If I walked out my door, down the hill, through a field of waist high weeds, jumped over a janky fence, and skipped past four houses, I would arrive at Debbie Daniel’s house.
Debbie had three kids and one of her daughter’s, Jenny, was my childhood friend. Debbie’s house was a central hangout growing up. Her home had high ceilings which contained all the love, and the barstools at the kitchen peninsula were always a revolving spot for conversation and company that felt like family.
Her house wasn’t perfect. It was lived in, and everyone was welcome. She would let the dishes pile up and let half-finished projects take over the dining room table for weeks. I think that’s why my friends and I congregated at her house week after week. It was easy to be there. No conversation was off-limits. With chips and seven layer dip always in the fridge, we could chat, cry, laugh, and watch Survivor. And we did this all the time.
We all had mothers and sisters and small group leaders at church, but Debbie was different. She listened without an agenda. She stepped in.
She stepped into a role she didn’t even know I needed filled. My mother was generous and good and kind, but God knew I needed another voice of love to help shape the rough edges of my soul.
Debbie was a high school counselor. When I’d walk into the administrative office, her face was the first one I’d see. Between breaks and after school, I always found myself pulling up a chair and parking myself right next to her desk. She was quick to offer a snack and chat about classes, family, friendships, and my school schedule. Those touch points throughout my day made me feel wanted, like a barista who knows your name and drink order by heart. It was as though she was always just waiting for me to walk right in. She was always available.
I’ll never forget a time during my junior year when I was so distraught about a boy I crumbled into the chair in Debbie’s office after third period. She looked at me with compassion and kindness in her eyes and asked, “Do you need to go home?” I nodded between blowing my nose. She wrote me an off-campus pass, and I went straight home, crawled into bed, and cried myself to sleep. She was quick to hold back judgments and offer gentleness.
Years later, I was fortunate enough to work on staff with Debbie at our church. We were also both enrolled in seminary together. Our lives overlapped and intertwined yet again. We spent hours carpooling, dreaming, crying, figuring out life, ministry, and our souls. It was a rich time, and Debbie walked beside me.
I don’t see Debbie very much anymore. Our lives have long walked separate paths. But I do know this, if I needed her right now, she would be here. She would do what she does best, step in — step in with food, a listening heart, and Christ-centered counsel.
I didn’t even know how much I needed her all those years, but again and again, she was there. She didn’t push herself into my life but stepped in at just the right moments.
Debbie’s presence in my life was a clear example of Christ’s love for me. She mothered me when I needed it. She was a counselor when I didn’t have one. She was a friend when I needed support. When I look at Scripture (Titus 2:3), older women are instructed to care for young women. Debbie did this for me. She filled in the gaps and gave me space to fumble and figure things out.
There is so much power in stepping in for others. It doesn’t require us to take on more responsibilities. It only requires us to see who’s right in front of us. Everyday we brush past people, young and old. Our lives intersect with others all the time. What does it look like for you to step in and offer Christ’s love right where you are today? Who will you see, talk to, or hug?
All those places are opportunities to give your love away, to step in. Because when you do, it changes lives.