Saturday, April 23, 2011

why we do what we do.

disclaimer. this might be a little heavy for some of you.

i have thought a lot about that this week. the whole why we do what we do. mostly in the context of leading young life. basically you walk through life with high school and middle school students. its more than mentoring or being a role model because its all about jesus. building relationships with students and earning the right to be heard by going to where they are. not just inviting them to an "event" on a certain night and then not seeing them again until the following "event". its about doing life with students. going to games, out to eat, getting coffee, etc. or in my case having girls over to the house because its a lot easier with little ava.

when you decide to lead young life you are deciding to go through life with students. making the team, getting cut from the team, passing the test, failing the test, new relationships and break ups. you sign for it all and sometimes it gets heavy. divorce, addiction, cutting, suicide, and unexpected deaths. you experience the joys of life and the heartaches of life. sometimes its so good. and sometimes its hard and you feel unprepared, inadequate. unsure. nervous, fearful. but its always worth it. because you know you are not alone. you are not in this battle by yourself. do not forget it.

i just got home from our friend helen's memorial service. although i did not know helen for a very long time or even very well. we shared a few things in common but mostly our bond was cancer. we went through treatment at similar times and she was an incredible encouragement to me. she joked with me back in august that maybe we would be chemo buddies. but that ended up not being the case. so we emailed and shared our hearts and our pain. she even bought me my wig. she sent me an email after reading the blog where i said i was more of a scarf girl. she said that maybe i would want a wig for quick running to the store and not wanting the attention that a bald head and scarf can bring. i ended up not needing my wig. but for some reason because a fellow cancer patient offered to buy my wig  meant so much to me. she decided to shave her head when she started treatment and after she saw me in church one sunday and later emailed me...your hair still looks so good! I am jealous. funny what you become jealous of in cancer. but it made me laugh. i have re-read most our emails as i am writing this. (i just went back and read every email we exchanged. helen is a better person than me. she wrote such long beautiful emails and mine were short with bad grammar and zero punctuation. i am thankful for her. more than i even realized. i was going through my own treatment and overwhelmed with life. but she always seemed to stay in touch. i love that. says so much about her character). i just appreciate that while she was in the midst of her own fight. she entered into mine and me into hers. i like that. the last personal email i received from helen was on march 13. she had sent out a mass email and i responded with this:

My heart hurts. I am in nyc with justin celebrating life without cancer and am sitting in a cab reading your email. I can not help but wonder why certain stories...though similar can be so different. The ryder family is praying for a miracle. I will begin mailing cards to update you on our life and ava and what my future holds as a wife and mother...its a new brighter season for me. But praying for your pain...chemo is so so sucky...we love you and I would love love love to care for you and your daughters in however I can...xoxo. libby

she responded thirty minutes later with this:

Libby, enjoy your time in New York!  I’m glad that you and Justin were able to take that trip.  Please don’t feel too sad for me; it has taken a long time to get here (and I certainly haven’t fully arrived yet), but I do have a peace about what God is doing in my life.  His will is perfect, and though I still don’t fully know what His will is, He has brought me to a place of acceptance.  If His choice for me is that I go home to be with Him, I welcome my future in glory!
 Looking forward to hearing more about your life—struggles and joys.
 Love you,

it was incredible. in the midst of sadness and tears there was so much hope. because for followers of christ death is not the end. its the beginning. her husband wrote this in the email that was sent to inform people of her death.

We are writing to say that Helen passed on out of her pain this morning very early. She died quickly and with no suffering, something she prayed for earnestly, something that her Father in His mercy granted her. She had prayed recently--and asked many of you to pray--that there would be a way to manage her pain and give her some relief from the physical suffering she was in, and God answered her prayer.  She is not suffering any more, nor will she ever suffer again. And we are trying to count this all joy.

i understand why death is such a scary thing if you are not sure what's next. or where you are going. or what your life is about. christ is for everyone. no matter how broken and messed up you might think you are. in christphilippians 1:21...for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. wrap your head around that?

as i was sitting in the service today i could not help but think about my own life. my own death someday. what would my funeral be like? what would people say? what would people say about you? my deepest desire is that people would see christ in how i live. it was so clear in helen's life. it was all over the service. in the songs. when people spoke. including her four children. the scriptures. the heart of the entire service was indeed recognizing the immense pain and loss in helen's death. but more than that it was about celebrating helen and rejoicing that she is with her heavenly father and free of pain in paradise. it was beautiful. praying for her family and those close to sweet helen.

back to young life. i mentioned the death of a young middle school girl named kelly. she was 13. she dropped her cell phone in the street and when she ran back to pick it up she was hit. it hurts to type it. i did not know here or her sweet older sister katy. but i learned throughout our cancer that some of the most incredible love and support came from strangers. yesterday a lot of kelly's friends were all together at a friend's house and some of katy's friends came too. just so people could be together. to cry and hug. provide some sort of comfort. then to eat, laugh, and just not be alone. it was incredible to be there for a little bit with ava running around. thank you for those of you that cared for her and made sure she did not fall down the steps. there is nothing like watching other people love your baby. but when we were there i could not stop thinking...this is why we do what we young life and wyld life leaders (middle school young life) we rally around our friends when things happen. sad things. there is nothing much to say so instead lee made milkshakes for everyone. they ate pizza. they sat together in a big room and cried and shared memories and wrote letters to kelly. celebrating her life in the midst of pain. deep pain where we often ask why? and that's okay. i do not know why kelly died. or why helen died. or why i got cancer. or why anything horrible happens. i do not specifically know why. but i do know that we live in a broken fallen world that God never intended for it to be this way. what he created was perfect and we messed it up. not him. it was us. but my prayer. my deep prayer is that the Lord will provide a peace. a peace that passes all understand to those literally crippled by kelly's death. and helen's. we are not alone. we may feel like it sometimes. but we are never alone. today a friend of helen's shared a story where helen said something like this...i am a tree. with deep roots and i am planted by the streams of living water. i will not be moved. her faith in Jesus Christ was unwavering.  

as a young life leader. i know that i signed up for the joy of life with students and heartache of life with students. i know that i will go to weddings. but also some funerals. and that is hard to think about it. this week has been emotional. beginning to realize my own doubts and insecurities that were magnified through helen's death. will my cancer come back? i think about that. not everyday but some days. i try to cling to what is true and for today i am cancer free. so i rest in that.

death is sad and hard and difficult to understand. but thankfully i know that death is not the end. but only the beginning of life. the life we were always meant to live.

we sang the song "on jordan's stormy banks i stand." i love the chorus. with the echo. gosh, its good.

i am bound, i am bound
 i am bound for the promised land
i am bound, i am bound
i am bound for the promised land.

why do you do what you do? 


  1. Beautiful Libby.

    It is a week to be thinking about death and new life.

  2. this is the most beautiful post ive ever read. i just became a young life leader three weeks ago and i know it will be wonderful and i know it will be hard but i know why im doing it. i love your heart and that even through the hard times you are relentless in loving broken high school and middle school kids. thanks for what you do and thanks for loving jesus so deeply.

  3. Wow! Loved the read for today. I can relate but not because I am actively working with youth but I'm raising youth. My sons are (almost) 12, 8 & 6 and in choosing to have children, I chose to walk through their lives with them as young people. Thank you for the true spirit of your blog. I can resonate with so much of what you say! Happy Easter!!

  4. My husband is on YL staff in Missouri. I've been following your blog for quite some time. On Friday night, late, we were on the phone with the service center emergency line dealing with a suicidal teenager. It is hard. But it's real. We love what we do. And, why do we do it? Because we were made to. And not in the cheesy YL slogan type of's just true.

  5. oh libby. this was exactly what i needed to read tonight. as a college student away from home, i attended easter vigil tonight by myself and came home feeling absolutely defeated and alone. i had hoped so much i would feel Christ in tonight's service but i know He intended for me to find grace in something else this evening, and it was your post. freshman fellowship was an amazing period in my life and although i made the decision, the right decision for me, not to become a leader, i will never ever forget the people who opened their hearts up to me and showed me what living in Christ really looks like.
    happy happy easter. i am praying for you, helen, katy, and this entire broken, but saved by grace, world tonight.

  6. Thank you so much for this post. Thank you for being so honest and true. I cannot tell you enough how much it moved me to read this because It reminds me of my place in Christ and the comfort that he brings. Your friend Helen was so strong. I often pray that I would have that strength too.

    I hope that at my funeral people see God's grace, God's joy, God's mercy. It makes me want to start remembering his cross daily and changing the way I live daily, by his love!

  7. Wow. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have read this post (found you on another mommies blog) on the eve of Easter Sunday.

    Blessings to you. And to YOUR Ava...from both me and MY Ava.


  8. What you wrote was beautiful. My husband and I both are young life leaders and as you wrote "This is why we do it." In the last five years we have been to three funerals. Our house is a safe home to many kids while they mourn. It is a nice to remember we aren't alone in this mission. God Bless you and your family!

  9. I am 13 and don't have a job, but I am a full time adoptive big sister. I do what I do because God asked me to. And when God asks you to do something, and you do it, you're accepting the whole package. Pain and all. My family has adopted 7 kids. Coming up on May 19 will be the 1 year anniversary of my 4 year old sister's entry into Heaven. She had severe heart defects and died 31 days after heart surgery. After she died, God called us to welcome into our home 4 more kids. I still do what I do because God is still asking us to do it. I have seen so much in my 13 years, and I'm so thankful for each faith growing experience. Our newsest addition, Selah (6 months), has hydrocephalus. We are again saying yes, pain and all. She just had 2 brain surgeries in 12 days, and will have many more. But you know what? God doesn't see her as a "hydrocephalus baby", He sees her as a child of His. And we give Him free reign to do what he chooses. Death is hard, but I'm so very thankful that on this day, Christ made a way for us to all be reunited in Heaven! You can go to my Mom's blog to read our story at
    I love you!
    Mattie Patterson

  10. This post was incredible. Something I have pondered about for so long and needed to hear. Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. This is a real good one Libby! Thanks

  12. Keep writing your blog...please.

  13. Thank you Libby. Like so very many nights, your words really comforted my heart. Today, I learned of a dear co-workers suicide. I have been struggling all day to make sense of everything and your words about Helen and her no longer being in pain really helped me. Though I don't understand how or why, I understand that he is no longer hurting silently. Thanks for always putting the complexities of this world into a larger perspective.

    May God Bless You!

  14. I'm back. Had to read your journey from the beginning. Told my daughter about you and she will be reading to.

    It is an unbelievable story. And you are a gift. I even watched your haircut! Seriously...I loved the shorter hair. Not sure if you have a pic of the pixie posted anywhere...I did not find it. Yet.


  15. This was an insanely beautiful post. It made me cry, at work, in the middle of the afternoon. You are so exactly right. I lost my best friend, who also happened to be my sisterinlaw last May. It's almost been one year without her in our life. Death is SO not the end, only the beginning.

    Love your blog, your story, and your openness. Cheers!

  16. Being a young life leader is such a wonderful form of service. I am so thankful that YL was there for my daughter, her then boyfriend/ now husband and so many of their friends. It helped bring them to Christ and helped them grow as young Christians. I am sure that you and Ryder are a wonderful influence on these young people.

  17. Libby- you are such an encouragement to me. I even wrote about how awesome this entry was for me in my own blog haha ( I hope all is well for you, I'll be keeping you & your friends in my prayers. I hope Nashville is wonderful this weekend, I'll be cheering Team Libby on in spirit while sporting my Team Libby shirt back here in KY :)

  18. The entire time I was reading, moved to tears often, I just kept thinking, I wish my two teenagers had people like you guys touching their lives, wishing reaching boys was like reaching girls, too. They don't have that right now - we moved to a place outside Lexington KY that is Young Lifeless - and when they leave home, a home of faith and love, they walk out into starkness. How I pray that they have Godly hands reaching to pull them into His loving embrace. So beautiful - so poignantly, painfully, full of love of others and God - you so touched my heart:)

  19. Wow, that was incredible.
    I sometimes wonder that too, it's hard to see God's ways in our ways. Sometimes we don't know why God takes someone's life away, but we do know that he is doing that for a purpose. Thank you Libby for sharing that.
    Love you!

  20. Wow, thank you for such great wisdom today. I'm having back surgery next Wednesday, I'm 20. It's a little daunting, even though I know it could be so much worse. I know that our God is healer, and I love what Helen said..."I am a tree. planted in streams of living water. I will not be shaken." Amen to that!

    Jesus is SO good that to live is Christ, to die is gain! ah, I love it. That's why we do what we do. I'm Chaplain of my sorority, and honestly I've grown weary of being the light in the dark, and have begun to hangout mostly with my Christian friends. It's been great to grow in community, but I need to be continuously investing in the lives of my lost sisters. I'm moving into the sorority house next semester, and I know that God will use that in huge ways to minister to those girls. What you said is so true, we have to earn our way into their lives...I can't just expect them to show up to bible study when I don't even know whats going on in their life.

    Thanks for sharing your heart, it was so encouraging! God bless!

  21. This made me cry from the first paragraph. Beautiful. Young Life brought me to Jesus when I was 16 and now I am a Young Life leader....thank you for sharing your heart. Your blog has been a source of encouragement/inspiration for the past few months of my life and I thank you for sharing your story & continuing to do so!!! God is SO amazing--Christ SHINES through your blog with every post!!!!!!!! God Bless!!!

  22. Libby - I wrote you a few weeks ago, at which point I was only in, like, October. I am really trying to catch up to 'real time' ryder life... I'm getting there.

    This is a special post to me, as I lead for 4 years in college. When I started, I honestly got involved becuase my brother (Ernie) was a leader and he had great friends in it, and I was concerned about making friends at college (cool.) No one told me in training that this was a life long committment. No one really told me about the hard conversations I would have; the time I was the only one that a mom would let come over after one of my girls got caught shop lifting. That I would get to walk through life with them --good and bad and hard but good -- and what a tremendously hard and beautiful gift that is. Thanks for writing this. Thanks for sharing your story. I too want that to be the story of my funeral -- that I lived Jesus daily. I hope I continue to pursue that daily. ~Emily


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