happy birthday jessica! :)

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happy birthday my sweet friend. I hope today is filled with all the joy and funness that you bring to so many others. :) You are a gift. You are a delight and a joy to be around. And gosh darn it, you wear Carhartt and cammo and are proud to be a redneck-y pocket-knife carrying gal. :) I love you so dearly and am overwhelmingly grateful for the gift of God that you are to me.

Jessica, you have faithfully been my friend… you have loved as Christ commands… earnestly… not seeking gain or anything in return but simply because you are modeling our great Savior. Over the past 5 years, you have consistently and faithfully served and cared for me in more ways than i could count or ever even probably know.

It was your genuine faith that first made the gospel appealing to me. It was your lack of conformity to the world that made me notice you. (not in the fact that you dressed like a clown, which you did, but in the fact that you were not swayed by the world’s pleasures and devices like i was). I remember when I first met you and would give you rides home from various things…you would talk about things like pride and the gospel, I’d talk about boys and alcohol. Man that was weird… i had NEVER met anyone like you.

And as I got to know you, and you patiently kept putting up with me, I began to know without question that your faith was real. I tested it many times, and it proved deeper and more beautiful than my cynicism, questions and doubts. I often talk about my chats with your dad at Jack in the Box and Cracker Barrel as being pivotal in my coming to Christ, but don’t underestimate the power and work that God did in our many car rides and through your many prayers. Jessica, you are an amazing beautiful gift of the gospel and God used that in my life to draw me to Him. For that, my sweet friend, I’m forever and eternally grateful.

But you didn’t stop there, so neither will I. That day at Carowinds… wow, I could write a book. But I’ll simply say thanks. Thanks for lovingly and sacrificially modeling God’s character and humility. :)

And since then… over the past 3 years especially, you have ALWAYS been there as my friend. Jessica, you are truly a gift of God to me. Whether I’m doing well or falling apart, you always seem to be there. Thanks for your notes and random happy gifts that you’ve placed on my seat at church (or on my porch at home). The level of detail that you include in your care is like something I’ve never experienced before in my life.

Whether i’m cracking up or falling apart, you are ALWAYS there… to listen, to encourage, to hug, to care for, to remind me of my hope in Jesus. And at the many times in my life where my problems appear bigger to me than my God, you are there to both give me a hug and remind me that it’ll be okay and simultaneously smack me upside the head and point out that life is about so much more than the difficult problems we face here. :) thanks for both… thanks for the balance. You don’t just tell me things will be okay… you give me a reason why.

Jessica, you are truly the most clear model of Jesus I have ever known. Your life is a multi-faceted jewel that reflects so many aspects of His character. You love sacrificially, your hope is in heaven, not in comfort here. Your faith is in a faithful God that hears your prayers and knows your needs. Yet, like Jesus and the Psalmist (who were often speaking of Jesus), you cry to Him to hear and listen to your cry. You go to Him to meet your needs. You expect Him to bless. You confidently hope despite all hope.

You continue to persevere with hope while entrusting your soul to a faithful God who judges justly. You love Him even when you feel that He has forgotten you.

You don’t give up on following Him because you KNOW that He will NEVER EVER give up on loving and cherishing and caring for you. Like Jesus, when reviled, you do not revile in return. Like Jesus, when tempted to follow Satan’s devices, you look to your eternal hope and satisfaction in God. And like so many saints of old, you quickly and thoroughly reconcile any differences that come up with your fellow Christians. You truly count your church as the dearest place on earth and you sacrifice without limit to care for these folks. Our entire church is a different place today because of you. We have benefited at different levels to your care, but make no mistake, we have ALL benefited.

It has been so greatly encouraging to me to see your faith grow… particularly in the past two years. From a “I’m getting old and God has forgotten me” to “God is abundantly faithful and has shown me such steadfast love.” That is a transformation that only He can do, and it has been a delight to watch that radical caterpillar-to-butterfly-like change over the past years. You are living in Habbakuk 3… as opposed to where you once were in chapter one.

The fig tree has not yet blossomed for you. There is no fruit on your vine or cattle in your stalls (or ring on your finger or home to call your own or car that is dependable or man to call you his blessed wife or even health in your body). Yet in the midst of all that, when most would chose to give up on God because of His apparent absence, you continue believing in His steadfast love. You continue reading and learning more of it. you continue hoping in it. You continue expecting Him to reveal Himself to you.

And He is. And He loves you. And He is blessing you, even now, in the middle of some of the hardest battles on faith and trust you have ever had to face. Yet the words that come out of your mouth are awe inspiring and oh, so much like our dear friend Habakkuk. “God has not provided all my wants. He knows my desires and He knows my needs. And though I don’t know why the answer seems to always be “no” I know my God cares for me and will provide for me when He knows the timing is best. I know He has not forgotten me and I know He knows and cares for me. So, I will choose to actively and with the weak faith I have, place my trust and confidence in this God who has never ever ever let me down. I know He never will.”

Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your love. Thanks for “being yourself” – i like you better this way. May you be encouraged today at God’s great work in you, my sweet dear and precious friend. :) I love you… I thank God for you… happy birthday!! :)

p.s. sorry i made you cry!!! (not really… it’s payback!!) :)

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