Toasting to friendship: “May we forever dream each other’s dreams, bear each other’s burdens, and remember each other’s maiden names!” (Emily E. Ryan- Who Has Your Heart?)
These are my 3G girls. We call ourselves 3G because we lived on the third floor of Gerig Hall at Taylor University. Coming from as far away as Hawaii we started together as freshmen, feeling a bit timid and awkward about what was before us as we began our college experience there in rural Indiana. During that first weekend we shared a carton of Breyer’s ice cream as we shared about who we were and how our journey brought us to that place. We lived together for four years; first on the floor at Gerig and then in the apartments senior year. Friendships were formed and our lives intersected in some unique ways. This coming May will be ten years since we graduated and separated to the places that God was calling each of us.
I was a history major in college, but I honestly can’t tell you much about the Peloponnesian Wars or the colonization of Somalia. But, I can tell you of stories of chasing bats (the furry scary creatures with wings) through the halls. I can tell you stories of pick-a-dates and fall break trips. I can tell you stories of being in our formal best changing a tire in the dark of night in the middle of cornfields. I can tell you stories of hauling buckets and buckets of sand from the lake to our floor to create a live beach theme for one of our open houses. We weren’t allowed to dance at Taylor, no siree, but I can tell you of SDPs (spontaneous dance parties). I could give you the impression that we got along all the time, or I could tell you about things like the infamous “Sophomore Fight” which we have a good time laughing about now. 🙂 There are stories of eating ice cream at Ivanhoes and drinking coffee at the Jumping Bean. There are stories of us trekking to class during J-term with snow up to our hips freshman year. I can tell you of ring-downs (engagements), and stories of broken hearts. “Boys are dumb, throw rocks” became our rallying cry when a dumb boy hurt one of our own. During junior year many of us spent semesters abroad in London, France, Ireland, Spain, Costa Rica, and Kenya. Our senior year was the year of 9/11. I vaguely remember that at one point we all had great dreams of moving to Portland together.
Most of all, I remember sharing Life together. We graduated in 2002 and promised each other that this community would always be part of us.
And since then, every late spring or early summer the eleven of us come back together in a reunion to celebrate what it means to be 3G women.
Eleven women. Lisa, Lori, and Janelle are school psychologists. Lynn is an actress in New York City. Cheryl-Lynn is studying for her MBA. Becca is a new mom by day and an adjunct professor by night. Alison just earned her PhD in social work. Suzanne is an editor, working for an m organization. The other Suzanne has spent several years mentoring college students in Africa and is now a new mom in Ohio. Bekah is a French teacher in Chicago and Michelle is an English teacher in China. Nine of us are married. There are eight children between us (Kaylin, Sophie, Brynley, Liliana, Gwendolyn, Olivia, Avery and Taylor). All are serving the Lord in some capacity- from youth group ministry, to Spanish immersion schools to teaching dance for highschoolers to leading small groups to raising their children well. All have supported me in China in one way or another. All have sacrificed much for something Greater.
We rejoice with those who rejoice. Weddings, births, new jobs, earning of degrees, purchase of first home.
And we mourn with those who mourn. When said first home is blown away by a tornado we were anguished. When someone lost her childhood best friend to cancer we cried. When I was living in the desert in Central Asia, the farthest point on earth from any large body of water, and came back to tell about that year they encouraged me greatly. They were right there as I told my story of heartbreak and devastation of having to leave a place I loved so dearly and the intense process of forgiveness that would have to come. When things happen that nobody should ever have to face, ever, we come alongside the best we know how.
Last year Janelle was pregnant with her second child, a little girl they named Olivia. Several months into the pregnancy the doctor told Janelle and her husband, Chris, that the baby had a condition. It was a condition that would not allow her to survive outside the womb. There in that devastating hour they had a choice to make: either carry the baby to term knowing that she would probably not survive, or let the doctors take her right then. Their faith in those moments never ceases to amaze me. I don’t think any of us have prayed more than we did at that time. With a faith and a love that is beyond any of us, Chris and Janelle let her live as long as God would allow until He wished to take Her home. We all prayed for a miracle- though the very definition of “miracle” had changed, we tried to trust God with this precious one. There were a few very scary moments and still we went on our knees and prayed.
On May 11, 2011 Olivia was born. Everything about the birth went well, all that we had been praying for. A special photographer came in to chronicle the sweet moment. Olivia graced us with her presence here on earth for 90 minutes. And then she quietly went Home. In the course of these past ten years never has there been a moment where we needed each other the most. We loved Chris and Janelle in the best way we knew how, though we also knew that only the One who Comforts could truly bring healing. Today (Nov. 11) Olivia would have been six months old. Happy Birthday, sweet girl!
And then this past week there was Bekah. Bekah was one of my roommates in college, and had even come to visit me in China several years ago. Bekah and her husband Peter have been trying to have a baby for quite some time. We were ecstatic when Bekah told us she was expecting! However, when Bekah went in for her 12-week ultrasound last week the doctor could not find a heartbeat. To say that we were devastated is an understatement. Peter and Bekah named their child Taylor- a name that would be fitting for a boy or a girl, and the name of the place that is so dear to all of us.
We like to think of Olivia and Taylor dancing together and playing tag while giggling with Jesus. We will recognize them because when the time comes for each of us they’ll have big signs to say “Welcome Home!” We live as those with Hope. In the meantime of day-to-day living our hearts are heavy for those we have lost in our community. Yet we hold on to that Hope that we possess and carry each other through one step and one day at a time. This is a Hope that speaks to the wholeness, completeness, and healing to be found in Christ.
This is community as it is supposed to be lived.
These are my 3G girls. They are God’s gift to me.