The small talk that occurred when meeting new people during a girls’ trip last weekend went something like this:

Kind stranger making small talk: A girls’ trip! How fun! So is this a reunion of college friends?

Us: No.

Kind stranger making more small talk: So, where are you from?

We go around the group pointing fingers as if introducing ourselves: Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia and South Carolina.

Confused stranger who is now more curious than kind: So…..Then how do you know each other?

Us (almost in unison): It’s complicated.

Because honestly those two words are so much easier than saying:

Well, Tennessee and West Virginia grew up together. West Virginia was the maid of honor in Tennessee’s wedding and Alabama was the junior bridesmaid in braces. South Carolina married Tennessee’s brother, and became the sister Tennessee never had. Alabama and Tennessee didn’t see each other for like 17 years until—unbeknownst to each other —they both signed up to run a half marathon in Disney World with their husbands, and then their dads (who are brothers-in-law) somehow coordinated for them to stay in a condo together, which could have been really awkward for all four of them until they realized how much they had in common. So Tennessee and Alabama are family, South Carolina and Tennessee became family, and West Virginia and Tennessee were practically family. Then one July night they all ended up at a hotel bar with Rick Flair in Charleston, West Virginia, and the rest is history.

See? I told you it was complicated.

Thanks to a virtual book club, some bracelets sent in the mail and our love for the woman who taught us the importance of dessert, Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia and South Carolina became a Tribe. And though this was a newly formed Tribe, it was familiar because it was made up of the ones who had been there all along. So there was no fear of being yourself because our Tribe already knew the dirt and the darkness and they loved you anyway. It was real and raw and beautiful.

We share our frustrations, heartaches and a love for feather earrings. We’ve suffered loss together, made big life decisions together and carried each other through the struggle of adulthood thanks to a group text that never sleeps. We’ve held each other’s hands and hearts from across the country through job interviews, doctor’s appointments, difficult conversations and disappointments. We booked a Tribe trip one year in advance, and it all finally came to fruition last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, where some of our favorite Christian speakers and storytellers were holding a conference called the Belong Tour. It was only the second time since the Rick Flair bar encounter that the four of us had been together—and it was incredible. In a suite in the only five-star Hampton Inn in the country, we stayed up way too late drinking wine and laughing until our bellies ached. We walked aimlessly around the mall with no cares or kids pulling us down. There were gifs, matching shirts and—of course—feather earrings.

At the Belong Tour, we heard some of the most influential women speak about doing the impossible, shining light into the darkness, being a candy thrower, and experiencing the freedom that comes from being real and vulnerable and loved. Through their stories, we learned about the kind of women we want to be—which in all honesty, are the women that we used to be before the chaos of life took over. We learned that becoming those women again takes action on our part rather than sitting on the sidelines just waiting for God to change us. We learned that God gave each of us a purpose and a voice and a heart—and it is up to us to use them. We learned that fear is an indicator that you should do whatever it is that’s burning inside you, even if you have to do it afraid. And we saw Patsy Clairmont, a sassy 71-year-old with a heart on fire for Jesus, do the dab in her cowboy boots. And we all wanted to adopt her as our grandma.

After the conference was over, we ended at a hipster taco shack—while still sporting our matching shirts and feather earrings. It’s a little awkward when everyone around you looks at you like you’re totally out of place.

We had margaritas and beer and the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted, and we filled that place with laughter. And then we wept. We sobbed and cried and bared our souls to each other…while wearing matching shirts and feather earrings…in a hipster taco shack…after attending a Christian conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. We talked about our faith and the women of God we want to be. We talked about rediscovering ourselves and how to rock our purpose every single day. We might have looked like we were in the wrong place, but the timing was just right.

The Belong Tour gathered us together and prepared us for the conversations that would follow around that table. And when our tears finally turned back into laughter again, we walked away with our hearts nourished and our bellies full.

That was some holy guacamole.

Yes, our connection is complicated. But I am so thankful for it all—for group texts and book clubs and guacamole and tears. Because they are all a part of the crazy story of how Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia and South Carolina became a Tribe. These women are something special. They are more than just best friends. They are more than just a shoulder to lean on when life feels broken. They are the ones who will sit with you on the curb in the rubble and hold you and love you and cry with you until you are ready to rebuild again.

I thank God that these women are my Tribe because I couldn’t survive without them…or feathered earrings.



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