I'll never forget where I was three years ago in August when I got the call from Regina. She was in Los Angeles, about to board a plane to East Asia to serve on the mission field. I was sitting in a Burger King in Manchester, TN, with Christie, on our way to visit Chad and Tracy for the first time in Adel, GA. I remember getting off the phone and telling Christie "That was Regina. She's on her way." It was bittersweet. During the time Regina spent in Louisville at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, we became great friends. This redhead from Eastern Kentucky had accepted a call to the mission field and was pursuing her masters. I knew the day would come she would leave, but I dreaded the arrival of that day.
During her time in East Asia, I was blessed to keep constant communication with her through the glories of technology - email, Facebook, Skype - and in June 2007, we began a prayer partner commitment that we have kept ever since. So many of my dear friends are far from me in proximity, but thankfully, like Regina, we work to keep our friendship seem as though we are next-door neighbors. After learning how to code my e-mails with "Daddy", "pr" and "the club" to represent God, prayer, and church, communication was a breeze. We both looked forward to the day she would be able to come home and enjoy a visit in Louisville.
Last week, our day had come. After flying in from Virginia, and having severe PVD (post-vacation depression), it was refreshing to know Regina would be checking in to the Red Rose Inn the next day. Her schedule was packed with people to see, so I was grateful for our late night talks and recaps over the past three years. We didn't have a lot to catch up on, but we were able to talk without the confines of code language or limits of the written word. Saturday was our day...the day we would make a memory with Christie and the pressure was on. Christie and I had discussed a lot of options....something interactive, but something unique....something possibly seasonal, but definitely something to make a memory. Then it hit ..."Lights Under Louisville." Regina had made a couple requests to do some things she missed over the past three years, but this part of the evening was going to be a surprise. And off I went with the two redheads....
Our first stop was Qdoba. Regina had not been able to savor that delectable restaurant since she left three years ago. That almost seems sinful as I'm a believer that there will be Qdoba in Heaven...with fountains of queso and lime-flavored tortilla chip trees. She knew the next leg of the journey was a surprise and she was as giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve.
The next stop was "Lights Under Louisville." This is the first year for this event, and Saturday just happened to be opening night. The Louisville MegaCavern is a large underground cavernous tunnel that runs under the Louisville Zoo and the Watterson Expressway. It currently houses the largest recycling center in the state. During the year, historic tours are given as you ride a tram through the darkness and hear about all the details of how this anomaly came about. Someone had the brilliant idea to illuminate the place with Christmas lights, pipe Christmas music throughout, and charge per car load for the holidays. And, I, for one found it quite enjoyable. At $20 per car load, some would find it a bit pricey, but it's an adventure, people, and where else can you drive through a cavern and look at Christmas lights and Nessy the Christmas Monster? Yes, they even had the Loch Ness Monster with a Santa hat, complete with her own pond. And, thankfully, there was a Nativity Scene...something often excluded from public "holiday" displays. I definitely want to go back...again and again.
The final stop was Graeter's...a regional ice cream shop. Regina had longed for the Chocolate Coconut Almond Fudge and got her wish...along with a second scoop of Buckeye Blitz. I'd love to ship her some to East Asia when she returns, but I think it would take too much dry ice to keep it frozen. She savored every bite knowing her next bite of that ice cream may not happen for another three years.
Regina pulled out on Monday morning to head back to Eastern Kentucky (not Asia) to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family. Another bittersweet good-bye as we hugged and hugged...and I wondered when I might see this precious redhead again. Many times God moves us away from our friends for a time, but oh how sweet each reunion is. I'm already looking forward to the next one...but in the meantime, we'll continue to grow our friendship through the virtual means of technology and our prayers for each other.