always and always, fritz

My friend Sara was affectionately known as Gitzen Girl -- a nickname coined by her dad (who I am so thankful to have spent some time with before he passed last year). Everyone knew her as Gitz.

But to me, she was Fritz.

She was Fritz. And I was Frass. (Short for Sassafrass, of course...)

And this Frass? Misses her Fritz like crazy...


When I was asked to speak at Sara's memorial service, it felt like an incredible gift had been placed in my hands. One I held gently and tenderly. An honor I didn't take lightly.

I didn't want to speak about our history or friendship, although I could've talked for hours on that alone. I wanted to somehow try to capture and express Sara's amazing heart and the incredible way she lived her life. I wanted to explain what Choose Joy meant to her, as so many have picked it up as their own life mantra. I wanted to paint a picture of who Sara really is...

I hope my feeble attempt to find adequate words achieved that even in the slightest possible way...

Here are the words I shared at her service...

: : :

There are so many things I could say about my sweet Sara. So many that I don’t even know where to start. Or harder still, I wouldn’t even know where to stop. She has been one of the greatest gifts in my life, and her friendship has truly changed me. Forever.

And I know many---literally around the world---can say the exact same thing about her.

It is absolutely mind-blowing to think of how far-reaching Sara’s impact has been. From the tiny confines of her condo in Iowa, her life and love wrapped around the globe.

Because of her illnesses, her way of life had to change. But her way of living didn’t.

Sara continued to live well. To love deeply. To trust God unswervingly. She continued to choose joy. To love Jesus passionately. And to run her race well... All the way to the end.

Through her words, Sara shared her faith and her heart so genuinely and authentically. Sara was real. Velveteen Rabbit kind of real. And in her realness, she made it easy for us to be real in return. Real with ourselves... With others... With God.

And in that place of threadbare honesty, she challenged us to choose joy.

Choose joy.

Those two words ran deep for Sara. They weren’t just a pick-me-up statement... Those words truly shaped her life.

Sara taught me that choosing joy doesn’t mean living in denial of reality. It doesn’t mean pretending everything is okay when it’s not. It doesn’t mean not allowing ourselves to grieve or acknowledge our own heartaches in life.

It means being honest and authentic with where we are... And from that place, still lifting our eyes Homeward.

Choosing joy is acknowledging that while I don’t understand what’s going on, God does. Choosing joy is remembering that while life seems to be spiraling out of control, it is never out of God’s control. Choosing joy is remaining mindful that while my circumstances may feel anything but ideal, God still has my good and His glory in mind.

Because like Sara said, “It’s not about me. It’s about what He can do with my life.” That statement holds the very essence of her lifestyle of choosing joy...

Sara lived her life by six simple goals she set for herself. She had these scribbled on her wall in that amazingly beautiful handwriting of hers. But more importantly, she had them scribbled deeply on her heart. She set out to do six things with her life:

  1. To not be ashamed to stand before God.
  2. To fulfill God’s plan by living the best life I can with what I am given.
  3. To be aware and present in every moment.
  4. To love what I have and not yearn for what I lack.
  5. To spread the joy, not the fear.
  6. To be intentional in all things.

I read that list, and I can’t help but smile. Even through the tears. Sara so faithfully lived out each one of those things. And we would do well to make these goals our own.

Sara lived well.

She loved well.

She finished well.

And she taught us to do the same.

I love you always and always, Fritz...