Yesterday I received news that no person wants to get. That my amazing, strong, brave and hysterically funny friend, Jane (Nightbirde) passed away after a 4 year battle with cancer. My heart is broken. This is not how I thought her story would end. I sat in my room, cried and let memories of Jane roll through my mind.
You probably remember Jane from her golden buzzer moment on America’s Got Talent, but I remember her most from conversations full of laughter, challenges, and compassion. I remember celebrating with her and mourning with her. Every person who knows even a small part of Jane’s story is overwhelmed by the life she lived, by the strength in which she fought and by the impact she had on people all over the world.
These 3 things don’t begin to cover the full impact Jane has had on my life but they have forever changed me.
Jane saw the outsider.
Jane and I met because we were both youth leaders at our church here in Nashville. I remember one of the first times I saw Jane, I thought, “wow that girl is so cool, no wonder these teenagers all want to be around her.” Then I watched and saw who Jane sought out.
The girl sitting alone next to the wall in the back of the room. The girl who clearly separated herself and was trying to go unseen. The girl who was basically holding up an imaginary sign saying “stay away.” I watched as Jane walked over to this girl, slid down the wall and sat right next to her. As close as humanly possible. Jane just started talking. I watched as something shifted, this girl’s walls came down, a smile appeared on her face and then came actual laughter. Jane didn’t let her be invisible. She didn’t let her choose to separate herself. She saw her and embraced her.
This wasn’t a one time occurrence either. That was just what Jane did. She was always in the trenches with the ones going through the hard things. The ones who felt misunderstood. The ones who felt excluded or like they didn’t fit. The impact Jane had on those teenagers will go far beyond those few encouraging conversations or the heartfelt meetings over coffee. Those teenagers were and are changed by being seen and sought out by Jane. By being told that they were seen, loved and adored.
Jane was real.
Something Jane did so very well was be real. She was sad. She was mad. She was brave. She was okay. She was happy. She was excited. She was disappointed. I know that seems like an obvious thing. Of course she felt all of those things, she is human.
The thing that I love about Jane is that in the midst of all of those feelings, emotions, and life moments she continued to choose to hope. To choose joy. To choose to laugh. To choose to make others smile. To encourage people to dream. To choose to look up and know that God had her. That even when everything looked bleak and reports weren’t good, she could still trust God. He was still good. She could still hope.
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” – Hebrews 10:23 NLT
Jane did this so well. She reminded us that “It’s OK” to feel all the emotions but that those feelings don’t change the fact that God is still faithful and trustworthy.
Jane never stopped dreaming.
I often let my circumstances dictate my dreams and what I can see in my future. I think a lot of us do this. We make our problem so insurmountable in our minds which completely obliterates any future or dreams we had.
When faced with obstacles, we suddenly think that somehow God must not have meant us when He said He gave us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), that was clearly for someone else.
Jane. Kept. Dreaming. Not only did she keep dreaming but she put action to those dreams. She did something. She didn’t let cancer steal her dream. She could have sat in her cancer diagnosis, thinking that it negated the dreams she had for her life and the promises of God over her. But that’s not what she did. She stepped out. In the middle of one of the hardest things most of us could imagine.
Jane’s AGT audition impacted people all over the world. That moment changed peoples lives. That moment inspired so many people. That moment inspired me. If Jane can continue to fight for her dreams and see those dreams come to life then who am I to not dream.
Friend, I miss you. You have left a mark on my life and I will forever be changed by knowing you.
If you are struggling to understand why “bad things happen to good people” or you are going through a dark or confusing time in life, we want to help you wrestle through the suffering we don’t understand and how it intersect’s with God’s word. Tap the button below to hear stories from Christian’s like Joni Eareckson Tada, Casting Crowns, Lauren Daigle, and more. They’ve gone through hard times or walked with loved ones through suffering, but have seen HOPE in the midst of it.
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