At 4am after driving dark, winding, sometimes scary backroads, we pull into the driveway of Patrick and Barbara Hubbard’s home in Lynchburg, Virginia. I’m so tired my stomach hurts. Might also be all the candy I’ve eaten to stay awake. The kids have been asleep for hours. Mike and I stumble to the back of the RV and climb into bed.

My alarm goes off at 9am. I left myself no time to get ready, valuing rest above first impressions. Well, sort of first impressions. Though I’ve never met them in person before, Pat and Barbara—founders of Living Bread Ministries—and I have been emailing and meeting via Google Hangout for almost a year now. I splash some cold water on my face and run my fingers through my hair as the kids scramble to get dressed.

Kind of funny to be piling out of the RV and walking up to their front door for breakfast.

Kind of crazy to think a year ago I was tweeting about Women’s World Cup and that’s how I met Pat.

Kind of nuts that next month Barbara and I will be flying to Brazil to gather the stories of the pastors and people served by Living Bread Ministries.

Kind of amazing how God brings people together.

IMG_5140The Hubbard’s are gracious and the kind of hospitable that makes you feel at ease the moment you walk in. Within moments our four kids have disappeared with their two daughters, their teenage son making his appearance a bit later. We grab coffee while Barbara makes breakfast, swapping stories and laughing as if we’ve all known each other for years. These people after my own heart even got me a Mother’s Day present: a Virginia mug!

The kids make their way back into the kitchen to eat Olaf waffles and I grab seconds of bacon. The time sneaks past until I glance at my phone and realize we really need to get going—which I end up saying about three times as the conversation is just so good we all keep getting pulled in. We say our goodbyes in the front yard. As Mike backs down the driveway I’m filled with gratitude for this new friendship and the small role I get to play being a storyteller for this ministry.

IMG_5238We drive through winding greenery as we make our way to Fredericksburg, home of our dear friends, the Files family. Chad and Joy were stationed at the Air Force base near our home years and years ago. This was a friendship formed in the trenches of being young and having growing families. It’s not just that they would end up to have four kids about the same age as our four, it’s that we just worked. We did all kinds of life together while they lived in California: gym, preschool, date nights, pregnancies, vacations, and random what’s-in-your-fridge-just-bring-whatever weeknight dinners.

It was heartbreaking when they moved.

Over time Joy and I have come to accept that we are officially the worst long-distance friends ever. We both hate talking on the phone. We don’t prioritize text messages. We almost never talk on Facebook. Now, if something crazy comes up we check our schedules and attempt to plan a call. And yet, every six months or so we try to get together, either me out there or her flying here, and we catch up on all the life we missed in-between.

After a week on the road, and nearly a year since my last visit (and much longer for Mike and the kids), I am giddy with the anticipation of getting to spend almost a week staying with Chad and Joy and their kids. I obsessively check the map and agonize over how slow each minute ticks by.

This is by far the shortest leg of the trip, but it feels like the longest wait.

It was by far the longest stay of the trip, but it flies by the fastest.

IMG_5169We all just pick up where we left off; even our kids, a few of them meeting for the first time. We eat and laugh, while the kids run wild: riding bikes outside, playing dress up, venturing (with Mike) to the fort in the forest, playing video games, having water fights, watching movies, and playing with makeup. Both our youngest daughters were meeting for the first time and became instant fashionista friends. (The video of them doing their makeup in front of the camera is hilarious.) Even our fouth-children, which we came to realize is a specific distinction of character, hit it off.

IMG_5175One of the days we are brave and, determined to see the touristy Washington D.C. sights, we take our combined eight kids ten and under into our nation’s capitol. On that day we see the International Spy Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial—and then we all black-out from exhaustion.IMG_5181

Joy and I spend days in our yoga pants doing nothing together.

IMG_5212I also get to have dinner with my person, Danielle, who recently got married and also relocated—convenient, and yet not, to have two incredible friends living an hour from each other, yet our country’s width away from me.

One of the days Chad has to work, we take the kids strawberry picking and get Joy’s minivan so stuck in the mud the farmer has to pull us out with a tractor.IMG_5225

IMG_5232On our last day together, Joy’s sister and brother-in-law offer to watch all the kids so the four grownups can do one last D.C. trip and dinner together (Lord, bless these saints).

IMG_5279It cannot be overstated how much fun we have that day. These are the friends who will humor you by taking you to museums one of them has no interest in seeing. Friends where we have so many inside jokes from our history together we really shouldn’t be seen in public generally being fools and laughing loud as teenagers. Friends who will plan future trips with you while eating four baskets of free bread before the entrees arrive at dinner.

Friends who will pray with you in your RV and cry with you over the terrible reality of living so far apart as you say goodbye.

I can’t believe we still have a little over a week of this trip to go. I’ll be excited about that the next day. On this night, I pull the covers over my head in the bed in the back of the RV and long for the kingdom come, when we will eat and laugh and never have to say goodbye to great friends.

Lot’s of vlogs from this week, but I think Day 10 exploring DC is my favorite:

Day 11:   Day 12:

Day 13:    Day 14: Coming Soon!