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Monday, June 20, 2016

"God's Will be Done"- A Prayer that Takes True Faith.

One of the tenets of the Christian faith is that God Almighty has a plan for our lives, a plan that surpasses all our expectations and earthly ideas of good. His plan is better is than our plan, we claim to believe.
The challenge with this belief, however, is that “His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” So God allows us to have experiences that may make no sense in our line of thinking.  God may allow a person to be tortured, raped, murdered, or experience chronic and devastating loss, and still claim that “all things work together for good for those who love Him and called according to His purpose.” God allows some to be greatly blessed in this life in a material way, while others (who He loves equally) rely daily on Him for bread and basic survival. Some are allowed to have large, healthy families, while others suffer due to infertility or the deaths of their children. Some live in peace throughout their lives, while others are constantly under the threat of war. But God makes the outrageous claim that His love is greater than “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword.”
Our faith in God calls us to believe past our circumstances, good or bad, and see the perfect love of the heart of God, the perfect love that “casts out all fear.” Our faith calls us to believe that one day, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” and that all tears and sadness and death will be done, and what will be left for the faithful will be a heavenly inheritance in Jesus, causing us to be equal heirs with him in God’s mighty blessings of love into eternity. This won’t happen through our goodness, but His. Jesus will replace our frailty and mortality with eternal life everlasting. Bad will disappear, and only goodness, joy, and light will remain.  
To the skeptical nonbeliever, this kind of faith seems like a worthless endeavor. After all, if access to the almighty god of the universe doesn’t guarantee safety in this life, then what is the point? If you can look up to the heavens and beg and cry out for things from god, and he, still claiming to love you, can answer, “no,” then what kind of god can you really be serving?
Indeed, if God was not real, we would truly be fools among men. We would be sheep to the slaughter, because our beliefs would lead us continually into ruin. The heroes of our faith died, empty-handed, at the hands of the very people to whom they were trying to reach out.
If God was not real, Christianity would have died out with its martyrs. We would be a footnote in history, because no one would have followed these ridiculous leaders for long.
Instead, something else happened entirely. Something miraculous. For every martyr killed, the people around them started believing. Instead of despair, the sufferers experienced joy, hope, and an increase, not a decrease, in faith. Strangely enough, the message of Jesus Christ flourishes, not reduces, in times of persecution. When governments try to squelch it, it goes underground and grows there. It cannot be killed, and when antichrists try, their very efforts to reduce it are what help it grow the strongest. The martyr’s give us increased faith and hope in our heavenly inheritance, “where moth and rust cannot destroy.”
It is no coincidence that God so often uses the vehicle of death and destruction to drive home His message. After all, Jesus’s death was what allowed his resurrection. The cross should have been the end of the story. Instead, it was just the beginning of his heavenly reign. So we too grow closest to Him and gain His power to influence the world when we also suffer to the point of death. We, too, like Christians before us, sing “Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting?”
It confounds conventional logic. In our story, we start off dead in our sin and end up alive in Christ! We are oppo-zombies!
So what is the point of my ramblings today about the mysteries of God’s goodness and love, and how He uses death and destruction to create live and healing in this sort of unconventional reverse ordering of the universe?
Well, I suppose these truths are on my mind because recently, I found out I am facing a crossroads in my career. It was not a crossroads I chose, it is something that is happening to me. If you have read through my blog, you will see that in the past, I had some very profound and painful professional experiences. I went through a lot of turmoil and soul searching, and had to grow up quite a bit regarding what I expected from the industry I’m in and from myself. I prayed through a difficult, 5 year season and God’s answer to me (which did not feel very loving!) during that season was “I will move you when I move you, and no sooner.” At the end of the 5 year season, I made some professional changes that greatly increased the quality of my life. Opportunities came my way that allowed us (my family and I) to prosper. I looked no further than when I was, because I was happy and my situation met all my expectations. God finally gave me a place to settle in and get comfortable.
And now, after two years, God is taking it away. It’s happening fast and definitively. I have new opportunities on the horizon, but it has been challenging for me to muster up any energy for them. I am having trouble letting go of the good that God put in my life.  In my mind’s eye, I see the life I lead, a bright, colorful ball, sitting in my hand- I want to squeeze it tight, but I feel it changing form and dissolving and lifting up out of my grasp. I can’t have it back, no matter what. It’s slipping away.
So, I am faced with a choice. I can cling to that dissolving ball and try to clutch at it and hold onto it and look back at it and even be frustrated and angry at God for taking it away and go inward. Or, I can relax, open my hand, let it slip out completely, and keep my hand open for the new life he wants to place in it. This requires believing that what God has next for me is even better. I am letting go of the good to embrace the great. I am walking in faith that no matter what shape the next season of my life takes, it’s the best shape it can be. It’s the best life I could lead, because it’s the one given to me by God.
The cry of my heart must be, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  
And by God’s grace, this will be my prayer. For “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it,” and “no temptation has seized you except what it common to man.” My tiny trial and uncertainty of the future is simply a tiny fleck of sand washing up on the shores of heaven. In this I take great comfort.
“Oh, Father, who is in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Hello, all! Its been a long time. Since we talked last, I've switched jobs, and that has changed my life in a million wonderful ways. My new environment is fun, interesting, and has about a 70% less stress than the last one. I meet standards easily and have been given many opportunities to give input and help make needed policy changes.

I'm calling this post "Un-regretting!" because for a long time there I suspected I had made some serious life mistakes. This was based on the evidence that I was, well, miserable for a large portion of every day and didn't even have a lot of money to show for it. I was desperately trying to figure out where I had gone wrong. When I didn't feel tired, I felt angry. When the anger ran out, I cried. After 7 years in school, this seemed unfair. Why had I worked so hard and so long just so I could be miserable? I worked late evenings, early mornings, and weekends, and still we struggled financially. And most of all, I struggled emotionally. I'm a dramatic person; I feel everything deeply, and I found that the coping mechanisms I had in place just weren't cutting it to handle the day to day stress under which I found myself. This was all very embarrassing, of course. I felt like a fraud, a failure. After all, it was just a job, just a career, nothing very important. My family was intact, my marriage was good, I was safe and could pay the bills, even if it was very close some months. So what did I have to complain about? But there it was, the burden, defying my rationalizations.

I even began praying that if this was going to be my lot in life that I could just disassociate- just stop having feelings, stop being affected, and wake up after retirement. I asked God to turn me into a working automaton. I knew even before I prayed it that He would never grant such a damaging request.

But I could write a long time on the sorts of thought processes I went through during that stage of my life. I analyzed it from every possible angle, and no matter what I did, I could never be really comfortable or satisfied with where I was- even on the best days, I was afraid, tired, stressed- and angry.

Fast forward. As I've written before, after returning from maternity leave I found I had learned better how to deal with many of the stressors that I experienced at work, and that I had a renewed passion for the work. I still felt poured out daily, but there were projects that I was excited about, and I was finding that my coworkers were listening to my ideas more often and coming to me for support.

Then I received the opportunity that put me into a different workplace back in February. I feel like a person carrying a giant burden who suddenly has that burden removed- I still find myself stooping to carry it, even though its not there- a sort of a phantom burden! But more and more I am standing up straight and looking around me and feeling like after half a decade my life is back.

Turns out, I didn't make any major life mistakes- it just took a longer time to see returns than I was expecting. This year, we finally paid off our credit card debt (Woo-hoo!), and we are even planning a little family vacation this fall. We own our own home, are in the process of paying off our vehicles, and this month I even had enough money to purchase some new shoes for work.  For 30 years old, I think being this far along is pretty good! I now really enjoy my career and I'm excited about advancing in it. Our biggest hurdle left is student loan debt, which we've made small dent in, but its a small dent in a very large mountain.

The neatest thing about having some of these "big" things taken care of is that maybe I can begin taking care of some of the little things I've had to neglect over the years. I've recently renewed my interest in my garden- nothing fancy, just some lavender plants, a peach tree, some cacti, and a few bulb plants, all in pots because we still haven't gotten around to landscaping. I have to leave something to do in my 30's, right? I just purchased makeup again for the first time in several years and I'm actually trying to wear it; and through some miracle, my kitchen is finally clean more often than not and I'm cooking meals from home most nights. Now I'm hoping that I may be able to focus on physical health- like scheduling a dentist appointment (Blurgh!) and exercising consistently, giving blood, and spending time with friends.

So, I officially un-regret the work I had to do to get started. Its really starting to pay off, and I'm grateful to God for allowing me to succeed. Lots of people work hard without being successful; God has not only allowed me to plant my garden, but He's making it grow:).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Overeducated and Underqualified: Generations X & Y

I understand that I am technically considered a part of generation X- I rode their coat tails into this life, and while I dislike most of what they stand for, I identify with them a lot more than I do with the Y-Generation. For my generation, we bought the idea that college and education were the keys to living a wealthy and prosperous life. And then 2008 happened. Suddenly hordes of well educated college graduates had no ability to pay off their burdensome student loans because guess what? No one wanted to give jobs to people with Bachelors of Arts in the Humanities. Suddenly, we had a generation with diplomas who were unhireable- too indebted to be able to afford to work at minimum wage, but unable to do much else.

I was thinking about this today because a coworker of mine was discussing how many students today seek degrees, not educations. Can we blame them, I wonder, given that "education" in and off itself doesn't put much on the table anymore? I was blessed enough to have gone into something practical enough that my Master's Degree allowed me to work in a trade, but not blessed enough to have picked something that diversified. Because now it would take an act of God to get me into anything else. I'm too well paid to go back into entry level work, but not paid well enough to move to a nice side of town or for my husband and I to be able to make our monthly student loan payments comfortably.

So, like so many from my generation, we are busy finding out how to live in post-recession America. We got rid of everything extra to make it through the hard times, and now we are still in debt but there's nothing else to minimize or downsize- there's nowhere else to cut before cutting the amenities that make our lives run- like vehicles, the mortgage that's cheaper than rent, and an ever increasing PG&E bill.

In my daily Bible reading, I've been re-reading Ecclesiastes. For those of you who have never read this slender, obscure book of the Old Testament, its a philosophical book that is credited to King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live. In this book, he tells of his journey seeking the meaning of life- he seeks after education, pleasure, meaningful work, amassing wealth, you name it, he tried it. Throughout the book, he continues to state that all the things people seek after are as meaningless as trying to catch the wind. His rather fatalistic conclusion is that the best you can do from an earthly perspective is to hope that God will bless you with enjoying the works of your hands so you don't have to think too overly much about the tragedies of life. He also ends his book urging you to seek God in your youth, and not wait to find out about Him until you are old and life has lost its luster.

So what is the point of my rambling? I guess I want to remind myself, and my generation, that no matter the circumstances, or how much is in the bank account, or how much education you managed to get, the only real question at the end of it all is, "Did you find God?" Pre or Post Recession, no other question really matters. That's not to absolve me of my responsibility to be a good citizen, pay off my debts, and contribute to the world I live in- rather, its the reason I will follow through on that responsibility- because God is with me, there in the details of my daily life. Have you found Him yet?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Perspectives from a Show Dog

I was reading through some old prayers of mine this Sunday in the back of the Bible I used during my Master's program. I was struck by the differences in my perspective now, 10 years later.  At that time, I felt a lot of guilt over the ease of my life. I had been well protected, nurtured. Bad things only happened to other people, and I felt some survivor's guilt. "Why me?" I wondered. Why did I have so much when others had so little? I questioned what God's purpose was and compared myself to a show dog- all fluff and frills, but very little function. My prayers at the time reflected an urgency to feel used by God to make a difference, and fear that my life might not have any impact at all.

Then I got married, and started my very stressful and confusing job. Suddenly, I didn't have the time or abundance anymore to ask why I was so blessed. I stopped feeling blessed at all, frankly. I was feeling so much inner turmoil that my prayers became a "Why me?" of an entirely different sort. I thought many times about the trite phrase "getting out of your comfort zone" and wondered if someone in this zone could tell me how to find it so I could climb back in!  There were many, many shocks to my system. For a while, everyday was a significant struggle to get through. I discovered that most of the blessings I felt guilty about didn't actually belong to me- they had been on loan through my gracious and generous family. Now that we were on our own, everything came pretty hard. Trying to budget our money, keep our home in order, succeed in a challenging work environment, and live and work in a totally different area of town with a whole set of new disturbing experiences proved to be a lot a lot to handle. Important deadlines and responsible choices started falling through the cracks, and I felt high levels of shame for not having it "together" anymore. I lived in a state of disillusionment of the self for a long while.

Through this time, my relationship with God went in new and strange directions. He stayed faithful, and I found myself confronted with the hard truth that I had a lot of expectations about what He was supposed to do for me. I found out I had unconsciously contracted with Him, believing that if I followed the rules, He would always keep me comfortable and safe. I hadn't realized that I had bought so much into a prosperity gospel message in my heart. Because as soon as things stayed uncomfortable and stressful, I began to push against Him, trying to figure out what buttons to push to get Him to respond the way I wanted Him to respond. Nevermind that there was a recession and jobs were hard to come by but bills were not- I expected Him to keep finding special circumstances for me to thrive while everyone else struggled. And when He didn't, even though He could have, I got angry. The show dog was throwing tantrums because she stopped getting treats. And when I got angry, I got scared, ashamed, and uncertain. Whole areas of my life stopped making any kind of sense! For a while, I even prayed he would take away all my feelings- I was willing to be an obedient robot, as long as I could stop feeling so distressed. I praise Him, of course, for denying these desperate prayers.

At the end of that season, I wish I could say that I learned a lot and became a better person. I did learn a lot, but I don't think I got any better. I got used to some things, and I think I got a lot humbler. I also gained a lot more empathy for people who live on the ugly side of the tracks. Because I'm one of those people now. I acclimated to the shock of the culture that I am now a part of, and the season passed away in its own time. I have learned that a lot my angry feelings are a result of fears of my own inadequacy, that I will mess everything up for myself and it will all be my fault. Knowing what I am afraid of doesn't take the fear away, but it does give me the ability to refute it and the power to make different choices.  

During this season of my life, I found that all the things that just seemed like abundant and lavish blessings were actually vital to our survival. My ability to get through school quickly the first time around and get a well-paying job, for instance, ended up being the cornerstone of our financial solvency.  God answered my prayers and showed me that there was a purpose and a reason in all my blessings, the same way there would be a purpose and a reason in all my struggles.  He has also used me to make a big difference in the lives of my clients, my coworkers, and my church family, so I don't feel so self-serving and useless anymore.

Now, somedays, I feel more like a show dog again. I've begun to finally make sense of my professional environment, and I have days where I really enjoy what I do. I have loved motherhood immensely and my daughter is my joy.  My circumstances haven't changed overly (despite all the countless hours of energy I've put into trying to change them), but I'm learning how to make the circumstances I'm in more comfortable.

Now that we are coming back into a season of change, I have a whole new set of fears to bring before God. They are actually many of the same fears, repackaged. I'm still afraid I'll mess everything up and lead my family into ruin. But I'm no longer afraid of making a difference, or that God is going away when His blessings seem to, or that He has no function for me in His plan. This show dog is a working dog after all.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Saying Goodbye- It hurts!

So after 4 years of working full-time, I'm about to go on Maternity leave! Yay! Just a few more days, and I have about 5 months off to have, and bond with, my new baby girl. I have been looking forward to a change of pace for a long, long time and I'm actually giddy with excitement! I am one tired cookie, and the idea of getting to spend Christmastime with my family is pretty much the best Christmas gift I could ever have.

But, as with all life events, I cannot be purely excited to be off and away, even though its what I've wanted for so long. Because my heart was stolen by my clients, kids who are incredibly dear to me. Kids who matter to me. Kids who I worry about as they make this transition to work with someone else. I hope they will be okay. I pray they will be okay. And I am going to miss them. So I wrote a little bit of poetry to capture the pathos of this week- the week I've started to say goodbye, at least for the next 5 months.

I didn’t expect to miss you,

I didn’t expect to care,

I didn’t expect to feel pain in my heart when I told you I wouldn’t be there.

I didn’t expect the pain in your eyes

The panicked stare,

Or the awkward goodbyes-

I didn’t expect to wish I could stay to find out what happened next,

Or that I would worry so much about if you were going to be okay,

Or want to hug you in my arms and take you home with me- to keep both you and my baby…

I didn’t expect to feel so guilty for leaving you,

To be another ring in your chain of losses

- You deserve a better person than me, more consistent, more compassionate, willing to stick it out…

I tell myself you’ll be okay, I’m leaving you in good hands-

I tell myself I’ll forget to miss you soon and you’ll forget me, too-

But I never expected it to hurt so bad to say farewell, that you’d fear it so

And I never expected that I would fear it, too.

So many hours of frustration covered up the love that was growing for you.

Now the frustration’s gone, I’m at the finish line, and realize I’m not ready to stop running this race- but its too late.

I didn’t expect to miss you,

I didn’t expect to care,

I didn’t expect to feel pain in my heart when I told you I wouldn’t be there.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hazards of My Morning Commute

Oh crossing guards, I respect your job; I just wish you didn’t do it in front of me.

Oh road workers, when will you return to patch up the “repairs” you started months ago?

Oh children, didn’t you see the crossing guard up there- there to keep you from jaywalking around my metal machine of death?

Oh puppies-get out of the road, you stupid puppies! Do you have some sort of death wish?

Thursday, November 15, 2012


True friends are rare, valuable, and irreplaceable. I know because I lost one this September. 

Patsy was 73 when she passed away of a sudden heart attack in the hospital on Monday, September 10th. I had just visited her in the hospital the Saturday before, when she was talkative, energetic, and didn't seem at all ready to die. The doctors weren't sure what was wrong, and she'd been in the hospital for kidney problems several times before. Last year when I visited her in the same hospital, she looked so pale and tired I'd thought I was going to lose her then. I knew she was hurting, and she told me she didn't know why God still had her on this earth. But she had recovered, slowly, and seemed to be feeling better until her most recent hospitalization.

Patsy had lived in chronic pain for years, with a variety of different medical problems that kept her from doing a lot of her favorite things. Her pain sometimes made her seem older than her years, because she hurt so much. Patsy was beautiful, stylish, and an unabashed feminist. She had intense blue eyes and beautiful shiny hair, which had turned completely white in her 30's.  

Patsy had lived a difficult life. She fled her first marriage as a younger woman to escape her husband's abuses, only to spend the next decade fighting to get her sons back after he took them away from her. I never got all the details on these events, but she often spoke about what it felt like to be so demeaned for so many years. Her experiences made her a compassionate advocate for women.

Patsy was a giver. Part of her sickness in her later years meant she couldn't have any kinds of tight clothes on her body, and that she was constantly cold, and couldn't eat most of her favorite foods. But Patsy loved to shop, and she bought very nice clothes. The way Patsy dealt with not being able to enjoy the things she used to love, such as clothes and her favorite foods, was not by becoming bitter or angry- instead, she gave these things away to other people. She gave away her clothes, bought treats to watch other people eat them, and gave small checks to family and friends for a variety of different things she would find out they wanted or needed.

I don't really know why Patsy picked me out for her love. She was a member of our church and from the time my husband began as the youth minister there, she started loving me. I could tell by the way she hugged me and talked to me that she was being more than polite. She told me later that she "loved me as soon as she met me."

After being at the church for about a year, I was going through a lot at work and I didn't know what to do or how to handle it. I desperately prayed for help, and Wanza, one of the other older women in our church, spontaneously invited me to join a new Bible study they were starting up on Tuesday nights. I think they must have been a little surprised that I took them up on it, as the other youngest woman there was in her 60's. But I needed help, and as I have so often found, women of grand-mothering age are some of the most supportive people around. A person can never have enough grandmothers. So I began attending the Bible Study, which lasted for the next two years. Patsy was one of the women in the study, and that's where I really got to know her. I loved her vim and vigor. I loved how she dressed so stylishly and always had her clothes perfectly coordinated. I loved how her eyes sparkled and how she told stories. I just loved everything about her. And she loved me.

Patsy ministered to me personally in dozens of different ways. I wasn't the only one she showered with love, but I got a very liberal dose. She prayed for me consistently and purposefully. She literally gave me bags and bags and bags of clothes, purses, and shoes that had only been worn once or not at all. She told me to pick what I liked, and give the rest away. She slipped me cash sometimes “for whatever you might need” and gave me lots of hugs.

But most meaningful of all, she really cared what happened in my life. Having been a career woman for most of her life, I think she felt like she could relate to a lot of the struggles I was going through. I could say all sorts of shocking things to her and she never judged me for them, because she had some shocking things to say, too. She seemed to see in me how she would have liked to have been in her 20’s, if she had been raised differently and been given more opportunities. Every time I succeeded, she seemed to feel like she succeeded, too, and whenever I struggled, she acted just as concerned as if it was happening to her. 
One Sunday at church in the beginning of May, I felt overwhelmed, fatigued, helpless, and sad. I excused myself to gain my composure in the restroom during the sermon, and ended up crying silently in a corner of the church library. I felt like my whole world was crashing down on me and I couldn't stop sobbing. I prayed for some help. A few minutes later (I had been out of service for at least 15 minutes by this time); I heard Patsy's voice calling my name from the foyer. She had seen me leave the sanctuary and had gotten concerned when I hadn't come back. I came out of the library, and she sat with me on the steps while I cried. I kept telling her, "I don't really know why I'm crying, “and she just nodded and put her arm around me and sat with me while I struggled to explain the deep wells of emotion I was feeling. She prayed with me, and hugged me tight, until I began to calm down. She asked me if I was pregnant, and I said that I didn't think so, but I just couldn't seem to stop feeling tired and sick. When I got my positive pregnancy results back a week later, she was one of the first people I wanted to tell.

This summer, before we took the youth to New Mexico for a week for camp, she donated money to get all of them matching sweatshirts. They still wear their sweatshirts proudly- one of the boys wore his for weeks in a row, even though it was the middle of summer. She said she had the idea in a dream, and she wanted to see it fulfilled. That was no more than two months before she died.

When she went back into the hospital in September, I almost forgot to visit her. I praise God for reminding me. My husband was out of town and I was at an all day training that Saturday. I was planning on going home and then go to the gym to go swimming. As I was driving toward my freeway exit, I saw the exit to the Heart Hospital where Patsy was staying. Patsy! I meant to visit her. So I got off at the next exit instead and went and spent about an hour with her. Even though she was the one in the hospital, all she wanted to talk about was my new baby and how excited she was for my husband and I. She told me she was praying for me and so happy for me. On my way out, I hesitated and thought, I need to pray with her. So I turned and prayed a short prayer with her, asking God to heal her body and help the doctors figure out what was wrong so she could feel better. Then we hugged, told each other that we loved each other, and I left.I never expected that that goodbye would be our last. 

           I was pretty stunned when I got the email the following Monday from the church that she had died. She seemed so upbeat and energetic when I'd seen her Saturday. Her husband's family asked me to sing a song at her memorial service. That was the hardest solo I've ever done. I sang Chris Rice's Untitled Hymn, and as I looked over at her casket, and  I knew that was the last time I'd see her for a long, long time. I began crying and my voice began to crack as I sang the last stanza: 

"And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye 
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and 
Fly to Jesus 
Fly to Jesus 
Fly to Jesus and live!"

Although that was my last gift to her, it wasn't the end of her generosity to me. Her husband asked me if I'd be willing to go through her clothes and take what I wanted, because he knew she would have wanted me to have first pick. I've never gone through a dead friend's closet before. I bagged up everything into two piles- One pile of things I thought would work for myself or my twin sister, and another to take to the church's clothing ministry. I gave some of her pairs of shoes to a co-worker who wore her size.I gave some of her purses to other family members who I thought would like them, which they did. I gave some of her purses to other family members who I thought would like them, which they did. I didn't find a single well-worn item in her closet, nothing seemed to have been worn more than once or twice.This confirmed the suspicion I had that she gave things away almost as soon as she bought them. 

That was in September. Then we got a call just this last week from her son, who said there were a few large household items she had left behind that he thought she would have wanted us to have. I started crying when I realized I was still receiving gifts from my friend two months after her death. We'll look through the items, keep what we need, and then find another family that can use the rest.

What did I learn from my friend? I learned a lot about kindness. I still don't know how she managed to take care of so many people at once! I found out at her funeral that there was a young woman from our church who had moved away that she had written letters to weekly for years. I also know from first hand experience that she took the time to get to know the names of lives of each of the youth in our youth group, whether they knew her or not. The youth also have no idea how many monetary donations Patsy made for them to be able to go to camp and other events every year. The first time I'd visited her in the hospital, the year before she died, she pressed me into service for one of our girls who was about to go into the hospital herself. She gave me an envelope with money in it, asking me to make sure the girl got it so she could get herself a stuffed animal to take to the hospital with her to hold when she was scared. She prayed compassionately for each of our youth, especially the girls, and was a listening ear to many of the women in our church. 

Patsy also taught me about love. Patsy was not perfect. She had a lifetime of choices behind her, some she would make again, and others that I know she deeply regretted. She carried around the pain of her past with her, and in many ways it hurt her more than the physical pain she experienced every day. But she loved people, and she loved God. She taught me that people don't need to be around people who are perfect, we need to be around people who are loving. She taught me that a little compassion and kindness can reach out and extend to the most unexpected places. 

I'm not like my friend Patsy. I'm not overly generous or thoughtful toward others- I've always been much better at receiving gifts than at giving them. I have prayed to be able to have some of her generosity and kindness to be able to share. I don't think I'll ever be as good at caring for people as Patsy was, but I hope to be able to a little. If I am given a tenth of her compassion and generosity, I will consider myself blessed. 

I miss you, Patsy. You were an amazing friend to me. I'm so glad I got to know you. Thank you for considering me worthy of your love. I wish you could have seen my baby girl when she's born, but at least you got to know about her before you died. I look forward to seeing you again, and I hope I live my life in a way you would be proud of. I will try to fill in the gap you have left, but I'll never be able to fill your shoes. I love you, my friend. I'm so glad you aren't hurting anymore.