Last week, without warning, we lost a beautiful woman of God, Suzy Friesen. I went to youth group with Suzy's girls, Lindsay and Whitney, and was often the recipient of her incredible joy and love. I can still hear her sweet laugh and see her goofy faces. To learn more about Suzy, read her obituary here.
This morning, as I sat back in the pew at LBC, listening to Suzy's family and friends share about her life of love and service, with tears streaming down my face, I was hit (overcome really) with the reality of her loss. Although I wasn't really as close to Suzy over the last few years, she was one of the women who made a huge impact on my life during such a formative time. Because of that, I want to say "thank you." Unfortunately, I can't thank Suzy in person anymore (until we meet again in Heaven), but I can take an opportunity to thank the other leaders and parents who made an impact on my life.
During the service, the faces of these servants and leaders scrolled through my mind, and I couldn't even believe that the first of them had gone to be with our Lord and Savior. It's difficult to imagine facing this again... and again... and again. Yet, because of our sweet Savior and His work on the cross, we can grieve with hope. We WILL all be together again one day in Heaven.
In no particular order:
* My Impact (small group) leaders Cathy Birkhauser, Amy Ruff, Cheryl Saiki, and Nicole Parker:
Cathy was there as I really began to grasp who I was in Christ. She led Mexico trips, shared Jesus with us, and engaged in many laughs and inside jokes.
Amy was not only my impact leader, but my math teacher. She led well at church, in our small group, and in the classroom. She showed integrity, passion, and love. She was there on my good days and bad, and she put up with me EVERY day for a year--an awkward year at that! Oh, and did I mention that she DUCT TAPED my mouth shut one day in class? ;)
Cheryl was the epitome of a humble, gentle leader. She opened her home and heart to us. She cried and prayed with us as well as laughed and danced with us. She was always ready with an encouraging word and a warm hug. I am beyond blessed that I go to church with Cheryl once again and get to receive her amazing hugs and sweet words on the regular once again.
Nicole was my small group leader my senior year, but has since become a dear friend. She has been there with me through some of my darkest days. She has laughed with me through some of life's greatest joys. I've been able to witness her incredible love story and the two amazing boys she has brought into this world. I have learned so much from her about being a Godly friend, wife, mother, and teacher. I am looking forward to many more years of friendship and life lessons and love.
* Youth Leaders from LBC:
Kerri Hodgson was not only someone who offered a listening ear and an encouraging word during youth group, she was also there for me before my senior formal. She came over to do my hair for the big dance, and I will never forget how comfortable and at ease she made me feel. I remember always looking up to her and thinking she was so great. I wanted to be as bubbly and joyful as Kerri. I now have the incredible joy of having her daughter, Reese, in my class.
Angela Diffee always brightened the room with a smile. She was our youth secretary, but she was far more involved than just that. She was a part of our lives, invested, and interested in making sure that we were seeking and following Christ. She was also there for a good laugh and a good time.
Jana Hillen was our cheerleader, always encouraging and kind. Perhaps the thing that stands out about Jana is that she is still involved in our lives, even though she lives FAR too far away from CA and all of us. Thank goodness for Social Media!
Alan and Sherie Thomas, Doug and Holly Culhane, Scott and Carolyn Pearsey, Ken and Peggy Cross, Ken and Vickie Beggs, and Steve and Grace Cabalka are not only the parents of my friends, but were all sacrificial leaders during my high school years. They not only opened up their hearts and homes, but they demonstrated Godly marriages and parenting. They took us on mission trips and church camps, and played in the mud with us during Mud Bowls. I remember all of them loving me like I was their own, offering a listening ear when I needed one, and offering guidance and encouragement when I needed it (and even when I thought I didn't!). Even all these years later (yes, more than ten now), I hold such fond memories of our times together. But, more than that, I still hold onto (and remember! I have a terrible memory!) some of the precious lessons these amazing leaders taught me about my Jesus. And, I still consider it a HUGE blessing when I am able to see and receive sweet hugs from any of these amazing folks.
So, if I haven't said it yet, THANK YOU! THANK YOU to all of you for loving me, serving me, leading me, and teaching me. Thank you for giving your hearts and minds and time to serve a bunch of crazy high school kids (especially those who weren't your own!). Even though time and distance has separated many of us, you will always be close to my heart. I have been beyond blessed by all of you. I love you!
(...and if I've missed anyone, I'm SO sorry. It has been a long, emotional day...and I do have a terrible memory. True story.)