Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5-6)
When our oldest sons (who are both named Nick) became very close buddies in grade school, my dear friend Janet Andriole made a declaration. “Well, you two are pretty much as thick as thieves, so we’ve got a problem to solve! I am certainly not calling my own son by his last name in his own house. You two boys will now be ‘Nick Pat’ and ‘Nick Fred’ and that’s just how it’s going to be!” These two kids of ours are now 21 years old, and they are still now and forevermore shall be Nick Pat and Nick Fred. The monikers stuck, and so did all the friendships that have been created in our two families.
Jan is a sunlit and truly luminous woman. She’s as articulate, bright, and kindhearted a person as anyone I’ve ever known. Also, she is full of faith and loves the Lord. There’s an authenticity to her spirituality that I have always found refreshing. She’s not afraid to wink at our good and gracious God. I’m not sure I’m explaining that very well, so let me give you an example. For a few years, Janet had a holy and pious teaching partner named Teri Feller. Teri was incredibly gifted at leading a group of children to Christ by the way she elegantly and spontaneously prayed aloud. Janet, knowing her simple and more conversational style was definitely different (but just as effective) would frequently pray with those same kiddos by joking about their differences in style. “We all know that I can’t pray quite as eloquently as Mrs. Feller, but Lord, here we all are before you all the same. Even when we stumble over our words a little, our hearts belong to You!” I never told her so, but I couldn’t have loved this any more– for the children or for myself!
Spontaneous worshippers like Jan, the ones who burst forth with praise that springs from a joyful and grateful heart, are just the kind of people who inspire me. I can write a beautiful prayer, but to knock out something aloud and on the fly which contains anything resembling full and holy sentences the way some others can simply isn’t my gift. I used to be quite self-conscious about it, almost like it meant that I just loved the Lord less effectively or some silly thing. I’m grateful to my friend, Janet, for her humble and honest witness all those years ago that has stuck with me ever since. God made me just like this, so when I sing and can’t quite hit the high note, or when I pray aloud and flub it up, I know it’s just completely fine with Him!
Janet is competitive and passionate, and she is married to a very fine baseball coach named Rich. She has enjoyed cheering on all his teams over the years as well as those of her sons, Nick and Jake as well as her gorgeous daughter Allison who looks just like her! As a mom, she’s compassionate and loving. She’s also the daughter of Danny and Rita O’Malia and the oldest sister in a glorious trio!
When she lost her sister, Shannon, in a terrible act of domestic violence, I wondered how she would soldier forward. After all, they were very close, and they even worked together each day at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers. However, when weakness and doubt made her question her faith, even for a moment, grace seemed to rain down on Janet, strengthening her again, despite her pierced heart. She’s chosen to live and breathe her trust in Christ. This is just one of many reasons why the young people at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in Indianapolis are incredibly blessed to call this sunny woman their principal. By watching her, they will learn by her example that trusting our heavenly Father is meant to be woven into the fabric of our very being.
Janet, as you celebrate your birthday today, I just wanted to remind you again that you are a very special person. It’s important to me that you always remember that. Thank you for all the giggles, encouraging words, sunny memories, and above all the gift of your cherished friendship. I love you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!