Better late than never: This week, I am proud of my friends Al and Cherilyn Kurtz!

I really enjoy sports – playing them and watching them.  However, I am not an uber-athlete by any stretch of the imagination.  My dad did teach me how to throw a football though, but at 5’9” my only avenue to play quarterback was intramural sports.  I somehow convinced my team to let me play, and I think I partly have Al to thank for that.

Al had long hair back then.  I’m pretty sure he used to wear a headband during games.  And I’m pretty sure it was a girl’s headband.  I immediately knew he would be a person not to throw the football to.  But then Al surprised me.  He was actually quite athletic – long hair, headband, and all.  What really surprised me, solidified my place as quarterback, and ignited our friendship, however, was the greatest compliment I have ever received: “Woah!  Looks like we have Tom Brady out here!”

How could he have known about my irrational love-affair with all things Michigan?!  He just compared me to the greatest Michigan quarterback of all time!  Immediately I knew I just found my new best friend.  That was at least until we returned to the dorms, where our newfound friendship almost imploded.  Al was an Ohio [state] fan.  He was a Buckeye.

Well, nearly ten years later our friendship has survived every football season since (which probably speaks more to my gracious and forgiving heart since Michigan has lost almost every one of those match ups!).  Al was a groomsman in my wedding and I was one in his.  We were roommates, worked together, and have gone on “Mancations” together.  Al has been with me through thick and thin, knows me at my best, and befriends me at my worst.  Everyone should have a friend like Al.

I am so proud of Al.  I have watched him grow as a person, professionally, as a husband, and as a follower of Christ over these ten years.  I have watched him discover and grow his gifts.  I have seen how his leadership impacts and encourages others in ways I can only dream about doing myself.  I have seen him struggle with his faith.  I have seen his compassionate heart.

A number of years ago, Al and I drove to Cleveland for a Cavaliers playoff game.  It was one of those spur of the moment kind of decisions that are never regretted.  On the way out of the game, however, a homeless man approached us.  Our tickets, if the Cavs won, could be exchanged for a free taco from Taco Bell.  The homeless man knew this and wondered if he could have our tickets.  I, for all intents and purposes, ignored him.  Al didn’t.  Al stopped, looked the man in the eye, talked with him, and gave him his ticket.  I wonder if Al remembers that moment, because I’ve never forgotten it.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t remember, because it was so “normal” for him.  That’s just the kind of person Al is.  He sees people.  As people.  And I think that’s not only what makes Al such a great friend, but also why so many people like him.  Al connects with all types of people, especially those who might be called “the unseen.”  This quality, this heart, of Al’s challenges me to be more like him.  I really look up to Al and I am so proud of him.  I think he should be a pastor, but don’t tell him I said that.  😉

I am also proud of his wife, Cherilyn.  Just as Al had a headband, Cherilyn had a nose ring.  This is what we used to call her, “nose ring girl.”  I think it was a term of endearment at the time, although now it doesn’t sound so much that way.  And when I say “we” called her that, I mean the rest of our friends.  Al knew her name before any of us did.  And now I know why.  🙂

I am so glad Al and Cherilyn got married.  I never would have known Cherilyn otherwise.  I really like Cherilyn.  She, probably unbeknownst to her, inspires me.

Cherilyn is an avid runner.  She’s run in ½ marathons and full marathons.  She eats healthy too.  I do not like to run, and I think I am addicted to soda.  But Cherilyn’s tweets, instagram photos, and facebook updates inspired me to start running.  Last year I ran my first ½ marathon and that, in large part, is because of Cherilyn’s example.

Cherilyn is also very courageous.  She is an artist and, after college, moved to New York City for a season of her life.  Cherilyn is very courageous.  She took a risk then and continues to take risks today.  Al and Cherilyn moved closer to downtown Marion, IN.  Perhaps from previous posts, you’ve come to learn how deeply I admire people who move to “problem areas” rather than away from them.  Al and Cherilyn bought a big, century-old home and are renovating it.  In the upstairs level, Cherilyn is beginning a new venture: Oldmaster of Marion.  This new business creates space for local artists to work.  She is doing this to make a positive impact in Marion, with the hopes of reaching out to local young people as well.  Art programs are all too quickly the victims of budget cuts, so opportunities like the ones Cherilyn is providing are vital to the young people of Marion.  I am so proud of Cherilyn.

There are many other reasons for why I am proud of Cherilyn, but I’ll just highlight one more.  I am proud of Cherilyn’s creative spirit.  She inspires me to be creative and to embrace my creativity for the service of God.  She sees the world differently than I do and, because of her work, I am able to see beauty and darkness in ways I’d never be able to see otherwise.  She challenges me to see the world in fuller, richer ways.  And I am so thankful for that.

I am so thankful for my friends, Al and Cherilyn Kurtz.  I hope they know how much they mean to Kate and me.  Everyone should have friends like them!

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