Every parent has a "reset activity" in their back-pocket. Their go-to thing to do when they need a deep breath. Maybe it's throwing the kids outside with a baseball, turning on a cartoon, or pulling out the art supplies. For me, I'm quickly learning, a stroll down our long beautiful road is my golden ticket. I try my very best to get Oliver outside everyday. (Nature so good for little bodies and brains!) But to be honest, it's more so for me than for him. Sometimes our strolls are full of me singing or praying, other times I enjoy some silence. Some days I listen to a podcast, and occasionally I'll call a friend to chat. But on this particular stroll, something unexpected happened that left me full of tears. I was simply giving gratitude to God aloud; generic but sincere. "Thank you Father for today, for this weather, for my sweet boy. I love you Lord, and I love spending time with you. Thank you for saving me from the kingdom of darkness and giving my life purpose. Thank you for being my provider and for providing every emotional, physical, and spiritual need I have. Thank you for the gift of motherhood and for trusting me with this weighty assignment. Thank you for surrounding me with women of faith that modeled Your love to me so clearly." Then something happened at this point of my rabbit trail prayer. I got "kerplunked", as my mom would say, with love for so many women in my life. I began thanking the Lord for specific ladies in my life, name by name, season by season, that believed in me. I found myself UTTERLY OVERWHELMED by the strategic hand of God to place role models in my life. And what started as a normal stroll down the road ended in me having tears streaming down my face in gratitude for these women.
I thought of my dear Mrs. Emma who carried my sweet heart so well and gave me a value for children.
I remembered Micah Gunn who taught me how fun serving Jesus would be.
I prayed for Amy Goodson who I couldn't get enough time with because I always felt so special around her.
I thought of Jessica Mejia whose hugs got me through the hardest of second grade days.
I thanked God for Michelle Segundo who modeled walking in wisdom to my small heart in such a vivid way.
I was full of gratitude for Jessica Brister who showed me that a quiet heart is strength for the Kingdom.
I thought of Annette Yanez who taught me how to listen well and made me feel that my 6th grade flute concert was the most ground breaking exciting news of her day.
I smiled thinking of Sophie who hung my colored picture in her office and took me to the movies.
I was filled with gratitude for Shelly and Christina who gave me a work ethic and trusted me with responsibility at a young age.
I'm grateful that Ja'Nae McMellon took time to be the big sister I never had and taught me about hair and fashion.
I prayed for Jamie Fitzgerald who mothered me in the place of prayer.
I smiled thinking of Rachel Ward and how she modeled what it looks like to be a woman of joy.
I thanked the Lord for Kim Wolbrect who literally has held my hand through every season of life.
I cried thinking of Shayla who taught me how to walk in humility and serve others well.
***A few of these ladies are below. I couldn't find pictures of everyone because so many of these memories were before the days of digital pictures.
SO. MANY. WOMEN. And so many other names that came out in prayer that I didn't type in this small paragraph above.
Ladies, if you are reading this, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to smile, to ask, to listen, to invite, to include, to train, to pray, to laugh, to love me well. Thank you for loving the Lord in a way that made me want to follow in your footsteps. The Lord used you, and so many, to mold me into the woman I am today. And now, every person I impact, you have a part of that treasured harvest.
*** Side note to all of my young adults reading this right now. Please don't negate your influence! The majority of those ladies I listed were in their twenties, weren't married at the time, and used their sweet single season to add so much value to my life. I've always valued "discipleship" but after this walk it made me really zoom out and think. Who am I pouring into? How am I loving the younger ones around me? I want to be the type of woman who invests in the next generation.
I want to be the one giving flowers at the ballet recital of the sweet little girl at my church.
I want to comment "Love this!" on instagram to the jr. high girl to show her that she's seen.
I want to remind the high school girl that she can hear the voice of God in the middle of fashion trauma and boyfriend drama.
I want to mail letters to the college student and encourage her to stay steady in her faith.
I want to bring coffee to the young mom and be a listening friend.
Ultimately, I want to live a life that girls younger than me would look at, online and in person, and want to love the Jesus I so deeply do. That they would see, although not perfect, a life surrendered to Jesus is one full of purpose and passion.
I have such new zeal going into this year that discipleing others doesn't only look like a Bible study, but it looks like being a friend. I pray my friendship with others, no matter their age, would show them the love of God. So, (turning to you the reader right now) who can you pour into? Who can you be a friend to? Young children, fragile preteens, talented adolescents, passionate and passive young adults, they may not ask for it but they desperately want to be like you. They want to know that you see them. They will be changed by your love. Again, this doesn't have to look like an hour sit down with them every week. Take them shopping, go shoot some hoops, send them a text, light up every time they walk in the room because those things matter.
I ended our stroll praying that God will, in a similar strategy, place Godly men in Oliver's life to love him, train him, encourage him, and disciple him. I prayed that they would be raised in courage, conviction and compassion. I asked God to prepare now the teachers, coaches, children and youth pastors, neighbors, family and friends in their faith, so that they can model fruitful discipleship to Oliver.
What is fruitful discipleship? Simply put, in my own words : "Living a life that leads someone else's life closer to Jesus."
I represent a life of fruitful discipleship. Someone taught me of what a life of loving Jesus is all about, and now I am doing the same to others. It’s a movement that passes from one generation to the next and is beautiful and brilliant in every way.
If we are going to reach the next generation for Jesus, it's going to take all of us. The family of faith is necessary. Let's commit this year to be really awesome friends, to all ages, just like Jesus.
Smiling and Still Slightly Sobbing Over the Beauty of The Body,
***Don't forget, The Cirkles are cheering you on!