THAT is how many photos I’ve collected on my laptop since last June.
And I’m going to share 7 of them with you.
But first, I want to tell you a story.
I get homesick.
I remember one particular week this past spring semester. It had been a rough few days at college (or so I thought at the time) and all I wanted was to go home.
I was so homesick that I decided to check my mailbox.
Which you only do if you’re looking for even more sadness, of course. Sadness in the form of (probably) a bill from some online thing I didn’t mean to sign up for, or a project with an imperfect grade plastered on it in big red letters… or maybe if you’re lucky (not sadness), a note from home.
AND FOR ONCE, THERE WAS A NOTE. WHAT.
But not from home. It was from one of my closest, kindest friends.
It was an encouraging note, overflowing with many underserved, sweet words written to me and delivered to my mailbox way before anyone could’ve known i’d need it.
And at the end, a Bible verse.
“Oil and incense bring joy to the heart, and the sweetness of a friend is counsel to the soul.” (Proverbs 27:9)
I remember just standing there next to my mailbox, reading these words over and over again and wowing in my head.
That week, school was busy, work was busy, napping had become a priority, and I had been feeling as if I were a lousy friend. And then bam, a note in my mailbox encouraging me in my friendships, telling me that I was counsel to the soul of my friends.
It was so ironic. Because since arriving at college, genuine friendship has become the biggest blessing for me.
Genuine friendship for me has been sweet, sincere, rare, and comforting. And as stated in Proverbs, it has undoubtably been counsel to my soul.
(I promise this has something to do with the photos I’m about to tell you about JUST HANG IN THERE.)
Friendship has also been counsel from friend’s hearts to my own: fulfilling and encouraging conversations, way more than just advice and instruction. The opposite of superficial chatter and selfish flattery.
It has been meaningful time spent together, memories made to be shared. Pleasures are far better shared with a friend, and even sorrows are better when not alone (Eccl. 4:9-12).
So why am I rambling about the importance of genuine friendship when I promised to share 7 of my favorite photos?
JUST RELAX OKAY KEEP READING.
It just so happens that these 7 photos are attached to 7 of my fondest memories from this past year… my fondest memories because of the company I was with at the time of these photos.
Because of friendships.
When I look at these pictures, it’s almost as if I’m back in these moments I shared with these friends. Just for a second.
And I want to bring you to those moments, too.
So here they are, 7 of my favorite photos and memories from this past year of traveling and just living with friends and family who I am so, so blessed to have in my life.
HERE YA GO.
Our first night in Hawaii.
We had been on a plane for 11 hours, had only eaten copious amounts of almonds and pretzels on the flight, and nothing was open on the North Shore for dinner (nothing in our budget, I mean).
After checking into our Airbnb (and after asking the Australian girls who thought it was theirs to please leave because it was for sure ours) (they left, and were super sweet about it), Nikki, Marina, Leahi, and I were starving. We were pretty desperate for anything, so we drove five minutes down the little mountain to the nearest grocery store and grabbed some sushi to share.
This little beach in the picture was pretty much at the end of the store’s parking lot, the sun was just about to set… and we couldn’t wait any longer.
So we sat here, our first night in Hawaii with tickets we had bought on a whim a few months earlier. Three roommates and best friends of 2 years… and one roommate’s sister who I had never met until that day (but loved her the second I met her. Still do, love u Leahi).
We ate our sushi as the sun set so many colors over the water. Nikki and Marina eventually wandered off on a walk, and Leahi and I sat on that blanket in the dark and had our first conversation. It was about Jesus, the different ways he shows up in our lives, and about what its like living with Nikki (ha ha whoops sorry Nikki).
It was perfect.
If I could include every single picture from this trip, I would. Sooo many incredible sights, sunsets, bus ride conversations, FOOD, late city nights, walks by the water, and I don’t think any of us stopped laughing the entire trip. I was laughing while this photo was being taken for sure.
This was one of our first days in Israel.
I remember thinking as Abi took this of Jae and I that this was probably the first photo of the two of us… and it was. We weren’t close friends when the trip started, but by the end, we were real pals.
And now? We’re going to be ROOMMATES for our last year of college. She’s now one of my closest friends, and such a blessing in my life.
Sometimes, she even slips encouraging notes into my mailbox ;).
Traveling with people is so much more than just the pictures and sights. It’s creating FRIENDSHIPS. Stronger friendships with old friends, new friendships with the people you never thought you’d be close with, and new ones with locals (miss u Sean).
And so many memories you’ll never forget that you created with those friends.
You know those nights you remember when you hear a certain song playing, see a color in the sunset, hear a sound?
80’s Films by Jon Bellion, bright orange, a fast-moving river splashing against the rocks in its path.
It was a school night, it was hot, and we already missed the freedom of summer. So we piled into cars and drove the 30 minutes of winding roads through the Virginia countryside to our little swimming spot. It was empty of people and the sun was about to set when we finally ran into the river.
After a while of swimming, Neil and Elias got caught by the current while trying to swim across the river. I remember them finally grabbing onto some rocks, eventually swimming against the current back to our spot.
Logan and I sat on a rock for a while watching them struggle back, and Jae swam out to the other side of the river (and didn’t get swept by the current, I might add).
Julia took this photo of Abi and I, when the sunset was the most brilliant thing I had ever seen, the reflection off the water making it twice as incredible.
And my camera wasn’t harmed in the taking of this photo. The perfect night.
The most dreamy 5 days in Utah.
After a weekend of bonfires, drives through the snowy canyons for brunch, instant new friends, escape rooms, late nights in the city, yummy tacos, and nonstop laughter, Marina and I took this photo before driving up the canyon one last time for Nikki and Brooks’ WEDDING.
After the most beautiful wedding ceremony I had ever been to, we ditched our shoes for fuzzy socks, and danced for hours to the live band on the stone dance floor on the side of a mountain.
Towards the end of the night, the band played Sweet Caroline, and Nikki and I held hands and sang every word to the sky in the middle of the dance floor, Nikki in her perfect wedding dress and both of us in our warm socks.
It was unreal. I’ll never forget it.
This day was about as normal as any other day with Hannah Waters.
So, not normal.
The only normal thing about our time together is the way it starts: My phone reads “Here!” from “Hannah Waters Waters”, and I run out of my dorm and into her Jeep. I always open the door to the smell of brand new car, even after months of her owning it, and to the sound of our favorite country songs coming out of the speakers. And her squeak of “HI!!!”
And then we decide how we want to spend our day. After she picks me up. I guess we could plan ahead, but the one time we’ve done that, we had to change plans because of a thunder storm. So never again, obviously.
One this particular day, it was raining, so we spent hours at a coffee shop.
Actually, there is one more normal thing about our friendship. How our days together usually end.
A wrong turn at the intersection (on purpose), a long drive down a long, winding road past farms and fields of horses for an excuse to listen to music and talk for just a little longer… and then five minutes of goodbyes and a wave as I watch her drive off.
I know this sounds too unrealistic and super dreamy, but spend ten minutes with Hannah Waters and you’ll see that I’m not romanticizing this.
Sometimes, I wonder if she’s real, too.
Hawaii round two, this time with my family.
I know what you’re thinking.
Siblings don’t count as friends.
But you’re wrong. Because they’re my best friends.
We had piled into a pickup truck, met up with our friends who are locals on Hawaii, and followed them down an insane pass into this valley.
It was hot. The sun was about to set. Sunbeams were streaming through the hazy humidity clouds, and we could just see past the glowing haze to the most perfect little beach below us, nearly empty, with scattered waterfalls flowing onto the sand. Oh, and wild horses. Just living on the beach.
After swimming for a while, Cait, Neil, and I walked along the beach to watch the sun set between the mountains. There was a little stream that rain through the mountains to the ocean, and the horses were standing in it on the beach, drinking the cold water.
I took this picture as I followed my siblings to the stream, because I didn’t want to forget the calm, quiet moments of our friendship, too (since they’re so extremely rare and far between) (if you know, you know).
Sometimes I still think about this day and wonder if I’ve made the memory of it more perfect than it actually was.
But I didn’t.
Because as far as birthdays go, this one was beyond perfect.
And I owe that to the incredible friends I have in my life.
Oh, and also God. Because I woke up for just another day of classes to A SNOW DAY. Like, who gets a snow day on their birthday? Unreal.
This was followed by Marina forcing me into a sweater and snow boots, Nikki barging into our room insisting that I call out of my internship, and the both of them putting me into a truck and driving me to brunch (curtsey of Nikki’s husband, who she had be our driver for the day) (thanks for wasting your snow day on me, Brooks. I still feel bad about that).
I sound annoyed by all this, but in reality, it was the most exciting few hours of my life (or so it felt).
After bunch, they handed me a pair of snow pants and told me their next surprise: we were going sledding! But that, bummer, everyone they invited to come with us can’t actually come. Except for Jae!
I got back into the truck all ready for a few hours of sledding with Nikki, Brooks, Marina, and Jae.
BUT. As we drove off campus: “Just kidding! We’re taking you skiing!!!!”
After three perfect hours of skiing (and of Marina sitting in the lodge because she doesn’t like to ski) (let me mention that she came with us, an HOUR DRIVE one way, and then THREE HOURS IN THE SKI LODGE WHILE WE WERE SKIING, just to spend time with me on my birthday ??????), we warmed up in the lodge and then went to dinner at our favorite: Olive Garden. All I remember from that dinner was how hard we all laughed. The. Entire. Time.
We got back to campus a little before midnight, to a group of friends waiting for me in the dorm when we arrived. We all sat talking and laughing, and all I could think about was how insanely perfect this day had been as I looked at all the people I loved so much in one room.
Jae even hung out on my bed with me – looking at the ceiling, talking, and laughing about our already-sore limbs from a day of skiing – until the clock hit 12am.
It’s the reason all of these ordinary days were more than that, more than ordinary.
I didn’t mention some of the not-so-perfect moments from these memories. Because who wants to hear about those? If I’m being honest, there is no such thing as perfect.
But there is such thing as sharing life, even the imperfect parts, with genuine friends.
And even in the imperfect moments, genuine friends can make these moments sweet.
And where are such friends found?
Christians. Bible readers, Bible do-ers, Christ-followers, disciples of Jesus Christ, or whatever name you prefer.
In the Christian church.
True friends are found in those who have learned friendship from God’s word, the Bible.
They’ve learned true friendship from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
They’ve learned true friendship from John 15:11-17:
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command… This is my command: Love each other.”
And how to be such a friend? Practice 1 Corinthians 13:4-7!
And all of this because of one 1 Corinthians 13 friend who dropped off a little note in my mailbox, not knowing how much I (and you, reading this) would need it.
That one little note from one friend managed to make my imperfect week a little sweeter.
Even now, months later, the memory of that moment makes this rainy day a little sunnier.
Because surrounding yourself with genuine friends and their heartfelt counsel sweetens every part of life.
And you deserve this.
Don’t sell yourself short of it.
Surround yourself with 1 Corinthians 13 friends.