We've mentioned it before, but Nataley and I have been friends for 18 years. Our childhood homes are just a few houses down from one another, and we spent our young summers riding bikes around the neighborhood, kicking a soccer ball at our elementary school and swimming at the local pool. We sold Girl Scout cookies together. We made a duet of Trisha Yearwood's "How Do I Live" for a talent show in second grade. We had I don't know how many sleepovers and danced to Spice Girls I don't know how many times. She was there when my mom taught me how to shave my legs. We carpooled to school and got ready for dances together.
And when we were both faced with some of our first major heartbreaks at the end of high school--my parents' divorce and her serious boyfriend (now her husband--yay!) getting deployed--we walked through them together and I was officially convinced our friendship wasn't just based on the convenience of growing up on the same block. She had my back, and I had hers.
When I moved to Arkansas after graduating a couple of years ago, I feared what the distance would do to my friendships. College made maintaining relationships easy--I lived next to and had classes with my closest friends. And when a few of my best girls got married that summer, including Nataley, I wasn't sure what my role as a friend would look like anymore. She needed to think of Kyle before anyone else, and I was so thrilled she finally had that opportunity (she waited for him for five years!). But for a short time I didn't know if we'd still be able to relate like we always had.
Looking back, I don't know why I questioned our friendship. It has definitely changed since then, but that's only because we've both changed. We've grown. We aren't the little kids we were when we first met, and that's a good thing! We've become stronger in who we are as young women, which has only made our friendship stronger. I've had the privilege of watching Nataley grow through all of the silly experiences I mentioned above, but one of the coolest transformations has definitely been in her relationship with Kyle--from flirting with him in Spanish class, to spending most of high school as his girlfriend, to practicing patience in college as a military fiancee, to learning her role as his wife. I got to do life with her as the Lord knit her crazy love story together, and that is such an honor! Marriage wasn't a reason to fear change at all. And after I realized that, I was able to really allow her to celebrate my own love story (she was the BEST Matron of Honor) and now baby story, because I believe her excitement. I believe it because I know how excited I am when life goes her way, too, and that's what genuine friendship is about.
One of the main things we've realized as our friendship has matured is how absolutely different we are, and how when we communicate well, we work wonderfully together because we balance each other out. We've always had one of those connections that doesn't necessarily need hours of daily phone time to feel confident, but when we are blessed with a little time to catch up, it's fantastic! So Nat's visit this weekend was wonderful, as we had a lot to talk about (midwife appointment details, both of our house progress, crazy puppy behavior, etc). She also gifted Daniel and me with her woodworking talents by helping us DIY a dining room table--post on that coming soon! :) But for now, here are a few silly photos of the two of us.
The older I get, the more I realize how rare a friendship of this length and depth is. I am so thankful for this girl.
I love you, Nat!