Once upon a time, there were 10 girls.

Some of them started school together in those early days of hop skotch and Kool-aid and monkey bars, while the rest trickled in over the years that finally dumped them all out onto the same high school campus in a North Texas town.

Some were cheerleaders, while others were on drill team, or in choir. There were those whose interests found them on the stage in the latest school play, or hashing out debates in school government. There was even a Homecoming Queen among them. In a sea of 1500 graduating seniors in the early 80’s (largest class in Texas that year), these girls, like so many before them, set off to chart their life’s course. Most went off to college, some married very young and began families, while others waited until they had diplomas in hand. The days and years marched on in ten individual lives.

But then, something happened. The discovery was made that there were some of the girls from high school still around town. A plan was set in motion to get together for dinner, and with it, magic was made. You see, while all the girls new each other in high school and were friends, they were not all close friends. The magic that night, came in the form of missing “walls” formed by youth and school status and group logistics. Those walls, they found, had been knocked down by maturity and living life “off campus”; they had been given the gift of the opportunity to know one another as adults and something exquisite took root.

They continued to meet every month for dinner and once (sometimes twice!) a year for a long “Girls Weekend” at the lake. They talked about everything under the sun at least 572 times, they laughed until they cried (or snorted, in certain cases!), and, sometimes, they cried until they laughed. They celebrated birthdays and babies and new homes and, eventually, after nine years, they began to have to tell each other goodbye, as some of their group moved away. With the momentum broken, their get-togethers became less and less frequent until they stopped altogether. Their contact was reduced to Christmas cards, and infrequent phone calls or emails. And, truly, they were all really sad about it over another nine long years.

I, of course, am one of the ten and am also one of the ones who moved away. I had really missed those girls; REALLY missed them. With me being away, it seemed next to impossible to try to plan anything that everyone could come to, so I didn’t even try. Then, one day this past February, I retrieved a letter from my mailbox in Florida. One of the girls had reached the breaking point and wasn’t going to wait another minute to get us all together. She named a date and whoever could come, she was planning to host it – if only for a one-time reunion. I was THRILLED because I was already scheduled to be in town to take care of my mother-in-law! I called to RSVP, and waited patiently for that date. Little did I know that, in the interim, God would orchestrate our move BACK to Texas, making me the final one to move back into the state. We were ALL back home!

That first night, we had seven in attendance. It was glorious; truly, it was as if those years had not lapsed, as we didn’t miss a beat. With enthusiastic exchange of contact information, we began planning our next get-together, which brings me to this past Saturday night…

ALL TEN of us were there for the first time in years and years.

Between the first and latest gathering, one of our precious girls was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer. Over and over I’ve heard the girls mention how this reunion of our group has been a “God-send” for them; it’s come at the “perfect time” in their lives. I, too, have marveled in light of my own circumstances, at how precious it was for God to bring us back together just as I moved back home and would be in need of my friends for connection. But I’m blown away that He would do it in such perfect timing for us to surround our friend during this challenge of a lifetime. We were able to infuse her with love and encouragement the other night, even sitting together to tie a blanket for use during chemo, saying a prayer for her with every tie so that she would feel covered by them in its warmth.

At one point during the evening, I sat back and just listened. I imagined myself a new person in the room, not knowing these women at all, other than what labels they wore during high school. I smiled to myself as I thought, “Yes, I would probably know which ones were the cheerleaders by their upbeat and enthusiastic nature. I could probably tell which were involved in school government by their “take charge” attitude and diplomacy, and who was the Homecoming Queen by her elegance. Yes, I could probably do a pretty good job of separating the group out by those labels.” But, the beautiful thing is that those things no longer define them. They are a part of their life’s tapestry, but not the final picture. What I would’ve noticed the most, had I really been a stranger in the room, was the extraordinary radiance of lasting friendship…the kind we were made for and the kind that we shouldn’t live without.

Friendship for a lifetime.

**If you have a friend or friends with whom you’ve lost contact, I encourage you to do what my friend did and JUST PLAN IT! Get together and don’t let a moment be wasted! God works through our friends – you can’t imagine what you’re missing!
**PLEASE PRAY for my friend, Diane, as she and her family navigate some pretty stormy seas ahead. Hers is an aggressive, late stage cancer, but ours is a BIG GOD. Your prayers would mean the world, not only to her, but to me as well.