As the calendar nears December a group text message always includes a conversation about the holiday calendar. When can we meet up? Group text is a sign of the times, but the group is a gift of time. Nearly twenty years in fact.
We all met in college, through classes, organizations and growing up friends. Each of our stories are different but have a lot of similarities. All these years later, we are far from those carefree days and well into life. We’ve stood up for each other in weddings, celebrated 30th and 40th birthdays, held new babies and cheered for those babies as they are growing up. Just this fall we sat in the bleachers of High School football thinking, how did we get here?
Along the way we’ve held each other up through infertility, family struggles, death, and broken hearts. We rally around on the best of days and never run on the hardest of days. We show up. We stand proudly beside each other. We cheer each other on. We don’t compete.
Friendships like these are few and far between, sometimes like our visits. Though even if months go by, never more than a couple of days go by without checking in. Our group text keeps us in touch when miles keep us from being face to face.
We started a Christmas tradition over 10 years ago, getting together for a meal and an ornament exchange. You don’t just bring one ornament, you bring 3 and you’ve usually bought the same one for yourself. Each gathering has been a little different. We’ve cooked meals, we’ve been out for meals. We’ve met early for breakfast and we’ve stayed out to the wee hours. We’ve driven to see Christmas lights and we’ve shopped boutiques in tiny towns. We’ve even seen Santa!
When we’re at a restaurant, we let our server know “we’ll be here a while.” We always laugh really loud and wipe a few tears too. As we exchange our ornaments, there’s usually a story to each one; where they were found, and why they were chosen. Of all the times through the years we see each other, Christmas gatherings are the sweetest. There is something about the season.
Christmas is a sweet reminder of our faith. We four are deep rooted in believing in Jesus and knowing who holds our days, that faith sustains us. For all of the highs we’ve celebrated, the last couple of years seems to have been some of the hardest in life. Two Dads are now in heaven. One husband has been diagnosed with aggressive ALS.
As I decorated my Christmas tree this year I pulled out ornament after ornament from these exchanges which eventually filled my tree. I can remember the conversations about ornaments, think back over the years as they are marked on most, each one a special part of my Christmas. When all the ornaments are on, my tree tells a beautiful story with twinkle lights shining on a friendship that is one of the greatest gifts to my life.
As I think about this Christmas, it will look different yet again for each of us; because 2016 has brought loss and change. Despite the year, Jesus has been near to us, and for that we will continue to celebrate. We will lock arms to face the next year ahead knowing we are by each other’s side; when the lights are shining the brightest and when all the décor is put away and routine returns.