Category Archives: Friends

Lillian

It’s so strange the way that people come and go in our lives. Some people never really come, we’re born into a family and have a group of people around us who we can’t seem to get rid of. Some come almost out of nowhere and never leave, faithful friends who stay by us for a lifetime. Some come for a season of our lives, staying with us through highschool or college. Others step into our lives for a very short time, and then disappear again. I find myself wondering why. Why would God give us someone for just a few weeks and then take them away?

I met Lillian toward the end of last semester. A friend of mine had been cleaning her house all semester for her Community Service class and was looking for someone to help her out over the summer. In the middle of May, I walked to her house, met her, and agreed to work over the summer. Come mid-June, it was time to make good my word. For the next month and a half, me and one of my best friends walked up the hill behind campus once a week to Lillian’s house to vacuum, mop, make beds, hang up laundry, and do anything else she needed help with. We loved and dreaded spending time with her. She was the funniest, spunkiest little old Jewish lady I’d ever met. She was ninety-four-years-old and had a ninety-year-old boy friend. She had a little bit of a dirty mouth, and some very unusual theology, but we loved her and kept going, kept talking, kept trying to help her understand what we believe, and kept praying for her. She was so old and set in her ways, and it was discouraging sometimes, but we loved her, and that made it all worthwhile.

Then she disappeared. A week went by without her calling to let us know what day she’d like us to come up. When we tried calling her that weekend, there was no answer. We assumed she was out, left a message, and waited for her to call back. Another two weeks passed with no call from her and no answer at her house and we got worried. We went up to Lillian’s house and knocked on the door. No answer. Everything about the house looked too clean. We knocked on the doors of the houses on either side of hers. No answer. We went across the street to the house directly across from hers- there were cars in the driveway there at least. We knocked and waited impatiently, nervously, to see if someone would answer.

Finally the door opened, and a bewildered looking old man stared out at us. My friend politely explained that we were looking for Lillian, the lady whose house was across the street, and that we wondered if he knew anything about where she was. He seemed confused, but told us that he thought her daughter had moved her to a retirement home, but she certainly did not live over there anymore. We spent the next week and a half trying everything we could think of to track her down. The only contact information we had was for the empty house. We had no way of knowing where she was, but we did our best. But it was the third week of August. School started, and we didn’t have time to look for her. We moved on with life, thinking about her, wondering about her, and praying for her every now and then, but sort of giving up on hearing from her.

Today, the director of the Community Service program told us a story. A story of a stubborn old Jewish lady named Lillian who they had been sending girls up to clean for for years. A story of a stubborn old Jewish lady who said she gave her life to God last semester. A story of stubborn old Jewish lady who disappeared toward the end of the summer. A story of a stubborn old Jewish lady who was moved to a nursing home by her daughter. A story of a stubborn old Jewish lady who passed away a week and a half ago. And I started to wonder.

When I talked to Lillian, she said she was not a Christian. She said she thought she would go to heaven because she was a Jew and had “Jesus’ blood in her veins.” But she told the girls who cleaned for her before us that she had given her life to God and asked Jesus into her heart. And who knows who she met and talked to after she vanished from my life. The Community Service director said we should praise God that Lillian is heaven now because of the faithful service and witness of so many girls over the years. And I didn’t know what to think. I honestly have no idea whether or not Lillian is heaven right now. It breaks my heart not to know. I would love to believe she is and that we’ll get to see our beloved crazy old Jewish lady in heaven someday. But I keep hearing her voice echoing in my head saying that she didn’t need Jesus to die to save her and Jews would never kill Jesus.

Is Lillian in heaven? I don’t know. But I guess that’s okay. If I needed to know, God would have told me. I do know that God is good, and that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. He had a good reason for bringing Lillian into my life, even for just a few weeks. And I learned how very true the opening lines of one of my favorite songs are. “We laughed out loud ‘til we cried and the tears were sweet. Midnight melted to morning, a moment faded to memory. All these days just slip away through our fingers, so don’t let go, hold on to every moment…”

This moment is really all I have promised to me. Yes, eternity is coming and in a sense I certainly have that, but once I get to heaven everything is final. For now, I have the chance to change things. I have the chance to reach out to people like Lillian. But who knows how long I have that chance. People come and go through my life as abruptly as Lillian did. Some stay longer, some I’ll never have more than a single conversation with, but almost everyone leaves eventually. Will there be things I wish I had said to them? Will there be tears of regret when I hear second-hand that my chance to reach them is gone? And most importantly… What will I do with this moment?

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Two Years Ago Today…

I have sort of an unusual testimony. I didn’t meet the person who in the most real way “lead me to the Lord” until I’d been saved for years. I was raised in a Christian home, and meant it with all my heart when I accepted Christ as a young child, but I had gotten off track. I was lost, hurting, confused, and had been convinced that the commitment I had made was not valid because there was something wrong with me. Then this friend came along. He somehow saw the real me past all my lies. He listened. He cared. Most of all, he wouldn’t let me push him away. Once he realized how much I was hurting underneath of everything, I was stuck with him. And so our friendship began, and slowly but surely, I began to change.

The best way I’ve found to describe it is that he was the first person to show me God’s love in a way that I could recognize. He stubbornly stuck by me and was always there through all the highs and lows… and there were significantly more lows than highs. And one day it all suddenly clicked. God decided it was time, He moved in my life, and things began to get better. And I was ready for it. God had used my friend to prepare my heart to receive His love again. I rededicated my life to God, and for the first time truly understood what I was getting myself into.

Isn’t it crazy to think about how things can have such a profound impact on people? When my friend met me, he saw a hurting girl who needed someone who would be there for her. What he didn’t realize was that he was the tool God as going to use to eventually lead me to rededicate my life to Him. All he was doing was living his life, and when someone came along who needed the love of God he was willing to pour out. And through the grace of God it literally changed my life.

It’s funny how little things lead to bigger and bigger things. I’m walking with God now and seeking His will for my life. I have incredible friends who come alongside me to encourage me in my walk. And I have one very special friend who was willing to reach out. Two years ago today, he saw a hurting, lonely girl and decided to try to help her. He didn’t let her run away when he started getting close. He was stubborn enough to get past all the masks and see the real person, and he was willing to see her for who she was and then point her back to who she could be in Christ.

Am I willing to reach out like that? Can I look past the surface and see who someone really is behind the smiling mask? And when the time comes, am I willing to step back and admit that I can’t change them, I can’t help them, I can’t heal them, and instead point them to the only One who can? I am a living example of what can happen when a Christian is willing to simply reach out and love and wait to see what comes of it, and I hope that God will allow many more examples of that can come out of my life.

Thank you, Jesus for bringing me back to Yourself, and thank you to my precious friend for being a willing instrument in His hand.


Another Morning Question…

 I sit in my normal spot in the corner of the coffee shop. My head rests against the window frame, and my eyes wander wistfully over the trees outside, bathed in the fresh light of another sunrise. I’ve written several posts at this table, including the one that I posted on a morning seemingly identical to this one. I was sitting at the same table, watching the same trees, seeing the same people talking, reading their Bibles, sipping coffee, and generally enjoying themselves. It would take a trained eye to notice the differences.

The mood of the room is a little darker, a little heavier, a little sadder than most mornings. The sense of excitement and something new that hung in the air that morning has been replaced with finality and a sense of accomplishment. A few of the regulars are missing already, and the crowd is dwindling fast. Everybody is sad to be going. Now, instead of quietly going about their business on a campus full of strangers, they tearfully bid farewell to friends, many knowing they may never meet again this side of heaven. I’ve said good bye to my closest friends, in fact I’m the only one left of our little circle. But, as we reminded each other a good many times, it wasn’t truly good bye. Good byes don’t exist for God’s children, because we know that that come what may, we’ll meet again. But yes… I had friends to say good bye to… and yes, this did become so much more a home than I ever thought was possible.

Of course I’m excited to go back to the place that I will likely consider home for years still. I’m so excited to see my family and friends and church family again. But I’m also looking forward to when school will start again. God has worked so much in my life in such a short time, and I can hardly wait to see what He wants to do next. It has been a difficult few months. I’ll admit that I often wanted to give up on pretty much everything. But it takes breaking to grow, and my heavenly Father has been so good… so faithful… shown Himself to be so strong in my weakness. And so I’m faced with another question as I watch the sun on the leaves… What does He have planned for me next?


Something To Look Forward To…

Wow, I’ve not posted in weeks again. College kinda makes life busy. But things are settling down, I’m getting quite into the swing of things, well, that or I’m too tired to know the difference. This last week, one of my best friends drove down to visit me for the day. We had a really good visit, and it was nice to have someone around who I really knew for a while. But something about the way I looked forward to him coming caught my attention.

I’ll confess, life is often stressful around here. I have this nasty habit of giving myself unnecessary stress as well by making false deadlines in an attempt to get ahead. I also rarely get as much sleep as would be ideal, and have been fighting getting sick off and on. Since I’m so far away from everyone I really know, and am slow to open up and make friends, I feel kind of isolated a lot of the time. In short, I often end up getting discouraged with everything. But for several days, every time I started to get down, I’d remember that my friend was coming in just a few more days. That thought always brought a smile to my face and cheered me up. Having something to look forward to makes such a difference.

But I’ve been thinking… as a Christian, don’t I always have something to look forward to? Yes, I’m on earth for a little while, but what is that compared to eternity? If knowing that I would spend a few hours with a human friend could do that much to help me get through, how much more should the knowledge that I’ll be spending forever with my Savior lift my spirits!

So that’s my goal. Whenever I’m having a hard time, I try to remember that I have eternity ahead of me. What more could I want to look forward to?


Good Byes and a New Beginning

Written the afternoon of Saturday, August 22.

I sit in the passenger seat of the same van I’ve ridden in with my family for years. My mom is less than two feet away, driving like she always does, looking like she always does. The fields of Wyoming breeze by outside like they did when we moved to Nebraska almost ten years ago, and like they have when we returned to visit California every summer. The familiar sound of my fingers tapping away on the keyboard fades into the sound of the Supreme Court Audio Files in the CD player. Everything seems normal. But it’s not.

This morning, I said good bye to the place I’ve grown up. But far more painful than that, I said good bye to the people I’ve grown up with. It really started about a week ago. I said a few good byes at church on Sunday. As the week continued, I had a few farewells here and a few there. Some were harder than others, but partings are something that life always brings, and we all knew that we’d see each other again. This morning, I said good bye to my father, my three younger siblings, and two of my closest friends. There were lots of hugs, lots of kind words, and a few tears. Everyone was trying to be strong, though some were more successful than others.

As for me, I managed not to shed a tear while saying good bye. I’m sure I looked miserable enough, but my eyes were dry. Until we drove away. Before mom had gotten off of our block, I was crying hard. Silently, but hard. I cried on and off for the next hour. Once or twice during that time, mom reminded me that this was my last chance to change my mind, that I could go home and drop out. I don’t think she realized just how tempting that was. But I shook my head, unable to speak past my silent sobbing. Now, here I sit, calmly tapping away at the keys. My heart aches. After never being separated from my family for more than a week, I’ve left them for several months. After my best friend and I have been all but inseparable for nine years, we’re going to college a thousand miles away from each other. And every moment takes me farther away from the only life I’ve ever known.

Yet in the middle of all of it, I find a strange sense of peace and joy. I’m going where my Lord has led. The future holds so much hope. I find myself  begging God for the strength to let go of the past and let myself enjoy my new life at school. I love so many people back home so deeply, and I know that it will be far too easy for me to slip into loneliness and depression. But I know that the Lord has far better things for me than that. And I know that in Him, I can find the strength to get through.

I miss my family, friends, and church family already, but I know that I’m not alone. My heavenly Father will always be with me. And I know I’ll see those precious faces again. For now, I look back with a smile, grateful for everyone who has helped me to become who I am, and I look forward with a rush of excitement, wondering what God has in store for me next.


He’s Always Been Faithful

Graduating is one of those milestones in life that makes you start thinking. Over the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of that. A lot of looking forward, a lot of looking back, a lot of trying to figure out what made me who I am. Tonight I went for a long walk with the girl who’s been my best friend for almost a decade and we were talking about that.

We talked over a lot of the hurts we’ve had over the years, and some of the little triumphs. We talked about the doubts and fears we have about the future, and about the hopes and the promise it holds. We talked about how much we’ve helped each other over the years without ever realizing it. And we came to one inescapable conclusion… God is so very good! We realized how stunningly evident His unending love, mercy, and grace are in our past lives.

Looking back, I tend to think about how much I can complain about. How many times I’ve been hurt by people, how many mistakes I’ve made, how often I’ve made choices that I regret. But then I start to think about how far any of those instances could have gone. I came so close to doing such stupid things so many times… and I certainly can’t take the credit for that not happening. God has been so faithful in my life to provide an escape. He’s always showed me the way to go, even if that meant speaking to me through friends because I wasn’t willing to go to Him.

I tend to think of my life story as rather dull. I mean, I’ve lived a sheltered life as a homeschooled pastor’s kid in a small town. I don’t have a dramatic testimony, I never even really outwardly rebelled against my parents. People look at my life and think either how fortunate I am that so little has happened to hurt me, or how much I missed out on having “fun.” But very few people see it as exciting. I’m learning to look back on my life not as a long, gray, dull road that I had no choice but to walk, but as a dangerous path, guarded on either side by the things God put there to keep me safe.

My life may not seem to be much of a story worth telling, but to myself and a few others it is a testimony of God’s gloriously beautiful faithfulness. Instead of looking at the trials I had as a burden, I’m learning to thank God that I was able to learn those lessons so lightly. Yes, I’ve lived under a rock for much of my life, but suddenly that doesn’t seem so bad. God has used all of the things that got through to me, and the things that didn’t, to make me who He wants me to be… and He’s a far better designer than I could ever dream of being. And He’s always been faithful, despite me running away as hard as I could at times.

I serve an absolutely spectacularly magnificent Lord. The more I think about life, the more overwhelmed I am by His exceeding mercy and grace. God is good. God is so gracious. God is always faithful. What more is there to say?

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: with my mouth with I make known Thy faithfulness to all generations. ~ Psalm 89:1


Little Moments

A few days ago, I had dinner with my brother, my sister, my best friend, and her brother. While growing up, the five of us spent hours together every day. We were all like siblings. Almost two years ago, my best friend and I both got jobs. Only a few months later, my brother got a job. That was the end of our carefree days of playing tag for hours on end, playing music together as a “band,” or any of the other things we’d done together. Well, as time went on, the number of hours we were working went up, school got more difficult, church activities became more time consuming, people got involved with plays and volunteer work, a million things came up to keep us from spending time together.

Anyhow, my best friend and I had decided to go out to dinner, mostly because we hadn’t for a little while. Well, my sister said she wanted to come, then my brother, then her brother. Okay, so that wasn’t exactly what we’d originally had in mind, but whatever, we can change our plans. We ended up going to Arby’s, somewhere we could afford to feed everyone with the money we had handy. Of course, Arby’s isn’t exactly the most exciting place to eat. Since the weather’s been warming up a bit, we decided to take our food to the park. Well, the boys said the picnic tables were boring, so we went to sit on the merry-go-round. We just sat there spinning kinda slowly, eating dinner, and talking. It felt so much like life five years ago. It was nice not be stressing about work and deadlines, to just be a kid for the evening.

So that’s something I’ve been thinking about, is it okay to just be a kid sometimes? I’m a senior in highschool, I work full time, I do tons of stuff at church, I’ve got a lot of responsibilities. So to say the least, my life if fairly high-stress. I’m thinking about graduation plans, about colleges, about life goals, about careers, and about callings. I’ve done some things I regret, and not done some things I wish I had. There are things I hope to do, and things that I worry I might. But there’s one thing that’s important to realize. In the middle of all our planning and fretting, all we really have is the present. Of course it’s important to plan ahead, to be good stewards, to be prepared to follow God’s will for our lives. But it’s also important not to totally burn ourselves out getting ready for “real life.” The time we have right now is just as much a part of life as the time we’ll have after we’re in college, started on careers, or married. Yes, it’s important to do things that will really matter, but God also wants us to enjoy life. By studying the Old Testament holidays, we can see that many of the observances commanded by God involved spending time worshiping and feasting with family and friends.

This is really a lesson I’m still learning. I want to succeed. I want to be ready for life. I want to do the best I can at everything. But at the same time, I’m realizing more and more that those precious moments spent with those we love are important, too. There’s no point in going through life succeeding at everything if you’re going to be miserable despite it all. Sometimes, it’s important to take the time to play with your siblings, to talk to your friends, to walk in the rain. Most importantly, remember to take time to worship, to pray, to read your Bible, and to continue to get to know God better. It’s all too easy to let anything without a deadline attached fall by the wayside.

I guess all I can really say is, it seems like all too often, when I get overwhelmed with everything, when I’m depressed, scared, or worried, it all comes down to the little things. Most of the time, if I think to stop and take the time to talk with a good friend, to read a few psalms, to take a walk and pray, I’ll feel better. Of course it won’t fix everything, but it certainly makes it easier to cope. Right now is really all the time we have, that could be your last chance to kiss your mother, hug your friend, or remind your brother that you love him. Don’t let those little moments escape while you’re busy meeting deadlines.