it’s not everyday you get to skip math class to write about the beach boys concert.
it was 2005. i was an excited, vulnerable senior in high school, ready to graduate. my best friend rachael and i were editors of the school newspaper. this was big-deal stuff. i got to skip other classes to meet deadlines. it was a pretty fantastic gig. i was loving my editor position, but i really just couldn’t wait to graduate, have an amazing, unforgettable summer, and then move to florida to start my college career.
it was around march and rachael couldn’t keep her mouth shut about the vacation bible school at this church up the road. she begged me the year before to be a counselor with her, and i found some excuse to get out of doing it. but this year was different. it was my last high school summer. i had to soak it up. i loved jesus, i liked kids and she promised we could go swimming in her pool afterwards. i was sold.
vacation bible school came and went and i was amazed. never had i seen a church really pour their heart and soul into making this the best week of kids summer. i met so many sweet people and i was so intrigued by this church.
fast forward to the next summer – i was signing up to be a counselor again. i couldn’t wait to sing and dance and throw kids around. i continued to volunteer every summer throughout my college years.
it was the summer of 2008 when i met tracy. she was wearing a visor and seemed pretty important.
note* this is a reinactment of what she definitely looked like
acquaintances is how i would describe my relationship with tracy. my senior year of college was starting. i was going through a huge transition/heartbreak and knew i needed to get back on my feet and back with god. so i took a step & started attending the church that hosted the vacation bible school all those long summer days ago. Chesapeake Church.
i got connected with a small group right away – which is where i met so many adorable couples – other people who loved jesus and wanted to learn more about him.
tracy was in the small group too. my first semester of my senior year came and went. it was hard. i leaned heavily on Chesapeake, but especially that small group. i soaked up every single moment i could with those people. they inspired me. they taught me. they cared about me.
my last semester of college required that i do an internship. my major was sociology – the study of people. tracy just happened to be heading up a brand new after-school program, called matt’s place, for middle and high school youth. it sounded perfect for my internship.
i asked that night if i could intern with her. she responded:
i don’t even know what i’m doing yet, but sure! i can find something for you to do.
& that’s when the friendship began. tracy – an avid athlete with a heart for soccer, me – a dancer who strays away from all things competitive. we were an unlikely match for sure.
she was a cool wifey & i was the single gal just trying to find my way.
did i mention she was also pregnant?
we worked hard on the after-school program. making plenty of mistakes, learning how boring homework-time really is & laughing extremely hard.
we really tried to relate to the kids.
soon i graduated college (whoo hoo) & tracy had a shower for her baby boys.
so, in june 2009, kai michael & riley david made their world debut. life changed dramatically for everyone. in the most blessed way possible, really!
matt’s place, the after-school program, blossomed & i was offered a real big-girl job working there. beyond excited to be working with youth & at a church, we continued to pour into the program. tracy was my mentor, my boss & my friend.
meanwhile, being the rockstar athlete & mom tracy is, we trained together for our first half marathon! 13.1 miles of torture for me, but she finished in 2:12. #myhero
let us alllll remember she had twins a year before!
wednesday nights were dedicated to walks on the boardwalk, dinners fit for a king & curious george. tracy has taught me SO much about parenting. & i thought i knew a little something. nope. we just had plain fun. this was our weekly tradition for about three years.
one night i told tracy about a dream i had the night before. she was pregnant & had a baby girl. while i was telling her about my dream, she got super red & a little while later she confessed that she was indeed PREGGERS! i’m a fortune-teller on the side. or a prophet, depending on who you ask.
i lovingly called her baby – victor montgomery. it just really had a nice ring to it!
she’ll absolutely kill me for this one. heels + tracy = one hot mama!
life didn’t slow down, ever. tracy always welcomed me into her little fam, letting me be a part of something so incredibly beautiful.
no matter what the season, we worked hard on our friendship. god at the center, always. she’s taught me patience, gentleness & how to make tzatziki. #yum!
celebrating birthdays & eagerly awaiting the arrival of victor montgomery!
she thought this picture was so bizarre. i thought it was a cute pose . . . #whatever
he’s here! no longer victor, but rather, jordan gabriel!! 2/21/12
he’s crying, by the way.
jordan is a quiet, laidback soul. soaks up everything his broksi’s do. & he has curls for days.
everything on the surface looks easy & cool & carefree. but no, it’s different. god was pulling on mark & tracy’s heart. for months and months. calling them to honduras.
i was in a selfish place. i wanted nothing to do with all the “honduras” talk. no, no. i need my best friend. i need my mentor. i need curious george on wednesday nights.
things became official quickly and it was a well-known fact that “the howards are moving to honduras.” god smacked me in the face & i snapped out of my slump & tried my best to appreciate every moment with tracy & her family.
it’s a good place to be. appreciative. humble. vulnerable.
the boys call me “bates.” it was easier to say than ‘alicia’ when they first learned to talk. it’s endearing & special & i love it.
it’s been a week since their move. tracy & her fam are 2,000 miles away, tucked away safely in honduras. the reality is sinking in & of course i miss my bff. that’s obvious. but technology is superb for these long-distance shenanigans. plus, it makes us rely on god a ridiculous new amount.
big move for a big-hearted family.
mark & tracy, y’all have sacrificed more than we all understand or will ever know. i pray for just an ounce of your humbleness, your gratitude, your obedience & your dedication to the name of christ.
love you both & of course da boys – kai-man, riley-boy & jordan,bordan,cordan,lordan.
a little bit extra:
to read more about the howard’s story & their family adventures, i encourage to check out their blog here.
to see all the big things god is doing through the mission in honduras, i encourage you to check out the el ayduante website here.
to get yourself a precious state or country canvas like the ones shown above, check out shedoesjustice here.