Friday, May 30, 2008

Every friend is unique....

Last Saturday night, my friend Shannon came from Greenville to spend some time with me. She has been listening to the sermons at my church, so she had been wanting to go with me one Sunday. (She also wanted to come spend time with me, of course :) When she got here, she, Ashley, and I took a walk at Lake Johnson and then went to dinner at Mimi's. Then Shannon and I went to get some ice cream and back to my house for a movie.

One of the things I love about my friendship with Shannon is that we can talk and talk without ever running out of things to talk about. Over ice cream and at my house before the movie, we had many thoughtful conversations. And another thing I love about Shannon is that she doesn't mind my questions at all. She appreciates that the reason I ask so many questions is to get to know people better and to understand every detail; she knows it's not just because i am NOSEY ;). I am so thankful for my conversations with Shannon. She makes me think and be thankful. We talked about how all friendships are unique; about how just because a certain friend may not be your "best" friend or a friend you have had forever, it doesn't mean that friendship isn't just as important. Shannon and I were in a very close-knit Bible Study together in Greenville before I moved to Cary. Even though these girls aren't the ones I have always called my "best" friends, they are some of the closest and most important friends I have ever had (and still have today!!). They were and continue to be some of the major people God has used to help shape my faith and strengthen it. So, even though 3 of the 6 of us have moved away from Greenville and another is moving next year, the distance doesn't matter because the Lord did something so special during our time together that we will forever be bonded and connected in Him. Spending this one-on-one time with Shannon also reminded of how special my individual friendships with each of these girls are. We aren't just friends as a group but individually, too. I think that is very unique within itself. Thanks, Shannon, for reminding me of the uniqueness of my friendships through our conversation. Thank you especially for reminding me to thank Jesus for all of my friendships, particularly the ones within our precious Bible Study. You can come back and visit me anytime! :)

This is one of my favorite pics of all of us from before Christmas when we had an ornament exchange at Emily's house. Top: Shannon, Rebecca, Marianne, Me; Bottom: Emily, Ashley

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Four Beautiful Girls

One of my favorite things about living here in Cary is that my best friend, Melanie, and her family live close by in Raleigh. It is such a comforting blessing to have her just 30 minutes away. She and her husband, Adam, have 3 beautiful little girls: Hannah (4), Sara (2 1/2), Julia (5 weeks). Melanie is an awesome mom. Her girls absolutely adore her.

The Lord has also blessed Melanie with an amazing mom and grandma. The girls call her Nana. Nana comes to watch the girls while Adam and Melanie are at work for a few days during the week. Nana has been away for a little while in Seattle. Melanie's brother and sister-in-law, David and Megan, just had a beautiful little baby of their own, Olivia. Nana has been there helping them out, too. Here is a picture of Olivia.
Last Friday night since Nana was away, I decided to take dinner over to Melanie and her family. It was such a blessing to be with the whole family. Seeing the way they are all adjusting to having a new baby in the house was fun. I love these girls so much. It's cool the way God gives them all different personalities. I love the way Hannah says her little sister, Sara, is her best friend and the way Sara copies everything her big sister, Hannah, does. I love that Hannah said to me after we said her prayers, "'Big Sara', I have to tell you a secret." She then whispered in my ear, "I love you." I love the way Sara smiles so big and so sweetly every time I walk in the door. I love the she is named after me; I don't know if I have ever felt so honored than when Melanie told me she was going to name her daughter after me! And I also love the way Hannah and Sara love their baby sister, Julia, so well. Hannah will go over to check on Julia and rub her little head so gently. Then Sara will follow behind and do the same. God has used Julia to bless their family in such a new and special way. I am so blessed and thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of each of their lives and watch them grow and see what the Lord has planned for them.

When I was at their house Friday night, Hannah and Sara drew these pictures for me. I told them I would put them on my refrigerator and every time I looked at the pictures I would be reminded to pray for them. Here is a picture of their drawings on my fridge, along with a picture of Julia and me.

When I was there Friday night, I realized that Melanie's job as a Mom is even harder than I thought it was. I realized it also even sweeter than I thought it was. It is so neat to see my best friend since 11th grade now as a mom of three. The compassion, boldness, hospitality, servant's heart, and faithfulness I have always seen in her shines even brighter now that she has children. I learn from her, and when I am around she and her family, I am reminded of Jesus every time. There is no question He has formed this family together in His perfect plan. Thank You, Jesus, for the blessing of this special family and for allowing me to be Melanie's best friend and the girls' "Aunt" Sara.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quality Time with the Cox's...Sandwiched Between Two Important Birthdays...

Two of the most important women in my life just had birthday' Mom on Friday and my best friend, Kelly, on Monday.

On Friday night, my accommodating family agreed to meet me halfway in Wilson at Chili's to celebrate my Mom's birthday because I had to be at J.Crew at 8:30 Saturday morning.

For those that know me well, you know I like to ask the question, "What's your favorite thing about ______?" It is really such a positive question and helps you focus on the good things about people. (Well that is what I say to people like my sister, Rebecca, that tend to get increasingly annoyed by my questions). But anyway, one of my favorite things about my mom is that she is one of the wisest women I know. I love her simple advice, her motivation, and her quiet spirit. You see, my mom is very humble and she usually keeps most of her thoughts and feelings to herself. But, when she says something, I listen because I know it is important. So, mom, even though we may sometimes pick on you for getting certain words wrong or for some of your funny phrases, I am telling the truth when I say you are one of the wisest women in my life. You are such a blessing to me in so many ways. Happy 54th Birthday!! I love you!

On Saturday, after I left J.Crew, I met Marianne, Madeline, and Hayden Cox for a little bit of shopping around Southpoint. They came to spend the night with me and go to church with me on Sunday. This was an extra special time because they will be moving to Texas to be with Joe at the beginning of June. (See more on that story in a post to come later.) We had lots of fun while they were here. Madeline and Hayden are very funny kids. We laughed, talked, ate, went to Target (twice), drank milkshakes, went to the park in my neighborhood, went to church, and spent some time with Ashley. Lots of fun piled into less than 24 hours! In keeping up with the theme of my favorite things; here goes...

Marianne...She has the most gentle yet confident spirit of anyone I have ever met. She is one of the most peaceful people I have ever been around. She is one of my role models...She points me to Jesus.

Madeline...This 4th grader will tell you like it is. And she is not afraid to be different. These are two qualities I very much admire in her.

Hayden...He's in first grade, and I love his sweet little spirit. I love the way he will say the most random, sweet things. Like one time, when I hadn't seen him for a while, he gave me a hug and said, "I am so proud of you!" I also love the way he makes up funny words and I think it's really funny that he gave Rebecca the name "Kerchie."

Then, Monday night I drove to Greensboro after work to celebrate Kelly's birthday. Kelly, Charlie, Jenny, Madison, and I went to dinner together at Harper's Restaurant and then went to get ice cream at Ben and Jerry's! I am always so thankful for the time I get to spend with these friends of mine. They are the kind of friends that are just easy to be with, the kind of friends I can just be relaxed with. At one point when we were eating our ice cream, I blurted out, " I love hanging out with you guys." It was kind of random, but so simple and true. My favorite thing about Kelly is simply that she is my best friend. Our friendship is so constant and true. There is something so special in knowing that she was my best friend in 9th grade and that, if Lord willing we live to be 80, she will be my best friend then, too. We understand each other, we love each other's family and friends, and we are almost always on the same page about things. I love those qualities about our friendship. Happy 29th birthday, Kelly...what a blessing to have spent it with you and your family!

ADDITION:)...After re-reading my blog I realized that I didn't do my favorite thing about Kelly justice. I say that because I actually just described our beautiful friendship rather than describing her God-given gifts. She has many of them, but my very favorite would probably be her persistence. She may not believe this about herself, but the way she works so hard for people she loves and cares about and the way she stays up until late hours of the night working on projects to bless people inspires me in such a unique way. She is so delicate, so careful, so thoughtful in the things she does for people. And that is one of my very favorite things about my best friend. By the way, another favorite thing is that she has this precious little one year old of which I can take beautiful pictures like these.....

Monday, May 12, 2008

I have this friend...

Her name is Meredith Briley. Well, actually, she is not just a friend, she is family. You see, she married Patrick Briley. The Briley's live across the street from my parents in Greenville. So, Carl, Rebecca and I grew up with the Leigh Anne, Traye, and Patrick Briley. I consider them my family, so since Meredith married Patrick, she is not only my friend, but also my family. Here is a picture of Patrick and Meredith and some pictures of us all.

For a while, I just considered Meredith as Patrick's girlfriend. But somewhere along the way she became my friend, a true friend. I started to get to know her, especially during a time that she and Patrick had a "bump in the road." It was a hard time...we talked over lunches and dinners, at Starbucks, and over ice cream. I don't think I had ever met someone so trusting in the Lord, with such a desire to KNOW God's will, so forgiving....not someone with all of those qualities at the same time and at such a hard time. The Lord bonded us together as friends very fast...He gave me another true friend at a time when I least expected it....Well, the "bump in the road" was over and Patrick and Meredith got engaged a few months later and then married in July 2005. I was a bridesmaid that day, and that is when she became my family.
From Fall of 2005 to the Spring of 2007 (a year and a half's time) Meredith's grandpa passed away, her great-grandparents passed away, her grandma's brother passed away, Meredith was diagnosed with cancer, and her mother passed away due to cancer.

Meredith had a tumor the size of a volleyball in her abdomen. She had surgery on October 17, 2006, and one of her ovaries had to be removed. She had to have chemotherapy. She lost her hair. All the while, she was in Pharmacy School at Campbell.

It was the next Spring that her mother's condition worsened. Meredith was dealing with the aftermath of her own cancer and surgery, and then she found out that cancer was overcoming her mother's body.

Through all of this, I saw those same qualities in Meredith that I had seen during that "bump in the road." But this time I also saw peace and joy and thankfulness and strength. AND SHE GAVE ALL THE GLORY TO THE LORD! I talked to her right after she found out about the tumor and then right after she found out it's size. She was amazing. She told me that no matter what, she wanted the Lord to be glorified in all of this. Then again, when her mother passed away, she praised Him. She never lost faith; her faith only grew. She spoke at her mother's funeral; it was beautiful; she is beautiful. She has touched so many lives. She touches my life again and again. She makes me want to know my Lord more and more. When I read this verse in Habakkuk, I am reminded of Meredith:
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of deer, he enables me to go on the heights."--Habukkuk 3: 17-19

To read her entire story, click here.

The reason for this post is because Meredith graduated from Pharmacy School this weekend! Through all of this, she didn't get behind in school...she graduated on time! Praise the Lord!!! And Praise the Lord, Meredith is cancer free! She is now a pharmacist; you can call her Dr. Meredith Briley! As I was thinking about this amazing accomplishment today, I began to think back to all she has been through these past 4 years of Pharmacy School. This is a special time! I celebrate, you, Meredith, and I love you! And, most of all, like you would do, I celebrate Jesus and give Him all the praise and glory!

Thank You, Jesus, for Meredith...she is my friend, my family, my sister in You!

Friday, May 9, 2008

My little sister....

GOT MARRIED!On January 26, Rebecca married Travis. I have learned that at rehearsal dinners when I give a toast, in order for me to get through it without forgetting what I want to say and without crying my way through it, it is much easier to type it up beforehand. This is what I said to them that night...

"Travis, I want to welcome you to our family. As I have gotten to know you the last couple of months, I have come to realize that you are going to be just fine in handling Rebecca's sarcasm. I think you can dish it out maybe even better than she can. But seriously, I know Rebecca loves you so very much. And because of that, I love you too. I have been praying for you before I even knew who you were. I have been praying for Rebecca's future husband since I was in college. I didn't know who it would be, but I knew he would be special. The Lord answered my prayer and has given my sister someone that understands her like no one else and that loves her so passionately. Rebecca says that her favorite thing about you is your passion. It is my prayer that your passion for each other grows stronger each day and that you both will look to Jesus to learn to love each other even better than you do today. I am looking forward to having another brother. Thank you for loving my sister. She loves you, and I do too.

Rebecca, you know when we meet new people and I always go out of my way to make sure they know that we are sisters? And then you shake you head like you think I said something else that's really weird. Well, the reason I am so excited to tell people is because I am so proud that you are my sister. There are so many things about you that make me proud. There are so many things about you that I wish I could be. I believe with all my heart that the Lord had an awesome plan in making you my sister...He made us so different, but I consider that to be one of my greatest blessings. In many ways it is where I am weak that you are strong. The way you can be so honest with just about anyone about just about anything is so rare and special. The way you can let things just roll off your shoulders and not get you down because of your faith and confidence in Jesus is amazing. The way you are willing to take a stand and do something that may not be comfortable or easy because you feel a tug from the Lord is admirable to so many people that know and love you. I love that you often go without wearing any make-up or really fixing your hair with jeans and a T-shirt and you are still the most beautiful girl I know. You don't even have to say a word to me , and you are my biggest accountability partner. There is no one else that can encourage me and hold me accountable to follow Jesus quite like you can. I am so thankful for that blessing in my life, and that is why I consider you my best friend. I am so excited for you because I can see how happy you are. I know that the Lord will continue to be the leader of your life and that He has so many awesome plans and blessings in store for you and Travis. I am so honored that the Lord placed us together as sisters. Thank you for the love, fun, honesty, and peace you bring to my life. You are my sister, and I love you."

We have many pictures from the wedding weekend, but I put together some of my favorites in this slideshow. If you click the arrows, it will go much faster....Enjoy...
Click to play Wedding Weekend

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

2008 Gatherings....

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another..." Hebrews 10:24,25

So, I just read the most beautiful post on my creative best friend, Kelly's, blog and it inspired me to join the world of blogging and try it out myself. The title of my blog "Gather Together," I think, fits me well. My life consists of gathering together here and there with friends and family. If you know me well, you know that I capture just about every moment with a picture or two (or three or four or 200....). Here are some pictures to wrap up 2008 so far...

Click to play 2008 Gatherings...