cheers, 2013.

Once upon a time at a small liberal arts college, a girl with big dreams and brown hair fell in love with a red-headed southern boy, who tangled her up and tied her down in the best kind of way.

They stumbled into a new relationship - her anxiety met its match in his stubborn charm, and they planted, rooted and bloomed in a garden full of friends ... with strong-souled men who argue with sparkling eyes and seething wit, who inspire and struggle and work hard and bind our wayward, wandering band together ... and with women who smile and sing and have soft hearts and strong minds, who go toe-to-toe with their feisty male counterparts and spill out endless fountains of grace on each other.

And last night we gathered to do the same thing we always do - to drink beer and play board games, to sit and sing by a roaring fire, to pull up old Poison videos on YouTube and sing at the top of our lungs about roses and thorns. We told stories we knew but forgot, remembered bigger and better adventures than we ever had, and whispered secrets in smiles and silently prayed for more and more of this forever.

We shook cocktails and poured wine and clinked plastic glasses and craft beer bottles; we snacked on cupcakes and hummus and all kinds of good things, but we feasted on memories and dreamed aloud about the things to come.

2013 has been a beautiful mess, and we rang out this year that has been soaked in dreams and disappointment, and made way for a fresh start.

New Year's has never been my favorite holiday, but this year as I sat in the corner and saw the shining faces of the people I love most, these people with whom I have celebrated a half-dozen turns of the calendar, it suddenly mattered more than it ever has before. We counted back the last 7 years of celebrations, remembered who we used to be, who we thought we would turn into, and who we really are now. Memories blurred - who was there for what and when didn't matter, because these stories have sunk into our collective consciousness - and the magic of this singular friendship of a group of people spun a little spell over the sacred hours, and I took a deep breath and whisper-prayed a song a gratitude and grace.

Cheers, 2013. And 2012 and 2011 and 2010. And 2014 and 2015 and 2016. And cheers to our little village, our crazy family, our dearest friends. Know you are deeply, heart-achingly loved, fought for and prayed for every day.

We are the luckiest.