A lot of my childhood memories include a quiet boy, slightly awkward (sorry, Kyle…we both know it’s true) with weirdly long eyelashes and a kind spirit.  I actually can’t remember a time in my life not knowing Kyle.  I don’t really remember playing together much. I mostly just remember him kind of always being there.  And those eyelashes…they were so strangely long, eerie really. I remember staring at them in Sunday School and wondering if they felt heavy or burdensome.  I also distinctly remember calling him Snuffleupagus, from Sesame Street, behind his back.  That was done in love…I was not a monster I was a complete monster and am downright ashamed of almost absolutely everything I said, did, and thought from ages 2-30.  Nevertheless, I have some fond memories of Kyle. I can imagine that sweet Kyle’s childhood memories of me are a little more…abrasive.

My dad always called me his “little otter” because I was playful and busy and working on dozens of different things at once.  I actually think I was more like the Barracuda; chasing the next shiny thing that interested me. 

Anyone or anything that seemed to be flashy, fun, cool or entertaining got my attention.

In our teen years, Kyle started to like things like Supertones, J.R. Tolkien (yes, Kyle…I googled how to spell it), and Star Wars.  I, however, was deep into Abercrombie and Fitch and trying my very best to get my wild hair tamed into the Jennifer Aniston “Friend’s” haircut.  I never did achieve that haircut and even if I had, my face was round enough to fit two of Jennifer Aniston faces inside of it. This didn’t stop me from trying to get there. I had my dreams. Again, Kyle was always there…a friend who outsmarted me in every area but “outshined” me in few. 

In college, Kyle and I both got an internship at our home church.  We grew more in friendship during that time.  He, no doubt, despised my lack of organization, my inability to focus on the task at hand and my constant need for fun.  I, however, could barely tolerate his steady, slow pace. In fact, that was exactly when I gave him the name “Kyle-take-a-while”.  We actually had a pretty great summer…but again, I always seemed to be busy with those who were a little flashier than Kyle.  Like the Barracuda, I was zooming towards to the next bright moment and shiny distraction. 

When I married Aaron, Kyle was right there giving some of his first attempts at wedding videography. Then Kyle-take-a-while went and found himself a beautiful and incredible bride.  His wife, Heather, is equally as smart as Kyle way smarter and much cooler (sorry Kyle…again, we both know it’s true). They have faithfully served in our church for many years and are about to have their 7th child!   Kyle is now one of the pastors of our church. 

Old Eyelashes is my pastor!

When Kyle left Tanzania, after his second time visiting our team, I felt my eyes start to fill with tears.  He came to donate both his time and remarkably honed-in videography skills to our team.  He was also a huge encouragement.  As the taxi left our gate, I waved goodbye and hid the tears well because I am far too prideful to let Kyle-take-a-while see me emotional.

However, I just kept thinking about Kyle and his ever-growing family.  I thought about the encouragement that they have been to my family over the years.  I thought about the many prayers that his precious children have prayed for our family and about the example that they have been of faithfulness through heavy trials, deep loss, and tragedy.  Then I thought about his time in Tanzania where I would watch him sit with our Tanzanian friends and, rather than trying to be funny or flashy, he just listened.  He has developed some real and meaningful relationships because of this. I thought about how he listened to my husband, our children and our team and asked genuine questions about our lives.  I thought about his wife, pregnant and with so many little ones at home, willingly giving up her husband’s help and support for 10 days so he could come serve our team. 

And then I thought about how much I’ve missed over the years. 

Living in a different culture from my own over the last seven years has awakened me to many new experiences and to so many unique and enriching new relationships. Being around people who are different than me is one of the greatest gifts of living life overseas! I don’t know if I would have discovered the richness of these kind of relationships if I had stayed in Ohio. Where in the past I would have struggled wanting to pursue a relationship with the weird mom in small group (wait, was I the weird mom all along?), now I spend a lot of my days with people who don’t speak my first language, some who don’t share my religion, who don’t look or think like me, who make fun of my accent, my clothes, my skin, my culture, my cooking, and most of my thoughts and opinions on life. It’s awesome.

It makes me think about the many friends who have come in and out of my life and how many of those who have come and gone were chosen because they talked, thought and looked a lot like me.  It makes me consider how small my diminutive circle was for most of my life and how much I missed because of that. I thought about how many deep conversations, unique experiences, and diverse and challenging relationships I had ignored over the years.  I thought about how I was always so busy being entertained by the masses that I missed quality.

Kyle-take-a-while and your beautiful family,

Thank you for being quietly strong influencers in my life and in the lives of many others.  Thank you for being faithful when you haven’t always been spotlighted.  Thank you for loving people well and pointing us to God.  Thank you for listening.  Thanks for making me laugh with your witty humor (still don’t get the Star Wars jokes).  Thank you for pointing me and so many others to Christ through your generosity, your hunger to know God more and your commitment to the body of Christ. 

P.S. I think it’s awesome that every week a group of 40-50 young adults meet in your house for Bible Study.  Your kind and genuine hearts for God and for others draws the most diverse group of people to feel connected and loved in your home.  You have taught me a lot, Kyle-take-a-while.

*A challenge to anyone who has braved through yet another dreary post:  If you look around you and most of the people in your life look, act, think, and talk like you, then I encourage you to embrace new relationships outside of your comfort zone.  Wherever you lie on the spectrum of Eyelashes or Barracuda, find someone who challenges you.  They may outsmart you; and I promise that there will be awkward silences, uncomfortable moments, and maybe even some robust discussion over clashing opinions and worldviews.  Embrace that.  Run to that. Get more of that in your life.

Thanks, Kyle-take-a-while and Heather!

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