Tuesday, August 30, 2016

To the Bridesmaid Farthest From Me

We have all been, or known, someone who was the bridesmaid standing the farthest away from the bride during the entire wedding - first person to walk in, last to walk out... and probably sees nothing but the back of a veil the entire wedding ceremony... we all know that usually the physical distance away from the bride on stage has a direct correlation to the closeness of the friendship between the bride and that bridesmaid.  I'm not sure anyone ever has come right out and said that before, but let's face it... it is usually the absolute truth.

In my wedding the same was true, but perhaps even more so because I had followed some advice from a mentor that I now see as incredible truth and accountability for my marriage... not just my wedding!  This mentor encouraged Kyle and I to not do the usual and choose friends from our past, but to choose friends for our future, to be in the wedding party.  He said for us to have people on that stage who understood they were there to help keep us accountable to the vows we were making to each other.  These needed to be people who would be living life alongside us, not just people we had fond memories of.

In most weddings, you see old friends flying in from wherever else because she and the bride were best friends in elementary school or cheer camp, etc.  I really only followed our mentor's advice, at first, because it helped me solve a major problem.  I grew up in a close-knit group of about 7-9 girls that were very close... and I had been in most of their weddings!  I felt like I should repay the favor, but I did not know how I was going to choose my sister, plus my current best friend, and then somehow ask all or just a few of those 7-9 girls... without hurting feelings, going financially broke paying for their dresses, and not clutter the stage during the wedding.

So, Kyle and I picked a number based on the number of people attending the wedding (1 bridesmaid and 1 groomsmen per 75 people attending the wedding, I think the usual is per 50 attenders).  Then we had to decide who those 4 people on stage for each of us were going to be.  I chose not to ask anyone with kids, because being a bridesmaid is a lot of work.  Showers to throw, bachelorette to plan, the day of getting ready and pictures... that would be a lot for a mom to sacrifice the time, money, and energy toward.  The first 3 were very easy to choose - my sister, my current best friend, and my aunt (who was more like a sister).  But with only one more spot left to fill, I thought about our mentor's advice... and I picked my friend, Cassy.  Granted, we hadn't known each other very long, but we had gotten to know each other more and more ever since I had started dating Kyle.  See, Cassy is married to Kyle's best friend, Matt.  The more I got to know her, the more I really liked how honest, down to earth, and fun she was.  And since her husband was my husband-to-be's best friend, I figured she would be the perfect person to fill that role, who would be in my life, and perhaps would call me out if I wasn't being the wife I promised to be.

It is funny how as life changes, we do too.  We don't mean to, we just constantly adjust to make room for the things that come along and say goodbye to things, and people, that just don't fit anymore.  And then for the same life changes, others come into your life and encourage you in ways you had never planned.  I figured we would be spending quite a bit of time with Matt and Cassy, and we sometimes did when they lived in the same town as us... but I find that we have made more of an effort to see them much more since they moved away than we ever did when they were 5 minutes away!  I think it was one of those "you don't know what you have until it is gone" kind of things.

It is funny that as they have moved to Texas and then Tulsa... my friendship with Cassy has grown in a way that I never would have guessed.  It seems like we got closer after they moved away, even though our lives got busier too.  Usually distance and busyness would ruin friendships that weren't that strong to begin with, but perhaps it was the milestones of our lives that brought us closer as friends.  We had kids!  And we drove down to Dallas as soon as we could to see them when Cassy had their first daughter.  Then Cassy drove up to see us and take our daughter's newborn photos less than 2 weeks after she was born!  We made it just in time to the hospital with their second daughter as they were packing up to go home... so we just went to their house and hung out for the rest of the day!  And they didn't care!  Most people would need quiet and wouldn't want visitors - we knew they loved us when they opened their home to their newly-born daughter and us on the same day!  Then they came and brought their girls to see our son when he was born... and we have been to every birthday party in between, and we usually spend New Years Eve hanging out with them!
Back when I wasn't even dating Kyle yet... I think this was at a wedding I crashed and hung out with her, Matt, and Kyle the rest of the day!
The guys trying to figure out the nose-sucker on Matt and Cassy's first baby!

My daughter pulled up to a standing position for the first time at Matt and Cassy's house!

Our friends came from Tulsa to see our son when he was born!

I was thinking through this a couple of weekends ago when Matt and Cassy and their girls came to spend the weekend here in Tahlequah.  She was going to shoot my family's photos AGAIN, and none of us were okay with the idea of them just coming to town for a few hours.  So it was our turn to host the usual fun weekends we have with them - we watch our kids play together, eat good food, and then "visit" - ya know what old people call sitting around and talking.  We often joke about how we thought our parents were so boring for just wanting to sit and talk with their friends when we were growing up... but here we are doing the exact same thing!

It is odd how when some people become married or parents, your friendships just aren't the same with them anymore.  Maybe because they are consumed with their new relationship, jobs, new friends, or perhaps your philosophies for parenting or other major life happenings are too different to reconcile.  I feel like Matt and Cassy have become our closest "couple friends", not because of how often we see them or because they live nearby.  We actually don't see each other that often, but when we go see them, I already know we are going to 1) stay up late, so late that we hate ourselves the next morning, 2) talk and laugh the whole time 3) usually about religion and politics!  And we even disagree on issues at times, but I never find myself bored, and we never actually get angry or argue!  We have disagreed on some pretty hot topics that have people all-caps shouting and cursing at each other on the internet... and yet, I couldn't respect Matt and Cassy more, even though we may not agree and have even had some debates.  They are real people who are trying to follow Christ and raise a family the best they can... and they are really having to think through and be intentional to do it right.  We understand the same struggles to strive for a goal, depend on Christ's grace and mercy through it all, and somehow fight for balance.

We may disagree or react differently to a few things, but for the most part we share the same core values.  We are followers of Christ and try to live by His Word.  We share beliefs that affect how we parent, entertain, spend money, and how we spend our time.  It is amazing to know that when we are hanging out with them, I know they are not judging us or questioning certain things we say and do, because they probably do something similar.  And it isn't just the sameness that is encouraging, but there are things they do as a couple and family that we admire and are inspired to do better in, because we see their example.  It is amazing to know that when we spend time with them, even if our kids are running around like crazy, I can truly relax!  Cassy doesn't care what we drove there in, what I am wearing, that my kids are loud, or that I have chosen to send my daughter to the local public school instead of homeschooling.  She isn't going to wince that I have Cheetos in my cabinets, even though she would never feed those to her kids, if given the choice.

As we were laughing and talking about the thrilling topics of government, church community groups, church planting, etc... the time flew by, and I was so thankful that God brought them into our lives!  I sat there engaged in conversation with heavy, tired eyes, but my spirit was very alive.  'How rare and blessed to find friends such as these' is all I could think to myself.  And I hope I never take that for granted.  So many times women can't stand their husbands' friends, and especially not their wives... I am grateful that in many cases, my hubby's friends and their wives have become mine as well... and especially with Matt and Cassy.

So even though she was the furthest (yes, I switched it on purpose) away from me at my wedding, and I was probably closer to several other friends who were sitting out in the audience at that time... I can honestly say that she is now one of my dearest friends.  I respect her not only as my friend, but she is a great wife, mother, and follower of Christ!  I have been challenged, encouraged, and comforted having her for a friend.  And as a professional photographer, I am thankful that even though she isn't IN any of the photos that hang in my home... I can look around my living room, hallways, and the bedrooms of our home, and she really is in all of these pictures of the people I love the most, because she captured them so I could treasure them always!

I promise, I had already started this blog topic, Cassy, before today.  But I thought what better day to publish it than on your birthday!  Ya know, it was only a few weeks ago that I realized we are both August babies who married January-born men... weird!  Thanks for being my friend, for giving me a hard time about having to be invited before I go somewhere, and for being you!

Happy birthday!

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