Tribute to My Friend Leanne
Although Leanne stepped out of our lives way too early, she left a strong footprint on our hearts and I want to tell you how. Like Psalm 97:11 says, “Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.” Leanne’s footprint was the “joy of the Lord.” And it was shining on her and through her continuously.
The Lord’s joy was always radiant in Leanne. From the first time I met her, it was easy to sense. I knew Leanne since 1990 when she joined the staff of the Walnut Hills Baptist Church Learning Center as an extraordinary preschool teacher. Her great love for and effectiveness with little ones was magical! And, she served the children wholeheartedly out of a deep and contagious faith in Jesus Christ. She left her footprint in each little life she taught.
We continued to be friends by participating in various Bible studies at Walnut Hills Baptist Church. At first, we were a fairly informal group of friends until a certain discipleship training course crashed into our lives. It was called Master Life. It was transforming. And, it called us to become sisters with a deeper bond knitting us together. We studied together, memorized scripture together, prayed together, grieved together, and fostered joy together in Christ.
Years went by. We stayed in touch. Six of us were reunited in 2011 for a beach trip to the Outer Banks and afterwards, we continued to retreat together every 6 months. We didn’t know that this past May would be our last trip with our beloved Leanne. Early on, we referred to ourselves as the Masterlife Reunion group, but later shortened it to OBX girls.
Leanne and I were the earliest risers at the beach cottage. One of my favorite memories of Leanne is the morning coffee and conversation we shared on the front porch of the cottage before the other four girls awakened. She loved coffee – the stronger the better. We both shared a love of books – historical fiction, Christian autobiographies, and Oswald Chambers’ MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST devotionals. Each of us, with a Bible or devotional book in our laps, would get lost in conversations about the Lord and our families. That treasured footprint was found in the simplicity of talking over coffee, the pastime that unites many sisters in Christ.
In our porch conversations, we would always rest in the truth of Acts 2:28 which says, “You [Lord] have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.”
God used Leanne’s wisdom, as the older and more seasoned sister, to breathe life-giving footprints of God’s presence into my heart. Times with Leanne were always a tremendous blessing. As well, she shared with all of us the grace of continuous joy for life’s journey. She shared very thoughtful devotionals at various mealtimes and trusted us with her tears whenever they came.
We felt like royalty at the beach cottage! Leanne’s gift of hospitality was another wonderful footprint pressed into our souls by this special companion who donned the ordinary kitchen table with beautiful fresh potted flowers, tablecloths, and novelty napkins on every trip. She would bake craisin-and-raisin oatmeal cookies without fail and would treat us with the tastiest homemade Brunswick Stew or lasagna. Up until a recent determination of mine to strictly reduce my calories, I would otherwise feast on these favorite cookies for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snacks – on every retreat to the beach prior to the May trip.
Leanne challenged us to enjoy strategy games and 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles while at the beach. I was the reluctant one, but she was the enthusiast who could encourage me to break down and participate. My heart would eventually melt into the fun and laughter playing games like Chicken Foot and Phase 10. This would always be after a long day of sitting, talking, reading, sleeping, and walking on the beach.
To stay in touch between trips, the OBX girls try to meet monthly for dinner at Rick’s Grill. I spoke to Leanne on the phone on Tuesday evening (July 9th) to remind her about the plan for the OBX girls to meet on July 11th at Rick’s at 6:00 pm. She was hoping to come, and we were all looking forward to seeing her then. But, God had another plan…
How grateful I was that God had given me the gift of this last phone conversation. If you knew Leanne, you would know that it would not be an email or text message conversation. She resisted the intrusions of technology and I respected that. Now, how grateful I am that I heard her voice, almost as clear as it would be in our front porch conversations at the beach. How grateful I am to have enjoyed Leanne, my sister in Christ, who has left me with her footprint of joy in the Lord. I can’t wait to see her again one day.