And some people are in your life forever. Forever. I personally pick those people as carefully as I can. I choose them for their loyalty, their ability to laugh, their desire to help me grow and have me help them grow. I select them for companionship, fellowship, spiritual and emotional growth, and fun. It is hard to have a large number of people in this category, because the relationships take time and effort. However, I am forever grateful for each person in my life who is there forever (at least as far as I can see), and I feel humbly overwhelmed by how many incredible people the Lord has seen fit to bring into my life to stay.
One of those people is much younger than I am. In my book she is pure gold, a treasure beyond words. The things I have learned by having her in my life have not only taught and grown me, but I have been able to pass on to others for their own growth. She is like my sister, my younger sister, with whom I have so much fun, too many inside jokes to name, and incredible, deep, resonating conversations. I believe she is the person who taught me that I do NOT, in fact, have all the answers. She has asked questions I cannot answer.
When she was in high school she came to church every time the doors were open. Dan was teaching through Daniel and Revelation for a semester and when she was there he knew if his words were hitting students, and if they were understanding what he was communicating, because she wore her emotions on her face. If her brow furrowed, he would stop and ask her what was confusing, and he could clear it up. That's an invaluable gift to a speaker.
When we were pregnant with our first baby, we decided not to name our kids any name of a student currently in our ministry. That's harder than it sounds, since at the time we worked with over 200 students! However, when we were pregnant for the third time we agreed, quickly and without another thought, that we wanted to name this baby after someone who was no longer in our youth group.
I remember talking to my forever friend on the phone, and she asked if we had thought about names.
"What if it's a boy?" she asked.
"Troy. Troy Ezekiel," I replied, so glad she had started down this road of questions.
"And what if it's a girl?" she led, interested but not overly eager. She had no idea.
"Juliana. If it's a girl we will name her Juliana." The silence on the other side was my reward.
I heard a loud breath, and then, "Juliana?" she whispered, uncertainty hanging in the air.
Like most 18 year olds she did not have life all figured out and certainly did not believe herself worth of the honor of having a child--Dan and Carlee's child!--named after her.
"Like my name?" her hesitant response both broke and warmed my heart, and the tears fell.
"Yeah, Jules, like your name. After you."
She still gets embarrassed when I introduce her to people as the Juliana we named our Juliana after. Really, really embarrassed. It's a heavy weight to her, a burden to become someone worthy of that distinction. What she does not know is that, in our eyes, she has always been worthy.
Not because we think she is perfect, or sinless, or even "good" in the way she thinks she should be good. But because we love her.
Dan says, whenever we talk about our "first" Juliana, that if he could pick his friends he would pick her, and people like her.
Her personality is contagious, her quiet shyness--when it appears--is adorable, her ability to embarrass herself is unmatched, and her loud, fun side is joyful. She is completely obsessed with football--although she is too busy to be as crazed as she would like to be. It's unfortunate she likes the Cowboys, but we will live. When she commits to something it's 110%, and her ability to plan and follow through is awesome.
She is a successful 21 year old, a manager at a popular food chain, and has financially supported herself for years. But at 21 she is ready to focus on school, and knows that the love, support, and structure of a family environment will be good for her. So, when she was at a crossroads, we invited her to move in with us. And she said yes.
Plans are underway and excitement is mounting as the move in date is only a little over a week away. All of us are excited and ready for her to be here. The only thing we cannot figure out is how to live with 2 Juliana's in the same house. We gave our baby all her nicknames too...this could be interesting.
Some people seep into your heart and become more like family than friends. That being the case, we are ready to have our whole family under one roof.