Last week at this time, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the life of my dear friend and sister, Christen, who went home to be with Jesus on January 9th. The service was like nothing I have ever experienced before. God’s presence was evident. He was greatly glorified and Christen was beautifully honored. I am sure I will write more about the service in the future. During worship, I wept but I also felt like I couldn’t raise my hands high enough. I wanted to get as close to heaven as I could. And a piece of heaven came into that room. The choir sang, her Aunt Kay shared a beautiful eulogy and her husband, Joe, preached the Word of God. That’s a whole other blog post, which will most definitely be shared on another day. For now, I will just say that God’s grace was poured out in supernatural abundance…
In the service, I (along with two other dear friends – Dawn and Shelly) had the privilege of sharing a few words about Christen. I have tons of amazing memories with and of Christen so it was challenging to be able to narrow it down to a few minutes but I did the best I could. I felt like God gave me three words that described her – joy, strength and sister.
The verse that was appropriately included in the program was Psalm 16:11. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Joy is something that Christen walked in. Something she wrote about. Something she fought for. And it was something that was genuinely inside of her – bubbling over into the lives of those who were close to her. You didn’t even have to know her to see it. It was obvious, even through pictures. Her joy was a reality because she communed with the Lord and remained in His presence to receive it.
And the joy of the Lord was her strength (Nehemiah 8:10). That strength was evident in her life just as much as her joy was. She was strong in the Lord. Strong for her husband. Strong for her kids. Strong for her family and friends and for the body of Christ. Strong in prayer and strong in her faith. A strong leader and a strong teacher. It was true strength. Because she spent time in the presence of the Lord, she was filled with a joy that made her strong in Him.
The word that especially describes Christen (to me) is sister. I didn’t grow up with a sister but when Christen and I grew close, I always considered her to be one. She was more than a friend. I always believed we shared something special. I look back over the years we spent with each other and I am incredibly grateful for times with her – especially the ‘everyday’ moments. We lived in the same neighborhood on a few occasions but in my last Chicago apartment, we lived a few blocks from each other. In fact, when I moved, I looked for an apartment near her. I even remember introducing her to my new landlord as my sister.
We shared a lot of laughs and inside jokes. We also shared a lot of tears and times of prayer. I remember when she would call me while I was studying and say that she and the kids were stopping by for a visit. I loved those study breaks. (She was so supportive of my decision to go back to school). Christen had the keys to my apartment and came in while I was out of town once to unplug a few things for me. I remember returning to find the clothes that were in my hamper washed and folded on my bed. That was one of many things that she did for me, simply out of love. She was so selfless and encouraging. She always opened her home to me. She hosted my 30th birthday party. She hosted my going away party right before I moved back to New York. She even gave me sister cards. My close friends know that my saying, “Love” is short for I love you (there’s a story behind it – not for today). Christen often sent me messages that said “Extra Love” – something she told me that she and her mom would say. And knowing that made “Extra Love” even more special.
Christen had a gift with words (both spoken and written) and I was thrilled when she started blogging in September 2010. I actually planned to ask her to write a guest post here on the blog this year (I know that her words will be incorporated into my future posts regularly). She was a phenomenal writer. You have to read her blog, “Learning Curve.” It’s interesting, even though I would read Christen’s blog as soon as she would post something and always found her words to be amazing, I read them now and am in awe at the powerful statements she wrote. She was brilliant and anointed. I wish she could know how God is using her words. (Her husband recently posted on Facebook that her blog had 20,000 page views this month). She switched to a different blog format a few months ago and for some reason, I could not leave comments. I tried dozens of times because I wanted to encourage her but it would not go through. I wish I could’ve told her how impactful her words were (and still are) - absolutely profound.
Christen shared many of her stories with me – about her life in Aledo, her encounters with God in college, her love for husband and children and her heart for the Lord and the church. I loved to look through her many pictures and hear the stories behind them about different people and occasions. I specifically remember looking through her wedding scrapbook one day with her because it triggered a conversation about times we both had been bridesmaids in friends’ weddings. In that talk, she mentioned that she’d never been a maid of honor. That moment is so vivid in my mind. She didn’t know it but I planned to ask her to be my matron of honor if I were ever to get married. I cry thinking about that...
I am so grateful to God that He brought Christen Lynn Ringle into my life to be a friend, sister and, in a lot of ways, a life mentor. As I mentioned last week at her service, only God could take a loud mouth girl from Queens, New York and a sweet, grace-filled girl from Aledo, Illinois and cause them to be sisters. I am forever changed because of the profound impact she made on my life. I pray she knew how much I truly loved her. I feel both humbled and blessed to have lived life with such a woman of God for those short six years. It’s a season that I will always cherish. She lived an exemplary life, fulfilling her life mission… “to lead a Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting life to the glory of God and for the joy of all people.”
Christen leaves a great legacy. (Please continue to keep her family in prayer). I know her words will continue to speak loudly – definitely in my life. As I look ahead and move forward, I pray that I will honor both God and her memory by living a life that truly glorifies God – making the most of every single opportunity.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."