We pulled up to the driveway, and the only thing I could find to mutter was, "Do they have a horse?"
I was SO surprised... SO Surprised!!!
That's right, one llama, an alpaca, a sheep, goat, baby bunnies, one guinea pig, and a horse named Apache, greeted me in my friend Beth's driveway for my Birthday Surprise!
Haha, I was given a petting farm this year for my Birthday. Yep, a petting farm and a pony ride! Was I turning 5 you might ask? Nope, 32 this year! .
Who would think of this? Who did this? Well, meet my 240!
I arrived last with Lindsay. We drove from Nashville to Worthington, Ohio, in the pouring rain, and at this point I had been away from home for 13 days. We were greeted at our Bed and Breakfast by the cheers and hugs of our 5 other Spartan Sisters! It's the familiar 240 Love. All 7 of us lived in a house together at Michigan State... our address was 240 Oakhill... Hence 240 Girls, 240Love, 240 Friends. We are 240!!!
These dear ones, gracious, sweet and spunky sisters of mine are some of the most treasured relationships I have. They embody faithfulness, live intentional stories, love deeply, are passionate, trusting, adventurous, incredibly generous, and make me laugh harder than most... We have history, we tell truth to each other, know quirks we wouldn't dare share, tell memories with gusto, and celebrate each time we are together!
Annually we meet for one weekend, and while the destination changes the rhythm is the same. Give us laughter, truth, time to be together, wine, strong coffee (or iced tea for Kristen), a place to lounge and no real set schedule... We don't like to "HAVE" to be somewhere.
I was tired this time, but absolutely elated. In this group of dear ones I can merely be. Show up, as I am. No expectations. No pressure.
It feels magical... like a separate space in time that is set apart to be 240!
The roots run deep, and the memories still very vivid and alive from over 14 years of Friendship!
We are Valued. Different, yes, but cherished just as we are. With these ones I can be simply me!
On Saturday morning, I felt like I was drinking in the environment. Talk of new babies, almost ready to make their entrance into the world, and expert Moms with advice and thoughts to support. I am amazed at watching my dear ones have their own families to raise, to love, and to talk about. I listen intently as their voices share openly about what God has given to them through children, travel, husbands, jobs, disappointments, relationships, questions, and celebrations. I am amazed by them... all 6 of them! Amazed I get to share in this life with my Spartan Sisters.
I can be quiet with them. I can be still, and just listen. Their laughter is so familiar to me, and I find my heart leaping with such gratitude for these sisters. I would catch myself on Saturday surveying the room with a deep love for each of them. It is a real blessing to be together. Special. And I want to remember every detail. I want to be present. Present to what is offered so freely in this space, and given with such ease!
We spent Saturday sipping coffee, slowly getting ready, and laughing. There was adventures to a market, the conservatory, champagne baby shower, and a wonderful slow dinner. We laughed and drank wine at the Bed and Breakfast until late that night. It was perfect.
Sunday morning we woke up slowly... I heard Krista say, "I want a week of this," and that made my heart smile big. Me too... Me too! We ate delicious pancakes in our oval dining room... Vegan for me, and SO yummy. We had packed up, and were on our way to see the new Baby's Room at Beth's house.
As we pulled up to the drive way this happened...
Completely shocked, totally authentic, Genuine JOY.
I could not believe it. Truly, it took me about 20 minutes to gather what exactly was happening.
Yes, Beth and Emily orchestrated a surprise for us all... They are the greatest masterminds and can make just about anything a reality I am convinced! I spent an hour at my very own petting farm, riding a horse named Apache around an Ohio subdivision, petting the animals, opening presents, eating a vegan cake, and crying... LOTS of crying!
BUT what continues to strike me the most when I think about that day is that, I am known.
I am really and truly known.
I have thought about why that would surprise me. I'll be honest... I think there are moments where I find it quite easy to forget I am thought about. Doesn't that sound crazy?! That others think of me. It blows me away. I will wonder on some days what I offer. Or some days try with all my might to see how I measure up. I will want to be different other days, there are things about me I would change every day. I can get very upset with me on certain days.
And yet in spite of all of that mental hula hooping, by others I am still thought of!
My dear ones reminded me how precious it is to be thought of, and thought of in an extravagant way!!!
To be loved. To be surprised. To be known. To be given the exact moment of glee you never knew you needed, but don't want to end. To experience abiding joy that is freely given.
I am known. AND YOU ARE KNOWN!
Yes, that is true for you. Even on days when it does not feel real, or you don't measure up, or you want so badly to be different. My goodness... our Heavenly Father thinks of us every moment of every single day... with a forceful, never-ending, unwavering, treasured LOVE! We are known. We are loved. We are thought of in ways that make us ugly cry by a God that NEVER stops thinking about us!!! He seriously never stops!
My hope would be today you could think of those that love and know you... Thank them! Remind them how special that is, how dearly precious on this Earth to find a person or people that remind you that you are Known!
But my biggest hope would be that you would also cling to the ONE that knows you... All of you! The very soul of you! The one who made you and declares YOU are, Tov Meod! YOU are the Best of the Best of the Very, Very Best!!! The very details and fabric of your life He has prepared and is working for good for you. The one who has never stopped thinking of you, seeing you, constantly giving you gifts, and loving you in a way that if we understood it completely would make us cry an ugly, double chin way. Our God offers joy that abides, despite all that swirls around us in this broken world, because we are known by Him!
Through ugly crying and explosive laughter I am reminded that I am known. And Friend, so are you!
"He KNOWS us far better than we know ourselves... and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." Romans 8:28
Thank you 240 for reminding me. For showing me. For loving me... a glimpse of His goodness in the land of the living through you! Until next time... I LOVE YOU!!!