When Reagan was in about 2nd grade, or maybe even before, she starting asking me, “Who is your best friend?”

Well, of course there’s my husband, my mom, my sister – these people know me inside out and have to love me anyway. But that’s not what she meant. She meant, who, outside my relatives, did I choose to be close friends with, and why.

I think friendship is a gift, and true friendship, nothing short of treasure. And in my life, throughout different seasons, I have had a lot of close friends. But many of those friendships were only for that season, and while some of us may keep in touch, the time where we were really close has passed.

So, when answering my child’s question, I’ve always come back to two names: Beck and Kim.

Beck, you and I have known each other for 13 years now. You took me under your wing when I came to work with you, and I have immense respect for your knowledge, your judgment, and your critical thinking.

You were a tough nut to crack, so to speak. You don’t let just anybody be close to you, and that alone makes me feel like one of the privileged few. We’ve held each other up in some tough times. I’ve never felt like I didn’t have to be anything less than myself around you, and your snarky sense of humor is probably why we bonded as quickly as we did. You’ve always said you’re a realist, not a pessimist. As I’ve gotten older, I understand what you mean by that. I was still pretty naive about life when we met, and, knowing what I know about your personal history, I’ve always been in awe of your mental and emotional strength. You’re the first to say it is your faith that has held you up, but it’s not a phony, cliché faith. You have that deep, genuine, I-dont-understand-everything-and-thats-okay faith. And I tremendously respect that.

You were there for me in what was the most difficult time of my life, when my marriage fell apart. I am so thankful that I had you to lean on during that time. I’ve been there for you through some stuff, too. And it’s been a truly equal give and take friendship – which is why I believe it has lasted these many years, and continues to grow. When someone sees you at your worst, not just once, but many times, there is a bond that forms in the raw, sometimes ugly honesty. I thank God that you’ve loved me through those dark, and heartbreaking times. I look up to you as a co-worker, a mom, a strong woman who’s been to hell and back. I love that I can be having the worst day ever, but after talking to you, I feel instantly better. You empathize with heart, but with humor, and laughter always heals.

Kim. Oh my sweet, selfless, Kimi. What a gift I got in you when I started dating Shey. I can honestly say, I’ve never known another person like you. We had so much in common, how could we NOT be friends? Between our best friend husbands, our love of books, our children being the same age in the same school; our interest in so many similar things destined us to be close to each other. I love how God brought us together. And I know it was Him. Because He has used you to demonstrate His love to me, time and time again. You are one of those rare people that is the same to everyone, and makes time to make people feel special. Your love for God and love for others makes you one of the most sincere “Jesus-with-skin-on” kind of people I know. Even if we weren’t close like we are, you’re one of those people that it’s just simply pleasant, easy, and fun to be around. You have such a big heart in that tiny little body. You have a gift for lifting my spirits, and encouraging others in general. You are one of the few true optimists that I know. Your faith is demonstrated in your works, not your words. I kinda think you’re even extra special to God, because He didn’t make many like you.

You’ve also been indispensable when it comes to understanding my husband better. Having not met him until he was in his adult years, and the fact that he is such a private individual, you’ve given me a lot of insight into who he was before I came along, and how to love him better.

Both of you, my precious ladies, put up with me during my return to school a few years ago. One of the first things I had to put on the back burner was my friendship time. I wasn’t here to meet you for lunch, or to hang out with very often. It was a time in my life that I made a conscious decision to put myself first, and pursue something I had to do for me. And like good friends do, you encouraged me, you prayed for me, you listened to me, you cheered me on. We may not have been able to spend much time together or talk as often, but I felt your support as strong as if we talked every day. And I couldn’t have done it without you.

You’ve been the ones to hug me when I hurt, make me laugh when I’m angry, and just help me keep my sanity in a world that will steal your soul, one piece at a time if you let it. That’s what you both are for me: soul protectors. You remind me of what is good in the world. You remind me that I’m never alone. And you prove to me that our God is real – because He blessed me with you both at different times in my life when I needed exactly what you’ve provided. His grace is sufficient, and He demonstrated that through the gift of each of you.

I love you, ladies. Thank you for being my besties. For continuing to love me and be the kinds of friends you are. And for all the memories. Here’s to making thousands more!