Amber. Amber and I met at Huntington, and I can honestly say she's one of the sweetest girls I've ever known. Our first meeting, however, was a crazy thing -- we were both transfers from other schools so we met up during orientation and started talking. I shared a little bit about my time at NLDC, and she suddenly got this funny look in her eyes and said, "This may be a weird question, but were you homeschooled?" I said yes. Turns out she was asking because her mom and my mom were part of the same online homeschooling message board and knew each other. While I was off at NLDC, my mom was occasionally writing about my adventures, and Amber's mom was reading them. This unexpected connection of "What? Our moms know each other? And you've been hearing about my life?" meant we had an instant bond, and we stayed friends throughout college, taking theater classes together and being in shows. We graduated the same year, and even though we don't get to see each other often, we still keep in touch and she even made it out for my wedding.
Bethany. OK, if I had to give an award to really the sweetest girl I know, it'd almost certainly be my sister Bethany. She and I haven't always been friends -- I was a major jerk to her when I was in high school and took all my frustrations in life out on her -- but we've gotten a lot closer as the years have gone by, and she was one of my bridesmaids at my wedding. She is easily one of the most caring, giving people I know. She never wants anyone to be left out or feel sad. Her sacrificial, people-pleasing nature has always been a bit of the antithesis to my self-preservation-style mode of socializing, and I don't tell her this enough, but I have definitely learned a lot about little ways to make people feel loved from watching the way she interacts with the people around her. I can't wait to see how she continues to grow and change and become even more awesome.
Savannah. While Savannah and I met years and years ago through my church youth group, we've definitely gone down different spiritual roads since then. One of the things I really appreciate about Savannah, though, is that even though we hold different takes on faith and God and the Bible and such, I feel like we can communicate reasonably and respectfully and kindly about that. We don't talk a lot, but when we do, it often centers around deeper issues -- she responds to a blog of mine or I respond to a link she's posted. Our conversations are reasonable and respectful, and that's not something I can get from everyone... even people who always agree with me!
Jennie. Ah, Jennie. One of my favorite people I've never actually met in person. She's another RinkWorks regular, and she is one of the kindest, most generous friends I've ever had. If I'm having a bad day, I know I can talk to her about it and she will do everything she can to make me feel loved and try to help me solve my problem... or just listen to me vent, if that's what I need. She's also someone I can have respectful, reasonable discussions with, no matter what the subject is. She's a Mormon, so our religious beliefs differ somewhat, and she's much more politically conservative than I am. But even when we disagree on a political candidate or a law that's about to be passed, I know without a doubt that at the center of her whole being is love for the people around her, and she gives me the same benefit of the doubt. (Even when I probably don't deserve it.) I am truly beyond blessed that she's my friend.
Alisha. Alisha and I also worked together on the youth group drama team, although the team didn't really lock into place until some time after her family had moved away, so for awhile it was just her and me pulling together random skits and trying to talk people into being in them. What I want to talk about, however, is after she went off to college and got married and we'd mostly lost touch, except for Facebook... and then she started blogging.
Her blogs often centered around her experience as a mom and wife, something I didn't necessarily relate to, but what I love was how honest she was about when life was hard, especially dealing with a child who had some health issues. Her writing was open and intimate and freely admitted the times when she was just tired and exhausted and frustrated, but at the same time it wasn't a series of pity parties -- she stayed hopeful that even though things were difficult now, God was still there and things would get better. I loved reading her blogs and, even though I didn't respond to them nearly as much as I should have, I appreciated her being willing to share these things with the people around her. They meant a lot to me, even if I couldn't identify with the particular circumstances in her life. She's another person I wish I had more intentionally befriended in high school.
PJ. PJ is not his actual name -- it stands for "Pastor Jason," and he was my youth pastor growing up. He's actually just moved on from that youth pastor position in the church, so this is probably an appropriate time to write about him. I didn't get to know him as well as I got to know some of the female youth leaders, but one of the things I always appreciated about him was that he never just preached and went home. He encouraged us as teenagers to step up into ministry, to take charge of our youth group, to be leaders among our peers, and he worked to give us any of the resources or encouragement we needed. That attitude has stuck with me years later. I'm glad to have been part of the youth group during the time he was there, and I wish him the very best as he moves into new areas of ministry.
Kate, aka Mom. I am more than a little bit in awe of my mother. She is confident, easygoing, patient, loving, and wise, all things I aspire to. One of the things I love most about her now as an adult is how much she was willing to be a part of my life as much or as little as I needed. When I needed space, when I needed to run off to travel the country in a van with four college-age kids and came home twice all year, or when I decided to go to college five hours away and then move 13 hours away, she let me take the lead on contacting her and never pried into my life, always giving me the space to initiate the relationship on my own terms. As a result, I never felt pressured or smothered by her the way so many of my peers felt about their parents. Of course, on the flip side, she was always there to help me out however she could from where she was, any time I needed it. Sometimes that was praying with me, sometimes that was reminding me that I was going to be all right, and sometimes that was calling the customer service people I needed to talk to because a phone conversation was just the last thing I wanted to do. I hope I can be as awesome as my mom someday.
Ginny. A picture from the one time I got to meet Ginny in person, six or so years ago now! I met her first on RinkWorks, but then we kept in touch through Facebook the last few years. Ginny and I are also definitely in different places in our life and have very different beliefs on a lot of things, but I love reading her Facebook statuses and her blogs. She may not even know this, but she's challenged me to think about a lot of things that hadn't really crossed my path before. She writes firmly but gently about her experiences and her thoughts, and I'm glad we're still on each other's radar.