In high school, I competed in speech and debate. This past weekend, the league that I competed with hosted a tournament here in San Diego, and I was able to go and judge some rounds, support my siblings and catch up with old friends, many of whom I haven't seen in a year or two. It was such an encouragement to be reminded of how those friendships have blessed me over the years.
One of my favorite parts of catching up with old friends, though, was seeing how God has been changing and growing them in the years since we graduated. One friend who I have know for nearly ten years has always been rather exclusive and had very strong opinions about who he likes and who he doesn't. All of the sudden, God has grown in him a heart to notice, include and welcome others. Another friend is finishing her TESL certificate so that she can head to Europe this summer to serve with a missionary family there for several years. Others have just been changed in quiet and yet beautiful and God-glorifying ways.
I think that is one of the only things I like about being so far apart from these friends - when we are finally together again, I get to see the distinct changes and growth that have occurred, changes that I would likely have missed noticing if we saw each other more often.
It was also encouraging to remember that just as God is faithfully sanctifying these friends, he is sanctifying me and the friends who I do spend a lot of time with. It's easy to become discouraged or frustrated when we don't see progress as quickly as we want to, but these past few days have reminded me to look for and celebrate His work, because He is faithfully bringing to completion the work that He began.