September 12, 2014 was a day that will live on in my memory forever. It is the day that I got to meet my internet friends of 17 years. These precious ladies entered the Lifetime Lounge all of those years ago, just as I did, not knowing what to expect. Our curiosity turned into frequent visits to relieve the stress in our lives, and the result was something that none of us expected yet all of us are eternally grateful for.
This post is a recap of that weekend of a lifetime! I will post details of our trip along with pictures of us all together (patience, please, as the pictures will start about halfway through the post … some are with smartphones at the beginning, while the rest are with a regular camera so the quality of the picture will be better on those).
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that people enter your life for a reason, season, or lifetime. We all came together for a specific reason, and certainly we were not sure if it would last beyond a season. However, we are all proud to say that our friendship will last a lifetime. We are not confident and sure of a lot of things, but of this we ARE sure. Our friendship has seen us through some of the hardest things we’ve had to face in the past 17 years, and we are holding on tightly because of how much we all mean to each other.
I play that day over in my head because I do not want to forget one little detail.
We talked of getting together before now, but this meeting was prompted by one of our dear friends receiving news that greatly concerned us all. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. This lady had just recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Upon hearing this, our friend that lived further away than all of us started putting plans into place to travel the distance to see her. When she told me of her plans, I did not hesitant at all and immediately started planning to join her. When we asked our friend what she thought about a visit, she grew excited, and then our other friend said she wouldn’t miss this for the world so she, too, was planning on joining us! Words cannot express the excitement we felt when we realized that we were all in!
The weeks began to drag by after our plans were put into place. We all had our GPS systems programmed, hotel reservations confirmed, and then we waited for the day to arrive. I doubt any of us got much sleep the night before as we looked forward to meeting our friends of a lifetime the very next day!
My daughters and I set out that Friday morning, but our friend, Betty, started her journey on Thursday since she was driving all the way from Oklahoma. This would be a 13 hour stretch for her! It was only four hours for us, and then our friend, Sylvia, was coming in from Alabama so it was about a five hour drive for her. We were all coming in to surround our dear friend, Debbie, with so much love and to be able to give her the biggest hug EVER in person!
We all were sure to “check in” with Facebook so everyone would know where we were in our travels along the way. We posted “selfies” of us in the car with our children as the excitement was building!
That was what was so amazing on this trip is that not only were we all meeting, but our children wanted to come along as well as they grew up in pictures together over the past 17 years. Our families knew each other, and it was so special when the children said they wanted to go, too!
My oldest daughter was only six months old when I met these precious ladies in the Lifetime Lounge. Sylvia’s son was only four months old at the time, and Betty’s daughter was three years old. Wow! While we all have other children, these babies grew up in pictures and “knew” each other through us. My daughter, Nicole, is now 17 years old as is Sylvia’s son, Andrew. Betty’s daughter, Haylie, is 20 years old. Debbie was going through the teen years with her children at the time that we met, so she used the Lifetime Lounge as a way to escape the teen drama. (Boy, can I relate to that now!) Now her children are all grown up with families of their own! How in the world did THAT happen?! Our babies seemed to grow up almost overnight! It wasn’t supposed to go THAT fast!
Back to the trip. We had every detail planned out except for what time we would all be arriving and where we would meet up. I assumed we would meet at the hotel, but that was not what Betty had in mind. When we arrived at 3 p.m., we checked into the hotel and then headed over to the grocery store to get a few items for our room while we waited for the others to arrive. Little did we know, but Betty had already arrived and had been visiting with Debbie at her house since 1:45 that afternoon!
It didn’t take long before Betty called us and asked, “What are you doing?” Quickly followed by, “Get your butt over here!” *lol* And so, we did!
As we drove to Debbie’s house, my daughter, Nicole, got the camera ready. She started taking pictures the moment I put the vehicle in park and raced out the door down Debbie’s driveway. I had my arms up in the air preparing for that hug long before I ever reached her door. A string of “Oh my gosh … oh my gosh …” followed with lots of squeals and laughter as I reached my dear friend and could put my arms gently around her for the very first time in 17 years of friendship! I LOVE her facial expression in this picture!
As we entered the house, my dear friend, Betty, was immediately on my right! It was like a dream come true. While all of these ladies are special to me, this young lady is my sister of the heart!
Our daughters were over there having a giggle fest!
The three amigos together at last!
And then we waited … and waited … and waited … on Sylvia and Andrew to arrive. They got a later start, but we filled the time with LOTS of laughter until they finally arrived! Sylvia shared with us later that she was getting ready to leave and asked to borrow Andrew’s GPS when he asked where she was going. She reminded him that this was the weekend she was meeting all of us, and immediately, Andrew’s face lit up as he asked if he could go, too! That made our whole day when we heard that Andrew WANTED to come along! What a brave soul … the only male in with all of these women! Oh, he was in for a real treat that weekend!
When Sylvia and Andrew were near, we went back to the hotel to wait on them. I remember that we were all sitting in the lobby of the hotel when Betty so calmly said, “There’s Sylvia.” And … I took off running to her, too! While this caught us off guard and we did not get pictures of this, I will never forget the look on Sylvia’s face as I rushed toward her. Then, as we hugged, she pulled back for a minute to ask if this was real and to say that she could not believe that after 17 years she was actually touching me in person! Ah, but they had touched my soul long before over the course of all of these years of friendship! The lady at the front desk of the hotel asked if this was a family reunion, to which Debbie responded, “In a way … yes!” Because we ARE family!
We took off to a local restaurant where we were probably the loudest table in there, but we did not care one little bit!
After dinner, we went back to the hotel where we talked until close to 1 a.m. I thought for sure that Debbie’s husband, Ray, was going to have my head when I drove her home at that hour.
The next morning we set out to explore a gem mine. We started at the petting zoo and made our way through the old homestead. Since I am the self proclaimed “Picture Queen,” we just HAD to stop for a few Kodak moments!
We went for a little hike, and then we saw a wedding party taking pictures. I thought, “Hey, that would make a great picture …” so away we went when the wedding party was finished to get a picture of our own! Thanks, wedding people! We love our awesome picture! Betty jokingly asked if this meant we were getting married. I replied, “We are forever committed to each other!” Absolutely! In friendship and love! They are my family of choice!
We went on a little train ride around the mountain, too, and that was a lot of fun!
Then we got serious and went panning to see what treasures we could find! The majority of our group decided to go gem mining while Andrew and Sylvia wanted to pan for gold! There’s gold in them there hills, you know! And … there was! After sifting through and sifting through some more, finally Andrew & Sylvia struck it rich! They were able to take their flakes of gold home in a jar about the size of a thimble. Sylvia said she was so rich that lunch was on her! We got a good laugh out of that.
We left the gem mine and went to get a little bite to eat. Once again, we were the loudest table in there, but I can guarantee you there was never a dull moment for our waitress!
We spent the entire day together with Debbie showing us around her town and just soaking in all of the laughter! We truly had a great time together.
After we ate, we went back to the hotel to continue our conversations and to let my little one go swimming. Haylie watched Haven swim and played with the water guns with her while Debbie and Betty talked up in Betty’s room. Sylvia, Nicole, and I decided to go get manicures and pedicures! Andrew was brave enough to escort us there! That was the most relaxing manicure and pedicure I think I have ever had. It was a lot of fun sitting there next to Sylvia listening to her tell the Chinese women all about her adult children, two of which are now married! She was gushing with excitement as she spoke of all four of her children. She may have thought I was snoozing in the massage chair, but I heard every single word!
We knew that Andrew and Sylvia would need to leave after we returned to the hotel as Sylvia is a pianist at her church and needed to be there the next morning to play for the service. We could feel our good times and laughter now being replaced with sadness as we were about to part ways. These ladies were just as they had seemed all of these years, only better in person! I am so thankful and grateful for the time we shared together. We made precious memories that weekend!
We held off as long as we could, but the moment had arrived for Sylvia and Andrew to leave. Before they did, though, I asked if we could all gather around Debbie. It was my desire for us all to lay hands on Debbie and pray for her. We do not know what the future holds for our dear friend, but we know Who holds the future … and we know Who holds Debbie in the palm of His hand!
As we gathered around Debbie in that hotel room that evening, something powerful happened. We were gathered in love and friendship in prayer for this precious lady. We huddled around her as prayer was lifted up to Heaven from our hearts to God’s as we pleaded with Him on her behalf. Tears began to stream down our faces as the power of prayer filled that hotel room. We believe in the bible verse that speaks of where two or three are gathered in His name … and we came together that night believing in the power of prayer and in the healing power of our Great Physician. We know that Debbie needs a miracle, and we asked that He provide that for her. If it’s not in His will, though, we asked for the ability to handle what is to come. We do not know why something like this had to happen to this sweet lady, but we are all going to love her through this. No matter what comes our way, we are all in this together joined by our heart strings.
It was hard for us to say our goodbyes after all of these years and finally getting to spend this time together. But, it was precious time spent with people that have touched my heart and life in ways they truly cannot imagine. There are no words to express how much these people mean to me and how they truly are a part of my family. I love each and every one so much, and I hope to see them all again soon.
I am thankful for my family of choice … and for friends that weren’t just for a reason or a season … but for a lifetime!
Dear readers, please help lift our precious friend, Debbie, up in prayer. Thank you from my heart!