True friends...

One of the joys of hitting a milestone birthday is that the party often continues beyond your special day as your circles of friends celebrate with you. My friends have enriched my life. Beyond the good times of sharing fun experiences...laughter...meeting for coffee , lunch, or dinner...running...sharing delicious meals...some travels...have come the times of long conversations over concerns for our children...discussing matters of faith...prayer over many things including health issues...and supporting one another in the death of a spouse, a sibling, a parent or even a marriage. I cannot imagine living this life without true friends.

Moving to new places several times in my life made the need for friendship glaringly obvious. I attended 4 different grade schools in two different countries in 6 years...transferred to a large high school in a different school district as a sophomore...moved half way across the country just two weeks before the start of my senior year to attend a small high school...followed by a year of Bible School...then college...then a large University for a year of grad school and then moved to Alaska two years into our marriage...and finally settled back to the place that I consider home. Each of these moves forced me out of my comfort zone...my natural, rather quiet, self. My mother taught me something very valuable early in my life. Her words stuck with me, "You have to be a friend to have a friend, Gracia."

Sitting back and waiting for someone to notice or reach out to me rarely worked. I had to learn to introduce myself, ask good questions, and almost more importantly, listen. Was it easy...is it easy, even now...to do these things? Not for me. I was a shy little girl and would consider myself an introvert to this day. Yet, by the grace of God, I made friends wherever I went, sometimes due to my efforts, and sometimes due to others who extended a hand of friendship. Like the girls at Amery High who invited me join them for a gathering of their friends after the first football game, just after a few days as the "new girl" in their school. Or the folks who welcomed us into their homes for dinner after attending their church in Anchorage, when we didn't know a soul in town. However the relationships came about, these friendships broadened my perspective, helped me to see the world through another's eyes, and brought joy, companionship, laughter, and a real sense of caring. 

So, this big birthday has brought several celebrations for which I am deeply thankful.

 A special night out in a limo with our "First Wives Club", eating at Pair restaurant and Shaker and Spear in Seattle. I love this group of women and our monthly dinners! Meeting one another through the friendships of our children and their involvement in sports, our friendship has continued way past their high school graduation. We go all out on the "big" birthdays...such fun!

Mimicking "the pose"...

Mimicking "the pose"...

A road trip to Spokane, WA with two friends to visit and stay with a friend who moved there several years ago. We ate dinner at Twigs, went out for coffee at the Vault in Couer d'alane, shopped together (and yes, three of us bought the same summer dress!), saw Beauty and the Beast (a movie we decided our husbands would probably not care to see, but we did!), and went to church together at Valley Real Life before heading home. We've been through a lot together in over 30 years of friendship.

The "sorority girl" huddle pose...

The "sorority girl" huddle pose...

A weekend at our cabin in Plain to celebrate two birthdays with this great group (a couple gals were missing) included late night talks, shopping in Leavenworth, wine tasting at Icicle Ridge Winery and cooking meals together. We had hoped to cross country ski but the snow was too wet and one of our gals had sustained an injury the week before in Sun Valley, but we had a good time anyway.  Birthday celebrations always bring fun adventures and lots of laughter!

Knowing that sunglasses hide a few wrinkles...

Knowing that sunglasses hide a few wrinkles...

As you get older, the value of having friends in your life who know your story grows immeasurably. You don't have to explain yourself, you know and care about each other's spouses and children, you have many shared memories and inside jokes, and any little slights that occur along the way tend to just get overlooked and are met with grace. When your parents are gone, your relationships with your siblings, close relatives, and yes, friends, are cherished even more. God made us to be in relationship, with Him, and with each other. 

So, this is my attempt at saying Thank you to my dear friends. Some are not picture here but I hope you know who you are and know that you are no less dear. Each one is a gift...and I treasure the times we spend together or catch up on the phone. I hope you always know that..

Lovingly, your "old" friend, Gracia