Leigh Ann was my best friend. She was a sister. She has been with me through high school, college, meeting our husbands, raising our children together and many vacations. Good times. But she's not living life here with me anymore, and I miss her. When she died in March of 2010, I lost a lifelong friend. Tears have run steadily and my hope to see her in Heaven sooner than later is frequently felt. So while God still has us here, I want to live purposefully.
The week before Christmas of 2010, my husband Jeremy and I visited The Grove Church with our close friend Greg (Leigh's husband) and their kids. I had a busy Sunday morning getting my girls ready for church, out the door and placed in their unfamiliar classrooms. I hurried into the Worship Center and we all found our seats up front for the Christmas service.
Since I had spent a good portion of the last year in tears, it wouldn't have been awkward for me to sit and cry in church. But instead of crying, I began to take notice of the chaos around me and I surprised myself with smiling. Up the aisle came what seemed like a thousand children in their Christmas Sunday Best. They were all pushing (politely) their way up the aisle to find a decent place on the riser on stage. There were girls in Christmas bows and tu-tu's and boys in their suit jackets and dirty tennis shoes. Caden, Leigh Ann and Greg's oldest, was waiting at a microphone for his speaking part. Bailey and Malia, their other children, found their way up to the stage with their class. Even my daughter was on stage singing out of sync to a tune that she had never heard before. This all made me smile and think, "Man Leigh would have loved this!" Yes, Leigh would have loved it all.
It's been hard navigating life without my best friend. Life was sweeter with her in it. It's been hard for so many people. Leigh Ann is greatly missed. Even as you are reading this, I'm sure you are thinking of how she impacted you or someone you know. And if this is the first you have ever heard of Leigh Ann, I hope it's not the last. God's light shown through Leigh in such a tender, humble, loving way. She chose to give so much to her family, close friends, coworkers and patients at Phoenix Children's Hospital. The love she showed me changed my life, my husband's and the lives of my children.
God keeps reminding me of the light Leigh Ann radiated and how He wants us to be a light to others. After the kiddos had sang their songs so beautifully in that morning Christmas service, a slide show began to play. The title of the slide show read something like "The Grove Church shines God's light to Malawi". The pictures were beautiful. Church people loving on these Malawi families who are in great need. My eyes were drawn to the children. I noticed their sweet faces. I noticed that they had clothes on their backs. And I saw that some were wearing shoes. And then I found myself in search of a child with a blankie. I didn't see any little ones pictured with a blankie under their arm or wrapped around their neck. And I wondered, could that be a need?
My kids love their blankies. Leigh's kids love their blankies. Blankies provide security for little ones, familiarity. I have my pink tattered blanket from my childhood, I had it with me all the time.
I think every child needs a blankie. I also think every child needs to be shown Christ's light, His love, His goodness. That light provides hope and peace that He is with us (Ephesians 2:22). Leigh Ann is in Glory now, and I miss her every hour of every day. Along with missing her, I need to remember her. I need to remember what a light she was.
So here enters....Leigh's Blankies! I want children in need to have a blankie in love and in memory of Leigh Ann. Matthew 5:16 says, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." May our mission be to bring Him glory as we collect funds, collect fabric, sew until our thread runs out and hand blankies to little ones from one side of the earth to another!