Today is Audra’s Birthday, and I wanted to celebrate her here with you all. As most of you know by now, she was Audrey’s namesake, and we are going into our 13th year of being “BFF’S” (hence the eyebrow issues in some of the earlier photos in the slideshow…)
A little about our friendship. When we met, we were in Buffalo New York (although we had both started college at 2 different schools a few minutes away from each other in Ohio:)).  She was actually my T.A. at Buffalo State even though we were the same year, and the first conversation I recall having with her involved the type of pants she was considering wearing on a date that night. I think we decided on velour? Please, remember the 90’s with me…at that time it was a good, solid choice. He, as I recall, turned out to be a loser. But the pants were, well, rockin’. I think they had stirrups too. Bonus.
Neither one of us were Christians, and we didn’t live our lives like we should have. We were both dating abusive men, and we were searching for ourselves by going out a lot and pretending our real lives didn’t exist. We were immediately soul sisters…we had no idea at that time what God had in store for us.  It is amazing to see where we are now (long story shortened here…).
The year after I was accepted to Vanderbilt University, Audra was also accepted, and moved to Nashville. We were so grateful to be in the same city again, and we sailed through Graduate School (seriously, if you ask either one of us what we remember from that time, we would probably say shopping. I have no idea how we each got our Master’s Degrees, but we did look really cute doing it.)
I decided to start going to Mass at some point in the year before Audra moved here, and felt that the Lord was calling me to Him. When she moved here, she felt the same way, and began attending First Baptist Nashville (without going into too many details about our “prior lives,” this was pretty much a miracle.  She invited me to join in a Bible Study with her (remember the Precious Moments Bible…yes, that was this study…).  I honestly loved it, and I loved all of the women who were a part of it. I am still close to many of them, and I remember that as the time when I began to feel really pursued by the Lord.
One night, on the way to church, I said to Audra, “I just don’t understand this whole ‘getting saved’ thing. I mean, I’ve told God that I love Him and that I want relationship with Him, but I don’t feel like I’ve gotten the sign that means I’ve been accepted or whatever.”
She walked me through it all, and later that night (on January 17th, 2001) I sat in my car, sobbing, and I invited the Lord to be a part of my life.  
She and I have walked through everything from infertility, miscarriage, horrible break-ups, devastating life circumstances, arguments, car accidents, driving mishaps (which led to us literally ending up in the wrong STATE and laughing so hard I almost peed on myself), and everything in between. We have watched each other’s babies be born, and been each other’s maids of honor. I have heard it said that “Friendship is the giving and taking of hurts…” and that has certainly been true for us. 
When I found out that I was going to be in the hospital with the twins for a few months, Audra would come and spend the night with me while Todd was on the road. She brought me books, crossword puzzles and Christmas CD’s, and  would come on her work breaks to share lunch with me.  She would rub my swollen feet and talk to the nurses for me when I didn’t have the strength. She would pray with me, cry with me, laugh with me, and dream with me of the day that all of this would be over.
And then, when we found out about Audrey, she was in her car on the way to my house before I could finish telling her what was wrong. We sobbed as we sat on the couch and for the rest of the pregnancy, she was everything I could have ever asked for. She knew what I was thinking before I said it, and she let me be me. I needed her so much, and she NEVER LET GO.
She was there for the birth of Sarah Kate, and we all bawled our eyes out when she came out so tiny and precious. She was such a sweet baby….I miss those days of rocking and bouncy seats sometimes….OK, a lot of time.
During this time, Audra met Shawn, and they got married. He is AMAZING, and I couldn’t have picked a better husband for her. They have a gorgeous daughter named Amelia (2), and will be expecting their next little girl in a week or so (she is as of yet unnamed, so pray for wisdom!!!) Audra’s blog is listed on my sidebar, so make sure and check out pics of sweet baby Amelia. She is absolutely gorgeous, and there is no mistaking that she looks like her handsome daddy:)
Years later, she would meet her namesake Audrey Caroline. She would study her body, smooth her hair, kiss her as she cried tears of deep longing. She would stand up at Audrey’s memorial and read a letter I wrote to my daughter as tears streamed down her face. She would stand at Audrey’s memorial service with Shawn’s arms around her as if she herself had lost a child. She conceived a baby quickly after that, and her due date is actually somewhere between the 8th and the 11th. 
I’m secretly hoping the baby is born on the 7th so I will have a reason to celebrate on that day when now all I have is a reason to mourn.
I could go on and on, but basically, what I am saying is that I cannot imagine my life without your friendship and love, Audra. I am eternally grateful that God gave us to each other, and that something as simple as velour would lead to a pair of women who spend their lives falling more and more in love with our great Savior. 
How could we have known, so many winters ago, what He would allow us to walk through together?
It has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
Here’s to 70 more…
p.s. Feel free to wish Audra a Happy Birthday in the comments!!!! She’ll get a kick out of that:) And remember as you watch, we met in the 90’s!!!!!! so go easy on the clothing…:)

p.p.s. I have spent about 6 hours trying to make this slideshow look right, it’s much better if you click on “view in highest quality” on the right hand side of the screen on the bottom.

(remember to pause blog music…and if you’re curious, the song that plays with the slideshow is “Never Let Go,” also by the David Crowder Band:) )