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How many people in your life summon you to become a better person and rejoice when you do? I have a sister who’s been doing that for me for the better part of a decade—Wyndy Greene Smelser.

From this photograph, you can see that I am a head taller and five to 10 years older than Wyndy. Nevertheless, I consider her a big sister, light years ahead of me in every way.

Through direct calls-to-action and by example, Wyndy leads me (and a lot of other people) toward a more spacious life. Case in point: a few months ago, I was wallowing in some random sorrow or suffering when Wyndy said something that gave me a jolt. I stopped feeling like a victim and sprang into action.

I felt so much better afterwards that I started a list of people who had this effect on me—champions who were training hard, disciplining their bodies and minds, winning the race and looking as if they were having the time of their life doing it. In times of difficulty, I refer to my list and ask what each person might do. Wyndy’s name is the first entry because she’s the one who inspired it.

When Wyndy died last week, I joined a sea of grieving, incredulous friends. (Here’s a beautiful tribute to Wyndy, written by one of her many friends.)
Born with a congenital heart condition, Wyndy had survived other close calls. It was easy to believe she had the tenacity to recover from almost anything.

Wyndy lived so fully, so freely and with such joy that many of us can’t comprehend a world without her specific light. We’re asking questions: How can I honor her life, not just now, but forever? How can I keep her work alive?

Fortunately, Wyndy left an unambiguous trail—a life planned around God’s word. Her faith wasn’t built on dogma, doctrines or creeds; she worked out her salvation, scrutinizing holy words and putting them into action.

Her Christianity wasn’t based on some formulaic version of what a Godly woman should be, as if God would make us all unique, then force us into a rigid mold. It was a magnificent dash to find and refine her talents, to become the authentic person that only she could be.

Our inspiration isn’t gone. Within the boundaries of our personalities and gifts, we can honor Wyndy by imitating her life.

Live and love in community. Wyndy led a busy professional life, but her busyness never eclipsed her interest and concern for other people. She saved time to serve. She kept in touch. Her social media feeds were genuine prayer requests, calls to action and words of praise and encouragement.

Love truth, mercy and justice. She had the courage of her convictions. Wyndy’s knees might have knocked in the midst of conflict (she told me they did!), but she was incapable of standing down or remaining silent when confronted with injustice.

Go forth boldly. Bathed in forgiveness, grounded in faith, this daughter of the King went humbly and confidently wherever she was called to go—and she had a good sense of direction. If anyone ever made her feel inferior, I’m not aware of it.

Cultivate kindness. She thought kindness—and good food—made the world go round. She fed the world with both.

wyndys-quiltCommit to excellence. Wyndy could do anything. She was an entrepreneur, a seeker, a chef, a quilter, a fitness fanatic, a blogger, a yoga enthusiast, a healthcare advocate and researcher, a fashionista, a seamstress and so much more. In every role, she did things as if they were being done for Christ himself. Whip-smart and determined to learn, she mastered things and made her skills useful.

Do the work that’s in front of you. Her zeal, energy and widespread interests gave her common ground with all kinds of people. Wyndy used her talents to connect with people and to serve. The next big thing wasn’t “out there” in some faraway place. It was next to her, beside her, in front of her—wherever she was.

As long as I live, I will honor Wyndy by striving to meet the standards that guided her life. I hope you will do the same. If you’re striving and I’m striving, we can’t help but see her everywhere we look.

She fed so many people–spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically–that it seems especially fitting to dedicate future food and inspirational posts to Wyndy. I can’t be Wyndy, but I’ll do everything I can to honor her this way from now on.

i-am-loved-i-am-valuable-i-am-smart-i-am-kind-i-am-creative-i-am-compassionate-i-am-worthy-i-am-enoughWhether you knew Wyndy or not, I invite you to download, pin or share this affirmation. One of her sons says his mom meditated on it as she prepared for each day. “More than anything,” he says, “Mom wanted all of those around her to be happy, to be loved and to understand their worth.”

If you’re reading this post, I send you the peace of Christ and this encouragement: Take nothing for granted. Let your love and mercy fly fast and loose. Let all your hugs be bear hugs.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.