“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39 NIV
She had joy-full eyes.
Back in the day, neighbors knew neighbors and everyone knew Jill. She and her family lived down the street from us.
In 1960’s speak, you’d say she was groovy and cool and had a positive vibe.
In reality, she was simply in love with Jesus. And, it showed.
Especially in her eyes.
So, when Jill invited me to attend Vacation Bible School at her church, my (overprotective) parents didn’t even hesitate. They said yes!
She had that affect on people.
And, on the very last day of VBS, I asked Jesus into my heart.
You see, Jill took an interest in my life. Not just in the present, but for the eternal.
I’ll always love her for that.
So, who has changed your life, beloved?
My family began attending church and Jill was my Sunday School teacher for many years.
And during that time, not once did I see her joy fade.
In my teens, my family moved 500 miles away. Jill and I kept in touch through periodic notes and annual Christmas cards.
Many years later, I returned to the area for my bridal shower. I was thrilled that Jill and her daughter (aka: my little sis) were there. It was as if nothing had changed.
Especially her joy-full eyes.
In fact, they seemed to glisten even more.
As life moved on, as life does, our correspondence slowed down, but that didn’t change a thing.
Memories of the heart reside in your soulbox, not your mailbox.
When I heard about her diagnosis, I was devastated. I had to see her. I needed to say thanks and tell her that I loved her one more time. I understood that she probably wouldn’t recognize me, but that didn’t affect my desire to go. In fact, it only made it stronger.
You know what I mean.
As I slowly approached her, a nurse tapped me on the shoulder. “She won’t know you,” she whispered as I smiled, determined to prove her wrong.
“Hi Jill,” I said, voice cracking with emotion. She watched me intently as I inched closer to her and sat down.
And, although she didn’t say a word, her eyes did.
Her joy-full eyes.
In that moment and despite her condition, her eyes sparkled.
And, I felt the presence of Jesus very near.
I continued to focus on those eyes as she leaned in and pressed her lips against my cheek.
No words. Just love.
Then, immediately, she turned away, unaware of my presence, and returned to her world.
And, I returned to mine.
But, I wasn’t the same.
I left with comfort and joy-full eyes.
Tear-stained, love-filled, Jesus joy-full eyes, knowing that our visit wasn’t good-bye, but “I’ll see you again, dear one.”
How do I know for sure?
Because a neighbor named Jill took an interest in a little 9 year old girl and invited her to experience God’s big love.
Who is your Jill?
Who is that person who has made an everlasting imprint on your soul?
If they’re alive, tell them. If they’re not, tell others about the joy they brought into your life.
Joy is contagious, you know.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV
Jill passed away two years ago. When I read the endless tributes to her, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who experienced her joy-full eyes. It’s no surprise that her impact on the world has endured way beyond her earthly days.
Oh friend, I want to do the same.
Oh God, please help us all to do the same. XO