Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Goshen

There were four of us back then - Jocelyn, Keira, Mary Beth and Nicole.

I had known Mary Beth since second grade; Keira since third grade; and Nicole since middle school. I cannot believe I am posting these pictures. Keira might kill me (love you Kiki). And yes. We are reading Sweet Valley High books. Uhthankyou.

Wow. Keira. You are an amazing friend to have stuck with me through that hairstyle. And yes, I am wearing black knee high socks with that dress. I have no explanation for it. None at all. 

But, we became true friends for life our junior year of high school. We were not the most likely bunch to end up together. To this day, I'm not totally sure how we all became so close. But, these girls blessed the heck out of me. 

For lack of a better description, I felt lost in early high school. Then I had my first encounter with Jesus. Sitting on the floor of Terry and Joann Watson's garage, at Young Life club, I heard the whole Gospel for the first time. I went home that night and asked Jesus to be my Savior. Right after I started following Jesus, He provided these dear girls to walk alongside me.

I have sometimes thought of our friendship as similar to the way the Lord provided Goshen for the Israelites. At the very end of Genesis, God has moved the young nation of Israel to Egypt. The Israelite brother, Joseph, had ended up a key figure in Egyptian government. Through his political power, the people of Israel escaped famine. Long before the infamous days of slavery, they were given food and beautiful, lush land to live on in a region of Egypt called Goshen.  Israel was a fledgling nation, and young its faith. Living in Goshen, Israel was less likely to be absorbed into Egyptian culture. Israel was able to grow and flourish, learning how to live as God's people. People belonging to the one, true God.

Keira, Mary Beth, and Nicole, and their collective friendship, were my Goshen. They are the best kind of friends. They don't just tolerate my imperfections, loving me in spite of them. Instead, they fully embrace my quirks and my dysfunctions and love all of who I am. Each of them encouraged me to pursue Jesus. We attended Young Life Campaigners together to study the Bible. There was no pressure to party or chase boys. I still remember Mary Beth introducing me to music like Steven Curtis Chapman (see . . . my KLOVE roots run deep). And we ate lunch together every day at Mary Beth's house, across the street from our high school. Such a safe haven to grow up in my faith.

We graduated.

Mary Beth, Nicole, our faithful Young Life leader Joann, Jocelyn, Keira

We went our separate ways in life. Keira to Santa Clara University, Mary Beth and Nicole both to Pacific Lutheran University, and me to the University of Oregon. Each of us developed new friendships. Yet, these girls remained dear to my heart. When I was leading Young Life in college, I would email high school girls' names to Mary Beth and Nicole up in Tacoma, who faithfully prayed for my ministry. And I can still laugh at the mere thought of inside jokes that Keira and I have from elementary school. Oh Keira ... Do NED 661 and "ice cream in my armpits" ring a bell? Laughing out loud as I write this.

All the while, we knew that our dear, sweet Nicole was suffering from the effects of Cystic Fibrosis. Not that we ever heard a complaint. Nicole rarely said a word about CF. She was a serious fighter. There was the reality that she had to fight. She took on the challenge with vast amounts of courage. And faith. Nicole had a fierce love for her Savior. Jesus shined through her in her struggle and in her trial.

Jocelyn, Nicole and Mary Beth at Young Life's camp, Woodleaf 

We said good-bye to Nicole in the summer of 2003. Our little group of friends here on earth is one member short. She is already in the heavenly realms with Jesus.

Today we walked in the Great Strides walk in her honor. With Nicole's family and friends we walked together. It was a rare treat to be with both Keira and Mary Beth this morning, remembering Nicole in the pouring down rain. We cannot wait to get to Heaven and hug that girl!

Keira,  Jocelyn, Jameson, Mary Beth (oh, and the back of Eliza's head is next to me. She refused to turn around.)

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