For Beth, on completion of her PhD

Grateful we look better than we did in middle school.
We look better than we did in middle school, at least.

We went to Coakley’s on Friday night, a little pub in Havre de Grace that we both love, and she told me about her first week of classes, about what scared her and about what excited as she looked forward into her first semester as a professor. Over cold beers and hot pizza, she told me that she felt born to do this work, and that the blood and sweat and tears of the last decade were more than worth it.

The last five of those years Beth had spent working on her degree abroad, immersed in all things Scotland – Scotland of the past, and Scotland in the now. She wrote emails filled with stories about Patrick Hamilton and Sir David Lindsay and John Calvin, and about Andy and Claire and Katherine who were studying alongside her. And it all seemed right, like she was exactly where she was supposed to be – because she was exactly where she was supposed to be.

And from the Stateside bedroom in my parents’ house while I worked on my own degree, I rejoiced for her and missed her in equal parts.

When we got home from the pub on Friday night, we were met by her parents and a couple of young ladies from their church. And while Beth and I scooped ice cream for everybody and laughed at things no one else would have found funny, we answered questions about how long we’d known each other and told the story of how we’d become friends in the first place.

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She popped her head into the middle school Sunday school room and asked, in a voice too chipper for that hour of the morning, which one of us was Amber. I didn’t know her beyond recognizing her face as one of the girls in my mom’s freshman Sunday school class, but I affirmed that I was who she was looking for anyway.'farolero' photo (c) 2007, Eduardo - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

“Mrs. Patty told me you know the words to ‘Good Morning’ from Singin’ in the Rain! Can you tell me? I want to write them on the chalkboard in the other youth room.”

I didn’t sing them, but I told her the words.

“Thanks!” she chirped back, and she skipped back down the hall to the high school room.

And before church was over that day, we had a plan to get together the next weekend to watch Singin’ in the Rain.  Which, as they say in the old films, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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I think about the girls of that story, the middle schooler and the high schooler who couldn’t have been more opposite in personality, and I don’t think they would have believed that eighteen years later they would still be friends. I don’t think they would have believed the weight that their friendship would carry, or the value they would hold in each other’s lives. I don’t think they would have believed that they would become family to one another, and that their sisterhood would survive moves across states and moves across oceans. Or that as sisters they would mourn and celebrate, and speak some of the hardest and best truths into each other’s lives.

But, maybe that’s how it is for some the best things in life – you just don’t see in coming. And maybe the room to surprise you is a gift.

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So, Beth, this one is a celebration of you, and the friend that you have been to me.

This is for that way-too-chipper high school freshman who loved history and wanted to see other people get excited about it too. This is for the undergrad that found a place in academia, and found the way she studied to be worship to the God who has stood the ages. This is for the Master’s student who learned to research and write, and for the PhD who brought it to completion in a thesis she can be proud of.

And this is for my friend, who has had a dream through the entirety of our friendship and has seen in realized this week as she took control of her own classroom. This is for my friend, who is doing exactly what she was born to do.

I couldn’t be more proud.

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