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Saturday, August 13, 2016

"Celebration of Love" Day Six - Inspirations

I was challenged by Amanda Barone to participate in a seven-day "Celebration of Love." Being the idealist that I am, I took the liberty of altering the conditions of the "challenge" before passing it on (read more here).  I'm inviting those I tag to spend seven days celebrating anyone who makes your life richer -- your friends, your kids, your siblings, your co-workers, and sure, your spouse!  Or, do nothing except know that I am celebrating you!

Today I am tagging Alex, Jason, Lisa, and Sherry.

I first met Alex probably six or seven years ago when he started
coming to our church youth group with one of his best friends.  He always had such a kind spirit, and it's been an honor getting to know him better over the past few years.  He just graduated college this spring with a degree in social work, a field that was inspired by his faith and his care for people.  I remember him telling our reading group that as he read the code of ethics he wondered why Christians weren't coming out of the woodwork to pursue that line of work because it so aligned with the values Jesus gave His followers.  That's the kind of heart Alex has.  Alex's family is from Mexico, and in addition to graduating with a degree in social work, he also recently passed his U.S. citizenship test -- something I'm quite sure many natural-born Americans (myself included) would probably struggle to do.  Eric & I are both so proud of him and so blessed to count him as our friend.

Jason is closer to Eric than he is to me, but we, too, have participated in a couple of reading groups together and I've gotten to know him well enough to develop a deep sense of admiration for him.  Jason truly has one of the most brilliant minds of anyone I've ever met, yet he's also one of the most humble people I've ever known.  I've read some pieces he has written in the past and have been blown away by his intelligence, yet he is amazingly accessible.  He takes people under his wing and befriends them with such great care & sincerity.  He's also been a wonderful friend to Eric, and I'm so glad he's in both our lives.

Lisa was one of my brother's closest friends in college who became a close friend of mine as well.  Upon graduating she taught school in Atlanta for a while before going on a year-long mission trip that took her to a different country each month.  Along the way she fell in love with a community in Nicaragua, and she moved there permanently over six years ago.  Reading about her life & ministry there is a constant source of encouragement to me.  She is in the process of building a home where she will provide a family for children who have none.  It is her dream and it is a beautiful reflection of God's heart.  Lisa lives her life with so much joy & freedom.  I often feel so much of American evangelicalism is rooted in fear-based behavior modification -- we are taught to do or not do certain things merely because they are "right" or "wrong" -- but Lisa loves Jesus and she loves people, and everything she does flows from that, not just a sense of right or wrong.  I've become firmly convinced over the past few years that is how Jesus really intended for us to live.  As He said and as Paul echoed, love fulfills the law.  If we only truly loved one another, "behavior modification" would be unnecessary.  I think a lot of people don't believe that's possible, but I believe Lisa's life demonstrates that it absolutely is.  I love this girl and her heart so, so much.

Finally, Sherry was one of my co-workers for many years when I served on a church staff in Reno, and she has become a very dear friend over time.  A former nurse, she has a special gift for being present with people who are going through health issues.  Her demeanor is incredibly calming, and she is wonderful at explaining things in laymen's terms when a person may be feeling overwhelmed by medical jargon.  She's been there for both of my parents when they faced various medical issues over the years and her support has been invaluable to them (and, as such, to my whole family) -- and I know many, many others who would say the same.  Eric & I have enjoyed some very sweet times of fellowship with Sherry and her husband, Craig, sharing meals around their kitchen table, telling stories, expressing disappointments, and most of all laughing together.  I've sought her wisdom when going through difficult times, and I've had the privilege of witnessing her "happy dance" when sharing good news.  She is truly a gift to everyone who knows her, and Eric & I love her dearly.

I am so grateful each of these people has been a part of my/our story.

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