought her pastor and my Aunt Helen...another family friend who has always been family.
Always an excuse for festive, themed cupcakes. I felt like this was an appropriate space to insert a food photo.
To my sweet baby niece. The daughter of my brother....of course another part of my collected family. So thankful that I have the honor of being her auntie and that God was gracious in allowing me to be here for her first year. He was so kind to make a way for me to be an auntie after all :)
And to brand new missionary friends that I met just last Sunday. What a special treat to celebrate my send out with them as they have just returned from service. I have been blessed already by their wisdom and insight and encouraging words. Thankful to know I have friends and mentors in them.
This is where it all began...my lovely friend from Mexico whom I met over 10 years ago (not by accident I might add) came to Ohio one summer bearing lovely Guadalajara gifts. It was only PERFECT to use at my goodbye fiesta as I moved on to Mexico!
Morning spent with my roomie and dear friend doing our usual....coffeeing and targeting. Love just being with her and sharing life along the way. Can't wait for her to meet Mexico and break in her passport!
This girl. I would have been lost without her this past year. She jumped right in and made me feel at home back in Ohio. A fellow pastor, fearless workout buddy, encourager, and dear friend. She helped me navigate an awkward season and walked with me every step of the way. Thankful for all of the laughter and tears along the way and for many years of friendship to come! Saying goodbye came far too fast!
Who would have thunk that Tom teasing me in the hallways at New Life zillions of years ago would have led to my big sister living in our house and eventually getting to be auntie to these two crazy, silly boys!? Thankful for God's blessings in the form of people we meet along the way. Thankful that these ones have become family.
Said farewell to RUSH church and my beloved RUSH family this past week. Thankful to have had them this year and to carry them always with me in my heart. RUSH will always be home for me.
In the wise words of my favorite, tubby little bear,
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
-Winnie the Pooh