However, in the past 3 years these people have grown very dear to me and I am going to miss them something fierce! I'm a writer... words of affirmation is even my primary love language, yet when it comes to saying thanks to people who have meant so much I feel like words are so inadequate. But, it's all I've got and it's my prayer that they will truly hear the heart behind these words and know how precious each of them are to me in their own way. It may seem weird to be doing this in a "public" forum, but I've been publishing my "Grat" list here lately and today my heart is overflowing with gratitude for these four people and all they have meant in my life.
- I am thankful for Gabe - he has been my pastor (even though I'm not a youth... although I may act like one sometimes), he has counseled me, he has been my friend, he has been a co-worker in ministry as I worked briefly on the Jr. High Staff, he has become my younger "big" brother who I desperately needed after being basically tossed aside by my former "adopted brothers." He was there for me when I was at one of the lowest points of my life and helped to push me back to professional counseling where I needed to be to get the help I needed. He unknowingly recommended a counselor who previously attended the church I used to go to that hurt me so badly so he gets the dynamics and who also knew my Daddy before I was even born. Talk about a "God-thing." He relentlessly picks on me and teases me just like any good brother should do... but at the heart of it all I know he cares and that he has my back.
- I am thankful for Wendy - her smile and sweet spirit are so very cherished. She has always made me feel so welcomed and loved. She has been an encouragement to me just by the life she lives. She has been an example to me of how a woman after God's heart lives her life. Watching her interact with her kids: the way she loves, cares for, encourages, and even corrects her children are an example to me of a mother's love the way it should be. It blesses my heart to just watch her be a wife and Mom. She is an example to me and I look up to her greatly and thank God for the time I had to spend together. I'm also thankful for the time we got to spend teaching her kids that cats are wonderful pets despite anything their Dad might say about cats! ;-) I'm glad the kids got time to play with Buddy - he enjoyed it... and hopefully they can come to meet Molly sometime before they move (or after... at least they aren't going too far!) Thank you, Wendy, for being a friend, an encourager, and a shining example to me of a godly woman.
- I am thankful for Matt - it started out as just some counseling... I needed it, couldn't afford professional counseling and he needed the experience for his seminary degree. He really has a gift for counseling... asking the right questions, helping to challenge you to think about things in light of God's Truth. I'm thankful for the time Matt spent counseling me and helping me deal with some hard things. I'm also grateful that he was there with Gabe when I was at that low point in my life and needed that push to go back to professional counseling. He and Gabe were instrumental in helping me to see what I needed even though I didn't want to see it. I'm thankful for the time I had as a member of his small group - I thoroughly enjoyed studying books and Scripture with our group and appreciate the leadership he gave in that group. I'm thankful that they welcomed me into their group and loved me right where I was, which was a huge mess. Toward the end I withdrew a lot from the group because of my own issues. I felt bad for that but Matt, as well as everyone else in the group understood and didn't pressure me to do more than I could do. That was such a different experience than what I had when I withdrew from some people in my previous church... rather than being understanding, they were demanding and unloving. Matt and my whole small group were part of what helped to renew my faith in the Church... and for that I am extremely grateful. Thank you, Matt, for your words of wisdom, patience, and friendship.
- I am thankful for Marisa - she played a big part in welcoming me to the small group and feeling like I actually belonged. After the hurt I had previously experienced, this was needed in a big way. She opened her home to me week after week. I loved watching her with her kids... she is another awesome example to me of a wife and mother. I didn't have a good example of that growing up and I am so grateful to her and Wendy as well as so many in our church who are amazing examples of godly women. Her and Matt invited me to spend one Easter with them with Matt's parents and I appreciated so much the thoughtfulness of the invitation to spend the holiday with them. I am also grateful for Marisa teaching me that it is OK to not always wear matching socks. This picture was from when I was doing laundry one time and was missing two socks, but was left with this "pair." I actually learned to purposely wear non-matching socks and it didn't even kill me. Thank you, Marisa, for being so welcoming, for being understanding in times of my butt-headedness, for being an example to me by the life you lead.
A couple of additional notes: Both Gabe and Matt were greatly used by God during times they preached and taught (Gabe in Jr. High Youth Group and Matt in Sunday School) God has gifted you both in bringing God's Word to life and in teaching in a way that engages those you are teaching. Also, I regret not spending more time with Wendy and Marisa and getting to know them better than I did. Life being crazy as it was for me the past few years, and them being the wife to men in ministry and moms to their awesome kids make it hard to spend the time together I wish we had.
On a not so serious note: Matt: never forget that white chocolate is NOT chocolate. Gabe: no matter what you say MY FAVORITE COLOR IS GREEN! I know you like to believe you are always right, but in this case you are very, very wrong!
Phil 4:6-7 is my prayer for you all in this transition time to your next chapter in the journey. I pray that God's peace will surround you and that you would not be anxious or worried but fully trust in our God Who will provide and care for you.
I really wanted to write out a card for each of you, but every time I sat down to write them I just stared blankly at the paper and then God gave me this idea.
I hope that through the years I have been at least half the friend that you have all been to me.
I thank God every time I remember each of you and am so grateful for your friendship. This isn't "Good-bye" - it's "See you later"
With gratitude and love,