I will literally never forget that moment. It’s funny when I say things like that because I have that brief pause and reminder siren go off in my brain that says, ‘Ha! Thank goodness because you know you’ve forgotten everything else!’ But really, truly, I won’t forget that moment.
I was fifteen and seated with my fellow youth groupies in a prayer circle in Jamaica. Doug, the consummate goofball (i love you, Doug!), said in front of all of us to his bride, ‘i love you, Sally’ and it was just so unexpected and so loving and so special that I almost struggled to laugh when the group erupted in laughter. But then I did laugh because it was the most adorable and as I mentioned, unexpected, thing Doug has ever said. And he may or may not have realized that it was audible at the time but I assure you, he still hasn’t lived it down to this day. And I’d dare say at this point, he’s quite proud of that sweet little expression. #youhadtobethere
And I just totally get it now. See, Doug knew something then about Sally that I didn’t know until our trip to Guatemala almost two years ago. (take me back!) It was on that trip that I fell in love with Sally, too. I’d known her for a long time but God hadn’t prepared either of us to really know each other until that week and goshdangit, I couldn’t have hoped for a more beautiful space to dive into a relationship with her. I mean, when He’s in charge you really can’t do it better anyhow so yeah, dude knows what He’s doing.
Over the course of that ten days, we hugged and laughed and said, ‘we must do coffee!’ several times. Sally, we suck at doing coffee. IOU. Truly, the time I shared with her was some of the most precious to me on that trip because it was a connection I didn’t realize I’d longed for and now, I hug her when I see her and you know how sometimes it’s weird with someone you don’t see or hang out with all the time? Yeah, well, it’s not that. It’s a real and sort of bear-ish hug. And I love it.
Anyway, this isn’t about her and I. It’s just about her. And how proud I am of who she’s becoming erryday in her walk with the Lord. Sally has been guiding the youth at our church for 20+ years now (see how I forget stuff? I know I just heard a real number) but the group of graduates this year was a special one for her. She’d been with them since they arrived into the group as nerdy little junior highers. (just kidding kids, i love you, too!) She watched them floor her at ALIVE (a Christian music festival in Ohio) when they stood up as a united group professing their faith in Christ; she walked with them in Guatemala as they were set free from the burdens they’d carried in; and she’s taught them about true identity, not the one the world would have us accept for ourselves.
We celebrated these graduates a couple weeks ago at church and Sally stepped on stage to speak to them. She mentioned that she wanted to share her heart with them and then she brought me to tears when she pointed at each and every one of them noting that if there was nothing else they took away from this past several years of youth group that they take away the notion that He loves them. She said, ‘He loves you, He loves you, He loves you …’ and so on down the line. And isn’t that the truth?! There is absolutely nothing we can do or say tomorrow or the next day or the one after that that will make Him love us any less. Because He’s just love. And that’s all He wants back … our love. And for us to love others.
So Sally, I love you, too. I’m so thankful that God said, ‘okay ladies, time for you to spend some time together.’ You are such a beautiful and wholly loved child of His and I can’t wait to see how you continue to allow yourself to be used to fulfill His special purpose for you.
P.S. I still chuckle when I hear those sweet words coming out of the mouth of a guy who literally licked milkshake leftovers from a restaurant floor. He’s all yours, lovely.
P.P.S. I hope to make a bit of a series out of featuring special people in my life. All the feels could ensue, I promise. #grabakleenex