The other day God reached out and used some wonderful people to meet a very real need in my life (shout out to Eileen and Troy Easterday and Juanita Smith). As I sat in tears at God’s goodness and willingness to provide for His children, I started to look back and think about all the hundreds of people that God has brought alongside me in my journey and calling. I wanted to write a post to thank just a few of these hundreds of people, because I, like many of us, do not always do a good job of conveying to others the impact that they have had in my life. A lot of people come and go in our journeys, but some people stay and make a lasting mark. If I were to highlight everyone, it would be a very long blog post. If I did not mention someone important, I apologize. Know that you are so very important to me! In all of this, I encourage you to look back and not only recognize the key people in your story, but also thank them for the role they have had in making you who you are today.
I grew up in a wonderful family with great parents (David and Marlys Weber). They have been very involved in my life and have given me many opportunities to learn and grow in a variety of ways. Throughout everything, they have been not only my biggest supporters, but also faithful and wise advisors. I am so blessed to have them in my life. I admire them because they live lives worthy of admiration, and anyone who knows them would agree.
Some people that I consider my “second parents” are Stan and Eleaner Aubrey. They were my pastors for the first several years of my life, and Eleaner was my first Spanish teacher. These two people adopted me as their spiritual daughter and invested so much of their time and wisdom in my life. Much of what I learned about ministry and life I learned in the first few years of my life with them. I love them like I love my parents, and I miss them terribly when I cannot be with them.
Obviously, both sets of my grandparents had a big impact on my life as well, and I was probably closest to my mom’s dad, Lauren Blincow, who passed away when I was a junior in high school. I grew up in his carpenter shop, sweeping sawdust in my free time and painting toys that we would make together. We would go for drives singing silly songs and we went fishing and golfing (and when my grandma wasn’t there, he would even let me drive the golf cart). He taught me different card games and also how much I do not like fried green tomatoes. We spent time in his garden and at the park. I loved the weeks that I would spend at his house, and as an adult now I am amazed at the energy level he had to spend time with me. It makes me appreciate so much more the times we spent together.
I also loved spending time with my Uncle Russ and Aunt Lanita Evans. I loved “helping” with my aunt’s paper business and doing electrical maintenance runs with my uncle. We would play games at night and watch movies together. I remember going on walks and hikes with my uncle and we would talk about the deep mysteries of life. They also taught me so much about love and marriage by their example.
Another childhood friend that I consider one of the most important people in my life is my friend Bonnie Bley. Although she is probably in her 80’s now, she continues to be not only an example of what it means to have a vibrant relationship with God, but also someone in whom I can confide absolutely everything. She has challenged me to always seek to go deeper with God and to love people as God loves them. I could honestly write a book on all the ways this wonderful lady has touched my life. Perhaps someday I will.
I spent a lot of time in my growing up years with my neighbor Marion Young, an elderly lady who took me under her wing. We spent all our time PLAYING. She had a cocker spaniel dog named Tinkerbell and we would take her for walks and drives and taught her all kinds of tricks. I would spend hours at her house every week, and considered her one of my best childhood friends. She passed away a few years ago, and I miss her so much.
Joe and Susan Sukraw have been in my life since I was born, and they have been a constant encouragement to me. In high school when I was trying to figure out matters of spiritual warfare and other things that I couldn’t share with just anyone, they were there to talk to and to point me to wise teachers and theologians who have greatly influenced me. I am so thankful for their continued friendship (and their kids who I have adopted as my brothers and sisters – Josh, Ben, Hannah, and Nathan).
In high school I had some teachers that made a great impact on my life – for example, Tom Hammond, my favorite English teacher who passed away while I was in high school. He encouraged my writing and critical thinking in ways that no other teacher ever has. He saw something in me, and he graded me hard because he knew that I had potential. Kelley Hansen, my Spanish teacher who is the only reason I still speak Spanish, modeled to me a love for the language and the Hispanic culture. Bob McFarland, my biology teacher, invested so much into me in a personal way. We had such a good time with him that my group of friends would often meet in his classroom after school and laugh until our sides hurt.
College was a difficult time for me on many emotional and physical levels. It is true in my case that few friendships have been closely maintained from that time. However, two of my best friends – Joanna Henry and Brandon Chapman – came into my life during that time. These two people mean so much to me. Joanna – you and I have been through SO MUCH together. I am sure we will be friends for a lifetime. I also spent a lot of time with my mentor at the time, Martha Latham. She taught me so much about passion for ministry and how to love kids that struggle.
While I worked at Mount Rushmore one summer during college, I went through a season of big growth. Who would have ever thought that one of my best friends Rachel Hull would still be such a good friend today? I remember those nights we would stay up late outside in the woods in the dark talking about EVERYTHING, that time we almost died, and how much we complained to each other to keep each other sane. HA…we are such different people now, but I am so thankful that we have grown up together.
One family that means so much to me are Benny Sánchez and Yussepy Leonardo, who I lived with in the Dominican Republic for four months. These two people invested so much into me, and they loved me although I was going through a very difficult time in my life and was not very mature in many areas. I am so blessed and honored by them, that we have stayed good friends throughout the years, and I am excited to see them again in September!
My Kansas family – Steve and Linda Weber, Andy and Ashley Weber, Jamie Rice (and BRIE) and Tom and Gracie Ewing – truly took me under their wing not only while I was in college, but have continued to be a constant blessing and encouragement to me. I consider Steve one of my main mentors, and the ways that he has invested in my life are so valuable to me.
I am so thankful for Derri Smith, director of End Slavery Tennessee, who took me under her wing while I was in Nashville and believed that God can and will use me in my calling to work with victims of human trafficking. She showed me what it means to have passion and love for those who have been so broken. She also taught me what it means to have hope, and to know that our God can heal any wound, break any cycle, and use anyone for His purposes.
You want a reason why I was able to come to South America to serve as a missionary? First of all, when God calls, He provides. One of the main ways that God provided for me was through Pastor Cliff Transmeier, who not only supported me financially and rallied the Nebraska District behind our church plant, but he also went WAY OUT OF HIS WAY to encourage me personally and in ministry. I am so thankful for his influence in my life.
Now that I am with Extreme Nazarene Ministries, I have many more people in my life that have made and are making a huge impact on my story and journey. I am so thankful for Brian Tibbs, our director and also my friend and mentor, who is one of the most genuine people I know. He has been such an encouragement to me and has shown me that I am more than just a number in the organization. He has invested time in helping me develop and grow in my calling. Sheli Gartman has made a HUGE impact in my life. We have spent hours talking through and working through so many things. Through the Holy Spirit’s leading, she spoke firmly and powerfully into places in me that needed to change, and they have. I consider her one of my dearest friends and mentors, and one of the reasons for the many changes that have taken place in me. I am thankful especially to Amanda Duerre, David Morrison, Brandon Doerksen, CJ Childs, and Sheena Green for being such amazing friends and confidants through the ups and downs of ministry. Also, thank you to my sponsors who have not only given money, but have also stayed active in my life. You mean more to me than I could ever express.
So many people have encouraged me to develop in my gifts and talents such as Rod and Debbie Miller, who have always encouraged me to sing, Carla Freeman and Rhonda Swanson, two amazing piano teachers and friends, and Karen Ramsey who is a constant encouragement in my writing. Thank you so much for making such an impact on my life.
I feel like I could write Hebrews 11 for my story…there are so many more people who have been integral parts of my journey, but I do not have time to tell about them all. It truly takes a village to raise a child. All in all, thank you to the many people who have invested in me in the past 26 and a half years. I love you so much, and I hope someday that I can be as much of a blessing to others as you have been to me. Keep it up!