WOW. This one is a doozy. I've lived a bunch of places and met a lot of great people, and I feel as if I've been shaped by them all into the person I am today. It's a bit unfair to do this to a person with such a large and amazing family, but let's see if I can attempt a list... The first three are easy.
1. My mama (your Yaya)
Mothers influence their children, yes. So this is a very obvious one. My mama is truly one of the best people I know. She taught me how to trust my gut, how to be kind and aware, how to appreciate beauty in all kinds of surprising places. She taught me how to care for myself (in every possible way!) and how to love people even if they've hurt you. I'm so glad you get to know your Yaya.
2. My dad (your Papa John)
A girl needs her dad. And my dad did the very best in all his circumstances to be with me, to spend time with me, to support me (financially and in other ways). In this, he taught me what it means to honor your responsibilities and also to just love your child. I think I got a lot of my sense of humor from my dad, which has been a very valuable asset in this life!
3. My step-dad (your Grandpa Kev)
This guy got to be my live-in dad throughout my teenage years and has influenced me in ways too numerous to count!! He's another one who taught me responsibility to your family. He taught me how to do real life, like opening a bank account and getting a job. He also lent me much of his sense of humor, as well as libertarian leanings. One of the most important things he ever said to me was right before I flew off to college: "Don't be afraid to ask for help." It helped me find my way in a new country and continues to be something so important to life in general. He's an amazing dude.
Here's where the list starts getting tricky...I have three sisters and a brother, amazing aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas, cousins and what-have-you. It's pretty hard to start naming some and not others (especially without offending someone! Ha.) when it comes to who has been an influence on me. So hopefully I'll still have friends when this is over. =) These are in no particular order of importance.
4. Hayley Byrd - Hayley and I have been friends since we were 13. That's gotta count for something in this crazy world. She was a huge influence on me in junior high and high school, because I thought she was one of the coolest chicks ever, and I am so grateful that we have just remained friends through it all. I think I can attribute some of my outspokenness to Hayley; she helped me know it was okay to have an opinion (yes, world, you can partially blame Hayley). I think it's important to still be friends with someone who knew you when you were at your most awkward and terrible. It's humbling. The fact that we still like each other is very encouraging to me as a human.
5. Samantha Freestone - So many ways Sam has influence me - and all of them good. She taught me that true friends practice fairly extreme honesty, especially when those friends are also schoolmates, roommates, and sisters in Christ. She constantly encourages me to love God deeper, to dare to be different, and to follow God's plan for my life. And she does this all from 10,000 miles away. What I wouldn't give to bring Sydney to California...but I'm so grateful for the technology -and love - that keeps us connected.
6. Chris Tenny - This is another obvious one. I'm trying to think of all the ways your dad has influenced me. I mean, he entered my life and was the first man I ever really loved. I fell in love with his humble leadership and obvious desire to follow the Lord faithfully. He made me a wife, a pastor's wife, a church planter, and helped me become a mom. In other words, he has helped me become all the things I think I was created to be. He influences the direction of our family. I learn how to be a faithful servant from your dad every single day!
7. Calvin Tenny - I couldn't skip you, my little one! You might not be that great at talking yet, but you have influenced my life possibly in the greatest way of all, seeing as the shift to being a parent seemed one of the most seismic in my life so far. Your influence affects my sleep, my mood, my way of looking at the whole world. I have to evaluate pretty much everything now with you in mind! You are teaching me how to truly love sacrificially.
|He'll probably kill me for this photo - jazz hands!|
9. Jason Helveston - Jason is different; he isn't influential because of a super-close relationship that we've had for years, as with the other people in this list, but I can say he has been a huge influence on the life I'm living right now. I am in California because of his wild idea to plant a church in downtown San Jose. The past five or so years have been directly influenced by his vision for this city, for Dwell Christian Church, and for ministry. He's a wonderful pastor to his church, and husband and father to his family. I love that he married Laura because she's an amazing pastor's wife and friend and model of loving motherhood. I'm so glad you get to grow up with their kiddos!
10. Jesus - You knew it was coming! Yes, my son, I believe Jesus was a real, historical person who walked this Earth. I hope my life is a testimony to how someone who lived over 2000 years ago can be the most influential person I've ever encountered. I hope His influence is the one you can sense most strongly in my life, and I pray He becomes the most influential person in yours!!