This circle is bigger than the circumference of these shoulders touching, these fingers scratching backs, these glasses of wine and red vines and smiles thrown from one side of the room to the other.

This circle is greater than the sum of lunches in the upstairs linoleum hall, the theme nights, the trips to camp and the sleepovers with Dutch babies and chocolate chip pancakes in the morning.

This circle is fuller than the years between us — from second and third grade classrooms to the high school gym and college dorm rooms and first meetings of full cheeked babies.

We sit in a large circle that extends from the floor to a huge sectional and back again, in the basement of a mid-century house in a hip part of the city, the house of a brother of our friend who’s cleared out for the weekend so we can find a place to crash together. And we have thanked him by clogging the plumbing and taking a sweaty yoga class on his carpet and filling every room with laughter that rolls like waves. (And, lest you worry, with a payment of the plumber’s bill and some nice wine, too.)

We’ve barely left the house, with the exception of a few walks and lunch out, and now, Sunday after the Oscars, as is our tradition after dishing on the dresses and eating too much junk, we pray.

The first year, we told about places in need of touch and each person prayed for every other person, and one of us kept dozing off, and though it was very good, you certainly can’t keep up that sort of (four hour) thing with ten to fifteen women each year, so this is an abbreviated version. We learn things.

We move around the circle, and we share, and just one sweet soul prays for one (and that one friend of sleepy years past stays awake), and we join in with head nods and hearts agreeing yes.

For many over the years, this has been where they’ve shared the hardest stuff. To those who’ve known you since, to those who knew you when you still, to those you know will love you anyway…. So after hours of talking over the weekend, new pieces, new pains, new joys still pour on out.

This circle extends to others who could not join this night, this group brought together through girlhood friendships and their bridges to the pains and losses of adulthood.

This circle gathers in the very basement where two years ago, I first read what I’d written out loud, knowing that my words were not just for me, but to share, and my friends said, write, girl, write.

And this year, among the requests and hurts, our circle is alive with thanks. I sit amazed by the healing and joy and confidence in identities that are alive like full-bloomed flowers, and the fragrance is beautiful.

We gather not because we are something intrinsically special, but because we are bound together by the love of Jesus Christ. It’s true. There’s no other way to explain it.

We enjoy the simple things together. We cry and laugh so hard our heads feel like they might float off our bodies. We encourage one another to embrace husbands and children with renewed love. We hear dreams and struggles and spur each other on to extend what we’ve been given to others.

We are filled up in this circle and then we go back home — back to the other side of the country, to the bordering states, to the old house on the other side of town — and we remember this love that envelops us, and we live our lives and keep trying to give this circle love away because it just doesn’t end.

Linking up today with Just Write at The Extraordinary Ordinary.

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