I've been thinking a lot about my friend Stephanie this month. My sweet friend from Bible study who never stopped smiling, never stopped living until the very day God took her home to Heaven last Halloween. She taught me to embrace life and to take advantage of every opportunity to just live.
October is always a busy time for me. Too many parent conferences to count. Lots of extra school, church, and athletic activities. Fun stuff, but sometimes too much crammed into a small period of time. I can easily find myself wishing the days away if I'm not careful. Because of the impression Stephanie left on my heart, I have tried much harder to enjoy each day as it comes (though it's still a struggle for this introvert that needs a chance to recharge).
Now as October comes to a close once again, God is using the loss of another dear friend to remind me to embrace each day. My dear friend, Susan, another Bible study buddy, stepped into the presence of Jesus just a few days ago. Today as I sat through her Memorial service to celebrate her life, I realized just how intentionally she lived, even to her last breath. She lived with such a genuine interest and concern for others. She cared deeply for other people.
I will never forget how quickly she befriended me after I first moved here. Her classroom neighbored mine, so we talked often after school and in the hallway. When she learned I was a fellow Christian, she said, "I knew there was a reason I liked you!" She and her husband helped us unpack the moving truck two weeks later and then move into our first apartment a few weeks after that.
Our friendship grew and deepened as we met to pray together at school on several occasions. We also did Bible studies together on the weekends and in the summers. We traveled to Houston together once to attend a Bible study with Beth Moore. She invited me to a Women of Faith conference, but when I didn't have the spare cash, her mom paid for my ticket and hotel fee. Little did we know that God used our studies together to prepare us both to lead larger group Bible studies in our own churches later.
As her cancer grew over the years, her strength diminished. We kept in touch through e-mails and occasional visits for coffee to give us a chance to catch up. But with limited amounts of strength each day, she lived very intentionally, planning out how to use every moment. She did volunteer work and led Bible studies during the day (or did them with her mom and sister) while I led them at night, so our lives slowly stopped intersecting.
I've thought of her often over the last year or two since we last met up for coffee. My biggest regret is not calling or stopping to see her over the last few months when God laid her on my heart. I even drove right by her house a few times, but never stopped. I'm not sure what held me back. Perhaps fear of knowing the truth, that her time on earth ticked away.
My most precious memory of Susan takes me back to a time she helped us out financially to fix one of our vehicles shortly after we moved to Texas. She refused to let us pay her back even a penny. She only requested that we later help someone else in need when we had the chance and the ability. Pay it forward. She taught me to give without expecting (or even wanting) anything in return. Her life exemplified a truly giving spirit.
Today I felt so honored to have known and loved Susan. I will never forget what I learned from her about paying it forward. Every time I have a chance (and the ability) to give to someone in need, I will remember Susan.
October will forever be a time to remember my two dear Bible study friends and the lessons they taught me through their lives. The impressions they left upon me will remind me to not wish time away when I'm most tempted to do so. Every day is a gift, one to be lived intentionally and with a smile.
- I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother. Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing. Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.