We all need a redhead as one of Our People. I happen to have a couple of them in my life, and Tonya is one of them. Before I tell you all about why she’s incredible, I want you to know that today is her birthday! (So leave her a birthday wish in the comments if you have a minute to spare, which you do or obviously you would not be reading this post)
My first memory of interacting with Tonya was several years ago (she says it was in 2007 and I trust her because I’m way too lame with dates to remember exactly.) We were both attending a women’s retreat hosted by our church. I would be leading the women in a morning devotion, which was my first speaking gig of sorts, and I was nervous. I had studied and prayed and prepared for this little 15-minute talk like I was about to preach to a packed stadium. I needed to be at the top of my game in order to share with the ladies the next morning.
So naturally, What did I do? I stayed up into the wee hours of the night talking and laughing and playing games with a bunch of incredible ladies. Score one for being responsible! Oh, wait…
But as I’ve said before, the thing is not the thing. This situation was no different. The devotion I was leading was exactly that…one devotion in the grand scheme of this women’s weekend. Just a handful of moments. I wanted to do well, but the real thing was to spend time building relationships with the ladies. Getting to know these women I worshiped and served alongside each week.
And that’s where Tonya came in. I remember praying for her and her friend Tammy at some point during that weekend. I don’t recall anything whatsoever about what the prayer really was, but I do recall that we connected and I knew that wouldn’t be the last I’d see of these women.
Fast-forward several more years, when my husband and I were transitioning into leading a different home group. The group was mostly established and had a group of core families, so we were excited to get to know them.
From this group have come many of the most important relationships in my whole life. And my friendship with Tonya is one of them.
She’s one of those folks that everyone just loves. She’s so friendly and genuine that you can’t help but fall in love with her after a short time getting to know her.
Her sweetness has a spicy side too though. Don’t get her wrong. She’s got the traditional fiery redhead personality at times. She wears her heart on her sleeve so you usually know what she’s feeling. I think that might be one of my very favorite things about her. She’s not afraid to let herself FEEL her feelings. She just doesn’t DO fake.
Another thing I love is that Tonya’s not afraid to be wrong. I know that seems like an odd thing to say about a friend. But how many times have you held a conversation with someone, and when the topic takes a turn into something serious, they act like they have it all together and speak only in absolutes. Always. Never. Definitely. This kind of thing doesn’t allow room to wonder and breathe and grow together. I’m more interested in spending time with folks who can wrestle with a topic and ultimately say: here’s what I think that’s about, because X and Y and Z. I’m not entirely sure if that’s right. But I’m trusting God to show me the right thing.
That’s Tonya. She leaves room for the unknown. She leaves room for God to change her mind about something or someone along the way if need be. In the meantime, she stays busy loving the people He puts in front of her.
She’s open to what others think because she’s not naïve enough to believe she knows all the answers about everything. That is so refreshing to me, because none of us really do.
Another thing I love about Tonya is her sleep talking. Now this one is actually not something I’ve witnessed first-hand yet, because every time we go on an overnight trip, I always end up bunking with our friend Missy, and Tonya usually bunks up with our friend Mandy. But Mandy’s multiple experiences tell us that Tonya’s sleep talk can get very interesting. Let’s just say that this is a slight exception to Tonya’s “feel her feelings” trait. What seems to happen is, if she’s had a frustrating day, she apparently keeps all the frustrated feelings inside all day long, but then promptly (and loudly) lets them out at night by saying Whatevertheheckshewants in her sleep. The stories are beyond hilarious and I can’t wait to hear it all in person. I’ve already called dibs on bunking with her the next time we go on a trip.
So many of my most memorable trips and events include Tonya. Along with our group of girl friends, affectionately called The Divas, we’ve perused Amish country more than once. We’ve descended on a winery that offers cheap flights, and proved what lightweights we can be. We’ve participated in a city-wide scavenger hunt that surely left scars on Lancaster (sorry, small-town peeps.) We’ve spent the 4th of July together in the 44444. We’ve prayed together at many gatherings. We’ve survived situations where epic acts of TMI were committed against us. And I mean LEGENDARY. Oh, the stories.
She looks more adorable in a hoodie than any girl I’ve ever known. When she wears something teal, just watch out because pairing that together with her red hair is the ultimate awesomeness. She thinks skunks are super adorable. We share a love for pumpkin everything, essential oils, and Ed Sheeran. We also share similar opinions on some controversial topics.
Tonya is a great friend, but she’s an even better human being. She has a big-hearted husband and a beautiful daughter (another feisty redhead!) She’s takes her momma job very seriously, and she’s doing her best to make sure she sends a well-rounded, kind citizen out into the world when it’s time. And I for one think she’s doing a fabulous job.
If Your People includes someone who is thoughtful, fun-loving, humble, hilarious, and real, (even if they aren’t a redhead) then I’m happy to say…you’ve found your Tonya. You are so very lucky.
I love you, Tonya! Here’s to pumpkin everything and Wessssside forever!!!!