As many of you know, while I was leading worship and speaking at LTLC this summer, a beautiful friend of mine passed away. Her name was Mrs. Nick, and she was not just a beautiful friend but a wonderful mentor and close confidante, a seeking soul with a heart on fire for Christ and the Catholic Church.
I met Mrs. Nick while in high school but didn't have a close relationship with her. One day, while in the weird phase of my life when I was waiting tables at CPK, looking for a job in journalism, and trying to be involved in ministry with teen girls at the same time, Mrs. Nick called me on the phone. She left me a message saying she had a proposal for me, that she didn't know where I was in my life, but that she needed to talk to me. Confused and a little thrown off due to never having been close to her, I called her back to see what she would say. She told me that she was creating an assistant campus minister position at the school, and that she had pored over many, many yearbooks to find the person she'd ask to apply for the job. She told me when she found me in the yearbook she knew I was the perfect person for the job and wanted me to apply. She knew God pointed her right to me, and I knew it too. A full-time position in direct relational ministry with teen girls? What more could I have dreamed of? I remember the first day sitting with her in her office, while she shared her heart for ministry with girls - why she did it, why she did it for so many years, and why God told her I'd be great at it, too. I applied for the job and was accepted and began my work at the school with her and with all the girls.
During the year that I worked with Mrs. Nick, I learned more about ministry than I ever could have dreamed about learning. She taught me how to plan and execute a retreat, how to put on a Mass for 500 people, how to properly wash dishes for Mass, how to choose liturgically appropriate readings, and so many other fundamentals to being a successful minister. I so enjoyed learning all those things and more from her.
Most importantly, though, Mrs. Nick taught me how to give. She taught me how to give and give, and just when you feel like you can't give anymore, to keep giving. She taught me that there are some days when you need to just sit in a rocking chair and rock for hours, just because. She taught me about synchronicities and snowflakes and how to best soak in the beauty of God in nature. She taught me how to write through her writing and her poetry, she taught me how to deliver an important message through words. She taught me presence and she taught me prayer. She expanded my love for the beauty of the Catholic Church. She taught me how to listen and how to just bask in the little things - warm toast, a smile from a friend, pretty fog in the morning. Mrs. Nick taught me how to love life. She taught me that a red jacket can change everything and that God doesn't make mistakes; that I am a thought of God and that if God stopped thinking of me, I would cease to exist. She taught me that you gotta just enjoy chicken pot pies on a cold day and scream with laughter when you want to scream with laughter. She taught me that there is nothing more important than making the girl standing in front of you feel like she is the most important person in the world. She taught me to love Frank Sinatra and country music; I can't listen to "Free and Easy Down the Road I Go" without a big smile, thinking about how much she fell in love with the spirit of country music in the last years of her life. She taught me to treat every day like a special day; to go all out in the everyday because we don't have all the time in the world to wait for the designated "special" days. Mrs. Nick taught me how to go above and beyond- how to put in that extra effort to make a person feel wonderful, how to make a feast day something the girls would remember, how spending 2 hours making button eggs is worth it so the girls will remember the point you are trying to make about life. She taught me that one tiny hazelnut can change the way you see God's love for you. She taught me that writing letters of love is often the best thing you can do for a person. She taught me that we were each created to live a word - and that we live that word out by everything we do in our lives.
And when the going got rough, Mrs. Nick taught me how to fight on. She taught me that God has a plan and that we are in it and that even with cancer taking all the joy in the world right out from under us, Christ still loves us and holds us close to his beating heart. When Mrs. Nick got sick, I didn't know how I would get through the year by myself; her desk was 10 feet from mine, a reminder of a suffering friend who wanted nothing more than to be with her girls, sharing Jesus. So I fought on - for her, for us, for Jesus. I choked back tears as I read her talks on retreats, I thought of her as I led the girls in her favorite songs, I thought of the glorious little things every time there was joyful laughter and the sweet smell of toast in our office. I soaked in every conversation we had over the phone, with her always asking me how I was doing it all while I myself wondered how I was doing it all. The girls needed love and the girls needed to have their self-worth uplifted in them and there was no way we were giving up. And as I poured everything I had into the girls, they poured love into me...with great conversations and good hugs, lots of smiles and laughter, flowers and unexpected Starbucks on my desk, and so much more. They fought on with me through a difficult time for all of us. And as Mrs. Nick taught us all, that's what you do in life...you keep your heart up and you fight on. You fight on in the joy and the pain, in the excruciating suffering as well as the laughter, in the great days and the downright awful days. You don't give up, you don't ever give up, because there are souls to be saved and a kingdom to be built here on this Earth. Giving up preaching the Good News is not an option.
On the last day of the last kairos of the year, I played the grand piano at the retreat center as the girls gathered around, made a huge circle with arms tight around each other, and sang "Desert Song" and "How He Loves" with me. It was one of those moments you wish would last forever. I relayed this story to mrs. Nick later on as she absolutely loved when I would lead the girls in worship. I told her I felt like I was in heaven, and her response to me was, "Dear...you WERE in heaven." Mrs. Nick knew me. She knew what made my soul sing loud and what brought me the greatest joy. She knew what I was good at and what I was downright terrible at and just always saw right into my soul. I'm grateful to have someone come through my life who knew me so well and loved me so much.
Mrs. Nick was a woman who dedicated 20 years of her life to making sure that every year, a few hundred girls at a tiny school in California heard the Good News that Jesus loves them endlessly and relentlessly. What better work is there? To love, to give, to sacrifice with all that you have, all that you are, and all that you have been created to be.
Thank you Mrs. Nick, for teaching hundreds of us how to do just that, and do it with a joyful heart. I miss you tremendously; pray for us, pray for me as I carry on your work, and keep dancing with reckless abandon with the saints and angels.
I love you and I thank you, today, tomorrow, and forever.