Something I did today spurred me on.
A great friend of mine leaves tomorrow to serve orphans in Mexico for a week. Is it ok to be jealous of her?She gets to love on the least of these. She gets to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the fatherless. I can think of no one with a bigger heart for orphans than my friend. I'm thrilled for her and excited God has afforded her this opportunity.
All week, I've been wanting to write her some notes of encouragement with prayers and scripture for her to read each day of her trip. However, this week has been crazy and I've been feeling like I went back in time to my first trimester. Exhausted and without energy. So, I sent her a text this morning to explain my plans and why they weren't going to happen. I sincerely apologized because "it's the thought that counts" doesn't apply here.
But God said do it anyway. He arranged for an hour long Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to entertain Lily while I sat in the kitchen to write seven notes of encouragement, knowing my friend needs it.
I say none of this except to boast in the Lord. Encouraging others is something I love to do and it is one of my spiritual gifts, therefore it is Christ in me that did this. Not my flesh.
I'm about to bring this post full circle and I can see it may be a lengthy one...stick with me.
Other than my parents, there are two people that have had a HUGE impact on my walk with Christ. One is Erin, who gave me my first prayer journal in 5th grade which I do believe is the early beginnings of this here blog. That first prayer journal gave me a passion for writing prayers to God and writing about things that are heavy on my heart.
The other is this guy right here. My youth pastor, Randy.
After 15 years he retired from being a student pastor in 2010. In May of that year, the church organized a big celebration to honor his years of service to the body of Christ...though his years of service began long before he was a student pastor and will not cease as long as he lives. As we were decorating for the party, I had to go into his office to get a few things for centerpieces. I walked upstairs and turned the corner to see an image I will not forget.
Boxes. A hallway filled with boxes. Boxes packed full of nothing but books he used to increase his knowledge of Christ which then spilled over into his teaching and shepherding of the students at Philly and in the community.
But it didn't stop there. I carefully made a walkway into his office to find shelves full of books that were yet to be packed.
My heart sunk with thankfulness. All those years and all those books for the glory of God and for me (and the 100s of students he impacted during his years as pastor)...I was a beneficiary of Randy's immense knowledge and contagious love for Christ. My heart filled with gratitude for him, for being committed to us, his students, whom he often referred to as his family.
Never have I known a man more devoted to Christ and to his students. He gave 110% to every single detail of his ministry. And after that, he gave 110% to other ministries of the church.
He's the cream of the crop. Bottom line.
Here's why I know so in pics (thanks Dad and Kristen for letting me steal pics from your facebook!)
1. He taught me to put the interests and needs of others before myself. He didn't do this just by his teaching, but also by his example, requiring us to memorize Philippians 2:1-11 (among many other scriptures), and throwing us into uncomfortable situations that forced us to deny ourselves and rely on the strength of Jesus Christ.
Repairing a roof in TN
At a daycare in Pritchard, AL. We visited many times. It was probably my first encounter with the fatherless, as many went home to single moms, grandmothers, and some who even went home with the director because there was no where else to go.
Box City. Living in cardboard boxes for a weekend to get just a taste of the homeless...rain or no rain, storm or no storm. Our first item on the agenda was a trip to the thrift store. We had $5 to buy our wardrobe for the weekend. We returned to the church and changed into our "new" stinky and filthy thrift store clothes. Stayed in them all weekend. A porta-potty for a restroom, a pillow or a sleeping bag (not allowed to have both), toothpaste or a toothbrush (again, not allowed to have both). Meals included a "soup kitchen" at the church and digging in the dumpster at a local bakery.
Not pictured is the annual trip under the bridge at Thanksgiving to serve the homeless a hot meal. And the countless mission trips all over the US.
Constantly in all of these adventures, it was nearly impossible to think of ourselves first. He just flat out didn't allow it. Jesus was first, others were second. It was tough love. If we were tired, we kept going. If we had a bad attitude, we had to get over it. If we didn't want to do it, we did it with joy. If we complained or weren't flexible, we all wore rubberbands so someone could pop it on our wrist as a reminder to be flexible.
2. But strict and reserved are no words to describe him and his leadership. He knew how to have fun with his students and his creativity is unmatched.
My first year in the youth. I'm in red in the front (in my really cool Gap Anorak jacket). That would be Brent and Randy climbing on top of everyone.
Randy came across 500 lbs of rotten bananas. So what do you do? Certainly not throw them away! Have a banana bowl, complete with baseball, slip and slides, wrestling, and just down right dirtiness. That's Brent again wrestling in the banana filth.
Skits at Delta Flight (his version of a DNow weekend)
Summer tubing trips down the Little Cahaba River
And just for kicks...a pic of my mom going down the rusty aluminum slide after tubing the river
More craziness at Delta Flight
He made us do some pretty nasty things as part of our games. One included putting an entire Happy Meal into a blender and drinking it. Of course that's something he never volunteered for, but here at his retirement party he got a taste of his own medicine!
3. He taught us to let go of our reputation, hence why we did the Six Flags Dance as a group in parking lots at random and attracted a lot of curious onlookers. Or why we (and by we, I mean the boys) would find a girl in the crowd at a conference and sing Happy Birthday to her...just for the sake of awkwardness. But seriously, he knew we had to give up our reputation in order to live recklessly for Christ. And again, he led by example and put us in situations where we were forced to apply what he taught us.
3. He was passionate about the word of Christ and that was evident every single time he preached. He was also passionate to see young people give up their own lives for the sake of Christ.
4. He taught us to be a family, because that's really what we all are as followers of Christ. Cliques don't exist in God's kingdom. These people were my support group, my best friends, my family.
5. He taught me how to be a leader. He poured so much of his life into his students, that I want to do the same for other teens, which is why I have worked with youth at church since I graduated from high school. It's where I feel called and equipped...which may have something to do with my youth years.
6. Finally, the reason why this whole post started...encouragement notes. I couldn't help but think of Randy and his mailbox when I was writing my friend this morning. Every mission trip we went on Randy had a mailbox. In the mailbox were blank cards, each with a name on it for everyone on the trip. Every night as we gathered together to discuss our day, we would reach in the mailbox and get an encouragement card. For the next 24 hours, our job was to pray for that person and write them a note of encouragement to return to them the next night. Then, we would all draw another name for the next day. It was always such a fun surprise to see who you had to pray for and who had been praying for you. I still have some of mine. Randy taught me the importance of praying for and encouraging others.
Overall, he taught/showed me how to deny myself and take up my cross daily and follow Christ. He held all of us accountable. He expected a lot out of us because he expected us to be used by God in great ways. He was a true leader because he created situations where we could apply what we learned or scripture we had memorized and see with our own eyes that what the Lord says/does is good and true. He taught humility. I'm so very grateful because it left a lasting impression on my heart, one that effects my marriage, my life as a mother, a teacher, a friend, and so so much more.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
You just really never have a clue what kind of impact you have on someone. Who are you impacting?
And, just in case you need a picture of the hottie I fell in love with in 5th grade...that's him in the glasses. Married to him now. If only he still had those glasses and that flannel shirt.