Monday, August 8, 2011

She Shined Like a Star in the Universe - a tribute to Julie Walker

44 years ago today, a lovely friend was born.  I met her the summer before we began kindergarten, and growing up together, we enjoyed sleepovers under the stars in my back yard, practiced American Idol performances long before the show existed, and spent many, many hours on horseback together in 4H.  Julie was my very best, through-thick-and-thin friend.  Growing older, different interests and new friends caused us to take separate paths, but our hearts were knit together.  She was the kind of friend that you don’t see for years, but pick up your conversation as if you had talked just yesterday. 

Two years ago, I received word through a mutual friend that Julie was in the hospital.  Julie fought hard against MS and other difficult medical conditions that plagued her body.  Hospital stays weren’t very unusual, but being hospitalized on her birthday was a little more than I could imagine.  I stopped in to see her and we walked down memory lane one last time.  The next time I saw Julie, she was clinging to life a few short weeks later.  I stroked her hair and whispered into her ear that it was time to let go and enter the arms of Jesus.  I will never know for sure, but I believe she heard each word and prayer from a room completely filled with people who deeply loved her. 

It is amazing what can flood your mind in a split second.  Stories and memories came rushing back like an overflowing river.  As I watched Julie fight and as I reflected over her life, I began to see with new eyes how fearless my dear friend was.  Opposites attract, and this was no exception in our friendship.  Julie was feisty, brave, and pursued life with gusto.  My opposite personality is more timid, worrisome, and fearful, and I like to know what is coming before I move forward. 

Her childhood home life was completely different from mine.  I was the last child living at home and Julie’s home was active with three older brothers.  They would hang her by her arms over the basement stairwell and swing her as if she were a vine in a jungle.  One day her oldest brother offered to do the same to me and I nearly fainted.  My home was quiet; Julie’s home was loud and confrontational, and felt like a completely new world to me.

Reflecting on her life, I see clear evidence that God gives us exactly what we need to live the life He has planned for us.  Julie learned to hold nothing back, to attack life, and to live every moment to the fullest.  He taught her, throughout her life, to be a fighter and to be fearless.  These were traits she not only needed, but also demonstrated beautifully as her life glorified Him, even to the very end.

I remember when Julie shared her MS diagnosis with me.  Even as close as we were growing up, this was the first time that I ever realized Julie was a woman of faith.  She was clinging to the Lord through her trial and showed no fear during our conversation.  I recall that the doctor advised that pregnancy and childbirth would inflame her condition, but in the typical “don’t take no for an answer” style that Julie had, she was soon the proud, doting mom of two beautiful daughters.  

The life of Julie Ann Janich Walker was not lived with the purpose of being a genuine friend, supportive wife, loving mother, cherished sister, or beloved daughter.  Her purpose was to glorify God – to let His light shine through her for others to see – and she accomplished this purpose with excellence.  Even now, Julie continues to inspire my life.  I am still timid, worrisome, and fearful.  But when I remember my friend, I see that she would not let adversity stand in her way.  She faced more trials than any one person should endure, yet she pressed on in the face of fear and carried herself with grace and dignity. 

Her memory and the faith she modeled somehow make me stronger.  Life is too short to let anything keep us from sincere devotion to Christ.  Her life, lived with excellence in every way imaginable, had a single purpose – to let the light of Christ shine.  I am so grateful that we will share eternity together in heaven.

Happy birthday, my friend.  I will always miss you.    

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  (John 14:1 NIV)

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

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