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So I came across this video of you on Youtube. I smiled, I laughed, I got a little choked up at times. Mostly, I missed you.

There you are, auditioning for Season 12 of Biggest Loser. I go back and look at it often and for those few minutes, it doesn’t feel as though you live so far away. You look so handsome in glasses. I use reading glasses now. I have a thing for reading glasses the way most women have a thing for shoes (mostly because I need to keep them in every room).

Isn’t it funny how parts of life can be so awkward that you’d never want to go back to that particular time? And yet there are little pieces of that time that you wouldn’t undo for the world? I would never want to revisit Junior High. On the other hand, I met you in ninth grade and I couldn’t imagine going through this life without ever having met you.

Let’s talk body image for a minute. Junior High was the worst of it for me. My nicknames were “Goodyear” and “Sherman Tank”. There was a guy that used to visit my brother almost everyday in our home. They sat in his room and listened to KISS albums non-stop while I exercised in my room, trying to make my thighs skinny.  He and I grew up together from the time we were in kindergarten and I’ll never forget the day he said, “Your sister must be dancing again. I feel the house shaking.” Hysterical laughter followed on their end. Heartache and confusion followed on mine. I was a size nine. Everyday of my life, I believed I was fat because the words I heard so often took root in my psyche.

I learned to not eat. When I lost weight, you were the first person to notice.

A couple of years later, you learned not to eat.

We both ate, though, one year when your mother cooked two of your favorite dishes for your birthday: pizza and spaghetti casserole. Remember that? You were turning 19 or 20…I’ve forgotten which. You had gone from being a friend from school to something more like family. Your father took Tyler riding all over his property on a riding lawn mower. That was a beautiful day.

I learned a lot about tolerance in those days. You and John were both learning to play guitar. I always forget how awful it can be on the ears when someone is learning to play an instrument. I’ve watched this scenario so many times now it makes me smile. There is such an awesome reward at the end of all the torture practice.

The two of you practiced so hard. I’ll never forget the night you guys went to see U2 perform at the Civic Center Music Hall, the days before anyone knew they’d sell out huge arenas someday. Bono had walked through the audience, stepping between people, climbing over chairs. You came back home in complete awe and dreamily said, “I touched Bono. I touched Bono.

When I think about those times, I always come up with an image like this:

Here you are in those slender days you mentioned in your audition tape. You really did resemble Patrick Swayze but that wasn’t the best thing about you. None of us had any idea that God was preparing you for children’s ministry as we watched John dance his way through that Boy George Look-Alike Contest but the pieces are coming together in my mind. My son was lucky enough to be teaching material. You two were practically best friends. He called you “Topher”. You called him “Ler”.

Time passed, life happened, and still we were haunted by those words of criticism we kept buried alive in our hearts where wounds somehow thrive. Isn’t it crazy how it can take a lifetime to shake off those words? But in the end, no one—besides our Creator—can tell us who we are.

We get to decide.

Our friendship spans 32 years. You know my story, I know yours—the good, the bad, the ugly. You have given me Godly council through a variety of challenges. As I watched your audition tape, I saw that familiar smile that made me wish you could be my next-door-neighbor. But I also saw something that disturbed me. I saw the depth of your wounds. In all these years, I don’t know how I missed that. I must have been distracted by the size of your heart.

You, Chris, are a better person in your worst times than most people are on their best day.
I often look over at that little house where we all spent so much time learning how to be Grown-Ups. After years of being away from this neighborhood, I came back and bought the house next door. You’d like it here on the front porch where you can look out onto an ever-changing gallery of sidewalk chalk murals with Gnome and Fairy Gardens hidden away just around the corner. After all this time and distance, it seems we’ve come to the same conclusions: 1) The Grown-Up thing is highly over-rated. 2) Life is much sweeter when you are surrounded by Little People.

I wish you the best in your audition for Biggest Loser. I’m praying for God’s favor on your behalf because I believe you could win. Oh…and if you hear anything about the frequent Earthquakes here in OKC, don’t panic.

It’s just me…dancing.