This year I've been overwhelmed by how good God has been to me with the many people He's put in my life that have influenced me and loved me and helped make me the person I am today. Albeit it good or bad - you all helped do it! Strange and weird.... you all get to take part credit! :) Ok - I'll give all the good - and much of the weird - to you all! Every inch of my life, every year, I see God add and grow friends and friendships! I know that you all are the tools (there is no pun intended there) that God has used and is using in my life. I've got a looooong way to go so, please stay with me after my kudos to you all - I'm pretty needy of every single one of you!
There are the amazing God-friends that have been in my life since college (just a few years ago now:)
Thank you and love to Melissa! You are more my sister than my friend and always know how to gracefully shoot my high expectations down where they should be and keep me sane when my mind is going nutty! You not only breathe God into my life - you show me God by your life! Youre an example of grace and forgiveness with a touch of humanness!:). If sainthood were a legit thing - I'd not only nominate you, I'd be dog gone sure you got the title! And probably a crown. And definitely a bunch of prize money. And you better be sure I'd be going with you on the island vacation they would be awarding you! I'm so glad I'm a friend of Saint Melissa! :) Oh - can I add that I think you're the weirdest person I know - and all the weird I mentioned before, I actually attribute to you, Gabrielle!
|Original "normal" - when "baby" was actually a baby!|
|And our current state of "normal"|
|Ah - when true normal began....|
|Would you have these people nanny YOUR children? And you have to admit, she is a touch more... insane looking?|
|Normal hasn't actually changed that much - except now we're equally insane...|
Dawn! My travel buddy! We had experience being roommates and we just have to make sure we stay in practice ever so often! You rock!!!! But not the boat - that was pretty stable:). Thank you for staying close! Thank you for raising such awesome kids even without Chauncey! I know he would and he will one day be so proud of them and Im so grateful for how you've stayed so close to God in spite of life. And not only stayed close to God but also for the way you've showed me how to just give it all back to Him like He wants us to anyways! I pray that you continue in Christ and that your life is just pure joy for you no matter where He leads! And you already have 4 super kids that you and God raised that are the best praise anyone could ever give you AND God!!!!
|We were SO cool then - and not just because of our matching snowsuits from Sears (complete with nylons...)|
|And we only seem to get cooler...|
Mrs Karlene Murphree! I still can't believe you cast aside Sister Felicitys and took that title, but the 7 kids you have are great prove you not only got that title - I think you now hold super mom titles too!:). And how proud am I of you to have that title with Matt and that the two of you have been such a God influence in my life not only by your wisdom and advice but by the way you flesh it out through how you raise your kids and how you live your lives! You have included me in your lives as a couple like no one else has and I'm just elated to see your kids grow in God and to continue to grow into adorable, giving, hilarious, aware of God kids! You-tahll are phenomenal! Like that Utah reference - had to sneak it in:). I pray for you as you share your lives with so many people who need to see what a true God can do with your lives!
|Funny thing is - she looks crazier here than she does with 7 little Murphrees now! I did that! :)|
And then there are some of those people from church who God brought into my life just through becoming part of a family that worships and serves together. Just a few that came to mind and came to my iPhone photo library:)
Barb and Jay - you guys share so much of my heart and passion not just for the mission field but specifically for our brothers and sisters working in the field! You've encouraged me to keep on in whatever I do for the field and for those friends! Thank you for jumping on board with me so much -that encourages and keeps others growing in their faith and their giving and I love seeing how God is growing the work in the field because of our teamwork! :)
Mark and Jayne - you guys are the people that I want to be! You love life, you love adventure, you love each other but most of all you love God! Thank you for hopping on that Budapest tram with me so many times and for letting me see the lives of two amazing people!
I could go on with the church people!!!! Carmen and Mark, John and Mistele, Eric and Melanie! Karen - my Karen!!! Funny, fun full of life, huge examples of Christ, listening, advising, just being there and supporting me! Thank you!
My worlds collide with the Mitchells! Church and mission field friends! You've walked through youth group fun with me and now I get to see you live your faith out in the field in some really tough circumstances! But you stay strong and persevere and keep that white board full of God goals! I continually pray that God wraps His arms around you in your dark moments - and that you remember I'm here and you remember how much I love you all and how much I pray for you! And, who knows, you might be seeing me soon?????? :) (I just can't take all the pressure you've been putting on me - I'm starting to crack :)
Joo-Lee! The words are not coming out. I think I've said them all before but they all seem and sound so insignificant to describe what you've taught me and shown me. I hate China - I love China! You're there. I walk in your apartment door and I'm overwhelmed with the feeling of home and I'm okay with whatever snarky or nasty or blech that I come with - and I know that all that changes because you show me how God can take all that and put it in perspective and pull a new creation out - and so it grows. Don't you ever forget how stupendous you are and how much I love you! (And Zach and Eli and my buddy Jasper too!:)
Kim!!!!! My sister!!!! My friend!!!! You listen to me blah blah about my over thinking feelings and all that yuck and you empathize with me - and then you tell me what I should do. And it's not usually what I want to do but I know it's what God is putting in your mouth that I need to do. And somehow, it's not such a bitter pill when it comes from you. You're another one who gets an award for sainthood with what you've been through. But to you - the snowshoes of sainthood go! No, seriously - I'm brining your snowshoes back to you this weekend... :)
Ioana! My God-Time/God-Place heart friend! When I met you, you were trying to figure things out - well, you kind of knew what you had figured out and then within a few months figured out that what you had figured out wasn't really what you were supposed to have figured out so God helped you figure out what He wanted you to figure out! And now you're back home in Romania passionately pursuing him and fighting for rights of people who don't even know they have rights. You are driven - you are passionate - you are full of life - you are full of love - you are full of GOD! You have this drive that just oozes out of you and I pray for your continued fierce fight and fierce love for justice through God's justice! I've loved learning from your wisdom and from your heart. You have given me new insights to life and new insights to scripture and I ADORE you! And you know that as many trips to Romania as I need to take to make sure you're A-OK - I will do it! Loaded down with bags of make-up or mac and cheese or taco shells or Hanes socks! You are an amazing woman and a super duper friend! And you have one dorky friend who loves you and is constantly praying for you! (thats me, btw...)
Patti - sometimes the right time and the right place is just work! Literally - sometimes you just have to show up to work! Who knew that I would meet such a godly woman in the CS at Northwestern! It made a painful time, a joyous one! :) I love knowing that just showing up for work, God can put amazing people in your life. I love how you challenge me and you have a heart to do what is right, even when things are hard. I love that you can be real and human but I still know you are a God-heart that wants to be real and human, but do it right. I MISS YOU!!!!! But now I have someplace to visit when I want to hit the slopes! Keep showing God where you are - and praying for your future :)
And then there are those people you meet on "random" trips that enter your life and change you forever! David and Leslie! David and Leslie! David and Leslie!!!!! I just get overwhelmed when I even say your names because you are so deep in my heart! I love your relationship with God! I love your relationship with each other! I love your relationship with our beloved Hungarian CRU! I love how you just go out and there and breathe Jesus! I love how you do it with smiles and with passion and with true heart and true concern about the people who are hurting. Thank you for staying in my life! Thank you for sharing mission trips and new years eves and phone calls and so many other things that make me remember that God-friends don't have to be down the road to impact you, they can be across state or country lines!
I've just been reminded at the end of this year about my "younger" friends who don't even feel like they're younger because they have such wise hearts and big lives! You were teenagers when I first met you and saw you growing up in youth group - I was friends with you then and now, I feel like our friendships are God-grown and deeper and I pray that, as your past youth group leader, I can still somewhat impact your lives as much as you impact my life now! I don't know if you'll ever realize what an encouragement you are to me! Seeing you grow up in the church with others who have turned and just become mediocre at best, you've grown and flourished and shot roots down deep and your hearts have kept up and have grown stronger and wiser and are more dedicated to your faith than ever. I know you have fab parents who are the same - but you are the ones who have kept this up in your lives! Your parents have encouraged you, you've continued to seek out God on your own and have grown closer to Him and have looked to Him to lead you. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!
Miss Alana (aka the Clark to my Lewis!)
If anyone ever needs any architecturing done - you're the man! SO PROUD!!!!! But PLEASE just start sitting more - I don't think you can afford to break any more bones this coming year! Praying for you to heal and that surgery will be super fun - ok - that it will just at least go well (if its fun thats a bonus :)!) You are brave and you kick hiney! Get better so we can finally go kayaking this coming summer!!!!!
Sonya - you old married woman! I miss you!!!!! I'm so happy that you have such a great guy like Jonathan - I've seen you two growing a great relationship and I wish I was closer to see it even more! I love that fact that your heart was close enough to God right at that first semester, that it knew a good God-thing when it saw it!
Kileaan - I love this picture because - lets admit it - we were the bread of sanity that sandwiched in all the crazies at youth group! I mean, look at our "peeps" (I know how much you've always loved it when I use that word!)... Ah - spelunking! If only we could go back.. not!:) I love that you still think to text me or call me every once in a while just to stay in touch, and I love that when you do that, you're still talking about God and what He's doing in your life! I'm SOOO excited to see what this year brings for you!!!!! Wink wink... :)
And I can't forget my family.... I guess they didn't chose me... I don't think they would have - but thanks to all of them for not only being awesome family - but super friends! And amazing people who show me forgiveness when I don't deserve it (quite frequently) and love and God and are just plain old fun to be around - most of the time! :) I've learned so much about life and about God and about scripture just from being in this thing we call - family. I suppose I got really blessed and got a good one! At least its one that I wouldn't trade for any other family out there!
And the last but not least - a tribute to my new friends!
Its not coincidence that I go on a cruise with my friend from Bible college and the first night we discover the couple sitting next to our table are, not just Christians, but super duper amazing Christians! And BAM - two new friends! Willie and Lillie! I loved you instantly, like seriously LOVED you, and am loving getting to know you better! Theres just something about you that radiates out and just makes me happy and I know that radiating all starts just from a heart of pure passion for God! I'm so thankful that God allows me to get to CA once in a blue moon so I can see into your lives and ministry there! You are wise, you are good listeners, you are givers, you are a fantastic example of a God-couple and I pray you stay in my life for a long long time!
And saving the best for last....
My new "special" "friend"... Ok - why quotes around special AND friend.... I'm not saying you're "special". Maybe my way of being ironic? No clue - but I suppose you are special and you are and have become and are becoming an even better friend. And yes, one would call you a boy. And others would call you a friend. And I might, even at times call you a boy.....friend....
Besides the name your mom (or was it your dad?) gave you, Sean, any other name you call yourself doesn't change the fact that you came into my life and you've kind of overwhelmed me here! I know every ounce of this "friendship" we're in is God's doing! And I know every ounce of you belongs to God! You're seriously the nicest, kindest, best guy (man sounds so formal, which we are not...) that I've ever ever met! I love the way you love other people from your heart and the way you own up to your shortcomings and deal with them and move on. I love the way you give to people who are in need or could just use a little cheering up or a little help. You think of absolutely everything and I admit, you're the first person who can genuinely surprise me with just about anything and everything you do or give! It doesn't hurt that you love doing all the stupid stuff that I love doing - and you were probably doing it before I was (you're the original Braveheart!) so I don't have to drag you into anything like a lemming! :) We can jump into stupid stuff together with stupid smiles on our faces and we're probably going to end up busting something someday or somewhere (hopefully someplace that people have to ask us to repeat the name twice..), but you better believe its going to be a good story! Thank you for who you are and for what you've brought and are bringing into my life! I'd like to say that you're in the process of changing me in a lot of good, albeit it slow because thats the way I roll, ways! You've been a pretty big God-influence in my life within the past 6 months that I've known you and I can see other lives that you've been a God-influence in as well so, I know its your MO :) To quote one of our famous youth group quotes... You're "pretty much a big deal". :)
Happy 2015!!!!!! (It is 2015 right? I usually don't get it right until March so, heres hoping!!!)