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I had a friend named Jan, who was older than me, but that never mattered. I loved spending time with her. Jan could tap dance, and she liked to dress up as a clown. One time, she killed a fly with a plastic toy bow and arrow. She would write plays, and we would act them out. We had tea parties, we played “Piggies and Ellies,” and we played our kazoos together. We even had sleepovers. Jan and I laughed a lot. She was a lot of fun! I met Jan when I was forty-eight and she was sixty.

This week was the one-year anniversary of the unexpected passing of my dear friend and mentor.

Jan and I had just spent a weekend with a multi-generation group of sisters in Christ at a winter beach get away. The Tuesday after returning home, I got the unexpected call. “Donna…I need you to sit down…I have something to share with you…Jan passed away today…” What? I shook my head. I just saw her. We were all together at the beach…

I knew my responsibility was to reach out to the others that had been on the weekend and share this stunning news with them before they read it on Facebook or heard it from someone else. As I made those calls and spent that sacred time of grief with each woman, we shared the blessings of the past weekend. Jan had chosen Max Lucado’s book “Because of Bethlehem” as the focus for the weekend. The book’s subtitle is “Love is born. Hope is here.”  Jan was no stranger to Max Lucado’s books, and Jan loved Jesus.  Throughout the weekend, the words of Jesus, Max, and Jan drifted throughout our activities and wove together like a conversation between good friends. 

Because of Bethlehem, I have a Savior in heaven. Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the Cross.

These words from the book had led us to discussion. When Christ was born, so was our hope.  Jan knew that her hope was in Jesus and that her salvation was through Jesus. Jan said, “It gives me goose bumps to think about it.”

Talks about faith topics were not unusual with Jan.  She was not shy about sharing the Good News.  Jan knew how to mix fun and faith.  She was passionate about two topics that led the direction of her ministry - encouragement and gratitude.   

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. (Romans 1:11-12)

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

The Word was the backbone for all of Jan’s events, programs, and retreats. 

The Epiphany is almost here, signifying the end of the Christmas season, and we are moving on to the next season that Wal-Mart has unveiled on the shelves. 

But consider what Max writes at the end of his book:

Listen as God whispers, “No mess turns me back; no smell turns me off. I live to live in a life like yours. Every heart can be a manger. Every day can be a Christmas. Let ‘Silent Night’ be sung on summer nights. Let Advent brighten the autumn chill. The Christmas miracle is a year-long celebration.”

I was blessed to have Jan in my life. Her humor, her love of life, and her love of Jesus were a source of encouragement for me. God meant it to be this way. We were created for friendship. We were created to mentor and to be mentored.

Let me share Jan’s legacy of encouragement by sharing this with you: If you are looking for a Jesus-focused relationship with a sister in Christ, I encourage you to explore Together, a mentoring program for Christian women organized by The Connection. What better New Year’s resolution than to strengthen your walk with Christ?

* Join us for Together: Learn More on January 14th at 9am at The Connection.

** To dig deeper into mentoring, join us for our upcoming book study, “The Gentle Art of Discipling Women,” starting on January 11th at 7pm at The Connection.   

Donna VanWert

Donna VanWert is co-leader of The Connection‘s mentoring program, “Together.” She moved back to Waynesboro 6 years ago with her husband, Larry. She is an accounting manager by day, but her passion lies in multi-generational Christian women’s ministry. She believes any two women are just 10 minutes away from being best friends. Donna loves her family and Jesus. She most enjoys doing ministry alongside of either or both of her very talented daughters. Three and a half years ago a certain little miss took up residence in her heart and brings great joy to her life as only a grandchild can.

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