1 of ’19: Traveling to and with Friends…

I went into 2019 with a plan to stay home more. My house needs painting, and I assumed it would be the year to make it happen, along with some other projects. By the end of November I looked back on the year and realized that I was out of town more in 2019 than in any other year since I moved to Waco in 2000. In addition to normal trips for holidays and the random and rare trip for work, I also had the Enneagram Cohort, which had me in Dallas for four weekends.

As the year marched on I found myself adding short trips and a week of vacation with friends, which ended up being the best thing about my year. From the Brandi Carlile/Jason Isbell concert in Kansas with Jason and Christy, to my trip to Portland (also to see Isbell, along with Father John Misty) to see Brent, who is like a brother to me, and his wife Christiena, (both with whom I had my first ever Ethiopian food experience) I am mindful of how important it is to make connections when you are young, and to keep them.

Mostly though, on this day, I am mindful of friends who stick.

In early October I spent a week in the mountains of North Carolina with Jason, Blake, and Robert. Jason is like family to me. Blake and I spend years privately lamenting the distance between us, yet when we talk or are together, the chasm disappears immediately. And then there’s Robert, with whose friendship I have reflected on quite a bit over the past few weeks.

When I was younger and finding the people who would be “my people,” I saw the world from a particular vantage point, a vantage point that I shared with many of those people. As we all got older, all of our world views changed, because this is what tends to happen with years. My worldview, complete with political, theological, and social beliefs, has changed drastically over the past decade. As that has happened, some of the people I love deeply have distanced themselves from me. I’m particularly mindful of the weeks and months after I wrote a blog several years ago about my changing beliefs on LGBTQ inclusion in the church. I had friends, close friends, unfriends me, question my salvation, wonder aloud if we can still be in each other’s lives. Similar things have happened in the Trump years.

Robert, though, is a friend who shares a world view with many of those who put me at arm’s length, but refused to do so himself. Much of our time on vacation was spent talking about beliefs, and I was struck with the intensity with which he listened, despite not agreeing. He’s always been someone who can make me laugh with a look or a story or a turn of phrase, but I was reminded there is a deeper well there than most people know. I miss the connections with those who have created distance, but Robert helps me keep strings tied to those previous iterations of myself, and for that I am thankful.

As I am thankful for everyone in my life who helped me grow, think, reflect, laugh and cry in 1019.

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