Meet Crystal. I've been lucky enough to call this gal my friend for the past 9 years! Flash back to the summer of 2003 and Crystal and I both were working at Doe River Gorge on summer staff. I was the head lifeguard and Crystal helped train the high adventure staff. What a great summer that was! So many memories were built and so many friendships established that would last a lifetime (I'd like to add, it's also the summer I met the love of my life, "Shua", as the staff referred to him. Uhm yeah, I stick with Joshua, "Shua" sounds like sneeze if you ask me! Don't you agree?! Sorry, never been a fan of this nickname!) Anyway, almost immediately Crys and I hit it off (that line sounds like something cheesy you would say after a first date, but hear me out...). You know what I mean, when you first meet someone and you think to yourself, "Yep, I like this person, they're cool and down to earth, I can totally see us as good friends". Because for goodness sakes, we all know there are those crazy encounters with others where you think to yourself, "Uhm, yeah, not so much! I'm steering clear of this one! CrAzY!". Well, that summer really laid the foundation of Crystal and I's friendship, we both grew spiritually from the work God was doing in hearts and were able to challenge each other as God refined us both in unique ways.
|Summer 2003 (Lauren, Myself, Crystal and Joshua)|
Right after the summer of '03, five of us girls from Doe River decided to move into together, and so, the infamous blue house known as the "Girl's House" was established! Our beloved old blue house (that quite honestly was somewhat on a sketch street, with two rundown trailers on either side and a scary basement infested with spider crickets), became the house where treasured conversations, genuine fellowship, honest accountability, and lots of laughter took place! I look at the picture of this house and a flood of amazing memories come back that I will cherish forever! Kinda makes me tear up a bit. (o:
|The Girls House|
Crazy pajama dance parties were held in this house where I was able to show off my amazing dance skills (it's true). Many a meaningful conversations were had while sitting Indian style on the kitchen counter drinking coffee. A constant parade of fun people came in and out of our front door every day of the week, it was like Grand Central Station. One was never lonely at the girls house, that's for sure! The five of us girls each brought something unique to the table, all with very different personalities, but with the common thread of loving Jesus, and you know what?... Amazingly.... it worked! We all got along great! I could do a post on each one of these gals and how they have impacted my life in a profound way! Truly I cherish my time living with these ladies! Crys, Bug, Hopie, and Lala (Rach too, our honorary "original girls house girl")... I miss you dearly and love you so much!
|All of us girls hiking in Gatlinburg (Crys, Myself, Bug, Hopie and Lala)|
Crystal and I shared the downstairs master bedroom which lead to many late night chats! I can't tell you how many times a night we would whisper in the dark, "Okay, for real, this time we HAVE to go to sleep!" only to hear two minutes later, "Oh! One more thing, you'll never believe what happened today!....." We'd inevitably get the giggles from being in that crazy tired delirious stage and find ourselves exhausted come morning time! It was worth it! (o;
Joshua and I were dating while I lived at the Girls House so the girls had a front row seat as Joshua and I's relationship unfolded. Crystal was there through it all, providing encouragement, a listening ear, and giddiness when needed! Truly, I think God knew exactly what He was doing by placing me in the center of four other girls who were solid believers while Joshua and I dated. It proved to be an incredible accountability that kept Joshua and I's relationship strong and pure. So it should come as no surprise that all the girls stood by my side as my bridesmaids at our wedding! Best day of my life, hands down!
|So grateful to have these girls be in my wedding!|
After Joshua and I got married, you'd assume that the dynamics of Crystal and I's friendship changed a bit, just due to me no longer living at the girls house and me navigating my way through being a newlywed, but honestly, it didn't! Regardless of being in different phases of our lives though, she was still my "go to gal" and best friend. Over the years our friendship just continued to grow and an unspoken comfort level between the two of us developed. I never worried that if I hadn't gotten around to calling her in a while that she would be upset, and she didn't worry either- we both understood that life has crazy seasons. But when we would catch up, it was such a refreshing conversation and we'd always pick up exactly where we left off.
Skip forward to 2007... Joshua and I had moved from TN to TX and our little Jude man was 4 months old. Crystal was getting married! There is a long story to how God reunited Crystal and Brandon... that will have to wait until another day- but for now, just know this was a day I didn't want to miss! Many nights at the girls house several years prior were spent talking about Brandon and how he was the "standard" of a quality guy in Crystal's life, and if only she could marry him someday! I have to wonder if God tuned into our little talks and smirked, knowing all too well that in fact one day she would marry this man! I had the honor of standing in her wedding as a bridesmaid as well (great motivation to bust butt and try and loose the baby weight I might add!).
|Crystal's wedding- former girls house girls|
|Little Jude on my hip|
Okay, so I'm going to jump ahead again... Summer of 2010, Brandon and Crystal sold all their belongings, packed up, and faithfully stepped out into uncharted territory, moving to Bangkok, Thailand with a team of others from their church as missionaries. God has used them in mighty ways to accomplish His work in showing Christ's love to the Thai people! Truth be told, it's been bitter sweet for me to have her go. I couldn't be more proud of her for courageously trusting the Lord as they GO and serve! Yet, I miss her dearly! Five months ago they had a precious baby boy, Tobin, and I couldn't play the role of a best friend and be there to meet him right away. There have been numerous times that I've reached for the phone to call her and share something that is heavy on my heart, only to quickly realize it's 1am in Thailand, boo! The hurdles of communication have proved to be tough! Regardless of the challenges that come with being on opposite sides of the world, we've both earnestly been praying for the work God is doing in both our families lives.
|Joshua and I made a trip to TN before Crys and Brandon moved to Thailand and this is me helping her pack her entire life into two duffel bags!|
It would be an understatement to say that both our families over the past 2 years have been living quite the adventure! Between them being in Thailand and having a baby to us in the midst of our adoption and trips to Africa, God sure has been writing some fun stories! So you can only imagine what a joy it was to have them come and visit us this past week and soak in their company catching up on all the goodness God has been up to! After all, there's nothing sweeter than spending time with your best friend and snuggling her precious 5 month old baby boy!
|Took this pic of adorable Tobin while they were here. Oh how I miss snuggles with this boy already! I could eat him up!|
Of course my prayer is that one day maybe God's ultimate plan is for both our stories to intersect and we could all be doing ministry together! But for now, God has us in two different places, and I have peace about that. Here's the deal, even if we are always on opposite sides of the world, but we're desperately seeking God's face, and we're serving Him, I am grateful. I am grateful for the fellowship of a sister in Christ, even from afar, that I know "gets me" and shares the same passion I do. I'm grateful too because I know our friendship is a gift from God.
So you get the gist... our friendship has history. Our friendship has shared monumental life moments. Our friendship has vulnerability and honesty. Most importantly, our friendship has Christ at the center and we share the same desire to seek God's story for our lives. Good stuff.
I walked away from our week long visit and couldn't help but think "This is exactly what God means when He talks about the body of Christ!" It's important folks! This journey of being obedient to GO and DO all that God calls us to is tough, and doing it on your own is near impossible! We were created for fellowship, hardwired for community. If you don't have this in your life, might I encourage you to seek it out. Pray for it. I promise God will bless you!
Thanks Crystal for the blessing of your friendship in my life! My prayers are with you, Brandon and Tobin as you head back to Thailand- I know God has BIG things in store for you! I'm so proud of you!
If you're interested in supporting Brandon and Crystal in Thailand (they raise their monthly support), check out their blog HERE!