Hillary + Austin: a (virtual) toast

Hillary + Austin (you will always be second, Austin, and for that I apologize, but Hillary has been my friend for more than half my life and so will get prime billing for the remainder of our years):

I am so happy for you two on this incredible day and so honored I get to be a part of it. I’m writing this because I want to toast you because you guys are just so great and special to me.

Not long after Hillary started dating Austin, her and I were having a lengthy text conversation with two other friends from our “growing up” days, Steph and Kim (the matron of honor). Hillary told us a little about Austin and then she said, “I told him I’m going to marry him” It gave me butterflies to think about that because Hillary has never been one to needlessly toy with her friends’ emotions when it comes to dating and promises of marriage. It didn’t seem too longer after that text conversation where we had another one in which I jokingly said, “Do I get to meet Austin before the wedding?” Hillary replied, “I don’t know. We’re getting married some time in July.” I was sitting on the floor in the kitchen at work with two of my coworkers. It was September and we were prepping for a color run in a few weeks; my hands were covered with powdered paint and food color. Reading her text, I felt every emotion I possibly could at full throttle and I started texting and calling Hillary and generally freaking out with my coworkers and asking for details and it took more than an hour for Hillary to finally respond: “Watching a movie.” Classic Hillary: she drops a wedding bomb on me and then refuses to answer my questions. (She did eventually respond with details, but it wasn’t he-put-a-ring-on-it official yet, so I had to keep the secret tucked inside of me for a while longer.)

Finally it was official, and I met Austin over Christmas last year while he was in California visiting Hillary’s family up north. When we met for lunch, I may have decided that I liked him more than Hillary. (Uh. Just kidding. Of course I like Hillary the best of all!) But what I could immediately see is that Austin made Hillary feel special, and loved, and she never would have told us when they were just dating that he was the one she would marry if she didn’t know it from the bottom of her heart that he was the one. I am just so glad he is the one who God chose for my old pal.

Today I am changing my dear friend’s last name in my phone to Jacobs. Hillary’s family has now doubled, but so has Austin’s. And that means I am lucky to have a new friend in my circle of friends. Austin, I have called Hillary and Steph and Kim my Ya-Yas for years after seeing The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Today, I say welcome in; I’m glad to have ya.

All my love across the miles and the years,


A letter to my youth leader

Dear you,

For whatever reason or reasons, you’ve been coming to mind a lot lately. Maybe it’s because the youth group at my church has a lot of cool events for youth that they’re talking about. Maybe it’s because my last close friend from my youth group days is getting married in a week. Regardless the reason — you’ve been on my mind.

It’s funny to look back at those three and a half years we spent together on Sundays and Tuesdays and so many days in between. I loved the hours and I dreaded them at the same time. Don’t ask me how, because it was nice to be with you and with my other friends, but I think I secretly felt a lot of judgment and shame, especially in the later half of our time together.

It used to be easy for me to be angry and blame you, all of you, collectively and individually. And in retrospect, you weren’t perfect in your guidance — but it’s so clear to me now, at 31 (older than you were when you lead me!) that no one is perfect. If I were in your shoes with a student like me… Well, I don’t even know what I’d say or do.

One of the things I’ve realized is how woefully underprepared and undertrained you were. Actually. Let’s call you unskilled and unprepared. It’s not your fault. You felt a calling to serve, and you did the very best you could. You didn’t go through any kind of ministry training or seminary or even a volunteer class or two. You didn’t have a degree in counseling or extensive experience with teenagers aside from being one yourself a few years before you lead us. You had to jump in and it was sink or swim, and you did your very best to swim. It is difficult for me to harbor any hurt or anger when I think of how you couldn’t’ve possibly known what the heck you were doing.

Over the last decade+, I’ve talked a lot of criticism and been very angry at you, and a few years ago I did something to let most of that go. I understand now that we didn’t have healthy leadership and you were working within your means. I just want to say a giant thank you — for every one of my letters you read and responded to, for every tearful phone conversation, for every awkward and emotional talk we had, for every time you dragged my butt out of bed during summer or winter camp, for every car ride and every hour you invested in me and my friends: thank you.

In the grand scheme of things, I turned out pretty ok, and you are in so many of my cheerful memories. Beach camps sleeping on church multipurpose room floors and eating Taco Bell burritos on the hot cement. Trips to Magic Mountain during the summers. All-nighters sleeping on church chairs. Girls’ slumber parties. Skate nights. Having someone to make me feel heard in the midst of the drama of being a teenage girl. Laughing during home groups. Missions trips. Youth Convention. Maybe not every memory is perfect, and maybe there was some pain there. But I cannot reflect on the good times without your face being there, too.

I am older now than you were then, and I shake my head at stepping up to leading high schoolers. I see the fight it must be, and the fight it was back then, to love teenagers who act in unloving ways, and I am filled with a compassion that only comes from growing up and experience and most of all, the grace and mercy of a forgiving God. You were much braver than I am now!

All my love,