Tonight I sat with a dozen friends around chips and queso and good conversation. I wanted to say more than I said out loud, but I think they all know I am a writer, not a speaker. But if I could have made a speech, I would have said this.
Around this table is just four years or less of friendship with each of you, but it feels like more. We have been each other's kids AWANA's teachers. You have seen me cry in Sunday school classes (in th cry room of course) or in Bible studies. We have shared snacks and stories on break during VBS weeks. Some of us have studied 1 Peter and travelled to Indianapolis together. We have prayed for one another, in person or via the internet. You have cheered for my kids and those of you further along in faith have mentored me, even informally. You have shown me the beauty in complementarianism and I have almost converted enough to adopt that label for myself. You have shown me what life looks like at different phases of the journey. You have encouraged me after each diagnosis for Grady, you have worn green for CP and blue for autism. You have made me feel included from our first Wednesday night at Boulevard.
I tell everyone I wish I could take my church to Arizona. We are not a perfect bunch, but you have taught me what gospel-centered friendships look like. It wasn't from a step-by-step manual, but it was true friendship, mostly among introverts and a few extraverts. When you have asked how I am doing, you have taken the time to listen to my answer. You have helped your children to understand mine, and that has been one of the greatest gifts. One of the hardest parts of leaving is knowing my kids won't be in Bible quiz or youth group or on mission trips with yours. Thank you for being families that my family wants to be around each week.
I don't know how to end this. I am terrible with writing conclusions, and I am terrible with goodbyes. If it were the nineties, I would start singing, "And a friend's a friend forever..." but it is 2017, so I won't. Thank you for investing in me and in my family. The Lord has used the four years at Boulevard to heal a lot of my old church wounds, and you all have been part of that healing. Please come visit us in Tucson. We don't have an Andy's, but we do have an In-n-Out.