The other night I was sitting down to dinner with a friend, and over our salads we were asking each other questions to get to know one another better. As I paused between forkfuls, I asked her about the women, apart from her mother, who had been influential and had an impact on her. When she returned the question, one of the first to come to mind for me was Jill. Because we met through a mutual friend, Jill had heard of me and prayed for me in what had been the toughest season of my life. Before we ever met, she prayed for me. And at least a year before I met her, I had prayed for a mentor-type figure, someone to pour into my life and offer guidance when I felt like I needed it most. I had no concept of what to ask for, but Jill was an answer to my prayer in so many ways. Countless times I have called her up or texted her and before she even knows the details, she offers me encouragement or wisdom that perfectly addresses my needs in that moment. Many times, she walks through the same struggle—played out differently in each of our lives—that I would face just after…In some ways she would walk through the fire before I did, providing encouragement to me as I faced the very fears she had just conquered. I appreciate our relationship, which continues although time and distance prevent us from speaking as often as we used to, because it is challenging in a good way. I hold Jill in a high place of honor and respect in my heart, and her words have weight to me. Many times, my palms sweat a little before our phone calls because her opinion matters so much to me. But every time, she once again shows me the love of the Father in her acceptance and kindness towards me. She doesn’t try to overly “fix” me, she doesn’t judge, she doesn’t use harsh words; instead she listens, relates to what I’m saying, and points me back to God’s character.
Jill always seeks to ground me in the reality of His love, which is the greatest gift anyone could give. Last summer, I was in town for a wedding, and Jill welcomed me—always hospitable, always welcoming, always setting another place at the table—into the home. The wedding was beautiful, the food was great, and there were so many moments—some life-altering moments—that I will cherish for many years to come. But one of the things that would seem small to any outsider was how often she told me I was beautiful. Did she know that I had recently been struggling with that? That the very week I was traveling down to visit, I had been wrestling against the harsh words that so many of us tell ourselves? If she did know, it wasn’t through earthly means. But in her kitchen, in the car, in the living room as we prayed, I stood before her bare-faced and she told me I was beautiful. This is one small example of a timely word dropped that encouraged me to my core. Jill tunes into the Father’s heart, and He uses her to meet needs in a very beautiful and life-giving way. I am so blessed to have her encouragement and support in my life, and I know that these past few years would be drastically different without her. Jill sets an example for me in her character, her generosity, her purity, and her passion. I have seen her attack her dreams with ferocity—doubts miles away from her mind—and pour her energy into the next project, and the next, and the next. She always aims higher and thinks bigger, and just by her being herself, she challenges me to lean into grace and seek the next step. I am so grateful for someone who is not ashamed of being vulnerable, who lives taking the responsibility of health seriously, and who loves generously.
Jill, thank you for being you, and for giving your life to the Father to be used to touch the hearts of those around you…Your friendship these past few years has meant so much to me, and I look forward to many more.