I’m so very proud of my best friend, Kate.

This week it is my honor to tell my very best friend, Kate, how so very proud I am of you.

I will always remember the moment I first saw her.  I was sitting on a countertop in our high school’s “Career Center” waiting for my Driver’s Ed class to start.  She turned down a hall with her mom who was one of the instructors that summer.

“Who is that?” I asked my friend.

“That’s Kate…” and with those words an interest began that has never subsided.

Kate.  My best friend, confidant, mother of my child, and my wife.

Since that fateful day fourteen years or so ago, I have had the immense privilege of watching Kate become the woman she is today.  From high school friend, to prom date, to girlfriend, fiancé, and wife, I have been journeying with Kate in one measure or another for nearly half our lives.  And this year we will be celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary!

It’s difficult to capture the many reasons why I am so proud of my best friend Kate, so perhaps I’ll just tell a story or two…or three.

Kate and I have been on a journey from the time we started dating.  I knew that I was called to be a pastor, and a United Methodist one at that.  Kate had some big dreams of her own, was wrestling with what God would have for her life, and, on top of it all, was deeply rooted in her beloved Roman Catholic tradition.  Through the conversations that followed, however, Kate showed her gracious spirit, thoughtful mind, and charitable heart – three qualities of hers that made me not only proud of Kate, but fall in love with her as well.  In the years since, her grace, thoughtfulness, and loving heart continue to be made manifest as my career has led us to new states, numerous churches, and a wide range of experiences.  Through it all, Kate’s faithful presence has upheld me.  She’s always had a knack for saying, “yes, Lord” when I could not.

Kate became a teacher at George Watts Elementary and then transitioned to Lakewood Montessori Middle School in Durham’s Public Schools when we moved to Durham, NC for me to attend seminary.  Kate paid our bills and provided for our family.  She sacrificed much and worked hard.  But she also worked really, really well too.  She impacted the lives of countless students.  Well, countless to me perhaps, but not to Kate.  She could recite every single student she had if you were to ask her.  And that’s what makes Kate such a tremendous teacher: she loves her students and respects them as people.   When we visited a year after we returned to Indiana, I cautioned Kate not to set her hopes too high.  Ever the wise one (read: arrogant one), I cautioned her: “A lot has changed since you left, I don’t want you to be disappointed.”  Before we even entered the building, students were literally trying to climb out the window to see her.  Even new students and teachers she’d never met came up to her to meet the one they’d been hearing about.  I always shed a tear of joy when I look back on that day.  Kate’s heart shined like the sun.  I am so proud of my best friend, Kate. 

I could go on and on, but I will conclude with one final story.  Since moving to Indiana, Kate has transitioned from “teacher” to “mom.”  It was our decision to have one of us stay at home with our children.  We are fortunate to be able to do this and respect the ever-changing family dynamics of our time.  We have many wonderful friends, who have even more wonderful families where both parents work, or dad says home, or the kids stay with grandparents.  Families come in all shapes and sizes, and for us, during this season of life, Kate is sacrificing her teaching career to invest in our family.  She is fiercely courageous in ways that I am not.  I don’t think I could do what she does: choosing to leave a career she is outstanding at and loves, rearing our child with all the loving patience that requires, and her ability to not throw up when changing poopy diapers.  I often wish that I could be more like Kate. 

I look up to my best friend, Kate, and I so dearly admire her.  I am so very proud of the person she has become and the woman she is becoming.  She encourages me to be a better husband, father, and friend.  For these reasons and countless more, I love you, my Katie, and I am so very, very proud of you.

Your husband and best friend,

– Jared

Advertisements

I’m proud of my friend, Mandy.

This week I want to tell my friend Mandy how proud I am of you!

Mandy and I became friends at Indiana Wesleyan University.  After I graduated from IWU, I worked for the Admissions Office.  Mandy and I were hired together, along with another life-long friend of ours, but Mandy had yet to graduate.  She had another class or two before she finished but was able to both work a full-time job and finish her degree simultaneously.  Mandy is a very talented person. 

Mandy was an integral part of our college’s Friday Night Live (FNL) program that mimicked, for lack of a better word, Saturday Night Live.  They had skits, songs, parodies, IWU news, etc.  It was a very impressive sold-out campus event every semester.  Mandy even got to “host” FNL after having spent years as a writer.  Mandy is a very talented person.

Mandy has since gone on to work for a business consulting firm and has been wildly successful at that as well.  Have I mentioned how talented my friend Mandy is?

But here is what is so strange about Mandy: as talented as she is, Mandy is an incredibly and genuinely humble person.  She has a HUGE heart for people.  She could do anything she would want in this world and make huge sums of money, but she doesn’t care about that.  Yes, she wants to excel at her work and, yes, she is successful, but that’s not what drives her.

A few years ago, Mandy had some career and life decisions to make, ones that could take her away from her Indianapolis home.  After much deliberation and prayer, Mandy elected to stay in the area.  Why?  Well, I suppose the answer to that question goes to why my friend Mandy moved to downtown Indianapolis in the first place.  She wanted to make a difference and invest in the lives of others.

While the suburbs expand and Indianapolis news stations report shootings on a near nightly basis, Mandy goes to serve at Kids’ Church – an outreach ministry that befriends young people on downtown Indy’s East Side.  She has a group of girls whom she mentors that come over to her house regularly to play, eat, and talk about what’s happening in their lives.  This is nothing new for Mandy, as she still returns to Marion to take her neighbor’s grandchildren (whom the grandmother is the guardian of) out to ice cream.

And I think that’s what makes me so impressed and proud of my friend Mandy: she has all the talent in the world and she’s using every ounce of it to make this world a better place. 

She is always there for her friends, asks the difficult questions of her Christian faith, puts what she discovers about Christ into practice, and is driven not by conventional markers of success, but rather by the love of God for God’s children.

There’s one more thing I’m proud of and thankful for about Mandy.  She and a friend are using their talents to write grants for a local non-profit food ministry, Shalom, pro bono.   Shalom began at the church I am now pastoring, Otterbein UMC, that feeds tens of thousands of meals every year to the residents of Boone County.  Shalom relies heavily on grants to keep this increasingly expensive ministry going and the work Mandy is doing will indeed make this world a better place.

I am so proud of you, Mandy!  Keep up the GREAT work!

In Christ,

– Jared

I’m proud of my friend, Eric.

Awhile ago I had a professor (we called him “Coach”) who would periodically write Facebook notes that began, “I am proud of…”  He then proceeded to talk about his former students and how proud he was of the lives they were living.

Out of the thousands and thousands of students he worked with throughout his career, he could only highlight a few, but they were stories of Good News that highlighted the amazing things young people were doing in the world.  I liked that he did that.  And I’m going to borrow a page from Coach’s playbook.  I have a lot of friends who are doing amazing things in this world.  I can’t highlight them all, but over the course of the next few weeks I want to highlight a few.  I am so proud of my friends – young, old, and in between – who are making an incredible difference in this world and are inspiring me to reach higher in my own life.

To kick things off, I want to tell my friend Eric how proud I am of you.

Eric and I have been friends since the sixth grade when we met at Walnut Creek United Methodist Church.  We went to school together, were a part of Tiger Basketball together (he a manager and me a statistician), played intramurals, served in the church and on mission trips, and have been in each other’s wedding parties.  Eric has become a brother to me over the years, and I am so thankful for him and his family.

Eric has always possessed an inner confidence that I have too often lacked.  He took risks, got involved, and was always true to himself.

One day after driver’s ed I think it was, I was waiting for my dad to pick me up after a meeting or sporting event.  My dad, at the time, drove a pink car.  He still argues that it was “Coral Mist” but I don’t think that helps his argument very much.  I was embarrassed to be picked up by my dad and his infamous pink car, but my embarrassment was only exacerbated when Eric waved goodbye and shouted “I love you!”  I still laugh as I remember sinking into my seat, wondering if the girl I liked or friends I was trying to impress took in this whole spectacle.  But I also look back with a warm heart and marvel at Eric’s genuineness.  He has always been comfortable in his own skin and I’ve always admired that.

Eric has always had a servant’s heart.  He served in church.  He served on mission trips. He served as an All-State manager for our high school football and basketball teams.  He went on to be a football manager in college and has been a tremendous worker wherever he’s worked.  Eric never complains, but always serves faithfully.

In college and continuing to this day, Eric befriended a neighborhood child who faced unfair and difficult challenges in his life.  Eventually this young boy came to live with Eric and his amazing wife.  Why?  Because that’s just who Eric is: true to himself, a servant, and a man with a God-sized heart.  Eric and his wife now serve, in addition to their full-time jobs, as parents for http://www.safe-families.org/.

When I told him that he was a “good man”, Eric simply and genuinely replied: “Not to me be the glory, but Jesus himself deserves it all.”  And again I learned another lesson.

I am so proud of my friend Eric.  He inspires me to be a better person and a better follower of Christ.  He inspires me to be confident in myself because I am a child of God.  He inspires me to be a better husband, father, and friend.  He inspires me to be a better man.

Thank you, Eric, for who you are.  You are a good man, and I love you.

From your proud brother,

– Jared