We have the Jamie Grace station on Pandora, and she sings a million songs I love. “Show Jesus” is one that reminds me and the kids of Aunt Leeners, or Leena if she’s not the adopted aunt of your kids. It talks about living life in a way that shows Jesus to everyone through your love, you smile, just your presence. Since I met her in 2006 when were wide-eyed newbie middle school teachers, she has been a light I can always look to. I’ve learned more watching her live out her Christian life than I have hearing anyone else talk about their own. Here are some reasons why:
Faith During Loss
Leena’s dad passed away in 2011 after a valiant fight with cancer that was looking good. Everything turned at the last minute, and he passed when Leena was 28, way too early.
Leena’s family is one of those that could have really wholesome sitcoms written about them. They are precious, kind, and ferociously attached. As her dad battled cancer, I watched what it looked like to see someone prioritize everyone over herself, and I saw her family pull together beautifully to support her dad and each other.
Throughout his illness Leena prayed and believed he could be healed. We all prayed with her. Even on his deathbed, Leena still prayed that he would stop hurting, would recover, would be okay. When he passed away, she let all the prayer warriors who were waiting to hear know and asked for some time to recover.
Leena praised God after her dad died, praised Him for giving her such a wonderful father, for ending his pain. She mourned, of course, but she never lost her compass; she kept her heart pointed towards Christ and fell into His arms to recover instead of pulling away. And somehow, she kept up with friends and family, checking on everyone, coming to birthday parties and dinners. I’ll never forget this time in her life which was so painful but so awe-inspiring for anyone watching her.
Show Me the Money
In the middle of her dad’s illness, Leena was nominated for Teacher of the Year. This is huge, especially since she was still relatively new at teaching. She won on her campus and then made the finals for the district, which put her in the top five category. I believed she was a shoo-in.
On a night that should have been celebratory, Leena’s dad was too sick to attend the banquet where the winner for the whole district would be announced. Leena attended knowing her presence would be expected and gracefully applauded the teacher who was awarded the prize for that year.
Here’s why I love her: The prize for Teacher of the Year is acclaim, but it’s also cash. Teachers’ salaries aren’t great, so anyone who says all they want is the prestige is a liar; they want the cash.
In an unexpected turn of events, there was a raffle at the door. If you came to the banquet you were entered for a chance to win $1000, the same amount given to the Teacher of the Year winner. Leena won. Not only did she win, but she screamed, “Yes, that’s all I really wanted anyway!” before she could stop herself when her name was announced. This made me love her more than I thought was even possible.
Her Life is a Service Project
Call Leena anytime of day and she will more than likely be volunteering or serving in some capacity. She doesn’t talk about helping out; she does it. From chaperoning teens on international trips to helping at local food pantries, she takes what Jesus said about serving others seriously, every day.
She Likes my Kids
Sammy tried to breastfeed through her shirt and she didn’t even flinch. I have a picture; enough said there.
I’ve been blessed with rich friendships and Leena is someone I can’t imagine living without. Wren and Sammy both pretty much scream “Aunt Leeners!” anytime songs by Jamie Grace about being an awesome Christian come on. And they should. My Jesus year and my life wouldn’t be the same without her.