Sunday, April 10, 2011

Live, Laugh & Love

Front Row: Melissa Hanbery, Lorelei Hanbery, Marilyn Jones, Lisa Kraus Spires, Caitlin Esry
Back Row:  Jerry Hanbery, Will Jones, Julia Pribyl, Bethany Esry
Not Pictured (because she left early!): Jennifer (Bob) Minnigan Kuramochi

I had lunch with the group pictured above at The Green Iguana here in Tampa yesterday.  They drove in from all over Central Florida to see each other- and me.  These folks were all a part of our student ministry at FUMC-Kissimmee between 1994-2000, and are all very important to me.  I want to share a few thoughts about the 3 wonderful hours we shared together on Saturday.

Anytime you gather a group of people whose primary connection to one another was over a decade ago you run the risk of spending the entire time re-living old stories (of which there are many).  And we did tell a few war stories.  We talked about Jerry (who was my intern in those years) running naked through parking lots (only happened twice, according to him).  We talked about Lisa and the mission trip she spent being one of "the Craft Nazis."  But mostly we spent the time talking about their lives right now.  Bethany (who, BTW, won yesterday's trivia contest- Carowinds!) explained to us exactly what she does (and it's quite impressive!) now that she lives in Yonkers, NY, and told us of her upcoming wedding.  Caitlin talked about her teaching in St. Cloud and the fact that she just found out her contract has been renewed for next year (a big deal in Florida, where the new governor is crushing the education budget).  Jennifer and Lisa talked about being pregnant and the wonders of stretchy pants, and Jenn caught us up on the sushi restaurant she and her husband manage.  They now deliver- and one of their new customers is a strip club, much to the surprise of the delivery guy!  Julia caught us up on her current life and some future plans.  Jerry told stories of his current job search (he's an attorney), and we admired Melissa (who was meeting many of these folks for the 1st time) for being a saint- simply for being married to Jerry!  And Marilyn, Will and I soaked it all in.

It was a good thing that The Green Iguana was mostly empty that time of day, because we were not a quiet table.  We laughedA lot.  And very, very loudly.  We laughed at the old stories, the new stories, the silly comments and Lorelei.  And mostly, we laughed with and at Jerry.  Just like old times, he was the life of the party.  And just like old times, everyone was immediately comfortable with each other all over again.  I was reminded again just how much spiritual power there can be in laughter and the act of just "hanging out."

In the end, what brings us together, what bonds us together and what always brought us together is love.  The relationships we built all those years ago still ring true, because they were built in love.  This group was by no means a gathering of long-time best friends.  Some of these folks barely knew each other in the Kissimmee days.  Some see each other often, some barely at all.  The ones who were students at that time went to 4 different high schools and had a wide variance in age.  But because we shared those years seeking God, building a history and loving one another, our bond is as strong as ever.  We're still not all at the same place spiritually, but that's OK.  The journey has not ended, and we all still have miles to go.  But you know what the cool part is- both for those of us who gathered yesterday and hundreds of others who have shared that same bond over the many years?  We will always- ALWAYS- have friends on the journey that we know us- and love us anyway.  That is a gift from God that I will always be thankful for. Thanks, my friends, for the love and grace you showed me simply by wanting to be there yesterday.  We received all kinds of motes from former FUMC-K students who wanted to be there so badly.  And Kelly Jeck Trace, I'm so sorry you didn't get the word we were getting together- I guess giving up Facebook for Lent does have a downside!  I pray God's blessings for all of the former youth group family members out there.  If you missed yesterday, I hope to see you soon!

Because of Jesus,


  1. I have just found you! I love how you put the name of Jesus in RED!! That is just cool for some reason I can't define right now!

    I haven't got a chance to read your blog yet, but I found you with your revolutionary Jesus post for the new year. Cool idea rather than resolution, REVOLUTION for Jesus!

    I think I love you. :D

  2. Anonymous4/10/2011

    I hope you know what a gift you have to be able to bring people together is such a way. I was a youth pastor for 15 years and found it difficult enough to gather groups like that while they were in my youth group. I am jealous for myself and thankful for you that you still have such a connection. - Carter Eddins

  3. Glad you found me, Anna Renee! God bless you. And Carter, I do know how blessed I am to have such incredible people still in my life, but it's not about me. It is all about Jesus!

  4. Had a blast yesterday Carl. Haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

  5. I know Lisa, me too. So great to see you!


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