For the Love of Rachel

There is an old Japanese proverb that says: "When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends."

I'm blessed to be surrounded by people who define my life with grace, sincerity, and shared passions. If one were to look at the girls who have stood by me, listened to my fears and failures, and taught me that there are priorities above such worries, they would see my own character represented in the kindest light. I've passed moments with friends in which words were insufficient. I've passed moments in which joys could only be expressed through a smothering hug or an intentional glance. I've passed moments in which tears were dried, hands were held, and backs were rubbed. And, though we've held these moments in the palms of our hands and turned them like a well-loved piece from a glass menagerie, I think its rare that we ever see them for how beautiful they truly are.

When Rachel Hogue, my best friend of twenty years, moved to Montana, a small part of my soul became separated from the rest and watched the unfolding of our varied lives from a protectively distanced place. She has been my other half since before I knew that hearts came with counterparts. She's the one who taught me how to love poetry, how to accept middle school drama, and how to follow ambition. She's loved me when I least deserved it, told me when I've been wrong and watched me begin my relationship with Blake. She was the one I texted the moment before my husband pulled into the parking lot to propose. She was the one who gave me a knowing look before I walked down the aisle. When separation from her seemed impossible, she was the one who taught me that the most important thing is not that we're together, but that we learn how to keep our friendship while living apart.

Then, like an answer to prayer, God put another Rachel in my life. Drastically different from my childhood Rachel, Rachel Strasner has walked with me through the college years as only she can. We've cried on shoulders and stayed up all night talking. We've shared life experiences, birthdays, classes, a dorm, and my wedding. We've watched each other grow up and smiled through the scary parts. She's taught me to see beauty in the little things, because even small moments are too valuable to waste.

Last night I was reminded of this. In an engagement party for Rachel Strasner, I watched a close friend begin on the same journey that has left me feeling hopeful and blessed. As I sat among many wonderful friends eating, talking, and expressing the joys of these fragments of time that become memories all too quickly, I soaked it in. I thought of the friends who have changed me for the better.

L-R: Heidi, Carissa, Me, Hannah, Rachel, Christina, Diggy, Havilah

And those friends named Rachel? They're worth keeping.

(On a goofier note, please enjoy Christina and my rendition of Rachel and Brian's proposal):

Scene: Boardwalk at night, November 30th
Rachel played by Christina Brandano
Brian played by Stephanie Walker

Brian: Rachel, has that thing always been there?
Rachel: What?

Rummaging for the ring.

Brian: Will you marry me?
Rachel: YES!

Pure joy.

Rachel needing to be carried because her shoes are too big.