Happy birthday, Leanna.

Dear Leanna,

You were exactly what my soul needed when I first met you 3 years ago. I distinctly remember the moment we met. Ackey had come to pick Kelsey and I up UUJ to bring us back to North Street for Youth Service. He introduced you to us, you promptly moved seats to sit right next to me. I have to be honest, I was so tense and nervous being there that night, but you my lovely friend, you were the best. I knew from that night we were going to be friends, at least for the time I was living in Northern Ireland.

Our very first picture together. πŸ™‚

Then something happened. God happened. You spoke so much truth into my life those five months, I’m sure you hardly realize how much of an impact your words had on me. You were one of the first Christ-centered women I have ever met and there was a glow about you that lit up the room when you walked in. I wanted to have what you had. And it was apparent that you had Christ. The Lord used you as a vessel to bring me back to Him. That has changed my life.

Seatbelt models for the WIN!

There was a moment I knew we were going to be besties forever. That moment was when you and Gav brought over the scale to weigh my bags. We had “said our goodbyes” the night before after eating out in Belfast and I cried. I cried hard, but I sensed a calm coming over me when I hugged you. It was one of those times that God clearly told me “don’t worry, you’ll be back with her”. It was amazing and it made me not feel so distraught. It made me feel like God clearly brought me to Northern Ireland as broken as I was to be mended by friends, who have since turned into precious family. When you and Gav had come over the next day with the scale, we just talked. We talked like we were old friends. We made little mention of when I we would see each other again, but I think deep down, we both knew it wouldn’t be long.

Just one of your many talents.

And it wasn’t. You came to Minneapolis. And it was EPIC. Between dinners out, shopping at the mall of america, chipotle, walking around the lake in the dark, eating oreo ice cream, and taking loads of pictures in the sculpture gardens, we were exhausted. But I was more refreshed than I had ever felt. And still, we said our goodbyes and I think we both knew it wouldn’t be long again until we were together.

Your first glimpse of MOA!

And it wasn’t. It was only a year later that I hopped on a jet plane and headed back to Northern Ireland. Within that year and a half that I was in Minneapolis and you were in Carrick, we grew close. I told you my struggles with school, relationships, boys, God, prayer, everything. You knew these things about me and you didn’t judge me. And I started learning awesome things about you, like your love for medical school and being a doctor, and doing medical missions in Nigeria. We then promised if you ever end up doing your own mission over there, I would be there to run sport and just love on the children. I’m still praying for this to happen.

oh, remember that one time in London?

Then I got to Northern Ireland. And I waited one week for you to get there. And it was the longest week of my life knowing that I was somehow in Northern Ireland and you weren’t. Then you came home from Nigeria and you were such a champ that first night. You wanted to be in bed so badly, I could tell, but alas, you did what a best friend does, stayed up and tried to talk through your sleepy eyes. Thank you for that. Those next two weeks were filled with more love than I had ever experienced ever in my whole entire life. Our late night chats at Roo’s were amazing. Our road trip to your Granny and Grandad’s was one of the most treasured memories I will ever have with you. Just you and me. It just seemed right. Oh and boooooyyyyyyfrrrrriiiieeeennnnndddd and ccuuuuuuuttttttteeeee. Remember?

This will always be one of my most favorite pictures of us.

And then I left to go home. I cried the entire trip home, not because I didn’t think we were ever going to see each other again (because let’s get real, that’s an insane thought), but because for the first time in my life I had felt so comfortable with someone who I was able to tell anything to, any struggle, any heart issue, any silly thing, and would not judge me. You, Leanna, have taught me how to be vulnerable. What an amazing gift you’ve given to me.

and this is my most favorite picture of the 3 of us. I have pretty besties.

So now after 3 years of beautiful, wonderful, amazing, God-given friendship, I continue to praise the Lord for bringing you into my life. You were my first real glimpse of a what a gospel friend does: encourages you toward the Lord even when I don’t want to move that way. Your love for silliness, fashion, cute coats from the kids section, missions, medicine, cheryl cole, late night tesco runs at night, mid-day mcdonalds runs, sitting the car park in the pouring rain, anytime dance parties to lady gaga in the kitchen, the lonely island boys, and God have me give thanks to the Lord for creating you exactly the way you are. You my friend, are brilliant.

πŸ™‚

Happy birthday, Leanna, bestiefromanothercountry. My prayer for you is that your sole reliance will continue to come from God and God alone, and that you never lose your love for life. I pray that God blesses you today and everyday after.

Love,

Kari

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