She was 14 when I met her for the very first time. Our age difference was nine years.
She had a quiet and gentle disposition about her. One that made you feel safe and welcome around her. I could tell by her sweet smile that she was a young girl with a big heart. She had few words, but still seemed to connect deeply with others. There was just something about this girl.
I watched her grow up through the high school years, while I was newly married, starting a new career, and building a new house and life together with my husband. She went on to college, and most of my memories with her involved riding on the tailgate of a beach truck from one fishing net to another during the summer in Alaska. To avoid becoming "humpbacks", we held each other accountable in keeping good posture on those bumpy truck rides. Many heartfelt conversations ensued during the long hours of picking and washing fish on the beach. The young girl was growing into an intriguing young woman.
She spent hours and hours of study to excel in her career, and she became quite a valuable asset to her company. I was now having kids and working part-time and doing what young moms do, trying to survive. Her big heart took her to Africa and places where she could live out her passion of giving and serving and continue to live a life of obedient faith to God.
As time went on and we aged, it felt like our age difference grew smaller. I treasured our talks up in Alaska, where life gives us room to breathe and process our thoughts. I began listening to the questions my girls were asking her. Their conversations were a gift to a mommy's heart!
My girls would ask, "Why isn't she married yet?" To which I would respond, "Because she is trusting God." She waits patiently, seeking and finding contentment and fulfillment in her relationship with God first, and trusting He will faithfully provide for all her needs.
My girls didn't quite fully understand until a beautiful story emerged literally right before their eyes and saw the fruits of her patience and the hand of God in bringing two lives together not a moment too soon.
I had no idea over the course of 20 years how that 14 year old girl would have such an impact on me and my family. Watching her life story unfold, I was a student through it all. Each chapter modeling to me and my girls a genuine giving heart, filled with the courage to live her story out boldly and confidently in the Savior's hand. A woman's deep trust and perseverance to carry on when things look uncertain and feelings waiver. She had an Anchor that was evident to us all watching.
Her wedding was no different. Each guest was given an envelope as they entered the quaint chapel and were given permission to open it while she and her soon-to-be husband took communion together. We each opened up a personal letter written by the bride and/or groom. Each of my girls had a hand written note from their aunt. On one of the biggest days for her, and one, I'm sure, she has been dreaming about for years, that young girl with the big heart and gentle disposition gave each of us the sweetest gift on her special day. There wasn't a dry eye in the chapel that evening. The girl with few words once again spoke straight to our heart and soul, leaving a priceless imprint on the lives of those who know her.
There was just something about that girl back in 1996.
Little did I know, she would become a real sister to me, lifelong friend, and my constant teacher!
I look forward to many more moments on the Alaska beach, in the boat, on the tractor (no more tailgates), and on the bluff...sharing our lives together.
I love this girl! Thanks for being you, Jill!