"It has to cost you something."

A little over a week ago, I returned from a pre-Christmas trip to Nashville. I left Dallas on a Saturday morning and trekked 600+ miles in my VW Rabbit with my new Colbie Callait CD as company. The best part about the drive was that the entire state of Arkansas smelled like burning wood. I opened the moon roof and inhaled the luscious scent for a good 4 hours. Heavenly.

I was anticipating this trip to Nashville more than usual because it meant that on Sunday I was going to be reunited with an old friend, Regan, who I met in the summer of 1995 when I had just graduated high school. Regan was from Alabama and was the cool, older summer missionary who worked with our youth group that summer. We were intrigued by her accent and vice versa. She and I were both creative types and immediately kindred spirits. I was 17, and she was 19, and we stuck together that summer driving to the Jersey Shore in the big 'ole hooptie that a church member had loaned her. She invested in me and was the first person who helped me realize I didn't just draw or paint, but I was an artist.

So I left for college, we kept in touch when we could, and then 10 years ago, we suddenly lost touch. I wondered about her a thousand times since, not only because she is a uniquely beautiful person, but because her very presence in my life was a turning point that God used to completely form my future. "If I hadn't met Regan, then _______" - insert about a million things that wouldn't have happened if not for her, leading me all the way up to this day, sitting in Dallas as Mrs. Bailey. But mostly, I missed her and wanted to find her again in this life.

I'm not sure what it was this past May that finally prompted me to Google her name. But in two clicks, I had found her, where she worked, and her email address!! That day, we reconnected over email and were simultaneously shocked by how amazing/scary the Internet is and the incredible timing of our virtual reunion. As I poured out the summary of the last 10 years and explained how much she has contributed to my life, tears filled my eyes. We vowed to meet up the next time I was in Nashville.

And we did! This trip! We reunited at Fido in Hillsboro Village with a long hug and exclamations of,"Oh my goodness, you look the same, but different!" Then, over egg breakfasts, we shared our real 10-year-stories of both joys and struggles. It didn't take long to realize that after all these years, we were still us, just seasoned, a little bit changed. Since the last time I knew her, I have realized that the cookie-cutter Christianity I once thought was real, actually wasn't. And as I finished sharing the struggles I had walked through the past few years and how I had learned true faith and surrender through those things, she said something that impacted me deeply: "Well, Christine, it has to cost you something."

It has to cost you something. Wow. How true that is. I sat there for several minutes drinking it in. Of course it does. True faith, true authentic faith has to. Not until many of my dreams were stripped from me, until I had to give something up, did I find the peace that can only come without them.

Then I realized how ironic it was that I was having this conversation in a coffeeshop in Nashville, because my life there was the very epitome of "easy" and "ideal". Nashville has cost a lot of people I know "something". For me, things were so good that it skewed my reality and raised my expectations so high that it was hard to deal with "normal" after that. For others, it has cost them years of dream-searching. For others, years of waiting for the right man while they continue to get jerked around by the non-committal "Nashville guy." However, I'm not saying cost is bad; I'm saying the opposite - it has to be that way. Thank God for the cost - I wouldn't be where I am today without it.

So, Regan and I left Fido and spent the rest of the day as if no time had passed, eating lunch, shopping, and strolling the Belmont Campus. Without a doubt, it was worth the wait.

The rest of the trip was filled with more incredible times with old, dear friends...

This is where Suz lives in downtown Franklin. Can you say "Family Griswold"? :) That's her cute apartment balcony on the top right...

Suz is a total stud-ette. A few days before this photo, she broke some boards with her fists and a sidekick at her martial arts class! I love how feminine she looks in this picture, and then with her bad-a** busted lip!

Me, Suz, and Christina before the lovely Christmas concert of one of my favorite bands of all time, Over the Rhine at the Belcourt. I'm not ashamed to say we all had crushes on Karin Bergquist, along with every other guy and girl in the room.

Then it was off to the enchanting Opryland Hotel for my yearly tradition with Angela & Christy, and her two adorable kiddies, Caleb & Emily! In 12 years of knowing each other, we've only missed one Christmas!

Even though it's sometimes hard to return to you, Nashville, you are still good to me.