She pursued me. At twelve years old, I couldn't appreciate what an incredible gift her persistence was. To be honest, I was a little bit annoyed and embarrassed by it. I didn't have many classes with Elise, but any time she saw me in the hallway or ran into me in the car line, she would smile, ask me how my day was going, and invite me to church with her. I gave a wide range of reasons why I couldn't go. "I'm busy. I have homework. My parents can't drive me. I have to study. I'm too tired." I used all of these excuses to mask the truth - I was not comfortable in church. But I didn't think that a minister's kid would understand that, so I came up with every other reason under the sun why I couldn't go to church with her. And every time she would smile and respond with encouragement. "I miss you. I'd love to see you there."
It took her three years - THREE YEARS - of regular pestering to convince me to come to church with her on a Wednesday night. The experience overwhelmed me. I felt like I was the only one in the room who didn't know what I was supposed to be doing. I had read the Bible, but I didn't know how to navigate it. I loved to sing, but I didn't know the words to any of the songs. I had listened to other people pray, but I wasn't sure how to go about starting a conversation with God on my own. I felt so lost, but Elise was there to help me find my way. And when I left, I was convinced of one thing for sure: God was real, and He wanted a relationship with me.
I gave my life to the living God alone in my bedroom at the age of fifteen. From that moment on, my heart and life were forever changed. The little girl who pestered me into church became one of my closest and dearest friends. We laughed together and learned together. We prayed together and cried together. Sometimes, we fell on our faces together, but we always grew together. She challenged me to root my life in the truth of God's word, and we built our lives on its solid foundation together. We held each other when we were broken hearted, and we celebrated together when we finally met the men who would become our husbands. I stood beside her when she promised her life to Ryan, and she stood beside me when I promised mine to Robert. I cannot imagine what my life would look like without her.
Reading this, you can understand why I am so honored to share these photographs. My friend - my dear, sweet, beautiful friend - is going to be a mom soon, and I am so excited to watch God shape her into the likeness of Christ as she learns to love and lead her baby girl.