I’ve been thinking about what makes me who I am, about why I am the way I am. When I think about where I am today and who I am, my mind goes to the people who have impacted me, who have walked alongside me, sometimes having to push me from behind and sometimes having to stand on the sideline and cheer me on. The people who have loved me and who have shaped me. The people in my life who have helped me become who I am today and continue to impact, influence and walk with me on my journey of life.

I think about the wonderful men and women who decided that middle school students were worth paying attention to and loving all the way through until they graduated high school (and that we’re still worth loving). These people who stuck with me through my teenage years, who encouraged me, who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and helped this uncertain girl see she had potential. These people who showed up, who let crazy teenage girls meet in their home each week, who gave up their weekends to go on youth retreats, who invited me into their office to share my heart and just listen, and who flooded my life with words of encouragement. People who were mentors, confidants, counselors and friends in a time of life where having that older, wiser and steady voice does a lot of good.

I think about friends. Friends I can say I’ve known basically since day one of my life, friends who I’ve gone through Kindergarten, 5th grade, high school and college graduations with, friends who I said goodbye to for college but somehow we always find ways to be reunited, friends who I've known for a long time and some for not quite as long, but friends who have been there. Life long friends, friends who have loved me well and shown me that friends can be family.

I think about my teammates in Zambia. The three people I didn’t know one day and then the next lived with for eight weeks straight in a foreign country. People who blew me away with their acceptance, love and passion for life. People who taught me so much, who I experienced true community with and who made me feel like I belonged, in a season of life where I felt anything but, people who made me laugh until I cried, people who journeyed with me through an experience that will forever shape who I am.

The list could go on, really. So many people who are reminders that God must love me because he put so many amazing people around me. Reflecting on all of these individuals who have helped shaped who I am, I feel so much gratitude and it makes me hope and pray that I do the same for others.

And that I remember middle school girls are important to love, that making room for a high school student to be heard is so valuable, that walking with someone through the good times and the bad builds unbreakable bonds, that accepting people where they are for who they are is truly love, and that showing up is sometimes all someone needs. I can do this because others have shown me. I am who I am today, not just because of some experiences I’ve had or because I’m so great at life all by myself, but because of the beautiful, wonderful people in my life that I call mentor, family, friend, cell group leader, youth pastor and so on and so forth.  I just hope and pray that I can play a small role in "shaping" others, the way I have been so lucky to be shaped.