This grainy and slightly blurry picture – taken quickly from a distance so as not to ruin the moment – is one of my all time favorites. Buddies, headed off to Sunday school back in the early days of 2016.

By the end of the year, this entire picture would look very different. The most consistent part of life is change, after all, and things moved in some really exciting ways for our friends that year.

We are still in touch, of course, but without the guaranteed weekly gathering of church and rehearsals, and the added strain of distance, it is considerably more difficult.

They are still some of our favorite people on Earth, and that season of church – a time when our kids were learning so much about church, and our church was learning so much about how to minister to them – is a time I always think back on with immense gratitude and love.

This particular herd of kids made our 11:00 contemporary worship service a festival. They sang, they danced, they played air instruments. They gave each other raucous, full body hugs as “hellos” and walked arm in arm to Sunday school.

I always worried about it; with a good chunk of the parents up in the worship area in the band, it left just a few (saintly!) adults in the pews who did the Lord’s work on the impossible job of reigning them in.

But in all of the months that circus was in town, I never received any complaints. In fact, I actually received notes from a number of people telling me how wonderful it was to watch their celebration. Over time I started to relax, stopped frantically signing with Danny during the Lords Prayer to PLEEEAAASE sit down, and just allowed myself to be fully present in a time I knew had come to pass – not to stay.

When our friends moved away, I was terrified that Danny’s love for church – and for the God we came there to praise – would fall away. It wasn’t the first time that some people he had grown especially attached to had left, and I was afraid that maybe we were reaching the limits of what his little heart could recover from.

But sure enough, after a period of grief, a new season began. He didn’t dance in worship anymore, but he taught himself media shout and memorized the words and backgrounds to every song we sang. He played drums for a children’s pageant. He got to know the youth group by coming to musical rehearsals and singing and dancing with them after practice. He met his beloved Miss Rachel and her boy, a relationship I will always thank God for because of the tremendously lucky circumstances that brought her into our life.

Friendships are so incredibly powerful; even if the most significant season of a relationship seems to have passed, do not make the mistake of writing it off. Love is not something that runs dry; how it nourishes you from year to year may change but you have grown to who you are from that current flowing over your roots.

Danny was planted in the faith because of that season and has grown up to bloom in this one. He may go on to bear fruit in the next; we simply can’t know.

But of this I am certain: Jesus loves him. This he knows.

But it wasn’t the Bible that “told him so”; it was his friends, showing him so.

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