God has blessed me, for as long as I've been alive, with wonderful friends. Some friends have come and gone, but my closest friends are the ones who have been with me from close to the beginning.
Of course there are my cousins -- Lynnea on my dad's side, and Leah on my mom's side. They are both pretty close to my age, and I have so many wonderful memories of times spent with them. As we've gotten older, our areas of interest change, and we drift a little farther apart. But they have always been, and continue to be, wonderful friends.
Elizabeth is another friend I've had ever since I was born. She was my first pastor's daughter, and although they moved away when I was very young, we visited them regularly. For several years, I went to Virginia each year to spend a week with her, and those are some favorite memories of mine.
Elena is one of my best and closest friends. We have always loved hanging out with each other, and have a special bond because our moms and dads are best friends (and her mom is who I'm named after). Last year I was able to spend quite a long visit (though not long enough) with her and her family, and I know that the times I've spent with her will always be cherished.
Dorothy and Deborah are the daughters of my second pastor. We were inseparable triplets during the time that they lived here. We spent countless hours dressing up, and getting married (to imaginary men, of course) and having kids. Although we have grown farther apart simply because they live much farther away now, I count them as some of my closest friends.
Grace is my best friend who lives close to me. She is a few years younger than me, but acts completely my age. I love the serious conversations we have, as well as the fits of uncontrollable laughter for no reason at all.
I could never choose just one of my friends as my 'best friend', but of all my friends, Lydia is probably the closest. And I didn't even realize it until this past year. We have always had amazing times playing together, me and her and her amazing older sister Sarah, but I realized during an amazing visit from them this past summer how close we are. Out of all my friends, her personality is the most different from mine, but we get along fabulously, and her love for me is such a blessing. And of course I must mention her sister Sarah. She and I are more alike than Lydia and I, and so we get along extremely well, too. I cannot say how much I love to talk to her -- she makes me laugh like no one else can (except perhaps Lydia) and thinks of things that would never enter my head. She is wonderful.
And there are many other friends -- Bekah, gorgeous and openly sweet, who although I have only met once and know almost exclusively by email, is such an inspiration and blessing to me. Seth, my cousin and much needed fourth older brother, is an incredible blessing to me, and I'm sure I wouldn't be half of who I am without his love and influence. Tabitha, who I have never met but have so enjoyed getting to know through our letters. Allison, sweet and beautiful, who befriended me at church, and showed me how amazing a heavenly hug was, and who was an amazing comfort when I was going through rough times. Jessica, the lovely dancer, who is older than me but treats me like I'm her age. And many wonderful women at my church who have graciously loved me and talked to me as if I were not many years younger -- treated me as a friend.
I know it is God who shapes my character, who gives me the grace and beauty I have, and who shows me the way to go. But I also know that he has put these amazing people in my life to help shape my character, and help to make me graceful and beautiful, and always point me to Christ.
I am so undeservedly blessed, and too often take for granted the friends I've been given. Three cheers for my great friends, and a hundred cheers for the God who graciously granted them to me.