Today is my 35th birthday. On past birthdays, I've told you about myself. This year I thought I'd tell you about 35 people who put a great deal of time, energy and effort into my life. These people have therefore had the opportunity to influence me greatly.
The only thing that makes this list hard is that some people who have had a major influence likely don't want to be named outright so I'll have to be a little creative in telling you about them. Also this post is probably going to be very long.
Without further ado, thirty-five pretty incredible (in my opinion) people.
1. My husband. That might be a no-brainer but there it is. He knows me better than ANYone else and has the most authority and "sway" in who I am, how I think of myself, what I do with my time and energy, and who I will be in the future. I'm very thankful for the constant sacrifices he has made for me and for our family and for his grit and tenacity in working through every hard thing that has come our way.
2. My dad. He once wrote me a song that described his constant love for me, from babyhood, through awkward tweens and teens and beyond. Sadly, he passed away several years ago. I'm sad for that but grateful for the legacy he left behind of a love for God that was unwavering. He truly worshiped God and taught me to understand that I must also.
3. My mom. Despite the fact that no one in her family had done so before, she chose to be a stay-at-home mom so that my brother and I would have a secure, safe and occupied home every single day. She also loved my dad a whole lot (and in front of us). She is to be admired greatly both in marriage and as a widow. She has faced her own trials, but also chooses to follow hard after Christ, no matter what. She also makes a pretty swell Nana!
4. My father-in-law. When I married Jonathan, my FIL gave a toast at our rehearsal dinner which I will never forget. He said that although there were other friends of mine in the room who had known me much longer than he had, in 15 years or so he would know me better than any of them. And I wondered how this would be so. (heh.) And yet it is so. He raised his children well (I benefit daily) and I've come to understand how much he truly cares for and loves his family. He has been patient, courteous and supportive of our family and I love him very much.
5. My mother-in-law, K. (Note: Jonathan's mother also died a few years ago, about a year and a half into our marriage. Jonathan's dad remarried and it is K who has walked with us more recently.) It was weird getting a new mother-in-law (just when you are getting used to the idea of having one at all) and so much was changing in our family life when she entered the picture. Yet she entered with grace abundant for each one of us. Her prayers have shaped our family. We love her more than we really have words to say. She also shows us constantly how it is possible to love the Lord with all of your heart, mind and strength while eating marvelously good food and having an incredible time with one another.
6. My pastor, my dad's best friend, and the man I called "Dad #2" - JG. His family and ours did everything together. I cared about what he thought of me and I listened to what he said - about my attitude and behavior and about all things spiritual. If anyone made me to know the importance of putting Christ first above everyone and all else it was him. I never set my Bible on the floor or bury it in a stack under any other books (still!) because of the importance which he placed upon knowing the Word of God and respecting it. He prays for me even now.
7. Another of my pastors growing up, Pastor J. My second born son bears his name as a result of the time, effort and energy which he poured into my teenage life. He listened to my questions about God and thoughtfully answered each question with a challenge and book to read. He showed me what it means to love the awkward teen and to invest in lives which you might more easily dismiss. He NEVER dismissed me. And there is eternal gratefulness wrapped up in that!
8. My pastor's daughter, Miss KH who taught the girl's Sunday School class. She listened to me debate with myself over what I should do or how I should feel about certain things. She has a smile that I'll not soon forget. She encouraged me and made me feel like I was usable to Christ.
9. My friend, DG (now DC). Two peas in a pod, we were. "Sisters forever." No friend had a greater influence on me during the ages of 10-17 then she did. None of my friends cared about reading half as much as she did either! Whenever we would get together we would spread our book collections out on the floor and talk about them. We dreamed together, played dress-up, solved mysteries and were girls with one another. I hope my daughter has such a friend someday.
10. My friend GG (now GK). When I think back over my younger years (like 11 and 13 or something), there is one particular conversation that we had with each other that marked us as Christians. We were debating the existence of God while sitting in her family's van. We tentatively discussed the fact that other people say God doesn't exist and if He didn't, then what did that mean for us? In the end of this (what I recall to be very brief) conversation we both agreed to 'live like there's a Narnia even if there isn't any Narnia.' She cared as a teen to follow hard after Christ and I admired that in her. She still does, by the way.
11. My friend, JP (now JD) from law school. Did she ever have a personality which I LOVED! I really think it was J who taught me to laugh. She brought out my sarcastic side (thank you very much?) and helped me to define who I wanted to be as an adult. Although she loved (loves) humor, she never once poked fun at any of my convictions about how I wanted my future to look. She held herself to a high standard and required that of her friends and I appreciated that very much!
12. My dear, dear friend, LT (also from law school). She is with me through thick and thin. We have shared everything. I think the older we get, the more alike we become which is really frightening to think about (seriously) so let's not think about it. It's a pretty special friendship when you are able to experience the same things in life at the same time as one of your best friends. She's so cool I don't like to share her (but I will, I will . . . 'cause I have to).
13. My friend, JS (also from law school!) who encouraged me to read like an adult. When you teach someone that it's not just "ok" but also important to read challenging books sometimes, you have given them a great gift and will change the way they think about, well, most everything. And then he leaves his brother to stalk your blog and who continues to challenge me to always think about the counter-arguments. :P
14. My friend SO (law school!) who once taught me the importance of reading a chapter of Proverbs a day. He was right. That's a very important thing to do and it will also change your life (in the best of ways!). I still work hard to do that.
15. My friend AK (law school again, dontcha know!) who just flat out loves people and loves to have a good time. He's EXHAUSTING but incredibly creative and fun to be around! He and his amazing and incredible wife, C, are some of the most hospitable, kind and encouraging friends that you could ever want to have. (Looking forward to a FUN double-date with them in the near future!)
16. My friend JM (not lawschool)! who moved to Texas before I moved out of it. Actually, he'd be one of the reasons I moved away from Texas. What I mean by that is that he thought outside the box of everyone I had ever known growing up and he challenged some of my presuppositions about what life was supposed to be all about. He asked questions I'd never heard before and that just got the wheels spinning, ultimately launching me out of Texas and into the Northwest. I haven't seen him since but his creative approach to life (I'm being generous here, ha) made me braver.
17. My friend ER (now EJ!) who met me in Idaho for the first time and became a fast friend. I love that she changed the furniture around in our apartment almost every single day. She taught me that life can be an incredible adventure and that you should always buy a drink at the local coffee shop if you were planning to sit down and stay awhile. And she also taught me that I should stay awhile and get to know people. She's amazing.
18. My friend Sky who many of you will recognize from bloggy land. We must have been friends for 20 years or so by now. She is most unusual and made me realize that being different from everyone else is an awesome thing to be. If I were to pick only ONE lesson from Sky it has been that I should keep breathing and start praying. And then keep breathing and keep praying. No one cheers more over answered prayers than Sky does. No one.
19. My friend, ME (now MN) who I only really met when I was hugely pregnant with Bookworm1. I only knew OF her when she came over to my house to make an apple pie in my kitchen. (I don't really remember why or how that worked.) This has launched us on a friendship which spans a relatively short period of time in which a lot of relatively WEiRd things have happened. "Weird" pretty much sums her up. And also there is no fiercer friendship despite the many varied trials. Although we are oil and water, God keeps putting us together and teaching us things. And it is exciting.
20. My SIL, H. She is sweetness personified but she has a wicked (in the best sense) brain and is super smart about so many things. She also has an amazing driving passion to know the Lord and a singing voice that she uses specifically to worship the Lord that I like to be quiet and listen to. Her heart is incredible.
21. My SIL, C. She is always encouraging people to 'live to the hilt whatever situation' they find themselves in. She is creative and loves finding beauty in this world. She also wins the award for World's Greatest Aunt. Our kids know that Aunt C loves them beyond imagination. We know she loves them beyond imagination. She invests in our kids and we are very blessed by that.
22. My SIL, J. She tells me when to bug off and I like it. She shoots straight and our relationship reminds me that you can be different than someone else and approach things in a variety of manners and still love each other very much. No one goes with the flow of things like J does. Also, no one talks more when they are tired than J. (ha)
23. My friend Annette. (Yes, This Simple Home.) We've never met but she e-mails to check in with me. She's honest and sincere in her approach to life and that's quite evident. She doesn't hide her struggles or pretend that they do not exist. She is humble and reminds me that there is always something that each one of us can learn and I appreciate her dedication to learning how to be a better Christian, a better wife, and a better mother.
24. My other sister-in-law, J from TX. She has fiery passion about things and when she does . . . stand back! She's a sight to behold when she establishes a goal for herself. She encourages you to pray, follow the Lord's leading and love your family fiercely. She also has a sense of humor that's rather unexpected which cracks me up.
25. My brother. Honestly, he and I seldom talk, but his Silent Power of Influence still gets me. (This can also be incredible annoying.) He, like my dad, is passionate about knowing more of God. His convictions run deep and I'm also impressed not to take anything scripture says lightly. He takes God seriously and encourages others to also.
26. My friend, SD here in town. She has been the "older woman" that Titus talks about to me. When we had our first kid, she took my parenting questions seriously and cared about speaking into my life even at that young moment. She didn't save advice or spare it, precisely because she cared that I would be a successful mother. She still cares. Her passion and love for home and family run deep and I admire that so.
27. My second mother, SH who I just flat out ADORE! She is my kids' second grandmother and my second mother but more than that - she is my friend. She takes absolutely no notice of the age gap and pours love into my life and the life of my family. When I am older, I want to be like her. That is all.
28. Shonya (from Learning How Much I Don't Know). Nope, haven't met her either but certainly wouldn't complain if I could! Even from a distance I can tell that she takes the roll of mothering seriously. Their home is open and hospitable and their family makes a great effort to DO COMMUNITY! This is a valuable practice in this day and age.
29. Jennifer from Snapshot. And I have met her! A few years ago she asked me - a very poor writer - if I wanted to a part of the 5 Minutes for Books team. That might seem insignificant to some but it's huge to me. I was a terrible writer (click back to the beginning of this blog) but she saw potential and she invested time and energy into e-mails and conversations to help me improve in this area. Since this is a relatively big area of my life right now, I consider Jennifer to have played an integral part in shaping my direction.
30. My friend CH (from one town over!). Woah, does this girl challenge me. We are so very different but she never gives up on our relationship. She is committed to working things out and learning from each other as we continue to grow up. I have laughed with her, cried with her and I have changed as a result of being her friend (in good ways) and I am very, very grateful that God saw fit to stick her into my life!
31. My friend SS (that would NOT be social security) who I attend the same church with at present. I had prayed for a friend just such as her and I got plenty good things more than I bargained for in my prayers. She encourages me to love my husband well, to stay committed to the training up of my children and she laughs at things that are funny and drinks Coke WITH me so that I don't feel so alone. I appreciate her and her family so very much.
32. Amy from Hope is the Word - Where, oh where, would our family be without Amy?! It was she who prompted me to realize the importance of reading aloud to one's children - not just for education sake but for the sake of my relationship with them. She faithfully tends to the needs of her family and enthusiastically promotes togetherness which I also greatly admire.
33. Stephanie from Simple Things - Nope, haven't met her either but someday! (There is always that elusive someday!) Her heart for family is also evident. And you might notice that I keep saying that these ladies promote family and I'm sounding a bit repetitious here but in a day and age when the importance of family is largely ignored and the role of the woman/mother in the home disdained, I appreciate the reminders that sacrificing your time and energy for your kids is a worthy cause. Also, Stephanie got me into documenting our family's journey through Project Life and every time I work on my album I think of her (and Amy).
34. My local friend, JA, who didn't enjoy being single but worked hard at it all the same. She also taught me that clothes can be fun and do make a statement whether you want them to or not. (Others have tried to get through to me on this point and have failed, but J succeeded!) Why is this important? Well, it effects the way I think about myself and so it is important.
35. My local friend Heather (who made us to read Daniel Deronda). She is so. incredibly. gracious. In awkward and hard moments she just rises to the occasion and helps to put everyone at ease. Her calm assurance in her salvation and purpose in life is so beautiful to see and I feel that I have been incredibly blessed by having her in my life.
Whew! That's my list! I feel even more blessed having written that out! A huge THANK YOU to each of these people who have and/or do spare a minute or two for me now and then. Your minutes are a gift and I will go on continuing to try to use the time I have with you as well as I can.
One thing I do like is the fact that these people haven't all necessarily been in my life at the same time. Some of these friendships have overlapped and some have not; some have stood the test of time and others not. Yet each one was placed in my life at a particular time for a particular reason and as I look back I can see God continuing to work out all things (including friendships!) together for my good and for His glory. It's an amazing thing!